Category: Opinion

Opinion

Why Blockchain and Bitcoin Are Becoming a Part of Life

Mason Mohon |@mohonofficial

The Bitcoin naysayers live their life in glee these days, happy that cryptocurrency is finally dead! Well, dead again. Clearly, if something can die multiple times, its death carries far less weight. Cryptocurrency, along with Bitcoin, is in a continuous cycle of death and resurrection. In the short term, this makes it a scary investment. In the long term, though, Bitcoin has a lot of potential and is likely to become a part of the dominant social order. It will do this along with its underlying technology: blockchain.

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Christians Have No Moral Obligation to Pay Taxes

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”, says Jesus in Matthew 22:21. For centuries, many Christians have used this famous verse as an argument to dutifully pay taxes. At first glance, it is quite compelling. After all, Jesus is answering the trick question of whether or not the Pharisees and Herodians should pay taxes. If he answers yes, he loses the support of the radical Pharisees, but if he says no, the more moderate Herodians would be wary and he may face arrest.

Luckily, he is able to avoid both of these instances, calling out the Pharisees for their trap before answering. So, it already is clear that the line is much more ambiguous than many people claim. Had it been a simple yes, Jesus would have stated such, rather than blatantly refusing to do so and calling the questioners hypocrites.

What Does It Mean to Be Caesar’s?

Looking more closely at the verse and its context reveals an interesting question; how does one define what it means to be Caesar’s? Of course, anything that Caesar genuinely owned is his, but this is not the case of the Pharisees’ denarii.

Before speaking the famous line, Jesus identifies Caesar’s face on a denarius. Clearly, though, someone’s face on an object does not necessarily denote the owner of that object. A sculptor can create a statue of Martin Luther King to place in Washington, but doing so does not suddenly void ownership of the statue to his living descendants. Similarly, a coinmaker pressing the face of Donald Trump onto a coin does not mean that the coin belongs to him. Ownership rests in the voluntary trade of money for a good or a service, not in an arbitrary face.

In fact, Jesus is entirely correct in stating that everyone should give Caesar what is Caesar’s. The issue comes down to the fact that a subject’s money is not Caesar’s; it is the subject’s. Jesus frequently teaches to hold on loosely to earthly possessions, but this applies to all human beings and does not have a special exception for Caesar or any other figurehead.

Obeying the Governing Authorities

Though the above argument appears not to favor paying taxes, Christians often use Romans 13:1-7 as further evidence. These verses state that all should “be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God”. It later states that because of this, those who do good have nothing to fear, and all should pay tributes when they are due. Once more, the argument of whether or not tributes are legitimate calls into question the latter segment. But in particular, the first verse clearly does not apply to all governments.

Throughout history, our world has been the home to some truly oppressive states. Nazi Germany killed over 11 million people in less than a decade during the Holocaust. The regime of Stalin was responsible for even more. Dictators throughout the world have brutally slaughtered a countless number of people; this is an indubitable fact.

What would these Christians say about these repressive regimes? Do they act in the name of God, despite violating one of the Ten Commandments? The obvious answer to this question is a firm, resounding no. One cannot claim to be following the will of God while also following the will of an imperfect man who is making an order entirely contrary to God’s teachings.

Lack of Support for Immoralities

It’s a safe assumption to make that when the government directly tells you to violate one of the Ten Commandments, it is morally sound for a Christian to disobey that order. But just how often do these instances occur? Well, by virtue of what it means to be a government, more often than most may think. Even allegedly liberal democracies such as the United States kill civilians on a regular basis. The fact that these people are foreign, rather than citizens, makes no difference.

Immediately, the government appears to violate three of the commandments. First of all, it kills both soldiers and civilians abroad. The Ten Commandments do not make the distinction of “Thou shall not kill, save in self-defense or war”. Rather, murder is recognized, as it should be, as a wicked act to avoid in all circumstances. Similarly, there is no clause in the commandments that allows the government to steal from you or covet your goods, even for seemingly good purposes.

