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My thoughts on “throwing your vote away”

Posted by Chance on July 23, 2016

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Many people I know are not crazy about Trump but do not want Hillary to win, so they see no choice but to vote for Trump, and a vote otherwise is a “vote for Hillary.” The frontrunners are Clinton and Trump, so I see the logic in “not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary”, I do. But here is why I’m voting third party anyway.

If a large number of people in a party are unhappy with their candidate, in the long run, it doesn’t do the party any service to vote for them anyway. If we have a system in which the party knows we will vote for whoever they send out there, nothing will ever change. For some people like myself, it is demoralizing to think that we need to vote for our major party’s (or the one closet to our beliefs) candidate no matter what. It is a sense of feeling stuck in a system.

Also, I’m taking a longer view. Mine is not a four year strategy, but a 12 or 16 year strategy. If we really do want an end to the two-party system (and I know not all of us do), that’s probably not going to happen in one election. If you happen to agree with the Libertarian or Green party, your candidate will not win this election, but if they get substantial support, that provides momentum for the next election. If they do well enough in the polls, they can participate in the debates and get their ideas out there.

Another point is that during the nomination process, it seemed that Trump would be one of the lesser popular candidates in a general election, with other Republican nominees appearing more favorable to the general public. However, people chose him because he reflected their beliefs, but by doing so, it gave the GOP a smaller chance to win. So, why is it okay to vote your conscience during the nomination process, but not during the general election?

As far as Supreme Court justices,

No I’m not saying Trump is as bad as Sauron, I’m just posing the rhetorical question of at what point do you note vote for someone you disagree with because of potential Supreme Court nominees?

Finally, if both major party candidates are really that bad, isn’t it actually better that your party loses? I’m closer to the GOP than the Democrats. Long term, I think a disastrous Hillary presidency will be better for the GOP than a disastrous Trump presidency.  However, at this point, I’m rooting more for a third party to come about as a result, or for the current GOP to change drastically.

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I don’t think I agree with the “single greatest cause of atheism” quote

Posted by Chance on June 24, 2016

I don’t think I agree with this quote.

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

I guess it depends on what he means by “their lifestyle”. Here’s the thing; I actually disagree with the idea that Christians who cuss and party are what drive people away from God.  I don’t think nonbelievers want religious people who are goody-two-shoes, they got enough of that from the Pharisees.  In the time of the Gospels, it was actually the religious, “upstanding” folks who drove people away from God.

This saying is well-meaning, and it is pointed at hypocrites, but I think the idea of the quote in itself can make hypocrites. When we believe that our personal holiness is what draws people to God, we don’t desire to be holy, we just desire to appear holy.  Personal holiness is important, but it needs to be driven by a love for God and for other people.

In short, I don’t think it is our personal holiness that draws people to God, at least, what we tend to think of as “holiness”.  I think it is love for God and others.

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Why I think the refugee situation is an apt application of Christian ethics

Posted by Chance on January 14, 2016

Concerning the Syrian refugee situation, people who support refugees have invoked the compassionate side of Christ to support their cause.  Many have done this before in other situations, and in my opinion, have done so incorrectly.  In this case, however, I think it’s the correct approach.

People who support liberal economic policies have tried using Christian ethics of compassion and helping the poor for their cause.  I have disagreed with this, though, because the very nature of compassion and helping the poor has always been one of a voluntary nature in the New Testament.  Furthermore, Jesus’ way of doing things when He was on earth never involved gaining political power or forcing people to do things.  Also, I think the government’s efforts to help people are usually misguided.

However, the issue of letting refugees come is not an issue of the government so much actively doing something, but not actively preventing something.  I don’t think the government should do things to actively promote Christ’s kingdom, but I don’t think it should do things to prevent it either.  When the government prevents people from coming to the country, that is an active thing. I’m not saying government should have no role in protecting/enforcing borders, but I, on the whole, support letting whoever wants to come here, to come here.  I think any regulations and laws concerning immigration should be focused on security, and not out of trying to regulate the economy or preserve a certain culture.

