How free is your state?

Check out this site from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which gives rankings and assessments of the level of “freedom” in each state in the union.   According to these findings, New Hampshire (“Live free or die!”) is the state with the most freedoms, while New York is the most oppressive.  See

Now what is interesting is the way the study factors in both “economic freedom”  (low taxes, minimal government regulations on business, limited government, etc.) and also “personal freedom.”  This category includes both things conservatives like, such as openness to homeschooling and minimal gun control, but it also puts a premium on gay marriage and lax drug law enforcement.   Nevada scores big (at #6) because of its legalized gambling and because it allows localities to legalize prostitution.

Freedom in the 50 States | Mercatus.

Today conservatives tend to want economic freedom but decry this version of “personal freedom.”   While liberals demand this version of “personal freedom” while decrying “economic freedom.”

My prediction:  The new political and cultural consensus will demand both, with libertarianism reigning supreme.   Right now, this kind of libertarianism is opposed by both the left and the right, but for different reasons.  But I suspect a realignment may be in the future.  It’s already happening among some in the Republican elite.

So if you are a “freedom loving American” opposing government intrusions into the economy, how can you also oppose “personal freedoms” such as the liberty to use drugs and go to prostitutes?

Conversely, if you are a liberal who believes that gays should have the freedom to marry and that women should have the freedom to get an abortion, on what grounds would you deny a business owner the freedom to make money without government interference?

Or are you willing to accept libertarianism if it would give you whichever kind of freedom you find most important, even at the cost of the kind that you do not approve of?

HT:  Jackie

End of the professional/personal divide

An article on how the Navy has been sacking commanding officers for personal misconduct ends with a striking quotation:

The Navy has fired a dozen commanding officers this year, a near-record rate, with the bulk getting the ax for offenses related to sex, alcohol or other forms of personal misconduct.

The terminations, which follow a similar spike in firings last year, have shaken the upper ranks of the Navy, which has long invested enormous responsibility in its commanding officers and prides itself on a tradition of carefully cultivating captains and admirals.

Over the past 18 months, the Navy has sacked nine commanding officers for sexual harassment or inappropriate personal relationships. Three others were fired for alcohol-related offenses, and two on unspecified charges of personal misconduct. Combined, they account for roughly half of the 29 commanding officers relieved during that period.

Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, called the increase in firings “bothersome” but said the Navy was duty-bound to uphold strict behavioral standards, even when commanders are off-duty. He attributed the rise in part to the revolution in communications and technology, which has made it easier for sailors and their families to snoop on one another and then instantly spread the word — even from once-isolated ships at sea.

“The divide between our private and professional lives is essentially gone,” Roughead said in an interview. “People can engage in the debate — does it really matter what a commanding officer does in their personal life? We believe it does, because it gets right to the issue of integrity and personal conduct and trust and the ability to enforce standards.”

via Navy has spike in commanding-officer firings, most for personal misconduct – The Washington Post.

It has been something of a mystery why Rep. Anthony Weiner was forced to resign for his social media postings, while President Clinton with his actual as opposed to virtual adultery was re-elected.  Perhaps this is the answer.  Our technology has evolved to the point that there is no longer a boundary between one’s private and public lives.  Not just when it comes to misbehavior but in other areas as well:  Computers and cell phones enable people to work and do business at home as well as at the office.  People are always on their cell phones, sometimes dealing with business while at a ball game or a family gathering, and sometimes dealing with family issues at work.  But it isn’t just work. . . .

Could it be a healthy development that we are becoming less compartmentalized?  At least when moral behavior and holding people accountable are concerned?

The Pro-Life Pledge

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s organization, has put forward a pledge for presidential candidates to sign by which they promise that if elected they will only appoint pro-life judges and cabinet members and will promote legislation to restrict abortion.  All of the current Republican candidates have signed it except for Gary Johnson, Herman Cain, and Mitt Romney.  (That includes the Ron Paul, who may be libertarian but is still pro-life.)  Johnson is pro-abortion.  Cain and Romney still claim to be pro-life, but Cain says the president shouldn’t be promoting legislation and Romney says he doesn’t want his hands tied in appointing a cabinet.  See  Report: Romney Refuses to Sign Pro-Life Pledge – Pro-Life – Fox Nation.

Do you think the pledge is reasonable and a good tactic for pro-lifers?  Does this help you narrow your presidential choice?

Why government can’t get out of the marriage business

Political scientist Steven L. Taylor explains why the government can’t just get out of the marriage business (as Ron Paul called for in the GOP presidential debate and as some of you have called for on this blog):

Here’s the deal:  much of the significance of marriage is very much linked to civil-legal matters in a way that makes it impossible for government to extricate itself from its definition.  Marriage is many things that have nothing to do with government such as romance, love, friendship, lifelong companionship, and even sacred bonds.  There is  little doubt that those things can all be achieved without the government being involved (as is the case with friendship, for example).  However, marriage is also about certain mutual legal obligations regarding property, finances, children and whatnot, about which governmental intervention is sometimes necessary to resolve disputes (as is the case with any contractual relationship).  Further, marriage diminishes legal complexity in a variety issues (children, death [i.e., funeral arrangements], hospital visitations, medical decisions, etc.).  Now, we could utterly remove marriage as a legal institution, but then we would have to replace it with something else, and that something else would almost certainly be more cumbersome in terms of government entanglements that the current system.

