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Sender: Rick Raddatz
Subject: Re: An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Priori
Date: Mon, May 19, 2014
Msg: 100998

Hi Lawry,

I agree with your analysis 100%. The pursuit of social justice must take the ineffable / spiritual into account. Heuristics like income equality do not pass this test.

Someone from AEI who reviewed my early work stressed how important it was that the prioritizing be a political process and not a cost-benefit formula-driven process. The reason, he said, was to capture the spirit of the people. He thought it was the only way it would be meaningful. This suggestion is consistent with PB as well.

- Rick Raddatz http://IncentiveReform.org

> On May 18, 2014, at 10:52 AM, Lawrence Chickering wrote: > > Michael (S), > > I regard myself as a 'bleeding heart libertarian', and I have thoughts about > supporting Raddatz's proposal. Here goes: > > The vision of helping the disadvantaged that is currently dominant in our debate > sees the problem as entirely an objective problem, which is 'solved' by resource > transfers. This vision (unfortunately) sees the disadvantaged only as objects, > which is a pitifully limited view of human beings. Worrying only about resource > transfers to objects reduces human relationships to the level of the care > and feeding of farm animals. > > Objective inequality exists in many dimensions, most of them unsolvable > by resource transfers (it exists in all dimensions in terms of which people > differentiate themselves -- besides wealth, intelligence, beauty, appreciation > of art, etc, etc). > > Fifteen seconds' reflection will make it clear that 'progressives' preoccupation > with objective equality is impossible as a policy objective. The real challenge > is the impulse to differentiate because the more equal one term of differentiation > becomes, the more important others become (assuming constant need to > differentiate). > > The really unfortunate thing about our current philosophical idiom is that > objective equality is the gold standard principle of moral discourse. I believe > this is utterly bankrupt as a defining principle of our moral life. The idea, > ultimately, that everyone can be above average in everything is not only > laughably (because logically) impossible; it is also brutally cruel because it > steers masses of people to believe their lives are failures. > > I am here, of course, critiquing the order-left. But many on the right are > also guilty of a brutal (though different) focus on equality. Many on the > right argue that equal opportunity is the touchstone of justice: equal > opportunity to 'get ahead' and achieve 'The American Dream'. Why is this > also brutal? Because if you can only achieve The American Dream by > being a 'winner', it follows that masses of people are cut out of The > Dream; they are 'losers'. > > I believe both visions are unacceptable -- much worse than that, both > visions are vile. > > People as Subjects > > Let me try starting in a different place (in terms of what is important). > Assume for the moment that people are more than farm animals. Assume > that we need to worry about more than people as objects; we also have to > worry about them as subjects. > > A very wise man once told me that the key to joy is creation. I would argue > that the key to opportunities for creation is empowerment, and this -- I > would argue -- should be the great principle underlying our political morality. > Empowerment, I believe, is what connects your references to Mohammed > Yunus, Hernando de Soto, etc., as well as my own program, Educate Girls > Globally. I believe that empowerment is the central value underlying > everything that is working. > > Empowerment is a complicated concept, which includes both individualistic > and collective elements (empowerment needs to liberate people to 'be > themselves', but it also needs to do it understanding that connection -- > to self, others, nature and cosmos -- are also important). > > The central deficiency in our current idiom is its mechanistic, objectified > core. Empowerment depends on understanding that we live in a Connected > World of subjects. Unfortunately, we have no language that bridges the gap > between the formal practices of traditional religion and informal spiritual > practices. The absence of such a language makes it impossible to have a > coherent conversation about this subject. [I would suggest that the search > for such a language might begin by examining carefully the concepts of God > that range from preconscious subjective (in The Garden) to increasingly > conscious and objective (especially in institutionalized Christianity) to > increasingly conscious and secular (Enlightenment and beyond) to > increasingly conscious and (now) increasingly subjective and 'spiritual'.] > > Please forgive this diversion from the subject at hand, which I could not > avoid because I think engaging these issues is essential to get us away from > the desiccated notion of people as objects that now strangles our debate. > I believe that a major priority for the transpartisan movement should be > to bridge this gap between 'religious' and 'spiritual', opening up a much > wider subjective vision of human possibility that animates people and > programs everywhere. > > People from other cultures often critique American culture with thoughts > like: 'Is there anything Americans think they can't buy?' The critique has > important elements of truth in it, and one of them is in the vision of social > justice that is preoccupied with resource transfers. As long as our debate is > dominated by this as a moral principle, we will never address the real > challenge of justice, which has to do with people as subjects. An important > way to redirect our discourse is to cap the money we can spend. For this > reason I support Raddatz's proposal. > > Lawry Chickering > Educate Girls Globally > >> On May 17, 2014, at 15:11, Michael Strong wrote: >> >> Michael, >> >> First of all, I want to thank you for your sustained, respectful, and enthusiastic embrace of the transpartisan cause. >> >> Second, my perception is that your amendments to my attempts to pass the Ideological Turing Test were of the nature of adding nuance and refinements to the positions I