As far as the security issue, Cato has touched on this.

Of the 859,629 refugees admitted from 2001 onwards, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks on targets outside of the United States, and none was successfully carried out.  That is one terrorism-planning conviction for every 286,543 refugees that have been admitted.  To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.  The terrorist threat from Syrian refugees in the United States is hyperbolically over-exaggerated and we have very little to fear from them because the refugee vetting system is so thorough.

I guess one could argue that we shouldn’t let anyone come here since there is any threat at all, but I think this idea has philosophical ramifications that don’t align well with Christ either.

Now, letting refugees come is not a financially neutral issue.  Some money is involved in letting refugees come and set up camp.  But I feel like this money is incidental to the whole issue at hand.  Refugees, and immigrants on the whole for the matter, are not simply financial sponges; they can get jobs and contribute as much as any of us.  Furthermore, private giving to the cause is always welcome.

So, unfortunately, people have used the name of Christ to expand government dramatically and use simplistic thinking for bad economic ideas, and so the cries of using Christian compassion may fall on deaf ears, especially among conservative circles.  But I think, in this case, Christian compassion is an applicable argument, as it means the government isn’t preventing the application of Christian values.

 

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Why raising the minimum wage is not a good idea

Posted by Chance on January 14, 2016

Some politicians and members of the general populace think that the minimum wage can be raised without any harmful side effects.  While I don’t want anyone to be poor, the idea of a minimum wage is just bad, philosophically, and raising it will ultimately be ineffective.

I should note that when it comes to economic policy, there always seems to be evidence on both sides.  So, I think it is important to look at human nature as well.  What do we understand about human behavior?

First of all, let’s talk about overall unemployment.  there is the whole law of supply and demand, which basically, among many things, states that when things are more expensive, demand goes down.   Many studies supposedly show that there is no appreciable effect on employment over time, but the problem with these studies is that they are done over time, where other factors go into employment as well.  Cato has done a study that looks at how the minimum wage affects employment by looking at multiple countries over the same time period.  But even without the studies, let’s use common sense.  When things are more expensive, fewer people buy them.  May not for slight increases; if an iPhone model increased by one dollar, it would doubtfully have any effect.  Double it, and it’s a different story. If minimum wage didn’t negatively affect employment, it would go against everything people understand about economics, and it would be the first time in history that something gained significantly in price and the exact same number of people purchased something as before.

But aren’t employees indispensable?  Not completely.  Ever see a self-checkout lane?  Companies need some employees, and machines/computers replace jobs anyway, but my increasing the minimum wage it becomes easier to make the tradeoff between human employee and a machine.

Secondly, a higher minimum wage hurts the poor by reducing their right to negotiate.  When you go to a grocery store, you make decisions on products based on some blend of quality and price.  You may go for the high quality toilet paper, but buy the cheap ketchup. But imagine if there was a law that required a minimum price for certain products?  You are used to paying two dollars for ketchup, but now the minimum price is four dollars.  You now have no reason to buy the lower quality ketchup. An absurd example, sure, but it’s analogous to raising the minimum wage.  People who have less experience and fewer job skills can bring something to the table by offering lower wages.  Intuition shows this to be true, and so do several studies.

Furthermore, a higher minimum wage increases the price of products, pretty much offsetting the effect of any wage increase.  I don’t have much to say about this other than, when operating costs increase, often the product will as well, unless the restaurant or grocery store owner or whoever wants to make less money.  It seems like more expensive products would offset a higher minimum wage.

In addition, raising the minimum wage would hurt workers already making that much.  If someone with some job skills already makes, say $15/hour, and the minimum wage is raised to that much, it automatically devalues what that person already makes.

