Tag: debate

Steven Crowder Fans Should Change Their Minds

Glenn Verasco | United States

I have dedicated an absurd portion of the past week of my life to understanding, discussing, debating, and writing about the recent Lincoln Memorial confrontation between Nathan Philips and a group of students from Covington Catholic High School. While there is much to take interest in regarding the matter, nothing is as captivating as the hallucinations people have had and, amazingly, continue to experience when watching videos of the incident. The human mind is a baffling device.

The other day, I opened YouTube and clicked on the latest episode of Steven Crowder’s “Change My Mind,” a segment of his show Louder with Crowder. “Change My Mind” involves Crowder and some of his crew members setting up a table in a public location and displaying a large sign that espouses a provocative political statement followed by the words “change my mind.” If you are social media savvy at all, you’ve probably come across the meme “Change My Mind” has inspired:

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Image result for change my mind memeRelated image

The stated goal of this experiment is to attract dissenters of the displayed statement then invite them to sit down and have a rational and healthy dialogue to express their disagreement. I am not exactly a fan of his, but watch Crowder’s videos on occasion.

As productive political discourse in America, particularly the online variety, seems to have taken a turn for the worse over the past few years, Crowder’s project is noble on the surface. But Steven Crowder is not the man for this job.

In his most recent video titled “PROTESTER SCREAMS Then Rethinks: Change My Mind,” which takes place at UT Dallas, Crowder has his table set up with a banner that reads “Build the Wall: Change My Mind.” But rather than a typical “Change My Mind” video in which guests are sitting down at the table with the host, the video begins with Steven approaching a group of students demonstrating against him a few yards away.

Throughout the rest of the video, Steven either hallucinates or lies on myriad occasions and acts as anything but an authority on rational discourse.

Free Speech Bullying

I’m often told that while free speech is a right, some speech has consequences. This is a fair legal argument but can be an awful human argument when applied too broadly.

First off, what is and what is not legal does not determine what is right and what is wrong. Driving through a red light is illegal, but driving through a red light at a completely empty intersection where the driver has the field of view to determine with certainty that no cars are coming from any direction is not wrong.

Saying “nigger” in front of a black stranger or screaming “fire” in a movie theater are not criminal acts, but they are examples of wrongful behavior because they are liable to cause problems without reason. This is to say that just because you have Constitutional protections that allow you to do something without government interference does not mean you should do it.

While some speech is reasonably treated as wrongful behavior that has consequences regardless of legality, some speech or expression currently deemed offensive does not deserve the consequences it elicits. For example, James Damore was fired from his job at Google for writing an internal memo that mentioned scientifically observed differences between male and female psychologies. Additionally, early critics of the Covington Catholic School boys whose initial perceptions have been proven invalid are moving the goal posts to argue that the boys were asking for trouble by wearing red Make America Great Again hats. Both of these instances illustrate active consequence assignment, as opposed to consequences coming about naturally. The people who bemoan evolutionary biology and the sitting president’s signature merchandise are being intolerant bullies, and third parties must stick their necks out and stand up to these bullies to preserve an environment of liberal expression.

About a minute into Crowder’s video, he decides to abuse his First Amendment rights to the detriment of others. Crowder, camera crew in tow, approaches the demonstrators, and says “I understand there’s a protest going on here.” A white girl (WG) says they are not protesting, but “representing our views.” She says this calmly and politely and, in my opinion, in a way that attempts to communicate to Crowder that they are not trying to dehumanize or demonize him, but simply express their countering views.

Crowder then engages a guy holding a rainbow umbrella (GHU) and questions his group’s decision to demonstrate instead of joining him at the discussion table. He, as calmly and politely as WG, explains as follows:

For one, there is a fear for our safety. We don’t want to be put online where people that have similar beliefs to yours potentially would dox us and come at us and harass us. We feel that our point of view standing here was enough to be said. But now you’ve all come here and essentially forced us into this interview.

