Friday, November 28, 2014

Job Security and Lack Thereof

To me it seems that we often ignore solutions to institutional indifference or hostility that involve breaking away rather than moving in.

If I am already a playing member of some institution--dea
con in a church, shareholder in a business, official in a government, tenured faculty in a university--then it makes sense to push for reform, as an insider, where I see it as useful or helpful ("the right thing to do"). I can campaign from a position of relative strength as an insider, using social and political capital that I already have to fix problems I see. As an outsider, I don't have that capital, the capital for reform. I cannot make a meaningful dent on insider culture, really, except insofar as I avoid participating in it where I find it obnoxious.

If I am a shareholder in a business, then I have a meaningful voice when it comes to decisions that business makes. If I am not, if I am merely one of several million faceless consumers (passive beneficiaries of business I don't make), then my most meaningful decision is often simply to take my investment elsewhere. If I were tenured faculty, then my outlook on academic culture would be different than it is. I would advocate more for political solutions involving existing powers. As matters stand, my advice is that nobody should bet too much on the success of an academic career (with "too much" loosely defined as "debt sufficient to procure a middle-class life like that of my parents, who owned homes and had pensions and vacations and whatnot"). I am open to publishing work in alternative venues (e.g. using Amazon to self-publish rather than submitting to journals or academic presses). I am open to distance learning, with or without the umbrella of institutional support. I am open to the reality that many of us do many different things over the course of variegated lives: there is no such thing, not even in my relatively small coterie of academic friends, as "the academic lifestyle" or even "the academic career" that moves predictably from grad school to tenure. If a student asks me about making a career in academia, you had better believe I will mention all of this stuff. I will mention that it is wise to have back-up plans, and a working partner, and reasonable expectations of the rewards available. It does not make sense to care more for institutions than they can care for you. Feel free to make professional inroads into business outside the tenure track, for strait is that gate, and narrow the way, and few there be that find it.

My own situation is not wholly without hope, though I appear to be headed down an employment rabbit-hole that swallows some people whole (adjuncting as a career).  I am hoping that having really low expectations and being frugal will help us as we come closer to death of natural causes. I really like the tiny house movement, myself, and will never have a mortgage if I can help it. Maybe we can move into a shed or an RV (or a yurt!) when the kids grow up and move out. We definitely won't be paying their college tuition, if they go to college (which I am not going to push as a necessity, not least because there is no way in hell we could afford it).

Healthcare is a problem that persists, thanks in large part to the really stupid system we Americans have jerry-rigged in which the only way to see a doctor is to pay some bureaucrat (with a private or public company of dubious value to anybody except career bureaucrats). But for now my wife has benefits, even if I don't, and we are young enough to aim for good health as a long-term option. I suppose I may have to invoke sudden death if I get a really nasty disease that nobody can pay to cure--but honestly, those diseases are often death sentences even with the best care that money can buy. My great-grandfather fell on a pitchfork (the blunt end, not the tines) while working in a barn-loft. He spent a few weeks in agony, and then was dead. He was not even 30 years old. Life happens. Sometimes all we get to do is clean up the mess, bury the dead, mourn, and move on. It isn't Obama's fault (or Boehner's).

Cars are an expensive nuisance, as are computers, but so far we have been fortunate with used machines and good deals. I think there is hope that we may make it all the way to death without needing more than a serviceable jalopy and a few relatively cheap machines that are not phones that can handle word-processing and other activities our employers require. Beyond that, all we need are clothes and food--and time to spend together.