Another point – if raising the minimum wage have any negative effects, why not raise it more? That is, if raising it to $15/hour is NOT harmful, why not raise it to $30.  Oh, because that would be too much, too expensive?  But $15 isn’t.  And you know this because…

This isn’t the only example of this type of issue that I oppose.  Raising the minimum wage would not directly affect me.  However, I could supposedly benefit from other proposals in the same vein, like mandatory paternity leave.  It’s the same idea – people deserve a certain something from the company they work for.  But what people get should be what two people agree to.  If I get hired by a company and they offer paternity leave as a benefit, great, but if no company is willing to offer that to me, but then maybe I’m not worth that.  Anything I expect beyond what any company is willing to pay me is a sense of entitlement.  Let’s say that I force companies to provide paternity leave via political means.   The thing is, my worth didn’t change.  Companies are not going to pay me the same salary, and then provide paternity leave just the same  (If I already worked for the company I wouldn’t expect a decrease in salary but fewer increases and/or less amount each increase).

Both of these are the same issue.  Things cost what they cost, and people’s labor is worth what it’s worth.  Someone cannot magically change that via political dictate.  When people try to politically get more than what they are worth in the market, something else makes up for it.

Again, there are always going to be studies showing this or that, and I even linked to some of them.  But I believe the way I do based on how I understand human behavior.  We make adjustments based on how much things cost us, and I’m arguing that business owners do the same.

 

 

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Why I’m not an Apple Music subscriber

Posted by Chance on January 2, 2016

I normally buy 1 or 2 albums a month, so subscribing to Apple Music would probably make financial sense for me.  But why don’t I?

To explain this, let’s go back to the Napster days.  I could download any song I want for free.  This made music discovery great, but it also made music disposable.  It would be no big deal for me to download a song and only listen to it once.  I had a catalog of songs that really didn’t mean anything to me.

Once I had a full time job, I decided to only get songs that I purchased legitimately.  It trimmed down my catalog, but I only had songs that I thought were worth purchasing.

And that’s the issue with Apple Music.  I can download almost any song I want; getting music is that easy.  It’s great for discovering new music, or avoiding purchases on albums that I just don’t like.  At the same time, however, I have a catalog of songs that don’t mean that may have little worth to me.  Instead of having a smaller catalog of albums or songs that have enough value for me to pay for them; I have a huge catalog of albums that I may never actually take the time to listen to all the way through.

However, I still like the idea of being able to listen to essentially any album I want, or at least test driving an album.  For that, the Spotify streaming option on my PC is sufficient for me.  For albums that I truly enjoy, I’ll make the financial investment.  If I was willing to spend the money, I would probably pay for the Apple Music subscription.  Right now, however, it’s a choice between Apple Music or buying albums, and I’ll pick the latter.

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Why I’m not a moderate

Posted by Chance on August 2, 2015

I think part of me thinks that political moderatism seems like a wise philosophy.  Moderatism would seem to be the safe option, safe from any extremes in ideas.

I think when it comes to social issues, I may be more moderate than many conservatives, but when it comes to economics, I’m pretty far right.  Here are a few reasons why:

1) The government, when it comes to power, doesn’t understand moderation.  The nature of government is to grab more power.  We see this throughout history, as government grows and grows.  Government understands moderation the same way a crack addict does.  And, I guess, it’s not an all-or-nothing thing; it’s not like we choose between anarchy and communism, but it’s just, when it comes to governmental power, and especially in economics, I prefer as little control as possible.  And, with libertarian ideas, it’s easy to give more clearly defined boundaries (i.e. focused on protecting people from others).

2) When it comes to moderation between government control and liberty, and things go wrong, people tend to blame the liberty side.  When it comes to governmental controls that don’t work, people typically push for more funding or more laws to make the original set of laws work.

So, I suppose many of us use moderation in our political philosophy to some degree, but I tend not to use moderation itself as my driving political philosophy.

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Why I’m not a liberal

Posted by Chance on August 2, 2015

I plan on doing a series of posts, why I’m not a liberal, why I’m not a moderate, and why I’m not 100% conservative, and finally, why I’m a libertarian.  I just don’t want people to think I’m picking on the liberals.