When those critical of identity politics and modern left-wing activism here the word “safety” in the context of political and social discourse, it may ring bells of the “safe space” culture eviscerated by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their groundbreaking essay  “The Coddling of the American Mind.” But what GHU and his group are afraid of is not encountering opposing views; they fear the same internet mob tactics that have upended the lives of the Covington Catholic students among so many others.

A black girl (BG) then makes another valiant point by explaining that her lacking public speaking skills could cause her to misrepresent her own views. Although I think she is underestimating herself, it’s a perfectly fair point. But none of this dissuades Crowder, and he continues to disregard their wishes.

By bringing these demonstrators into his YouTube channel and its 3.3 million subscribers, Crowder is not violating anyone’s First Amendment rights, but he is being a jerk and a bully and potentially subjecting them to undeserved consequences. And that kind of behavior is the exact opposite of what is needed to reestablish an environment for rational discourse in America.

Who called Steven a racist?

About half a minute into the video, Crowder’s voice, dubbed over the video, alludes to nasty accusations being hurled in his direction. We then see BG and a Muslim girl (MG) for the first time. Both girls are filmed saying “I don’t engage with racists” and “at the very least xenophobic.” No other context is provided at any point in the video.

After rejecting the students’ requests not to film them, about three and a half minutes into the video, Crowder confronts MG, who is a holding a sign that says “Immigrants are welcome here: change my mind.” Crowder invites her to his table, so he can take her up on the request implied by her sign. MG refuses by saying, “I’m good.” From behind Crowder, a female’s voice can be heard saying something along the lines of MG is the one who didn’t want to speak to “the racist,” which, at least in Crowder’s video, she did not say. Crowder continues his attempt to persuade her to speak with him, and she denies.

What’s important to take notice of here is that Crowder towers over MG. She is petite as can be, and he is a fairly hefty and tall man. Crowder also has a camera crew behind him, and spectators surround the entire scene.

I do not abide by the #MeToo principle that imbalance in stature, race, gender, or position of power should have legal ramifications. Adult female secretaries should not receive special legal treatment if they choose to sexually interact with their bosses. Adults are adults.

However, as I said earlier, legality does not determine right and wrong, and Crowder’s behavior here is bullying.

BG interjects and says to Crowder that the situation he is creating might be “intimidating” for some people. Crowder all but ignores her, and stupidly explains that it’s intimidating for him to be in a crowd like this too.

About twenty seconds before the five-minute mark, Crowder says to the group “I’ve heard rumors here that Crowder is a racist.” BG denies having said that. Crowder then turns to MG and asks if she called him a racist. MG says “I said I wouldn’t engage with racists, and I don’t feel comfortable engaging with you right now.” Crowder asks if this is because she thinks he is a racist, and she says “it’s because you’re crowding me and you’ve brought a crowd of people and multiple cameras, so I really don’t appreciate how you’re crowding me like this.” Some people in the crowd jeer her response petulantly. Crowder says he isn’t crowding her, which directly contradicts the mass of people and cameras that have encircled MG and her friends.

If Crowder were decent, he would have apologized at this point and walked away. He doesn’t.

MG calmly and clearly explains that she prefers to engage in smaller groups, not in crowds. Crowder essentially admonishes her for another minute until a bearded demonstrator (BD) raises two fingers, signaling he would like to chime in. More on BD in a moment…

I recommend watching this entire exchange carefully and listening to some of the things Crowder says. Then reconsider whether or not this is the type of person you should be listening to, let alone leading a pro-discourse movement.

Protester screams?

Regardless of his views on immigration or anything else, BD, who arrives on the scene during the interaction between Crowder and MG, is the hero in this story.

Growing increasingly visibly annoyed during the exchange, BD raises two fingers and asks “Can I speak?” He then explains that he believes Crowder is doing something under-handed by basically exploiting a girl with possible anxiety issues in order to cast all of the demonstrators in a light of intellectual weakness.

Crowder then does something fascinating. In a near mirror image of the dishonest leftists he would destroy for throwing out accusations of racism when defeated in an argument, Crowder’s red herring response is that it’s “kind of like how calling someone a racist might be underhanded.” BD, who is quite eccentric and emotive, looks as though his brain has been twisted into a knot by Crowder’s non-sequitur rebuttal.