To put it as simply as possible:  for government to truly get out of the marriage business it would have to stop recognizing the spousal relationship as having special legal standing.  This is because to recognize that relationship as having specific legal significances it would need a definition of “marriage” that could be held up to legal scrutiny (to, for example, stop people from arbitrarily claiming whatever privileges might exist for married couples).  Such a stand would have to exist whether the government issued the licenses or not.  Once the law has to define “marriage” then government is, by definition, in the “marriage business.”

To summarize the summary:  the only way to truly get government out of the marriage business would be to reduce marriage to the same status of friendship, i.e., a social relationship utterly defined by private interactions and that lacks legal significance.

As such, I just don’t see how government can get out of the marriage business, and this is why the same sex marriage issue has to be addressed.

Indeed, fundamentally, legal marriage can be seen as a means of safeguarding the property rights of both parties to the marriage, and therefore strikes me as something that a libertarian would see as a legitimate role for government to play.

There is also a sidebar to Paul’s response that raises other questions.  Stating that marriage should be “in the church” rather ignores the fact that there are people who want to get married, but who are not religious,  and given that a lot of libertarians are not religious, it seems odd for Paul to direct marriage to the church.  Granted, there is room in his answer for other private entities to operate, I suppose, but that might also create licensing issues, which could bring the government back into it (unless you want to say anybody can marry anyone at any time, but here we get back to that legal definition problem above).

via Can Government Get out of the Marriage Business?.

In addition, there are theological reasons why marriage is the business of the state and why the church cannot just take over that institution.  Can anyone explain why?

HT: Joe Carter

Summer movies: X-Men: First Class

Last weekend we saw X-Men:  First Class, the fifth in that franchise, which gives the origin tale.   I was surprised how good the thing was.  It’s certainly the best of the X-Men and it has to be one of the best of the comic books flicks.  There’s Batman:  The Dark Knight, the first Spider Man, the first Superman, and this one is in this company.   It’s kind of dark and disturbing, while still managing to be fun.  It has an alternative history version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought back fond memories, a plot that is both intriguing and character-driven plot, spectacular special effects that serve the story rather than just being time-killing fireworks, and Kevin Bacon!  Technically, the movie was well-done also, with ambitious camera work and skillful editing that added greatly to the dynamic feel of the film.  I’m realizing that it’s possible to take a conventional, even silly, genre and, if it’s done by a talented director, as Matthew Vaughn evidently is, the final work can be strangely satisfying.

So, a good summer movie!  The only other one we have seen so far is Thor, which was OK, but not this good.

What other summer movies would you recommend?  Is the new Pirates of the Caribbean any good?  How about Super 8?

Shakespeare’s grammar: “He words me”

A neuroscientist describes one of the things that is so remarkable about Shakespeare’s language:  The way he–along with the Elizabethan English of his time–can use words for different parts of speech:

E. A. Abbott (1838-1926) was one of the great Victorian schoolmasters, who wrote, at the age of thirty, A Shakespearian Grammar. He described it as an attempt to illustrate some of the differences between Elizabethan and Victorian English so that his students could understand that the difficulty of Shakespeare lay not so much in the individual words, which could always be looked up in a glossary, as in the syntactic shaping of his thought. In Elizabethan grammar, he said, ‘it was common to place words in the order in which they came uppermost in the mind’ – and then fit the syntax around that mental excitement. Elizabethan authors, he continued, never objected to any ellipsis – any grammatical shortcut – ‘provided the deficiency could be easily supplied from the context’.

I told my brain scientists that one small but powerful example of this quick Elizabethan shorthand is what is now called functional shift or word-class conversion – which George Puttenham, writing in 1589, named ‘enallage or the figure of exchange’. It happens when one part of speech is suddenly transformed into another with a different function but hardly any change of form. It sounds dull but in performance is almost electrically exciting in its sudden simple reach for a word. For example: an adjective is made a verb when in The Winter’s Tale heavy thoughts are said to ‘thick my blood’. A pronoun is made into a noun when Olivia in Twelfth Night is called ‘the cruellest she alive’. Prospero turns adverb to noun when he speaks so wonderfully of ‘the dark backward’ of past time; Edgar turns noun to verb when he makes the link with Lear: ‘He childed as I fathered.’ As Abbott says, in Elizabethan English ‘You can “happy” your friend, “malice” or “foot” your enemy, or “fall” axe on his head.’ Richard II is not merely deposed (that’s Latinate paraphrase): he is unkinged.

This mental instrument of fresh linguistic coinage, which Shakespeare used above all, holds in small within itself three great principles. Namely: the creative freedom and fluidity of the language at the time; the economy of energy it offered for suddenly compressed formulations; and the closeness of functional shift to metaphor – that characteristic mental conversion that Shakespeare so loved – in the dynamic shifting of senses.

via Literary Review – Philip Davis on Shakespeare and Neurology.

My favorite example of this is in Antony & Cleopatra (II.ii) when Cleopatra responds says to her handmaidens of  Octavius Caesar’s smooth but deceptive rhetoric:  “He words me, girls, he words me.”

Some of Shakespeare’s language-bending has entered into the language has a whole, to its great enrichment.  For example, he took “lone,” as in “lone wolf,” which simply means “one.”  He added -ly to invent “lonely,” the feeling you get when you are “lone.”

The scientist goes on to do an experiment to try to find out how this works in the brain.  But this is also good literary criticism; that is, noticing what an author is doing.

HT: Joe Carter


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