There are many reasons I’m not liberal, but I wanted to focus on two.  Liberals, when it comes to social issues, really aren’t that liberal.  When it comes to economic issues, liberal philosophy is either based on, or at the very least encourages, envy.

Concerning social issues, in many ways, liberals are like the Puritans of early America or, in some ways, the confederacy.  Many argue that the Puritans did not really want freedom of religion for everyone, they really just wanted it for themselves.  Similarly, some argue that the southern states pre-Civil War didn’t really want states rights, they wanted rights for themselves to own slaves.  They thought every state should have slavery.

I see the same thing today with liberal philosophy.  What turned me off of liberalism in college was the idea of politically correct speech.  The liberal attitude toward speech was protecting people from being offended rather than supporting people’s right to offend.  Today, many of the liberal persuasion are as judgmental of those believing or behaving differently than how they think people should live, for example, family size (the Duggars) and health lifestyle choices (trans-fat bans).  The idea that self-righteousness and judgmentalism are exclusive to the “religious right” is flat out wrong.

Also, liberals beliefs in positive rights come into conflict with negative rights.  They support abortion rights, and they think others should be forced to accommodate that, via workplace insurance or simply forcing doctors to perform abortions.  They support gay marriage and they believe others should be forced to celebrate that.  In my view, forcing others to do things against their conscience is the opposite of liberal.  This isn’t to rail against liberal philosophy (although I am staunchly pro-life), it’s that modern liberal philosophy is not that liberal to begin with.

My other, main issue, is the philosophy that impacts primarily economics, but other areas as well.  It’s the idea of comparison and the idea that wealth is a fixed pie.  If I hear liberal politicians and talking heads, I’m supposed to be concerned with how much money the CEO of my company is making, and how big my neighbors house is.  Here we are, in the richest nation of the world, of all time, and we are supposed to be concerned with what someone wealthier than us has.  I’ve blogged about this before.  We are concerned with the “top 1%” of America in wealth, when really, anyone making $35,000 annually is the top 1% of the world.  Look, this doesn’t automatically negate the point that liberals make, but I do have problems with envying or hating on the wealthy when most of us are wealthy in a global sense as well.

Part of this belief comes from the idea of wealth as a fixed pie, that if my CEO makes millions of dollars that’s less money for me.  But the whole reason I have a job is him or people like him starting companies. And, whenever I make a transaction, the person I made the transaction with and myself are better off, otherwise we wouldn’t make the transaction.  Yes, we live in a more advanced version of the trade and bartering system, but at it’s core, that’s what we are doing.  A couple of centuries ago, many of us were planting crops and hunting for food.  Now, most of us have smartphones.

So, liberal social philosophy is, in some ways, not liberal enough for me.  And, I refuse to arbitrarily set moral standards on wealth that makes me look good and everyone above me look bad.

 

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The problem with smart people

Posted by Chance on September 15, 2014

In my experience with higher education, I’ve found that really smart people are sometimes terrible teachers.  There were some brilliant mathematicians that couldn’t effectively teach someone how to multiply two matrices.  At the same time, I worked as a math tutor with other undergraduates who were really good at math, but were not so far removed from math classes to forget how a struggling math student thinks.

There’s a similar issue in technology.  There are those who see computers and technology as means to an end, and those who see computers and technology as an end unto themselves.  The latter group include those who like to play around with computers and experiment with them and probably use Linux, and the former simply want to look up something on Pinterest or print a document, probably on Windows or on a Mac.  This divide has taken on a new dimension with smartphones.  Some people just want a phone that works (i.e. Apple).  Other people want to play around with their phone, experimenting with third party keyboards and various home screen replacements (the part of the phone from which you launch the different apps), so they use Android.