BD goes on for a minute or so explaining that coming to this campus, which is multi-cultural with a large immigrant population, with such an inflammatory debate topic is “shady” and that Crowder is exploiting the students for their emotional labor among other things.

Crowder, the self-anointed standard bearer for rational discourse, interrupts and responds by saying “everything you just said is inaccurate.”

I do not agree with Crowder that a wall should be built on the southern border, and I’m sure I would disagree with BD on a plethora of political and social issues (including the phrase “emotional labor” itself). But I would never make a comment as disrespectful, absolutist, or myopic as Crowder’s to either of them. This is because I actually want to change people’s minds, and can understand that their experiences and knowledge sets may be different from mine. I am almost willing to change my own mind and understand that every person I meet knows something I don’t, the 9th of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, which Crowder is evidently not heeding.

Around thirteen minutes into the video, BD (who tells Crowder his name is Nicholas) agrees to sit down with Crowder at his table. One of Crowder’s first comments is suggesting that sitting at the table “breeds more friendly, productive conversation” and that he doesn’t want to “shout out there.” Nicholas explains that he didn’t think that was an issue, and I agree with him. In contrast to the video’s title, no one had been shouting at each other. Yet, Crowder accuses him of “shouting” and “yelling” during the first few minutes of their conversation, which Nicholas says he doesn’t remember but is sorry for if he did (I like Nicholas).

At this point, Nicholas has remained polite and practiced active listening despite being smeared, mocked, and lied to. Add all of this to what I interpret to be standing up to the bullying Crowder on MG’s behalf, and it seems that Crowder should be taking notes from Nicholas, not the other way around.

Adding Insults to Injury

Crowder is both a political commentator and humorist with roots in stand up. While I love both and am a sycophant for political satire, the blending of politics and comedy can have mixed results. A benefit of political comedy is that satire and ridicule can be used to show people that they may need to reconsider their views. Another benefit is the inherent value of making people laugh, regardless of whether or not it’s constructive. Jokes are great in and of themselves.

One downside of political comedy is that people like Crowder, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert can hide behind their comic identity to avoid taking responsibility for flubs and mistakes while continuing to pose as legitimate voices when convenient. Another downside is that laughs, which should be elicited by a joke’s cleverness, timing, or absurdity, can also be generated via hate and confirmation bias. This has been on full display since Trump became a contender for president as jokes about him tend to forgo wit and instead capitalize on telling people what they want to hear. We the Internet has satirized this phenomenon as well as anyone.

Throughout the video, Crowder sinks to the comedic depths of Colbert and the rest of the late night clones with hackneyed and insulting quips about the oft-ridiculed terminology used by Social Justice Warriors. He refers to a reasonable and well-spoken argument made by Nicholas an “emotional reaction.” When Nicholas tries to defend himself from Crowder’s blatant misrepresentation of his arguments, Crowder sarcastically accuses him of “mansplaining.” After an exchange with BG, Crowder asks for a “bro-hug” then amends it to a “gender-neutral bro-hug.” When prodding Nicholas to tell him what an acceptable argument from a supporter of Trump’s wall would sound like, he asks “what, to you, would be the acceptable way for someone who disagrees with you to express himself, or herself… or xeself.”

Forget how disrespectful it is to presume that the people Crowder is speaking to actually abide by these concepts, and forget how dishonest it is to mock them without first knowing what their views are.

The real offense is his assault on the institution of comedy. By throwing these catchphrases in at such inopportune times, Crowder is playing to the lowest comedic common denominator. These jokes are about as original and as funny as calling Trump Orange.

Steven Crowder is not actually in the business of promoting civil discussion. He is in the businesses of promoting his own views and making his opponents seem worse than they actually are. While there are many on the left who are deserving of harsh criticism and denunciation, the students he bullied in his video did not appear to be the right targets at all. The students did not deserve to be treated the way they were by Crowder, and Crowder did not deserve the time of day from them.

***

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Politics is Awful but Necessary for Liberty in the Future

By Dylan Anders | @realdylananders

John Adams wrote, in a 1780 letter to his wife:

“I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.”

