Political competition

The Business of Politics

One of life’s great ironies in the Western world is the number of people who fervently declare the great success and capability of capitalist enterprise, and then turn around to lament the gross inefficiencies of government. The staunchly conservative among us love to trumpet this apparent contrast. Then again, the liberals among us have their similar contrast, decrying the ruthlessness and greed of business, and pointing to the sober diligence of government regulatory agencies. Both sides love to contrast the business world with the government system, for each their own purposes.

In fact, the irony of this is that these two systems are two sides of the same coin. Governments are plagued by inefficiency precisely because they are run in ways that resemble capitalist enterprise. Sure, in government the currency is different—politicians earn seats in government, and they sell influence—but they run as a business all the same. Let me paint the picture in more vivid colour.Continue Reading

I work to live not live to work

The Basics of a Basic Income

Politics, Society · · 1 comment

About a month ago, Switzerland made international news by holding a referendum on whether or not to give all Swiss citizens a basic income of about $2800 a month. Although the date for the vote still hasn’t been set (as far as I can tell), it certainly raised quite a buzz as analysts tried to frame the pros and cons of a proposal that, quite frankly, is not a new idea at all. Here’s a good summary of some of the arguments and research on the issue.

At its heart, a “basic income” proposal is a system in which each resident of a particular country or region receives a sum of money unconditionally by the government. Unlike many systems of welfare, such money comes with no strings attached, and no means testing to ensure that one needs such assistance. This means that it cuts out much of the bureaucracy involved with welfare benefits: no more case workers ensuring that people are indeed looking for work; no more food stamps that force individuals to spend money on food rather than on other items that may be equally necessary. The system, at least in one sense, is inherently fair, in that everyone in the country receives the same amount: rich or poor, every person gets the basic income from the government.Continue Reading

Soy to the world

Holidays for the Vegetarian

Personal, Society · · 1 comment

I’ve been a vegetarian for about a year and a half now, and reduced my meat intake for a couple years before that. This wasn’t a complicated or difficult process, despite what some people seem to think. The most difficult part of being a vegetarian (at least for me) is dealing with situations that arise when one is with friends and family who aren’t also veg*n. Since I’m fresh off the holidays and have spent the past six days with family, none of whom are veg*n, I wanted to share just a few situations that can be tricky to deal with. But first, a few definitions, just so we’re clear:

Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat. Vegan: A person who does not eat or otherwise use any animal products (e.g., dairy milk, eggs, honey, leather, cosmetic products tested on animals). Veg*n: A catch-all term used to refer to people who are either vegetarian or vegan, or something similar. The Questions

As I said, none of my family is veg*n. I am alright with this; I view moral issues (especially ones concerning diet) as personal choices that must be made by an individual. I am not here to judge, just to follow my own personal standard of ethics. But that can make for some situations that get tricky or somewhat frustrating. For instance, almost invariably, the first question a veg*n gets asked when they mention that they are veg*n is some variant of this: “What do…Continue Reading

Burnt toast

On Burnout

Personal, Society · · 1 comment

I’m exhausted. The past few weeks I’ve wanted to do nothing except curl up in a ball under a blanket and shut out the world. It’s not depression, and it’s not cynicism; it’s just apathy resulting from utter exhaustion at trying to keep up with all the social movements that I consider myself a part of. In my head, I find certain ideological standpoints to be important: feminism, animal rights, environmentalism, leftist politics, skepticism, and so on. But lately, I find myself just not being able to care about taking any action toward these ends. My resources are completely depleted.

Of course, some of this is due to external demands that have left me depleted. I just finished writing my MA thesis, so that’s taken enormous time, effort, and brain-power. I also have other demands on my time, as we all do. But I think the problem runs deeper. I am simply burnt out from moral outrage.Continue Reading

Line in the sand

A Line in the Sand

Society · · Leave a comment

Every once in a while, a feminist here or there likes to come along and draw a line in the sand, declaring one side as “real feminism” and the other side as fake feminism, or kowtowing to the patriarchy, or…well, fill in the blank with your preferred negative term. Many feminists rightfully get uneasy about these sorts of things, myself included (who am I to say that your feminism is not “real”?). I typically think that labels are nebulous to begin with, and are generally used to describe some rough cluster of beliefs, values, and opinions. But I’d like to go against my uneasiness and perhaps my better judgment and draw a line in the sand for a moment, in the hopes of delineating one critical aspect of feminism. (Don’t worry; I’ll force myself to soften up a little bit at the end.)Continue Reading

Honesty

The Honest Self

Over the past few days, I’ve begun to notice something about myself. When I watch movies or TV shows, I find myself drawn to the characters who display honesty and transparency. They are often my favourite characters. Locke (in the first half of the series) from Lost. Abed from Community. Gale (in his minor role) in Breaking Bad. Kenneth from 30 Rock. Peter and Hiro from Heroes. These people are not all perfect characters, nor are they always the brightest. But there is some charming simplicity in their actions that draws me toward them. In real life, my closest friends are also ones that display this honesty. I find myself drawn to these people because of the value that I place on honesty.

Obviously, there is nothing taboo about valuing honesty. As the old adage says, “Honesty is the best policy.” But I am drawn to a type of honesty that goes beyond simply not telling lies. It has its roots in something more integral to the self. It is not quite “authenticity”, for that implies being one’s “true self,” whatever that means. The honesty I look for has more to do with a simple sincerity of heart: a degree of integrity. It involves defining one’s purposes and making them plain to everyone. It involves finding one’s identities and being true to them. It is akin to the existentialists’ idea of “good faith,” living a life without self-deception.Continue Reading

World in the shape of a heart

The Way Forward

Society · · Leave a comment

With the recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the news media have every day brought us yet more information. More stories.  More pictures. More heartache. The stories of children huddled in closets and teachers reassuring and protecting them, of victims’ families finding themselves facing a Christmas of mourning rather than joy, of gifts unopened and family gatherings missing their youngest member…it is all heart-wrenching. I don’t often find myself overwhelmed with emotion, but reading these stories has left me with tears in my eyes almost every morning. The lives of children, brimming with potential waiting to be unleashed, have been cut short. And as the families of these little victims weep, the world weeps with them.Continue Reading