Neither group is wrong.  But I find that the “tech as an end to itself” has a hard time understanding the other group.  Those who use Linux don’t understand why the average computer user can’t figure out, or would not even want to, compile their own programs or why they need things to simply just work out of the box.  The Android user may not understand why a smartphone user may not care about changing fonts for their messaging program or be able to monitor their RAM usage.  I think that a problem that tech savvy people have, including myself, is understanding that other people think differently.

I’m sure there are things that the “tech as a means to an end” do as well that are bothersome, but I feel like I’m more familiar with the other group and can evaluate that group from the inside.  I feel that in the workplace and in life, there is an advantage to the tech-savvy understanding the other group.    When I was a tutor, I had to think about math from the perspective of another person.  Now, as a software engineer, I have to think about the software working in a way that makes sense for other people.

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Domestic violence is more than a political issue

Posted by Chance on September 15, 2014

There was a piece in Grantland discussing the media in response to the Ray Rice incident.

1. During the Donald Sterling fiasco, I argued that the sportswriting class had gone from holding a range of political opinions to fusing into a single, united liberal bloc. You can see that in the coverage of Goodell, too. Reading sports this week is like being on a Nation magazine cruise.

I take issue with the author categorizing this as a “liberal” issue.  Now, I don’t think the author generally thinks that conservatives are “okay” with domestic violence, and it’s not like I’m offended as someone who is typically culturally conservative, it’s just that I think the author thinks this issue falls in line with more black coaches in the NFL or more women with front office jobs (it’s not that those latter issues aren’t important, it’s just people disagree on the importance of diversity or even the ways to achieve those).

In a similar vein

and

Whether Jane McManus sees this as a “woman’s issue” or is making the point that most people see this as a “woman’s issue” I’m not sure.  But either way I disagree.  Calling something a “woman’s issue” has political/social connotations, of which there is often disagreement.  I think the domestic violence issue transcends that.  Yes, it affects women more than men (at least on the victim end), but people see men beating the crap out of women as more than a “woman’s issue”.  

Likewise, many people don’t see,in my mind, the domestic violence issue as some “social cause”.  This isn’t like the Michael Sam storyline (where most people don’t have an issue with a gay NFL player, just the constant coverage of it).  In one sense, he is right, people want to hear about football and not about Rice, but I think it’s in the sense of getting tired of all the bad news in the world.  

In short, I think the domestic violence issue is less politicized than people think it is.  People are painting it in the same vein as the Michael Sam issue or any other intersection of politics and sports, and I think this is inaccurate.  It’s also not an issue where people are just coming around to in the sense of domestic violence being immoral, although people often aren’t aware how commonplace it is.  But obviously there is a problem with how domestic violence is handled. I don’t think the NFL’s lack of response is one of political values, I think it is one of money and image.  

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The “marry a virgin” movement in evangelical circles is misguided

Posted by Chance on November 4, 2013

When I was in junior high and high school and listening to church talks about purity, a major theme was the idea that you should try to marry someone who saved himself or herself for you.  Sounds like a great idea.  After all, aren’t you and Jesus worth waiting for?

But here’s the problem.  People who didn’t wait till marriage, what are they supposed to do?  What does this mean for people who aren’t virgins?  Are they supposed to marry the backsliden Christians, for whom purity isn’t important?  The whole idea of the “marry a virgin” movement is that, if you made mistakes in the area of sexuality, you aren’t worth it.

I also feel that this idea gets across the message that the past means everything.  This whole idea is that, once someone sins in this area, they have reached a point of no return.  I don’t believe that’s the case.

Most importantly, I feel that such a message tries to limit God’s plan for our lives.  Who says that God doesn’t have a partner for someone who has sinned in this area?  In the Bible, we seem to see an opposite idea.  We see one of the Israelites marry the former prostitute Rahab.   We see the story of Hosea, who marries an unfaithful woman, yet takes her back, and this story is an illustration of how God takes us back when we are unfaithful to him.

The Bible is full of stories of redemption and second chances.  Yes, we can make choices that have life-long consequences, but the “marry a virgin” idea seems to go against the Biblical theme of redemption and second chances.

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