To be frank and seemingly hypocritical, I despise politics. The political system that many fellow citizens subscribe to is a perpetual debate of whose war is preferable, which tax plan would better supersede the previous president’s, and whether to legalize firearms or marijuana. All of these are the same question in disguise:

Which boot tastes better, the right or the left? In what way can the government claim itself all-powerful today?

These arguments are too childish for many of us, but we engage anyways, in a tangential manner. We criticize the deceit of Washington and its partners in an attempt to open the eyes of the masses. However, we should know that the masses do remain a part of the majority for the same reason that humans are drawn towards the thought of safety and dogmatism.

The necessity for contemporary politics means that there is a lack of liberty. This is inherent in today’s partisan system.

Thus, I hate politics. I yearn a feeling of gratification if I were to indulge in the studies of the sciences and the arts. However, I feel deeply obligated to debate, to write, to speak. One day, a day may come where society is free, but today is not that day. Today, it is not right to study the sciences and the arts, though they are fascinating. Liberty is necessary so that the next generations can indulge in life’s finer aspects.

Surely, these subjects are a noble cause in and of themselves, but I find myself baffled as to how seemingly intelligent men and women can be so complacent. After all, they are in the presence of an authority that will steal, kill, and abandon truth.

Being able to think critically, speak intently, and act willfully is the fundamental sign of a free human being.

Clearly, we know not what the future holds. However, one thing is clear. In the words of modern thinker Stefan Molyneux: We must debate or die. Otherwise, we are useless for the moral compass we claim to stand for.

For every wrongful act of government, be it the acts of genocide on innocent children, imprisonment of peaceful people, or authoritative policing on all citizens, I seemed to become more and more discouraged in this cause. But with this concept, hope can still exist. Our bodies may be compromised, but as long as I have my mind and my spirit, I am victorious against all tyrants. And by standing against these tyrants, the next generation may see a brighter future.


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The Boomers and Their Greatest Weapon: Experience

By Dylan Anders | @realdylananders

We libertarian youngsters have never heard the end of it from parents and grandparents regarding our views. Of course, this does not apply to all of them, as each individual has a different mind. However, there are clear attitudes that majorities of generations hold. After ranting over police misconduct and tax law, it becomes apparent that many Boomers (which, for the sake of brevity, will be the term for those belonging to the group born between 1945 and 1965 affected by a dogmatic world-view) are not interested in changing their mind. At least, they won’t allow those younger than them to do so, the stereotype suggests. Our well-articulated arguments on the rights of man pales in comparison to the ‘superior’ experience Boomers hold. Simply nothing can refute a Boomer’s anecdote.

Some of the so-called experience that Boomers swear by is elementary:

The police system cannot be corrupt because I wasn’t beaten after being pulled over for speeding. I complied… and dutifully paid $300 for going 10 over!

…and the ever-so popular:

We have to pay the government our taxes, because who else will build the roads?

Sure, there may be some embellishment in the rhetoric, but many Boomers have uttered words quite similar to these.

We lack the worldly experience that would otherwise immediately credit the Boomer. Thus, our words, no matter how well thought out, are worth nothing to many of them. We must concede that experience is a valuable asset in the quest to find truth and reasoning. But, what the Boomer gets wrong is the sheer fact that right and wrong are constant and objective, and no amount of experience can change that to fit the Boomer’s mindset. Sure, the Boomer may be right, as we can, too. The longer life the Boomer has lived, though, is not sufficient evidence to determine what is right.

With age comes experience, but experience does not inherently bring reason. Even the same experience can breed different interpretations.

Where, though, does this mindset come from? Sociologist David Finkelhor coined the term as juvenoia: “an exaggerated fear about the influence of social change on children and youth.” The term quite literally comes from the words ‘juvenile’ and ‘paranoia.’ It has been here for a long time. Even Socrates complained much like how the Boomer does today—children nowadays have “contempt for authority” and “contradict their parents.” Juvenoia is natural. As a newer, younger generation experiences a change in technology or mindset, the older generation feels a moral heightening over the youth in a sort of ageist manner. As George Orwell says, “every generation imagines itself to be…wiser than the one that comes after it.”

