May 21, 2013
While the categories of things that are legal and things that are moral overlap substantially, they are not identical. Some things are legal but immoral, for example, abortion. Some things are illegal but moral, for example, helping escaped slaves back when that was illegal.
When it comes to paying taxes, though, our only moral obligation is to comply with the law; no one should be considered morally obligated to eschew any legal means for reducing their tax obligation. Today Apple CEO Tim Cook will be appearing before a Senate committee, presumably so the Senators may berate him because Apple has structured their business in a perfectly legal way that avoids a higher tax bill. (They “only” paid around $6,000,000,000 in corporate income taxes last year. This hearing seems to have been triggered by Apple issuing something like $1,600,000,000 in bonds because the <2% interest rate is less than a tenth of the ~35% tax rate they’d have to pay if they just transferred some of their foreign profits to the U. S.) Google and other corporations have been facing similar political pressures in Europe. Note that although everyone admits they have done nothing illegal, these politician (who write the tax laws) are expressing outrage because they’re not funneling even more cash into the public coffers.
Ronald Reagan once said that government is like an infant: an insatiable appetite on one end, and no sense of responsibility on the other end. Senators would serve the country better by focusing on spending more responsibly (an actual budget would be a good start) rather than whining about perfectly legal behavior.
May 14, 2013
April 21, 2013
More on the idea of ordaining women, from a woman who has thought about it more than I have: Ruby Slippers on Her Feet: Reflections on the OrdainWomen Website.
March 26, 2013
Back in the last millennium, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in my teens, I asked my mother what she thought of “women’s liberation,” as feminism was called in those benighted times. She answered that while it was a response to real problems, the proposed solutions would cause problems that would more than offset any good they might do.* (Or something like that. This was a long time ago and my memory is a bit fuzzy.) My experience and observations as an adult have all tended to confirm her analysis.
The feminist movement has at least two serious philosophical failings:
- Ironically for a movement called “feminism”, it sets up the traditional male role as the model everyone should follow. To oversimplify things rather grotesquely, the “fifties” model was that men should be shallow and self-centered and focused outside the home, while women were self-negating and nurturing and home-centered. After feminism, everyone is shallow and self-centered and focused outside the home. Again, this is an exaggeration, but in the feminist world there are no women, just men with penises who are evil oppressors and men with wombs who are innocent victims.
- Like most progressive movements, it’s excessively focused on power. The underlying assumption is that if the right people or institutions have power, everything will be fixed with the world and nothing bad will ever happen.
All this is a prelude to explaining why, although I know there are issues arising from having an all-male hierarchy, ordaining women to the priesthood probably isn’t a good idea.
- Implicit in this idea is a privileging of the male model for participation in the church. Do we really want to abolish the female model? Nathaniel Givens explains this point better than I can.
- Most of the arguments in favor seem to center around the exercise of power by church authorities. But the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood…” Yes, church leaders don’t always live up to this verse, but when they don’t, “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” Priesthood is much more than temporal power; it’s greatest blessing is the ability to attend the temple and participate in the ordinances there, which women already do.†
With the recent emphasis on councils, the church has taken steps to try to give a stronger voice to women. Certainly there’s more that can and should be done, but ordaining women to the priesthood isn’t it.
* Yes, I did ask her “if ‘women’s lib’ isn’t the solution, what is?” She told me it was to raise boys to treat women with respect and as equals, and that was how she’d raised me, so I’d better behave accordingly. I like to think I have.
†If we were in the temple, I would explain why I think endowed sisters already hold the priesthood, or perhaps better, “priestesshood.”
February 23, 2013
The Chinese imperial bureaucracy was immensely powerful. Entrance was theoretically open to anyone, from any walk of society—as long as they could pass a very tough examination. The number of passes was tightly restricted to keep the bureaucracy at optimal size.
Passing the tests and becoming a “scholar official” was a ticket to a very good, very secure life. And there is something to like about a system like this … especially if you happen to be good at exams. Of course, once you gave the imperial bureaucracy a lot of power, and made entrance into said bureaucracy conditional on passing a tough exam, what you have is … a country run by people who think that being good at exams is the most important thing on earth. Sound familiar?
The people who pass these sorts of admissions tests are very clever. But they’re also, as time goes on, increasingly narrow. The way to pass a series of highly competitive exams is to focus every fiber of your being on learning what the authorities want, and giving it to them. To the extent that the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon is actually real, it’s arguably the cultural legacy of the Mandarin system.
That system produced many benefits, but some of those benefits were also costs. A single elite taking a single exam means a single way of thinking:
The examination system also served to maintain cultural unity and consensus on basic values. The uniformity of the content of the examinations meant that the local elite and ambitious would-be elite all across China were being indoctrinated with the same values.
All elites are good at rationalizing their eliteness, whether it’s meritocracy or “the divine right of kings.” The problem is the mandarin elite has some good arguments. They really are very bright and hardworking. It’s just that they’re also prone to be conformist, risk averse, obedient, and good at echoing the opinions of authority, because that is what this sort of examination system selects for.
The even greater danger is that they become more and more removed from the people they are supposed to serve. Since I moved to Washington, I have had series of extraordinary conversations with Washington journalists and policy analysts, in which I remark upon some perfectly ordinary facet of working-class, or even business-class life, only to have this revelation met with amazement. I once had it suggested to me by a wonk of my acquaintance that I should write an article about how working-class places I’ve worked usually had one or two verbally lightning-fast guys who I envied for their ability to generate an endless series of novel and hilarious one-liners to pass the time. I said I’d take it under advisement, but what on earth would one title such an article?
You should read the whole thing.
One of the things we learn in the history of Physics is that the Greeks, who used “pure reason” to figure out how things worked, got most things wrong. It wasn’t until people like Galileo started doing experiments that they started getting things right. Reason and creativity untempered by experience often lead to disasters, and that’s the way the country seems to be headed.
January 29, 2013
Everything he says is true: A man’s top 5 reasons to grow up and get married.
October 11, 2012
Ronald left this world as he entered it: on a frigid winter night, amid frantic screams and blood-soaked linens, while relatives stood nearby and muttered furious promises to find and punish the man responsible. — Rebecca Oas, Atlanta, GA