American Privilege

Any essay on “privilege” has to start with a solid disclosure. As a middle-aged pale male, I have no business lecturing anyone on privilege. I’m at the top of the heap, and I know it. That is my point in this piece, after all. I have the privilege of contemplating privilege.

It still seems to me to be primarily the benefit of the doubt. If I walk into a store, I’m a customer – not a potential thief casing the joint. If the cops pull me over I get a certain level of respect that not everyone does, and I do use this to my advantage at times. If things get really bad and guns are pulled out, the benefit of the doubt makes me the good guy in the split second decision that separates life from death.

I have no illusions about any of this. That is, actually, my point through all of this.

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Underground Economy

This is a repeat from 2013.  What’s amazing is that the Underground Economy, that part which is off the books, has not been studied properly for a solid five years.  It may still be 12% of GDP, but we don’t really know. 

It’s good to have a lot of money, assuming that not everyone has a lot.  Inequality is apparently bad when it gets too big, but it also makes the whole economy possible in small doses.  But how much money is really out there, and where is it going?  It turns out that this is more complicated – and hidden – than most thought.

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The Conch Republic

April 23 was the 35th birthday of the Conch Republic. It was an important day because once it turns middle aged it can start lying about its age. Lying is an important part of the story because a well told lie is the heart of any legend.

You may not have heard of the Conch Republic, the Independent Florida Keys. To some people, that’s just as well. But the story needs to be told because it is a tale of lust, greed, power, and … well, actually, it’s just a lot of fun. You can get a lot further with a good gag than you can by being a jerk. And so it begins.

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Crazy Gets Real?

There’s no doubt that we live in a crazy world where just about anything can happen. If only that could be put to a good use.

Perhaps the most festering sore in this feverish world is North Korea. The population is isolated and starving, living in constant fear. That alone is reason enough to do something, but the recent increase in belligerence and danger posed by nuclear weapons makes it imperative that something be done. The Trump administration does have a point.

We can’t do much about it, however, as that would not go well. But China can. In fact, it’s as much in China’s interest that this problem be solved as anyone. So why not at least propose a deal to make it happen?

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A Crisis of Faith

Rejection of the “mainstream” is an important part of the polarization and radicalization of America. Socially and politically, movements on the left, right, and whatever else there is measure their stands by how far outside the establishment they are.

For all the bluster, it’s mostly nonsense. Trump supporters often rely on Obamacare, as they are learning, if not social security and other programs. Left wingers usually have jobs like anyone else. Everyone has sold out in nearly every way possible – except one. Religion and spirituality is the one place where the true mainstream is indeed slipping away, caught in an “uncanny valley” where the teachings seem too simple, too childlike, to be relevant.

And this is the one place where America is truly failing.

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Practical, In a Way.

After writing for a decade on my political philosophy, it’s perfectly natural for many people to have an opinion about me. Some of my progressive friends make it clear that they view me with some suspicion, due to my tendency to support “the establishment” and my interest in economics – the dismal science of the elite. Some of my conservative friends see my interest in social justice and desire to make constant improvement as dangerous tinkering with the social order and a desire for perfectibility, an intellectual pursuit always fraught with danger.

Both are wrong in a way. Call it “enlightened self interest” if you want, but I see my view as nothing more than the only practical one given my one and only goal. Like Beethoven contemplating the Ninth Symphony, I only want to be happy. And my politics flows naturally from that.

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Divide, not Divide

One prominent theme came out of the 2016 election – voters are ready for change. A near majority was excited enough by the idea to actually vote for a narcissist with no rational plan at all. Are voters simply stupid?

In a democracy, you always get the government you deserve. No matter how you may feel about that, it remains true that Vox Populi, Vox Dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God, a sentiment first developed by radical Whig reformers in Scotland 300 years ago.

For those of you who favor the short version, skipping a journey through history, voters aren’t stupid. They may be badly informed and even more badly led, but they are onto something. America is clearly adrift. The essential guiding philosophy is obvious, given a little distance provided by history and the experience of hungrier developing nations. But in the bizzy here and now, what does that mean in terms of politics?

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