Once we look at Boomer influence in government, their argument of experience really begins to sound like a broken record.

The most intriguing aspect of the Boomer’s mindset is their hypocrisy. They would be justified in criticizing our generation, if their own had not utterly poisoned the economy, as well as our liberties. Boomers seem to rarely criticize their coevals in office. Yet, they are the ones that destroyed the housing and education markets, gave newborns an inheritance of debt, bred the largest Ponzi scheme ever seen, and slaughtered the Bill of Rights.

Clearly, we must ask: what justification do Boomers have to blindly mock the new ideas of the youth? Only those lost in dogmatism would avoid the debate for reason with young minds.


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Motivation Matters

Craig Axford | United States

    There’s a commercial that’s been airing lately. It features a rather nerdy looking, slightly overweight, thirty-something guy at a bar trying out various lines on women, but none of them are impressed. Finally, the man tells a gorgeous woman in a red dress that he has just donated some of his bone marrow to save a stranger’s life. At last, he gets the girl.

As the commercial draws to a close, viewers are given instructions for receiving a screening kit to become donors. The message that male donors, at the very least, will become more appealing to women if they donate. And yeah, you might just help to save a life too.

 We’ve all done the right thing for the wrong reason before. Sometimes we’re only vaguely conscious that our motives are less than an ideal match for our actions. More often, however, we assume that, provided the outcome is the right one,  our motives don’t really matter all that much. From a purely consequentialist ethical perspective, outcomes tend to be what concern us. Therefore, we can get away with not examining the rationale directing us to act the way we do too closely.

 Evaluating the outcome of our actions alone isn’t wrong, but it is only half the picture. There is, after all, something a bit disconcerting about a guy donating his bone marrow to pick up women, no matter how many lives he’s saving. The motivation is just too out of sync with the action.

 Qualitatively there is something very different about a world where people donate bone marrow for a stranger just because they care and one in which they do it to get girls. There’s a reason we prohibit the buying and selling of organs, after all. Treating our bodies like sources for spare parts introduces new ethical problems that are very difficult to overcome even if lives are being saved as a result.

 Frequently, our motivation isn’t as simple or obvious as getting someone to go out with us, or earning a little extra money for retirement. But no matter how opaque it is at first, sooner or later our true intentions usually reveal themselves, opening us to charges of hypocrisy or self-interest even when our behavior produces positive results. That’s because it’s our motivation that reveals whether our why and our what combine to form an action based upon respect for humanity.

 Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative constitutes a universal law formulation of morality which states that one should “…act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it be a universal law.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes what’s known as “the humanity formula” for the categorical imperative. This states that treating humanity as an end instead of means is one example of something a rational being would desire to “be a universal law.”

Notice that the above humanity formulation refers specifically to humanity as opposed to individual humans. That’s because people are necessary means to various ends all the time. Society wouldn’t be able to function otherwise. To use the Stanford Encyclopedia’s example, “the difference between a horse and a taxi driver is not that we may use one but not the other as a means of transportation. Unlike a horse, the taxi driver’s humanity must at the same time be treated as an end in itself.”

 Using the humanity formula, it becomes clear why the guy donating bone marrow to get the girl makes us feel a little squeamish. The humanity of neither the person receiving his bone marrow nor of the random girls he is introducing himself to at the bar isn’t what matters to him. He’s motivated by something entirely selfish which has no moral relationship to the act of donating bone marrow.

  Kant’s instruction to treat humanity as an end unto itself, rather than merely a means to fulfill our own emotional and physical desires is sound in principle, and relatively easy to grasp on its own without requiring a deep understanding of moral philosophy. As with all dictums that claim to apply universally the challenge lies in its practical application.

 When we scale up Kant’s categorical imperative to the level of communities, whole societies, or global economies the line between means and ends can become very difficult to see behind the screen of institutions we build and practices we employ to keep things running smoothly. It is at this point that it becomes all too easy for us to lose complete site of the idea that people are far more than just useful tools to provide for our collective security, build and maintain our infrastructure, or acquire wealth and power.