At some point, which I seem to reach sooner than many, I would rather forgo extra income and spend another hour with my family. I know that my academic employers do not value me as a human being: I don't expect them to do so. They have a need for services that I happen to be able to provide, for the moment--impersonal services that they can afford to hire for a relatively small sum. I know that they care more about the services than about me. That is the way of institutions, which necessarily value data over anecdotes, process over people. Seeing this truth as I do, I make a point of limiting my exposure to the institution. I want a relatively low ceiling on the amount of distress that the university is capable of causing in my life. When the dean hauls me into her office, swears at me, and tells me that I am a loser who should go fuck himself and die, I would prefer to smile, tear up my performance review, and walk out--rather than sweat and weep and wail and gnash my teeth. It is easier to be impervious to ill fortune that we expect, I think--so I make a point of expecting indifference and occasional hostility from the university, seeing that it often rewards my colleagues with such things (and I am not magically different or special or superhuman).

My family care about me as the university does not and cannot, even if it were to offer me tenure. I would be willing to care more about its future, and so its institutional decisions in the present, if I had a real stake in them (such as the prospect of tenure would raise), but even then I would not love it as my family. And I would not expect it to love me this way. As an adjunct, my principal loyalty is to students, and to the integrity of my work (as a teacher and a really independent scholar, free to read and write and publish what I want on my own schedule, without giving a damn for whatever intellectual fad is currently hot with tenured faculty whose collective attitude towards me is largely one of indifference or disgust). I value those professional people I know personally--the friends I have made at work--and I endeavor to be worth something to them as another human being, no matter where they may be professionally. I like many academics, including some with tenure, and naturally I hope that they like me back. But this is hardly the same thing as liking the university. I like teaching, if you want to know the truth, and thinking and writing, so for the present I put up with the university. I don't really like it, and I know better than to expect it to like me.

In brief, when buying something really expensive (a house, professional training that lasts a decade or costs decades of work to pay off), consider the worst-case scenario rather than the best. If the worst is more than you can bear, then don't buy it (no matter how nice the best looks). I would advise the aspiring grad student to look elsewhere if she cannot bear vows of material poverty and intellectual humiliation--for such is the lot of many academics (probably all of them, at one time or another).

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hope and Change

I do not have hope that the oligarchs who run Washington will decide to burn bridges with their masters on Wall Street--to save me, or people like me (small statistics who don't matter, until we become part of a large mob demanding Coke or Pepsi).

I do not have hope that it makes a great difference whether the oligarchs identify as Democrat or Republican.

I do not believe that America is the hope of the world.  (If it is, then I suspect that is at least as much a curse as a blessing.  We might legitimately hope to kill or bankrupt the world, given our past, but how can we hope to replace its hopes with our own?  How is this not the worst kind of arrogance, even supposing--as some do not--that we are in some sense envied by the entire world?)

I do have hope that individual people can make a positive difference in the communities where they reside.  I believe in doing good that we can see and respect, among people we know (or might know--as people rather than "constituents" or "customers").  I believe in the community I reside in.  I believe in my neighbors, my friends, my family.  I might even believe in local politicians.  But that is the limit of my belief.  I cannot believe in what I cannot know (America), in ideals pretending to serve a population or populations so vast that they become incoherent to the point of being practically meaningless.  "We the People" of the USA are 300 million souls, give or take, scattered over a geography and ecology (political, economic, religious, social) so vast and diverse as to be utterly incapable of sharing much besides ignorance and hostility--in my considered judgement (that anyone is welcome to question, to dispute, to reject, etc.).

Too often, when stewardship of others is invoked--by Left or Right--it is in a context of somebody else doing something for me, in my place, without my having to lift a finger or take any responsibility.  I am asked to punish people I never met, to give money to people I never met, to hope against hope that people who don't know me from Adam know better than I how to reward and punish.  I am supposed to cede moral agency to "representatives" who act in my name, waging war and granting charity for reasons I am never supposed to learn.  All I am required to do is listen attentively to the latest commercials, put my hand on my heart when the music plays, and burst into tears as I affirm with emotional conviction that Coke or Pepsi, Democrats or Republicans, is certain to save the world.  I find this vision of my activity as a citizen of a free republic rather confining--since I have no love for Coke or Pepsi, no private inclination to prefer either as I make my diet of water, coffee, tea, and milk.  It would be easy to brand me as somebody with no hope--a desperate cynic with no commitment to the ideals that made this country great, blah blah--but what does this really mean?  I was born in the United States.  I have lived the greater part of my life here.  I pay taxes.  I even vote--though I confess my motivation is not hope for change that my sober judgement views as impossible.  I work (for money when I can, for the comfort and security of those I care about when monetary employment is lacking).  I observe the laws as carefully and conscientiously as I can.  I am polite.