As a counterpoint, some may argue that Christians not paying taxes contradicts the idea of turning the other cheek. This point carries a great deal of weight but ultimately fails. It is true that Christians should not violently resist a tax collector or any other, as doing so would clearly not be turning the other cheek. However, peaceful disobedience does not fall into the same category; in fact, turning the other cheek itself is a form of this. Rather than being meek, Jesus suggests a tone of defiance when he turns his cheek. Likewise, it makes sense for Christians not to pay taxes to a government that will violate the commandments. Rather, they should turn the other cheek in defiance, neither violently protesting nor passively submitting.

The Law of God

It is also worth mentioning that Romans 13:1-7 does not paint the whole picture of the law. Immediately after, Romans 13:8 reads: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”. Clearly, this suggests that anyone who loves other people will fulfill the law.

This stands in striking contradiction to the actions of most governments today. Though it is conceptually possible for one to operate entirely on the principles of love, this has never been the case and very well may never be. Currently, the United States is militarily involved in a number of other countries, imprisons hundreds of thousands of nonviolent people, and extorts the rest of the citizens to pay for these things. It appears that this is a clear violation of the law of God to love one another, and thus, any legitimacy to follow the government as an extension of God vanishes.

A Contradiction of Free Will

An additional section of the Romans verse suggests that God instituted all of the governing authorities. From a moral standpoint, this already appears shaky, but it also denies the very existence of free will.

Why does evil in the world exist, when God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent? The problem of evil has tormented theologists and philosophers alike for centuries, but Thomas Aquinas, among others, believed to have found a solution to this dilemma: free will. As the point goes, though God is perfect, he also instills free will in each person. The Bible also contains evidence to support this claim; Deuteronomy 30:19 teaches to “choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live”. Therefore, there is no way to guarantee that people will choose to act with goodness.

Christians Have No Obligation to Pay Taxes

Let’s now apply this to the concept of the state. How can people with free will always choose the right person that will follow the will of God? And, in a nondemocratic society, what is to prevent an evil ruler from forcibly taking power? Simply put, there is no guarantee here due to the idea of free will. Thus, it appears that a government may or may not follow God’s teachings.

Without a doubt, Christians do not have a moral obligation to pay taxes to a state that defies their religion. Though a couple of Bible verses weakly attempt to suggest this, they either fail to present the whole story or rely on faulty assumptions. Ultimately, no government that defies what Jesus teaches is worthy of the respect or obedience of Christians, and in the course of history, not a single one has managed to do so.


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Jordan Peterson Manipulates Language to Appear Smarter

Ellie McFarland | United States

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson rose to prominence after a video of him defending free speech against the Canadian human rights bill C-16 surfaced online. This bill, among other things, would make it a crime to misgender a trans person. Dr. Peterson’s assertions in the original video were clear and admirable, but further, it was a direct deviation from the current common discourse. He was rocketed into public intellectual stardom after the episode at The University of Toronto; booking speaking event after guest lecture after television appearance. He was, and still very much is, the freshest philosopher in the free marketplace of ideas.

However, with closer examination, it seems his transparency and edge are inconsistent in his current work. Specifically, in the now infamous Cathy Newman interview, Dr. Peterson jumped from hard-hitting clear claims about the nature of political correctness to vague and meaningless facts about lobster dominance hierarchies.

The Bridge Between Lobsters and Humans

Dr. Peterson’s constant metaphors involving lobsters are actually very important to the way he manipulates language. For instance, he might say something about how dominance hierarchies are inherent in human beings and then go on a tirade about shellfish serotonin levels. While both statements are correct, but they don’t inform each other in any relevant way. This is called a non sequitur and means “it does not follow” in Latin. When someone uses a non sequitur, the premises do not logically inform the conclusion, even though all parts of the argument may be correct. Even though it is true that humans naturally fall into hierarchies, and lobsters do have very similar endocrine systems to humans, those facts do nothing to prop each other up, or to prop up his point, which usually amounts the differences between men and women being biological rather than social.