 Healthcare, particularly as practiced in the United States, is a classic example of how easy it is to forget that people are not products to be managed for-profit. Since the service being sold is the health of individuals, surely people as ends rather than means should be written into the very fabric of the healthcare industry. But, alas, it is not. For-profit healthcare providers typically have shareholders whose own desire to maximize returns on their investment clash daily with the needs and desires of patients seeking aid and comfort in clinics or hospitals professing to be in the well-being business.

 If an industry whose drive is solely dedicated to the health of those that walk through its doors can treat people differently according to their ability to pay for the service, often driving even those of above average means to the edge of bankruptcy in the process, we shouldn’t be surprised that institutions established with far less lofty goals in mind are focusing on less than humanitarian ends as well. As recent scandals involving Facebook and other social media companies that make their services available for free to the public use, often people are the product (i.e. means). With these companies, the ends can be as varied as selling us household goods or undermining democratic institutions. Please play the song “Wonderwall”

 In a society that’s deified the market’s “invisible hand”, Kant’s categorical imperative to treat humanity as an end rather than a means not only fails to achieve universality but is being actively resisted. We’re taught through messages both covert and overt from childhood on that the profit motive is what ensures people receive the products and services they both need and want. Any attempt to interfere with this process, no matter how well-intentioned, is to put its functionality and efficiency at risk.

Market economies have indeed proven themselves highly effective when it comes to delivering goods and services to the public. However, the market is an amoral delivery mechanism which can be bent to multiple and often contradictory ends. Some of these are necessarily better than others. Our deference to the market represents an abdication of our individual and collective responsibility to decide for ourselves what values we want the market to reflect. After all, it is hardly a given that either maximum efficiency or maximum profit will naturally translate into maximum human well-being.

 In a speech delivered at the University of Kansas in March of 1968, Robert Kennedy reminded us that blunt economic measurements like gross national product (GNP — now referred to as gross domestic product), improvements in productivity, or increases in the Dow Jones Industrial Index don’t actually provide us with any information about how we are doing as a society when it comes to things that matter deeply to us:

But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction — purpose and dignity — that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product — if we judge the United States of America by that — that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

 Nowadays, most politicians take on economic issues doesn’t typically extend much beyond economic growth. This growth in GDP is treated as an end unto itself without much regard for what we should be doing with our extra 3% of GDP. Increases in the sheer volume of wealth and gains in productivity are the only policy that really matters. It is simply assumed that improvements in public health, infrastructure, education and all the other things that Robert Kennedy described as truly relevant to our emotional and social flourishing will naturally follow.

 But the US is already the richest country in the world if we’re measuring wealth strictly in terms of GDP, and has been for quite some time. Yet improvements in life expectancy have not just stagnated, they’ve started to decline. Healthcare and education remain far more expensive in the US than in any other developed country even as we increasingly lag behind in both health and educational outcomes. In addition, the United States is among only a handful of nations not to require vacation time, sick leave, or maternity leave for its workers. In other words, treating economic growth and markets as ends unto themselves has not translated into anything like significant gains for the human beings putting in all the effort to make this growth a reality. Making national wealth our top priority has required us to treat people as mere objects that serve as convenient means of accumulating treasure for its own sake.

 Some worldviews can inflict emotional scars, which in turn will over time begin manifesting themselves physically through diseases such as depression, heart disease, and drug addiction. Recognizing our shared humanity and treating it as an end is beginning to look not just like an ethical categorical imperative, but a psychological and biological one as well. Rather ironically, in the long run, it’s looking more and more economically advantageous to slow down and give each other permission to smell the roses instead of functioning like worker bees in a hive that sees little value in preserving any single individual bee other than maybe the queen.

 Recently, a New Zealand company decided to experiment with a four day work week while still providing its employees with five days worth of pay. According to one story on the experiment, “The idea sprang from research that found people are typically engaged at work for fewer than three hours a day…” Given this fact, the owner of the New Zealand trust and estates firm decided to allow his employees to come up with work plans that might enable them to get everything done in four days instead of five. They did, and “At the end of the trial, Perpetual Guardian’s revenue and profits were unchanged” according to the firm’s founder.