I don't expect people to live like me, to like me, to "join my cause" and make it into the kind of nationwide farce that is Coke, Pepsi, the Democratic Party, or the GOP.  Whatever hope I have for humanity existing in relative peace comes from my trust that individuals like me tend to love their family and friends, and the community around them--without losing sight of the reality that this love is fragile and historically inclined to become hateful (when the interests of my family bring me into conflict with yours).  I can give you space to make a family that is not mine, but I cannot bear it when we must all become part of the same gigantic, dysfunctional family.  "One nation" of 300 million people is a disaster, from my perspective, when we must all have the same moral values--the same diet, the same healthcare, the same marriages, the same education, the same careers, the same uncritical devotion to factional politics that makes us pawns.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Religion and Violence

Part of the problem with "the real reason" for human violence, I suspect, is that it simply does not exist. My kids, for example, fight like puppies (not always fairly or kindly), and when asked, "Why are you punching your brother, after I explicitly asked you not to?" often look up with genuinely blank faces (and even on occasion answer honestly, "I don't know"). I suspect many people genuinely don't know why they are violent (in ways that historically prove helpful--look up the benefits of play-fighting with kids--or not, e.g. jihad). They just are, and so inevitably their mind works to create justification(s) (Deus vult! national security! etc.) for a prior existing condition (must punch someone!).

The really intractable problem here is that it is genuinely wrong (bad practice) to arrest people for thought crimes, but that is essentially what I see us having (in many cases). By thought crime here I don't mean "carefully planned, conscious crime" but pre-rational determination toward violence (without any pre-determined method or justification).

Rather than take an approach like Karen Armstrong, who seems to suggest that religion is never to blame (as a legitimate rationalization of violence: I don't believe this), I prefer to observe that religion is simply one of many tools available to foster and culture (the old word would be civilize) human violence (which is simply there in humanity, an unavoidable part of our biological heritage).  Sometimes, we use our tools to express violence well (in ways that improve quality of life); other times, we don't.  Religion, like all our tools, is in itself neutral.  It is neither evil nor good.  How we use it determines what it is in individual circumstances (its immediate valence for good and for evil).

When people talk about transcending religion, leaving it behind, etc., what they are really advocating, it seems to me, is leaving behind some aspect of humanity whose momentary expression (as violence or superstition or whatever) they don't particularly like (indeed, they might hate it--with righteous indignation).  To seize upon some momentary justification for genocide (or some other awful crime in recent human history) as itself the cause for all genocide, to proceed in the righteous struggle against genocide on the assumption that (for example) de-converting people from Islam en masse will radically alter our species' expression of violence--to me this seems fundamentally wrong (ineffective, resting on a misprision of the reality that we are a genocidal species--we commit crimes of violence, historically, including the crime known as genocide, and we invent stories to illustrate, explain, and facilitate this aspect of our character).  If we got rid of Islam today, then tomorrow would bring us another myth equally obnoxious.  If we got rid of all Abrahamic religions, the same thing would happen.  If we got rid of every traditional religion, we would simply re-invent them (and tell ourselves, as many Nazis and communists did in the last century, that our crimes against one another were justified by some modern and progressive myth--clothing our genocide, etc., in the trappings of science). 