All of these declarations are technically correct according to everything we know about both human and lobster biology. However, neither of them does anything to prove whether or not there are actual differences between men and women beyond the social sphere. There is astounding evidence that he does frequently bring up to prove men and women, our masculine and feminine strengths and weaknesses, are biological. But he very rarely brings them up alongside that specific issue. Instead, he uses them in conversations surrounding crime and antisocial behavior. When these facts, however rarely, are brought up in the context of the conversation they actually belong in, they are cheapened and sandwiched between lobster-talk and dominance hierarchies.

This is actually a spin-off of a well-known debate technique called Gish Galloping, where a debater will try and overwhelm their opponents with as many arguments as possible in the shortest time possible. Dr. Peterson tweaks this idea. Instead of overwhelming his opponent with a lot of arguments all at once, he opens into an explanation of something that has very little to do with his real point in hopes that his opponent won’t bother to address it. The truth is, lobsters have nothing to do masculinity or femininity. But that sort of niche diatribe does impress people even though, critically, it carries no real value.

Redefining the Words We Know

The second way Dr. Peterson manipulates language is through the changing of definitions. The most atrocious example of this definition hopscotch is when he speaks on the topic of religion. He has said consistently that he believes all people are religious because religion is “what you act out.” This is just an unhelpful shifting of meaning. According to this definition, prayer, martyrdom, and communion are all religious acts in the same way driving, making a salad, watching TV, or participating in Punk Rock are religious acts. After all, “you can’t be a disbeliever in your actions”. This is an intentionally blunt definition that detracts from conversational productivity. Sam Harris explained this best when he said,

“People have traditionally believed in ghosts, it’s an archetype you might say– the ghost: survival of death is certainly an archetype. And we know what most people most of the time mean when they say they believe in ghosts. And I say I don’t believe in ghosts, and you say ‘No no, you do believe in ghosts. Ghosts are your relationship to the unseen. That’s a ghost.’ So you have a new definition of ghost that you’re putting in the place provided, to which I have to say of course I have a relationship to the unseen. So yeah I guess I do believe in ghosts. You win that argument. But that simply isn’t what most people mean by a ghost.”

Peterson Manipulates Words for Conclusions

Redefining words is not always such a slimy debate strategy. In many instances, it can be very helpful in coming to a conclusion about rather nebulous words such as “good”, “evil”, or even “god” in order to further some sort of discourse and continue the conversation. Dr. Peterson’s redefinition of religion, though, is all-encompassing by design. This basically boils down to an equivocation fallacy. Dr. Peterson’s definition of religion is clearly not the same as the average religious person’s definition. Therefore, it’s meaningless within any conversation about its impact.

This is not to say that Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is not intelligent, that he doesn’t have anything important to say, or that his philosophies outlined in 12 Rules for Life are immoral or fundamentally wrong. This is to say that not all of his proclamations are valid and we shouldn’t ignore his metaphorical talk-arounds of legitimate criticism. It is fine, even good, to admire Jordan Peterson. It is intellectually dishonest, however, to pretend he is flawless or doesn’t use manipulative language. In doing so, he makes himself seem more intelligent and convinces good-hearted people of positions with little merit.


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Toxic Femininity Exists and Gillette Is Feeding It

Luke-David Boswell | United Kingdom

I’m a bit late to the party on the Gillette advertisement. But after watching the video, I learned that it sums up the current political climate; a small, vocal group of radical feminists are speaking without a clear understanding of men. I’ll forever stand by the belief that feminism is for the equality of both sexes. However, this increasing group of self-proclaimed social justice warriors receives constant media catering. In many cases, this is due to merely being brash and vocal against people who disagree and searching for ways to label society as oppressive.

I can agree that the motives of Gillette are brave. Nonetheless, the way they depict toxic masculinity (which I believe exists) is obviously stereotypical and against the popular opinion. For this reason, I cannot fathom how it got approval. If we’re going to discuss toxic masculinity and take out all our energy focusing on how men are apparently the devil, then we also have to talk about toxic femininity.

What Is Toxic Femininity?