outlined rather than fundamental disagreements. That is, based on your amendments, I'd be inclined to give myself a "passing grade," so to speak, on the "test," while respecting that you added considerable philosophical and practical detail to the relatively blunt and simplistic "progressive" statements that I had provided. >> >> Third, I would be interested in seeing you or other progressives on this list attempt to "pass" an Ideological Turing Test, especially for a "bleeding heart libertarian" perspective, >> >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleeding-heart_libertarianism >> >> Why might a "bleeding heart libertarian" support Raddatz's "cap-and-prioritize" proposal? >> >> Michael Strong >> CEO and Chief Visionary Officer >> FLOW, Inc. >> www.flowidealism.org >> >>> On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 5:17 PM, Michael Briand wrote: >>> Thank you, Michael S., for this careful construction of a rationale. I can imagine someone subscribing to it, but (for myself, at least) I would amend it somewhat. >>> >>> 1. First, I don't believe "it is (a) self-evident to a moral human being that (b) once one's basic needs have been met, (c) most of the rest of one's wealth and income should be devoted to (d) helping those in need." >>> (a) No propositions of any sort are "self-evident," though we often (because of Godel's proof) have to treat them as such in order to get an argument off the ground. That's why ethical argument is so difficult to initiate and sustain--we can't agree on a starting point. >>> (b) People have many basic needs, so the question of the proper threshold beyond which anyone ought to consider the consequences of his or her self-regarding actions is a matter that must be settled through dialogue and deliberation. For example, whether or not Rawls was right about the principles of justice he argued that persons in the Original Position would select, the derivation of those principles was hypothetical, not actual. (See, e.g., Janna Thompson, Discourse and Knowledge.) If you feel you need the gratification that owning a 200-foot yacht provides, I have a duty to engage you in discussion about that need and how you can best go about having it satisfied (and how I might help you do so). >>> (c) "Most" is arbitrary and (probably) excessive. The question of what one owes her society and compatriots should be taken up in the context of a joint consideration of (i) the benefits each of us receives from our way of life, its practices and institutions (including markets), etc.; (ii) the consequences for everyone of allowing them to fall into disrepair; and (iii) the responsibility each of us bears for contributing to their upkeep. >>> (d) Devoting "most" to "those in need" suggests simple redistribution of wealth to reduce inequality of wealth. I don't think it's that simple. Who needs assistance, of what type, for what purpose, when, and in what form are highly relevant considerations that have implications for the nature and extent of anyone's responsibility for contributing to the upkeep of institutions, practices, infrastructure, and the like that benefit everyone, even if only very indirectly. >>> >>> 2. Second, it can certainly be the case that "government is too large" or that "government spends too much." But in relation to what? The problem with the "cap" portion of "cap and prioritize" is not its artificiality but its suggestion either that there is some "absolute" limit that must be respected (in order to avoid what?) or that, contingently, we have reached the point at which it is no longer practical (in virtue of what?) to continue at the current level. Are we talking about spending in relation to GDP? If so, GDP measured how? (It matters.) In relation to total debt? To the annual deficit? In relation to comparable nations (Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Canada, Sweden)? In relation to our own future? What evidence should we consider as we try to establish a causal link between level of spending or "size" of government and consequences anyone reasonably might agree are undesirable? >>> >>> 3. Is "Cap and Prioritize" about "set[ting] ... limits on what Americans can or should do for their fellow citizens, for their country, and for the world"? As I've agreed before, "ought implies can." But what Americans "can" do is pretty far down the line toward literal impossibility. Fighting the Second World War was something we could do and did do. When William James said the modern world needs the "moral equivalent of war," he was talking about a cause that would inspire us to make the kind of sacrifices people made willingly when the world (not just the U.S.) was threatened in the late 30s and 40s, or earlier, in the 1770s. So the basic question is really the normative one of what we should do. It seems to me a non-starter to agree to "cap" what government does or what it spends before we address the question of what we should do (and hence, perhaps, what government should do) if we are able. The question is not whether we are able, but able at what sacrifice by whom? There is an implicit assumption in "capping" that calls for discussion of both what we should do and then, in light of that, what we "can" do. >>> As for prioritizing, done well this would be enormously helpful, at least periodically. Whether we could go to zero-based budgeting every year or every two years is another question. For me, prioritizing is imperative, even if we had (per impossibile) the fiscal means to do everything. There are always hard choices to be made, and the public currently is not bearing the responsibility for facing up to and making these. But asking the public how many billions it wants to pay for defense versus social assistance won't work. People must be able to relate their contribution to collective expenses to the scale of budgeting with which they're familiar in daily life. (How many Starbuck's grande lattes for my share of an adequate supply of drones?) >>> Do we want to open this particular can of worms? I'm inclined to say yes. But others might have reservations. >>> >>> 4. I understand the desire to try asking a simple, straightforward question and receiving a simple, clear, straightforward answer. The only way to do that, though, is to unpack every element in a question or