This is why I roll my eyes when people talk of abandoning religion for something better.  There is nothing better.  People really are that stupid (and violent, and whatever it is that you don't like that you are calling 'religious').  What we can do, what we should do, is learn to confront the evil we carry inside ourselves (Christianity gets this part right with its doctrine of Original Sin).  This evil is not something separate or separable from us (Christianity gets this wrong: Grace and Salvation are bullshit, at least as commonly taught among most believers; I don't mean that nothing good can ever come from believing in them, only that most people seem to derive more lie than truth from them).  We must learn to live with ourselves as we are--with tendencies toward crime that are inseparable from our other tendencies, which as often as not are those same tendencies, in different (and better) circumstances.  We have an instinct to love: this instinct carries implicit an imperative to hate.  We have an instinct to protect what (and whom) we love: this instinct carries implicit an imperative to destroy what (and whom) we hate.  Religion, and other forms of collective and individual culture, can help us prune these tendencies.  It can direct us toward better or worse ways of expressing ourselves in whatever circumstances we might be.  But it cannot remove these tendencies entirely, not even when we make the mistake of externalizing our evil and assigning it to religion that we dislike (for any reason).  Leaving my childhood religion behind might help me become a better person, empirically speaking, but there is no guarantee that this must happen.  I will still be a human being, no matter what I do.  I will still carry with me all the causes and conditions for superstition and violence and other potentially criminal behavior that comes coded into humanity (my own and everyone else's).

This is why Greek tragedy is so gripping.  It is about looking oneself in the face, honestly, and seeing everything there.  Katharsis is not a matter of expressing or indulging rage (as many modern readers of Aristotle seem to think); it is looking deep into the recesses of one's own humanity, and seeing there the little baby emotions that might become rage (homicidal and suicidal), envy, lust, etc.  It is seeing the strength and the weakness of our species, and realizing that they are the same thing.  The same qualities that make Oedipus king and savior also make him criminal and outcast.  Until we see this reality and accept it, we are fundamentally separate from ourselves--broken, lacking integrity, unable to help others or ourselves without running an unacceptable risk of causing harm (because we think we can love without hating, serve without ruling, help without harming).  We are like children who imagine themselves able to fly because they have wings patched together with feathers and wax.  Such fantasies are cute until we walk to the edge of a real cliff and jump.    

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons from Abroad

The following essay comes from a discussion about the nature of healthcare policy in the United States.  I started out wanting to talk about healthcare, and wound up addressing the entire Spanish economy as an illustration of problems we deal with in healthcare, education, employment, and government--i.e. economic and politics generally.

My personal feeling is that the USA is simply too large to have a coherent, consistent public health agenda that extends nationwide. Europe benefits from smaller administrative regions, with more homogeneous culture(s). In my experience, Europe is a gated community built to exclude outsiders (who respond by seeking to replace rather than assimilate: immigrants from the Third World do not become French, or Spanish, or Scandinavian, by and large). America is the opposite (though we keep trying to repent and become more European; unfortunately, we need cheap labor, too).

When I was living in Spain, there were serious political movements in every place I stayed whose central goal was complete autonomy. I did not meet a single population in northern Spain (over two years, I lived in these provinces: Castilla y Leon, Galicia, Vizcaya) without a significant minority who wanted nothing to do with Spain or Madrid. Some parties even wanted autonomy for smaller regions (there was a party that wanted to get Castilla out of Leon). People grew up in small regions, in neighborhoods where they could point to the house their great-grandparents occupied (which often as not was a cottage predating modern civilization). There was a very strong trend to shut the world out, to suspect "growth" and "progress" as cloaking devices for "rape" and "pillage," and to distrust outsiders permanently (because they are not from here, they do not know this place, they will take our stuff and make good with it somewhere else, somewhere we cannot follow). In America, I can move thousands of miles to a neighborhood where people have never seen me before, and the common reaction is, "Hello! Welcome to the block!" In Europe (Spain anyway), this reaction is still there (particularly if I am talking to foreigners or people who live in the city), but it is supplemented by another: "You're not from around here? Fuck you! Go back where you came from. We don't need foreign shit. It is hard enough to deal with all our own."

