Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Happy Prospects of Legislative Compromise

A happy society benefits from a competent government, most especially from a competent legislature.  The legislature, by its nature, will have representatives of conflicting interests.  It will naturally be full of conflicts much more often than it starts with broad agreement on major issues.  Thus, a competent government requires a willingness to compromise and work together for the good of the country.

Lately, our government, especially our legislature, has been polarized by a faction, the Tea Party, that rejects compromise on principle.  Moreover, the federal legislature has been hamstrung by a pledge that many members of one party, the Republican Party, made to never raise taxes, no matter what effect that has on the country.

There are happy signs that the logjam in the legislature is breaking up.  The uncompromising faction lost more than it gained in the recent election.  This frees the establishment of their host party, the Republicans, to make deals in the usual way, to move the government forward.

Recently, there has been another happy trend: many Republican leaders who signed the "never raise taxes" pledge are expressing a willingness to shrug off that straightjacket.

I am very hopeful that the lame duck session, and the new Congress to follow, will be very productive in solving a number of problems facing the federal government.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Do Some Feel That Organ Donation is Polluting?

My "Happy Society" class has conducted a project to sign up the entire Centre College community as organ donors.  We have had excellent success with the faculty, pretty good success with students, but only so-so with the blue-collar staff.

A couple of the latter said they would not sign up as organ donors because they "came in with all their organs, and they plan to go out with them."

I have a hypothesis about why this is so, which I don't have enough data to test.  Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind, argues that all kinds of people tend to have immediate emotional reactions to moral questions.  Educated people, though, have trained themselves to only accept judgments that serve to prevent harm and advance care, or prevent inequality and advance fairness.  But most people also have an emotional commitment to liberty, sanctity, loyalty, and purity.  If they are not trained in Enlightenment theories, most people will go with their first emotional reactions.

My hypothesis is that when some people imagine their organs going in to other people react with disgust at the impurity of it, the pollution of their identity that would result.