September 29, 2011

First, a link: Reconsidering sexual repression.

The first difficult thing to accept, after the sexual revolution, is this: sexual repression and the double standard weren’t arbitrary forms of cruelty that societies ended up with by accident. They were functional adaptations. By raising the clearing price that women charged for sex, they actually increased female bargaining power and raised the marriage rate.

The question becomes: what are we going to give up? Family formation? Sexual equality? Sexual liberty? (By sexual equality I mean the presumption that women should be legally, economically, and educationally equal to men. By sexual liberty I mean both an absence of formal legal sanctions and an absence of guilt and psychological repression.) It looks very much as through we can’t have all three of those sustainably, and (this is the thought that really disturbs me) we may not even get to have more than one.

He goes on to say he doesn’t think giving up what he calls “sexual liberty” is going to happen, but that’s what needs to happen. One clue to the problem, though, is a word in the title of his post, “repression.” That’s a pretty loaded word. (I believe we owe its use here to Sigmund Freud.) If we talk about people exercising self-discipline and trying to maintain high standards in their sexual behavior, that sounds, well, mature, or civilized, or some such. But if we call it repression it sounds pretty ugly. It kind of sounds like “oppression,” which is something fascists and other nasty people do. We wouldn’t want any of that, now, would we? In this way sexual virtue is portrayed as something unhealthy and sinister, instead of as what it really is, a key to personal happiness and a functional society.

Related: More Sex, Less Babies?

Free lunch

September 24, 2011

Amanda is taking a class in “Political Literature,” and one of the books on her reading list is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. Julia couldn’t find a copy at Half Price Books, so I checked it out from the library. Of course, I had to reread it before passing it on to Amanda.

In this book Heinlein popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL, “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” After I finished, I decided I needed to reread Hugh Nibley’s essay “Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free.” (It’s collected in Approaching Zion.) Now, Nibley’s piece isn’t exactly a rebuttal to Heinlein’s point (I’m pretty sure Nibley was familiar with Heinlein’s book.) For Heinlein, TANSTAAFL is almost a rephrasing of the First Law of Thermodynamics: you can’t get something for nothing. It also includes the idea that you should always seek out hidden costs and concealed motives. The only time he applies the phrase to actual lunch is when the main character points out that a bar owner offering free lunches expects to make back more than the cost of the lunches on additional liquor sales. He names the third and last part TANSTAAFL, and this is the part where all the consequences come to pass, including the deaths of all the people killed in the Lunar Revolution.

Nibley, on the other hand, is talking about consecration. He is attacking people who use the “no free lunch” idea to justify oppressing or neglecting the poor. Allowing anybody to go without lunch even on the grounds that they haven’t done anything to deserve it won’t cut it with God. Although much of his rhetoric is directed at people operating in a capitalist society, he makes it clear that communists are no better—for them, getting lunch is contingent on obeying the state. We have an unconditional obligation to try to prevent people from starving, to make sure that everyone’s basic needs are met. (Also, he makes it clear that this only applies to basic needs, the things you literally can’t live without.)

Anyway, I’ll end with a suggestion that if you haven’t read one or both of these writings, you do so some day.

Youth and age

September 17, 2011

First, a couple more links from Instapundit from today: Teenage Brains (why they act that way—there are actually some good reasons) and The War Against the Young: Warning from Italy and Japan:

The war on the young is most intense in countries (and, in the US, industries and states) which have the blue social model deeply embedded in their social institutions. It is an interesting struggle: these days, the young face serious trouble finding employment and will be saddled with debts run up by their elders as they grow up.

The most distressing thing about watching the way society is going is realizing what it’s going to mean for my children. I was talking to Sam and David just the other day about the National Debt and how they and their peers were going to end up having to pay for it. (I did say I’d tried to vote for the people I thought least likely to make it worse.) The ironic thing about the movement that calls itself “progressive” is that it’s so hostile to the people that will be living in the future.


September 15, 2011

A couple of links I saw at Instapundit that I thought worth passing on:

Restoring the Rule of Law

Freedom is lost by degrees, and the deepest erosions usually take place during times of economic hardship, when those who favor expanding the sphere of government, abuse a crisis to persuade free citizens that they should trade in a little of their liberty for empty promises of greater economic security.

We all remember what Benjamin Franklin said about that trade – that those who would make it deserve neither liberty nor security. But in such cases, when liberty is lost, it is our fault as champions of the Constitution, for failing to mount a sufficiently persuasive and effective defense. And I believe our defense falls short when we fail to connect our timeless principles and values to the urgent economic issues facing the factory worker in Janesville, Wisconsin who is suddenly unable to provide for his family, or, in your case, the recent college graduate who finds herself in one of the worst job markets in recent memory.