Everything is different (healthcare, economics, religion) in areas where people have deep-seated distrust of the novel, the foreign, the unusual. America thrives on imagining the novel optimistically: "This new treatment could work wonders for me! I might survive this illness and even come out stronger than before!" In my experience, Europeans imagine it pessimistically: "This new treatment is probably going to make me die even faster than I was already, smoking two packs a day. Fuck it, and the white horse it rode in on." My experience is colored by the reality that I have never lived in the "really cool Europe" that American Leftists like to gush over. While I met plenty of German, Dutch, and Scandinavian tourists (who were invariably tall, healthy, and very articulate in English), the local populations I met were Iberian (short, not so healthy sometimes, and incomprehensible in English). I know that Spain is not Germany, or Holland, or Sweden (or Finland: man, I love that place, though it does have a rather high suicide rate for being so awesome in so many other ways). If there is anything I learn from my limited experience with Europe, it is that poor people (in particular) do better trusting authority and novelty less. The less we aim at "wealth" (move to a big city, get a nice job and a fancy-ass house, settle down) and the more we aim at "competence" (move to a quiet place, acquire skills that make any particular job unnecessary, and live in the cheapest hovel you can afford)--the happier we will be.

Happy Spaniards knew their neighborhoods (their grocer, their doctor, their teachers), and were busy building those neighborhoods themselves--they did not trust you to come in and fix them. Even when your motives were entirely pure and you had no evil track record, they wanted you out of the way so that they could keep planting and building what they wanted, not what you wanted to give them. My purpose living in Spain, as readers of this blog know, was offering folks a chance to become Mormons. Needless to say, that did not go over very well. But I learned a lot--including two really important things about myself: I am a terrible salesman, and I hate sales. I did not sell the Spanish on Mormonism, but they certainly sold me on hating sales. That visceral distrust and dislike of advertising is something I think Americans could stand to learn.

To end this interminable comment en pointe: the official policies coming from Madrid make Spain sound like utopia (or at least, like France): free healthcare, job security, political democracy, etc. But the reality on the ground is rather different. You see, making this utopia real requires more economic strength than the nation has (leading some of the least economically depressed regions, e.g. Catalunya and Vizcaya, to produce large numbers of citizens who openly, loudly, and even militantly desire to secede from Spain). This is because there is a high ceiling for legal employment (meaning that employers and the state together have to be able to guarantee healthcare, wages, votes, and acceptable living conditions to legally employed persons, such as I was during my stay). But crap jobs still need to be done, so as we do in America, the Spanish hire foreign slaves (Africans and South Americans, and some Eastern Europeans)--who are willing and able to work for pennies that people have as opposed to the euros that dreamers (officials, humanitarians, managers, EU bureaucrats, Spanish bureaucrats) want to give them. There is this perverse dynamic at play whereby native Spanish youth have nothing to do (employing them would be exploitation, i.e. illegal and punishable as a criminal offense), so they must sit around on the street and in their parents' basements collecting pensions from the state (mostly; it occasionally cannot pay!) while Africans, Arabs, native Americans (many from Ecuador and Colombia), Bulgarians, and Albanians keep everything running for wages. The Spanish folk in my age bracket, while I was there (as a 19-, 20-, and 21-year-old) spent most of their time walking around town, smoking, making out in street-corners, getting drunk, playing video games or watching TV, and harassing people like me. Were they better off than I, health-wise, job-wise, education-wise (tuition was cheap)? In some ways, yes. In others, no

Monday, October 20, 2014

Semper Fidelis

I am increasingly of the opinion that modern Western police (many police, maybe not all) exist to clean up after crimes, to beat suspicious people up (especially if they are poor and otherwise defenseless: worst-case scenario, the cop just goes nuts and starts dropping bodies), and to collect a nice pension.