statement to the point where your interlocutor feels he or she can give such an answer. Although your hypothetical rationale is a good and welcome step in that direction, for me it doesn't unpack things nearly enough, as I hope my reply indicates. >>> >>> Thanks again, Michael. >>> >>> Michael Briand >>> >>> >>> >>> From: Michael Strong >>> Sent: Friday, May 16, 2014 1:27 PM >>> To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG >>> Subject: [TRANSPARTISAN] An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Prioriitize" proposal >>> >>> In an earlier thread, I was surprised that after I came out supporting Rick Raddatz's "Cap and Prioritize" proposal, there were many follow-up posts that struck me as completely unrelated to my post. In going through to see how these well-intentioned people had thought they were responding to my post, I realized that if I put myself back into the progressive mindset, their seemingly unrelated comments might make sense. >>> >>> This sense of temporary disorientation led me to attempt to pass an "Ideological Turing Test" by presenting a progressive's argument against Raddatz's "Cap and Prioritize." I'd love to hear if progressives here have a significantly different set of rationales for not supporting Raddatz's "Cap and Prioritize" proposal, or if this is a roughly decent articulation for a progressive's rationale for not supporting his proposal: >>> >>> Conservatives and libertarians want to cap government spending and then work with transpartisan progressives to improve the manner in which government funds are spent. While we respect the transpartisan spirit of this proposal, in a world in which inequality is the over-riding issue of our time, in a world facing severe environmental challenges, and in a nation with inadequate public goods, the cap-and-prioritize proposal is unacceptable. >>> >>> There is abundant evidence that above a certain point, more wealth does not increase happiness. At the some time, there is abundant evidence that poverty and inequality result in severe harms to the health and well-being of the least disadvantaged in our society. There is also abundant evidence that our environment is at risk, including global warming, over-fishing, water scarcity, ecosystem vulnerability, loss of species and habitat, dead zones in our coastal waters due to excessive pesticide and fertilizer usage, etc. Finally our public goods are undersupplied: our infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are broken, our universities are underfunded, we are at risk of falling behind globally due to cuts in research, etc. >>> >>> We believe that it is self-evident to a moral human being that once one's basic needs have been met, most of the rest of one's wealth and income should be devoted to helping those in need. Thus over some income threshold, most additional income should be taxed to support programs to help those in need. Additional funds should be devoted to preserving our ecosystem and financing public goods. >>> >>> Therefore because of: >>> >>> 1. The scale of need among the disadvantaged. >>> 2. The urgency of ecosystem preservation. >>> 3. The need to finance our public goods properly. >>> 4. The clear evidence that additional wealth does not increase happiness. >>> >>> We therefore resist any notion that "government is too large" or that "government spends too much." Indeed, any artificial limit to the financing of public needs is immoral. Instead of setting arbitrary "limits to government," such as are proposed by Rick Raddatz's "cap-and-prioritize," those of us who live comfortable lives should all willingly devote whatever it takes to solving the other important problems faced by our nation. As a consequence, we should wisely implement whatever policies are needed to create a better America, and we should proudly pay whatever level of civic contribution is needed through our taxes in order to do so. "Cap and Prioritize" is therefore a misguided policy proposal insofar as it aspires to set limits on what Americans can or should do for their fellow citizens, for their country, and for the world. >>> >>> -- >>> Michael Strong >>> CEO and Chief Visionary Officer >>> FLOW, Inc. >>> www.flowidealism.org >>> >>> For the definitive Conscious Capitalism book, see Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems, by Michael Strong with John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods Market, Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Hernando de Soto, Co-Chair of the U.N. Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, and others, and listen to John Mackey's audio CD Passion and Purpose: The Power of Conscious Capitalism, both available at amazon.com or www.flowidealism.org. >>> >>> Liberating the Entrepreneurial Spirit for Good >>> >>> When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. >>> >>> Leonardo Da Vinci >>> >>> To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: >>> http://lists.thataway.org/scripts/wa-THATAWAY.exe?SUBED1=TRANSPARTISAN&A=1 >>> >> >> >> >> -- >> Michael Strong >> CEO and Chief Visionary Officer >> FLOW, Inc. >> www.flowidealism.org >> >> For the definitive Conscious Capitalism book, see Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems, by Michael Strong with John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods Market, Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Hernando de Soto, Co-Chair of the U.N. Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, and others, and listen to John Mackey's audio CD Passion and Purpose: The Power of Conscious Capitalism, both available at amazon.com or www.flowidealism.org. >> >> Liberating the Entrepreneurial Spirit for Good >> >> When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. >> >> Leonardo Da Vinci >> >> To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: >> http://lists.thataway.org/scripts/wa-THATAWAY.exe?SUBED1=TRANSPARTISAN&A=1 >> > > > A. Lawrence Chickering > Founder and President, Educate Girls Globally (EGG) > 1485 Main St., Ste 103c > St. Helena, CA 94574 > 415.235.6628 > email: lchick0203@gmail.com > www.educategirls.org > > > > > > > To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: > http://lists.thataway.org/scripts/wa-THATAWAY.exe?SUBED1=TRANSPARTISAN&A=1

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