We can strengthen our defense of liberty if we remember to keep in mind those who are struggling to make ends meet. What makes our Constitution such an extraordinary document is that, in making the United States the freest civilization in history, the Founders guaranteed that it would become the most prosperous as well. The American system of limited government, low taxes, sound money and the rule of law has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.

Read the whole thing.

Dubya and Me

So began a long and fascinating acquaintanceship with the man who would become one of the most admired and, later, reviled presidents in U. S. history. Over the next 25 years, our paths crossed again and again, most recently in his Dallas office last April. I had just read Bush’s 2010 memoir Decision Points, and I was struck by his many references to history. In the back of my mind was an article that Karl Rove had written for The Wall Street Journal in 2008, which revealed (much to the consternation of the president’s derisive critics) that Bush had read 186 books for pleasure in the preceding three years, consisting mostly of serious historical nonfiction. Intrigued, I asked Bush whether he would talk to me about how his passion for reading history had shaped his presidency and perspective, and he agreed.

When I sat down to write about that meeting, however, a different story emerged. History is composed of significant and less significant moments, the trouble being that we often don’t know at the time which is text and which is footnote. Yet when it comes to presidents, even footnotes are worth recording. I realized that what I had before me was a story that went beyond politics or policies or the reading habits of a president, an idiosyncratically personal story, a footnote-to-history story spanning a quarter-century.

I don’t agree with everything George W. Bush did as president, but I think he was one of the best human beings to hold that office. His example of handling criticism is one that most of us could learn from.

Legislating morality

September 14, 2011

Part of my church calling is setting up the projectors and such for broadcasts, like the CES broadcast last Sunday. Elder Oaks spoke (transcript) on standing firm for truth while appropriately showing tolerance for those whose beliefs differ from ours. He listed four principles that should govern efforts toward involving the government in upholding standards, one of which was:

Third, believers should not be deterred by the familiar charge that they are trying to legislate morality.  Many areas of the law are based on Judeo/Christian morality and have been for centuries.  Our civilization is based on morality and cannot exist without it.  As John Adams declared, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The old canard about “legislating morality” is actually rather obtuse. What else can you legislate? Laws are nothing more or less than the implementation of our common, publicly agreed-upon morality. If laws based on traditional morality are out of line, why wouldn’t laws based on modern disdain for morality come under similar condemnation?

There is a truth behind the saying: morality is only effective when it lives in people’s hearts and minds, and that can’t be imposed by legislative fiat. Part of passing a law in a free society is (or should be) persuading a majority of the populace that the moral principles it embodies are correct. That doesn’t change the fact that in the end every law is about forcing someone’s idea of morality on everybody.


September 12, 2011

OK, so let’s try real science

It’s critical that we all accept science’s conclusions. For instance, if we don’t agree on the age of the Earth, how will we know what to do when the Earth tries to buy liquor? And without knowledge of evolution, when a species goes extinct, how do we know who to notify as its next of kin?

But despite the obvious importance of science, one group of people does everything in pure defiance of scientific methods: politicians.

Read the whole thing.

Star Trek

September 8, 2011

Today is the 45th anniversary of the premier of Star Trek. I remember in 5th grade playing during recess, and one of the other kids said, “Let’s play Star Trek!” and I had to have what he was talking about explained to me. I went home and asked if we could watch it, but my father said it was after my bed time. But for the second and third seasons he let me stay up and watch it.


September 4, 2011

If I have one complaint about the LDS edition of the Bible, it’s that quotes from the Old Testament aren’t always identified in the footnotes. For example, consider Matthew 11:23, which includes quotations from Isaiah 14, but you’d never know it from the footnotes. Or, as another example, Matthew 13:14-15 says:

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which sayeth, By hearing  ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

It says right there in the first verse that this is a quotation from Isaiah, but if you look in the footnotes it only gives references to Jeremiah and Romans and the place in 2 Nephi where Nephi quotes the appropriate chapter in Isaiah. (The quote is from Isaiah 6:9-10.)

I have a Greek New Testament that prints all the Old Testament quotations in bold, which makes them easy to find, and also gives the references in the footnotes. Fifteen or twenty years ago I went through and copied all the references into my copy, but several years ago, I “graduated” to a large print quad. I decided this evening to go back through and do this again, but it’s pretty tedious.