Crime prevention isn't really part of the picture (unless you think those press conferences mean something useful: I suppose there might also be real utility from classes that some officers give, e.g. explaining to youngsters what they see in terms of crime in any given community and how they would advise avoiding it). One problem I consistently have is that I feel some of the onus (for preventing crime) should be on me, rather than police. I feel that modern police have too much responsibility (protect and serve me, officer! I am too helpless to do anything in the way of protecting myself) and too little liability (saving that grown-up baby's bacon required killing a few lowlifes? no prob! back on the job tomorrow, with a raise!).

Communities that work, it seems to me, are communities in which we all take turns shouldering the real burden of "serving and protecting" ourselves--rather than passing the buck to professional mercenaries (who may or may not be assholes: in my mind, that is a different problem; I suspect many of these are honorable, and many are not). People (especially people in positions of authority or aspiring to such positions) need to spend some time "in the trenches" with soldiers and police, it seems to me. One of the great problems of our time is that we have leaders and citizenry utterly blind (in practical terms) to the realities of human violence. Professors, politicians, and clergy cannot really offer a useful, practical perspective on violence if they are never confronted with it--if they never have to deal with it in real time, with life and limb on the line.

I like the old Swiss model (every able-bodied citizen spends some time in the military / police), precisely because it involves ordinary citizens learning to provide protection and service to themselves, at a realistic cost (to themselves and the whole community). The Left would probably hate me if I became mayor (or anybody with political clout), because I would want to resurrect the militia (local military and police) as something to which every able-bodied voter must contribute. You put in your time--not necessarily in the line of fire, but close enough to see it--or you forfeit your right to vote on anything that involves public defense (because you are not qualified to have an opinion: the shepherd does not take a vote from the sheep when deciding how to fend off wolves). I think this model is the only way to create police and military forces that does not ultimately incentivize corruption. Of course I remain open to counter-argument, but for now that is where I stand.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Building My Identity

This article touches the fundamental problem with identity politics: the real Muslim (the real Christian, the real feminist, the real white man, etc.) does not actually exist. The identities we construct for ourselves are at some point uniquely personal, an expression of the particular self whose idiosyncrasy rejects (and breaks) every universal mould. Identity politics as an exercise require me to identify myself wrongly with people who look like me in some fashion, and then to go out and apply this mischaracterization to other people, as well. Identity politics, even when they are most factual (dealing practically with people who for whatever reason appear to act en masse), ask us to behave as pawns (the agents of some collective to which we must belong, to which we owe our identity). It is unfortunately true that I will owe many of my life's goods to groups that include people and things I find immoral, but that seems to me like something to limit wherever possible, rather than to celebrate. I would not choose to enumerate at great length the ways in which I am and must be the helpless agent of some larger identity (religious, political, cultural) that controls me against my own better judgement. I would prefer to dwell on the ways I can break these moulds, can defeat the mandate that I pick a faceless tribe and then stand with them no matter what.

It seems to me that the best way to defeat identity politics (which I regard as evil) or the evils of identity politics (for those who think that identity politics are good) is to quietly refuse to conform to the agenda of your "tribes" (the groups who seek to claim you as their pawn because you practice a certain religion, dress a certain way, come from a certain ethnic background, etc.). My identity is a temporary thing, fraught with many limits such that it inevitably becomes evil, to me and to other people, at some point. In light of this reality, I seek to make that ego as little active as possible in the world around me. I don't lend my weight to causes waged by "my tribes" against others merely because "everybody who looks like you is doing it." I do not know what all academics, all males, all white people (etc.) are up to, as a group. I don't want to put myself in a position where I have to know, where I make myself liable for some kind of gang activity that pretends (inevitably falsely) to speak for "our kind." We have no kind: you are one self, and I am another. Superficial likeness might conceal vast oceans of difference, so vast in my experience that I always assume we are more unlike than like until I see you acting, until I know you--as a person, not a stereotype.