Toxic femininity is noticed in passive aggression, person-to-person manipulation and systemic manipulation of victim complexes. A frequent talking about weight in women’s circles, female on female ‘slut shaming’, and using the status of a woman to ruin a man’s reputation are all evident. Ignoring that toxic femininity exists is detrimental to feminism’s own principles of equality. It is an issue we must recognize as much as toxic masculinity is attracting attention.

Toxic masculinity is not at all barbecuing, having a beard, playing sport, hunting, fishing or even laddish humor. Instead, we should recognize toxic masculinity for what it is. A harmful mental aspect of being a man and the pressure to assimilate into the regimented image of manliness is a key reason why many men feel like they don’t fit into current society.

Real Instances of Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is present in the objectification of women, violence, and the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. It also appears in an inability to express emotions and in homophobia when men express non-masculine traits. Hugging a male friend, crying or struggling with mental illness may sometimes get the response of ‘man up’. as a man is often countered with ‘man up’. These issues are the true exemplifications of toxic masculinity. The issue is much more complex than the single narrative that many in the feminist movement focus on.

My main problem is the ad focused on how men need to improve themselves and become like Gillette suggests: the best they can be. Instead, we should also focus on how men need help overcoming the restrictions society has placed on them. Gillette, though, chose to generalize about men, further adding to a narrative of hatred.


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Do Nazis Deserve Free Speech in America?

M. Buck | United States

There comes a point in political dissent where one might advocate for the erasure of someone else’s rights while relishing in their own. They might partition their speech as being worthy of liberal treatment. Meanwhile, they could see others as not deserving the same rights. If this sounds like a conundrum to you, you’re not alone.

To be specific about using social rights to try to erase those of others, take deplatforming on the Internet. One side uses the anonymity and liberality of the Internet to disenfranchise a group from their own (an Antifa member doxxing Nazis or vice versa, for example). One might conclude that the lack of consistency makes this unjust, but the notion is still worth looking at.

Free Speech and Violence

To start, we can analyze how deplatforming works and what it means. Antifa, a decentralized, militant organization of folks committed to ending fascism, understands how to doxx and deplatform effectively and rather stealthily. They infiltrate private groups of fascists and other far-right fringe groups, get them to reveal just enough personal information, and spread it online for all to see. They also engage in both offensive and defensive violence at rallies. Why are they doing this? What does it mean, and is it right?

The answer, as you’ll see, isn’t so clear-cut. Reading it plainly, you’ll see a double standard of who gets to talk and who doesn’t. This is expected, isn’t it? Really, any government will guarantee some compulsion in which citizens are forced to do something. It leads us to what underpins the entire argument of regulating free speech: is compulsion necessarily bad?

First of all, we could argue that compulsion is unjust because it goes against a natural sense of autonomy; the natural ability for someone to be free does not reconcile with force. Because of how natural autonomy is, it doesn’t make sense to coerce people into speaking “correctly”. After all, it will only lead to a damaged and unnatural state of mind. So, we let free speech exist absolutely.

But what about free speech existing for those who can monopolize it? For those who can use their free speech to occlude others from using theirs or do away with free speech entirely? Is seeking absolute free speech a good idea if it will end in recklessness sooner, rather than later?

Controlling Nazi Speech?

So, enters the argument for control. The people do not inherit goodness just naturally, they are molded that way. There is no natural state of autonomy because hierarchies exist naturally and we live under them. Thus, limiting free speech would create social cohesion so no group would have to question their existence in a state, thereby obstructing the government. (Note: this argument does rest on the assumption that certain people don’t know what’s good for them). 

But what about eventual questionings of the state? How would governments liquidate rebel political movements from influencing public opinion? Both arguments have their pitfalls, and one must evaluate these questions not to find an answer, but just to reach another conclusion.

To move back to the real world application, two violent groups who vehemently oppose each other are playing out the argument. Sure, it’s polarization, but one must remember that it is not banal. It is violently separating one group from the community and taking their ideologies out, with a knife or a cyber attack. Is this for good reason?

It’s not this article’s place to judge that. However, one must understand the brevity of the circumstances we are in currently and make just decisions. I encourage every reader to think and see for yourself.


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