 From a strictly economic point of view that putting humanity ahead of everything else might be no less profitable and in many cases perhaps even more profitable seems counter-intuitive. Many companies operating in the US today have never offered sick-leave or maternity leave largely for this reason. For most part-time workers, in particular, the prospect of a little paid vacation seems unimaginable. For those used to thinking only in terms of the bottom line the idea that making the kind of upfront investment in humanity these benefits represent might translate into greater productivity, lower turnover, and other savings down the road is just too great a leap of faith even if there are volumes of research to back up the claim.

 But workers can tell when their employer is truly interested in them as well as in making a profit. Likewise, it won’t take long for the fictional woman that the bone marrow donor met at the bar to sober up and realize that sacrifices made to make yourself more attractive are creepy instead of noble. Sincerity is very difficult to fake. Motive matters. People really do want to be around those they feel really do care, and are more likely to go the extra mile on behalf of those that actually do. No one enjoys living in a society where our default position is the assumption that the other person has ulterior motives. Sadly, that’s what the United States too often feels like.

 


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Chairman Candidates Go to War at LNC Debate

Paul Grindle | New Orleans

Last night, four candidates stood on the stage of the Libertarian National Convention to debate their candidacy for the contentious Libertarian Party chairman’s race. The two frontrunners, Chairman Nicholas Sarwark and Think Liberty co-founder Joshua Smith, mostly faced off against each other while former Johnson/Weld 2016 Ballot Access Director Chris Thrasher and Libertarian Socialist Caucus co-founder Matthew Kuehnel sniped at Sarwark and Smith throughout the duration of the debate.

Each candidate offered a similar overall vision of the party. With them as chairman, we’d fight among ourselves less and reach out to potential libertarians more. We’d fundraise more, run more and better candidates, draw in disaffected libertarian-leaning voters, and convince more people that they might be libertarians. The war of moderate vs radical would be irrelevant because the party would work with all libertarians. We would have bigger and bolder victories and become a political force to be reckoned with.

But when it came to the specifics of those platitudes, the devil was in the details. Mr. Smith, whose insurgent candidacy has energized the LP-reformist and right-wing portions of the libertarian movement, advocated for a more active and activist chair. While sidestepping the wedge issue of how to handle official Libertarian whipping boy Gov. William Weld, he took Mr. Sarwark to task for his controversial deciding vote to not pursue suspension of Vice Chairman Arvin Vohra for his anti-veteran, anti-teacher, and anti-age of consent messaging. He did not stop at mere criticism, as Mr. Thrasher did when he hammered Mr. Sarwark on the issue beforehand. Following Mr. Thrasher’s thrashing, Mr. Smith vocalized the frustration and distrust of the party’s leadership that propelled him from a barely known local activist to national libertarian hero to part of the movement: “Are you sorry?”

Mr. Sarwark broke from his characteristic stoic aesthetic several times in the debate, including at Mr. Smith’s request for his apology to the party. He also broke from his usual response of telling his critics to do the job better themselves. The two-term incumbent apologized for any actions he had taken which people felt were harmful to the party. Explaining that his skin in the game was to fight for a better future for his wife and kids, he promised only to do his best and suggested those who didn’t think his best was enough should vote for someone else.

Mr. Thrasher intended to be that someone else. Running as the anti-Sarwark moderate, he essentially ignored Mr. Smith and focused on appealing to the delegates with his experience as Ballot Access Director for Johnson/Weld and his attempt to court donors to the party. He cited his experience losing a large potential donor to the convention to the Satangate controversy and his disappointment in Mr. Sarwark’s critical questioning of those who felt the meme was out of line. But the image of himself as a party doer was hurt by his previous abandonment of the party, only to come back and run as chairman the day of the debate. Mr. Sarwark capitalized heavily on this in the candidate questioning. This isn’t the first time Mr. Thrasher has faced criticism for a change in allegiances. Mr. Thrasher had previously developed a bad reputation among some people associated with the John McAfee 2016 campaign. McAfee’s VP candidate Judd Weiss alleged in an interview that Mr. Thrasher sabotaged their campaign when he was their manager in support of Mr. Johnson’s campaign for the 2016 nomination, allegations vehemently denied by Mr. Thrasher.