The tribe that I want around me is not a nation, not a race, not an ethnos, nor a worldwide religion. I want real family and friends, people I know personally from historical interaction. If I am to go to war, to make bets with my life, to take risks with uncertain causes and conditions in a troubled world, then I am going to do it not for an imaginary identity or camaraderie (nationalism, racism, chauvinism, capitalism, Christianity, etc.). I am going to do it for friends and family I love, because I see immediately how their survival demands it. I do not care that my friends and family look like me in some superficial way (i.e. that they have language like mine, skin like mine, ethnic background like mine, or religion like mine). I care that they show me moral integrity I can respect, especially where it differs from my own. The more I embrace this integrity, and the people who come with it into my life (from all kinds of odd places), the less I identify myself with the "tribes" that sociology textbooks want to put me in. My friends and family can come from any religious background (I am on intimate terms with many different kinds of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists). They can be any number of races (and they are). They can come from many different countries (and they do). I want to make my identity from them, from their small diversity, rather than take the large monotony of society's tribes as my heritage. I want my ego to reflect the people I love and care about, more than the people who look like me superficially.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Politics of Divergence

It seems to me that there are some communities too large to function democratically (the USA and the EU among them: Massachusetts does not want to live like Texas, and Germans don't want to live like Greeks). Sometimes, the best long-term solution is not "to enable agreement on a generally accepted solution" (or otherwise validate the idea that we all have the same interest where it is clear that we do not and cannot)--but to facilitate diversity, divergence and experimentation, admitting up front that there is no such thing (existent or creatable) as a single policy for all Americans or Europeans. I think the idea of "one policy to rule them all" (whether all the states in the USA or in the EU) is always going to break down catastrophically at some point (even in the domains where it works best, e.g. military alliances).

The use of irreconcilable differences in philosophy to discuss the limits of human ability to suppress divergence is not wrong, of course. Philosophy is one symptom of this human trait. But it is hardly the only such symptom (others would be the observation that people don't visit the same stores on the same schedule, or buy the same things in those stores; we don't all study the same subjects in school; if we do, we don't study them the same way; we don't do the same jobs; if we do, we don't do them the same way; etc.). It is wrong to think that this intractability between you and me boils down to nothing more than a vapid difference of philosophical opinion or expression--that there is nothing serious or intractable behind it. Historically, there is something there. A resistance to monotony and conformity that is always in the end stronger than any force we can bring to bear to make monotony and conformity universal and permanent. We have brought some really powerful forces to bear (e.g. the world wars in the last century, the Civil War in the United States before that) without achieving our object. Some of us see this and conclude that the object is one that we should not waste any more time pursuing, but others are still eager for the scheme of one policy to rule them all.

I have a significant philosophical problem with the existence of a central bank. This is not precisely the same thing as my problem with the existence of authorities with claim to rule the most intimate decisions of my life. At some point in the negotiations (between me and the central authorities who want to control me the way farmers control cattle), I am going to break away--either to run from the policy I don't like or to fight it (with whatever arms seem likeliest to avail). In today's climate, these arms are probably not militant, since the central bank has more firepower than I could ever hope to have--more than I would regard it as safe to use. So probably I will end up advocating for some kind of civil disobedience, in the tradition of Gandhi and Thoreau--and our own Martin Luther King, who did so much to fix problems the Civil War could only bring to a boiling head.

We cannot all live the same life.  At some point, your life would kill me in ways that I don't like, and vice versa.  I must give you room to live as yourself, without me, and you must reciprocate.  If we cannot do this, if we must choose one of our lives as "the one true life" and force it upon the other willy-nilly, then we are deciding to kill someone.  Are you willing to kill me now?  Maybe so.  There are acceptable reasons to want me dead.  But I would hope that these are only invoked when absolutely necessary, when peace between us is really impossible.  I would rather have another Great Depression than kill off half of society (even if that meant avoiding said depression).