Saturday, July 05, 2014

The More You Know, The Less You Fear

This is an aphorism that I think I made up today.

It is a derived from a longer one that also came to me today:  the better your sociology, the more you trust strangers. This is because you have a better idea of which categories of people are dangerous.

I have been studying social trust, which I think is the crucial glue of the happy society.  Fear is the enemy of the happy society.

More educated people are generally less fearful.  I think this is because they have a more realistic sense of how likely any of the dangers they can imagine really are.  They are also more likely to research potential dangers, rather than rely on gut instinct or fears promoted by others.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Corporations Are Not People; Nor Are They Churches

The Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that corporations can have religious beliefs which are protected from civil requirements, just as churches are. 

In this case, Hobby Lobby can refuse to comply with the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that employer-provided insurance include contraception coverage.

This follows earlier decisions by this Court that corporations are 'people' and entitled to rights like actual people.

I think this reflects a degeneration in our civil religion.  We are elevating the 'free market' and the profits made in it to a central place in the collective sacred. 

I think this is an error of fact - markets only work if they are protected and regulated by the state, and those who make profits from regulated markets owe much to society as a whole for that protection and regulation. 

I also think this is an error of faith - markets are a useful decision-making tool for democratic societies.  Corporations are one of the useful tools we have developed to take advantage of this decision-making mechanism.

Corporations are not sacred entities.  Corporations are not even people-like.  They serve us; we should not serve them.

'Corporate sanctity' will, in retrospect, seem like one of the great heresies of this new gilded age.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Does Civilization Begin With Cooking, or Marriage?

For our annual alumni study group this summer we are reading Michael Pollan's Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  He offers the theory, advanced by many, that culture begins with cooking - specifically, with roasting meat.

I have long taught in my "Family Life" class that turning men into husbands and fathers is the first great act of civilization.

Just on first glance, I think my 'first act' comes first.

I also think that seeing cooking meat as the first act of culture is a more masculine view, while seeing marriage as coming first is a more feminine view.

This is a three-quarters-formed thought, but worth pursuing.