Fundamentally, Mr. Sarwark and Mr. Smith presented mirror opposite views of what constitutes satisfactory success for the party. Mr. Sarwark promoted his record of growth in elected officials, fundraising, membership, and relevance as the best the party could do with the limited resources it has. He also mounted a vigorous public defense of Mr. Weld, arguing that he had not made the LP become Republican-lite but rather the LP had made him become more libertarian. He argued that Mr. Weld had stuck around after losing in 2016 while fundraising for and promoting candidates across the country, which is more than other 2016 LP candidates that have since packed up and left.

The same record Mr. Sarwark characterized as heartening progress was the very record that Mr. Smith explicitly ran against, arguing that we were doing better in 2000 and success should not judge ourselves by our relative improvements but the totality of our current status as a party. He argued for more fundraising and candidate support, citing the work he has put into campaigns such as Jeff Hewitt’s campaign for Riverside County Board of Supervisors. He argued for more coalition building, citing his inroads into the crypto community.

He also defended a controversial endorsement he received from Liberty Hangout, a Libertarian media organization, as evidence of his style of outreach being successful. According to Mr. Smith, their recent purge of alt-right contributors at the site was a result of his campaign. He unapologetically declared he’d rather push groups like them in a libertarian direction rather than ignoring them.

Surprisingly, the candidate who gained the most from the debate in absolute terms was “Chairman Meow,” Mr. Kuehnel. An avowed anarcho-communist who promotes Medicare-for-all as libertarian pragmatism and abolishing private property as libertarian radicalism, his campaign was by his own admission never intended to give him the role he was seeking. It instead sought to give his Libertarian Socialist Caucus and its sister caucus, the Audacious Caucus, more visibility and legitimacy within the party.

Starting at near-zero support, there was little possibility he could’ve had any less support than he started with. Therefore, any delegates who became more sympathetic to him would constitute a win in its own right. Though many delegates remained comprehensively unconvinced of his ideas, by withstanding a room full of vehement and constant boos while arguing that the bottom half of the political compass needed to band together to fight the state, he was able to get his message out to potentially susceptible delegates who would not have otherwise noticed his Facebook jihad for a left-right libertarian alliance.

His campaign was also intended to ruin Mr. Smith’s chance of winning the election. On that front, he has had far more success. His relentless campaign against Mr. Smith on almost every conceivable issue under the sun has hobbled the Mises Caucus’ candidate and it bled over into the debate. In his opening statement, Mr. Smith came out with an immediate acknowledgment that his struggles with child support and family are weighing on some delegates minds, as previously reported by various libertarian and third-party websites. Mr. Kuehnel’s attacks on Mr. Smith as a deadbeat dad and domestic abuser over his unpaid support and ex’s uncorroborated claims of abuse were potentially defamatory enough to bring about a lawsuit by Mr. Smith against him. But that lawsuit allowed Mr. Kuehnel to claim Mr. Smith was utilizing the state against him, a charge Mr. Smith not only accepted but doubled down on.

The defamation charges themselves are nested in a larger suit against the feline socialist. Mr. Kuehnel’s threats to leak an internal chat log from Think Liberty that contains aggressive and offensive rhetoric by Mr. Smith if he didn’t drop out of the chairman’s race provided the backdrop of a blackmail lawsuit against Mr. Kuehnel. Though the lawsuit was panned for its citation of potentially inapplicable federal statutes and Mr. Smith’s claim it came from his lawyer despite its document header claiming the suit was pro se, Mr. Smith claimed it was a rough draft of what will be his attempt to fight back against unjustified aggression and fraud against him.

The self-titled “Communist Cat” defended his attempt to pressure Mr. Smith out of the race in a dark admission that this is how the game is played.

“Welcome to politics,” he meowed.