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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Freedom
Posted: February 25, 2017 at 3:11 pm
New York Times
Immigration Agents Discover New Freedom to Deport Under Trump
New York Times
I.C.E. has more than 20,000 employees, spread across 400 offices in the United States and 46 countries, and the Trump administration has called for the hiring of 10,000 more. Credit Clockwise from top left: Ann Johansson for The New York Times; David …
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Posted: at 3:11 pm
New York Times
Harriet Tubman's Path to Freedom
New York Times
Tubman's freedom proved to be bittersweet, as she would recount in her biography. In Philadelphia, she was free, working odd jobs, but lonely. Tubman began plotting her return home to bring her kin back with her: I was free and dey should be free also.
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Will Americans submit to despotism in an urge to escape from freedom? Erich Fromm saw it coming – Salon
Posted: at 3:11 pm
President Donald Trump took his rancorousfeudwith the press to afrightening new level last week when he posted an inflammatory tweet that echoed tyrantsof the past,callingthe all-caps FAKE NEWS media the enemy of the American People.
As many were quick to point out, the phrase enemy of the people has adisturbing and violent history, and has long been used by totalitarian dictatorsto foster resentment and hatred of certain groups, and eventually to crush dissent and opposition. The infamous French revolutionary and Reign of Terror apologistRobespierre declared that the revolutionary government owed nothing to the enemies of the people but death,while the term was widelyused in Stalinist Russia to single outdissidents,who wereeither imprisoned, executed or sent to the Gulag (in the end, almost all of the original Bolsheviks became enemies of the people during the great purge which in reality meant enemies of Joseph Stalin).
Needless to say, the fact that President Trump thought it was appropriate to usethis incendiarylanguage onthe free press long considered thebulwark of liberty is dangerous and alarming, and just the latest manifestation ofthe Trump administrations authoritarian tendencies. Just one month into his term, the president has spent mostof his time in publicscapegoating and demonizing the free press,blatantly lying and espousingconspiracy theories that undermine faith in the electoral system and displaying his contempt for the ideaof separation of powers and judicial review (once again attacking a sitting federal judge).
None of this behavior is particularly surprising fora man who has spent that past two years shattering democratic norms e.g., threatening to jail his political opponent, encouraging violence against peaceful protesters, publiclysympathizing with oppressive dictators, advocatingwar crimesand so on.
Itis tempting to write this all off as Donald being Donald an impulsive, thin-skinned little man-child who cant take any criticismbut that would be a mistake. Trump has surrounded himself with sycophantic enablers and right-wing extremists who appear eager to advance his authoritarian agenda. One of these individuals is the presidents31-year-old senior adviser, Stephen Miller, a weaselly young man who would be perfectly cast as a Star Wars villain. Last week, Miller madethe almost cartoonish assertion that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, thatthe powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.
Like the phrase enemy of the people, this is the kind of language used by party hacks in a totalitarian state, not a free anddemocratic society.
Not long ago this kind of rhetoric would have provoked outrage from both sides of the aisle and widespread disapproval from the populace. But today, in our hyper-partisan political landscape, many Americans have instead cheered Trump and his administrations increasingly dictatorial and undemocratic behavior. This invites the question of whether the American people will stand up to autocracy if and when it comes, and how much of the populace is actually prepared to give up its freedom and submit to a strongman.
Shortly after the election, Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who recently said that we have at most a year to defend the Republic, wrote a chilling articlein Slate narrating Adolf Hitlers unexpected rise to power without once sayinghis name to draw parallels with our current historical situation, and to highlight how the German people quickly fell in line once Hitler had consolidated power and established his totalitarian regime.
One of the many brilliant Jewishintellectuals to fleefrom Germany after Hitlers rise, philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm attemptedto explain the shocking spread of totalitarianism in his lifetime with his influential and urgent 1941 book, Escape from Freedom. This classic investigation into the psychology of authoritarianism can help elucidate some of what is happening today. In the first half of the book, Fromm surveysthe profound cultural, economic and political changesthat had occurred since the Middle Ageswith the Protestant Reformation and the emergence of industrial capitalism, and explores how these shifts impacted the human psycheand the individuals interaction with the external world.
Fromm posits that industrialization and the rise of liberalismresulted in the complete emergence of the individual (i.e., individuation), along with newfound freedom, but also upended primary ties that hadonce provided men and women with security and a feeling of belonging and of being rooted somewhere. In other words, modernization freed man from traditionalauthorities that had greatly limited him, but also provided him withsecurity and meaning in life. Growing individuation, writes Fromm, means growing isolation, insecurity, and thereby growing doubt concerning ones role in the universe, the meaning of ones life, and with all that a growing feeling of ones own powerlessness and insignificance as an individual.
That brings us to Fromms powerful thesis:
If the economic, social and political conditions on which the whole process of human individuation depends, do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.
The crucialpoint Fromm was trying to get acrossis that personal freedom may not be enjoyable or even desirable to the individual if it also leaves him or her feeling isolated and powerless, or without any kind of meaning or purpose in life. Like Karl Marx, Fromm believed that capitalism had turned human beings into cogs in a machine, sapping them of their individuality and creativity, and leaving them alienated and susceptible to authoritarian forces.
Fromm distinguished between negative freedom, or the freedom from traditional authorities and cultural/social restraints, and the positive freedom to live authentically and realize ones true individual self. If one is granted negative freedom without positive freedom, and thus left uncertain, alone and powerless, he or she may be inclined to escape from freedom and submit to a higher authority. An analogy would be the urge that many adults have feltat least oncein their lifeto return to their mothers womb, where one is deprived of freedom, but safe from the dangerous and chaotic outside world.
It is not hard to see this psychology at work in modern America, where economic inequality has grown rapidly over the past several decades, where livelihoods have been outsourced or automated and where communities have collapseddue to the forces of globalization and the technological revolution, leaving millions of people desperate and isolated. When these economic factorsare combined withotherfactors, includingthe perceived dangers facing America(i.e., Islamic terrorism) which are greatly inflated by the mass media and politiciansand cultural/social shifts over the past few decades, the victory of an authoritarian demagogue like Trump becomes less surprising (as doesthe factthat Trump supporters are more likely to display authoritarian personality traits).
The danger of the increasingly authoritarian Trump administration is heightenedby the growing number of Americans who are nowpreparedto support a strongman if it means restoring, as it were,primary ties that once provided security and a feeling of belonging and of being rooted somewhere.
Seventy-five years agoFromm arguedthat to counteract thisdangerous drive toward authoritarianism,it was necessary to expand the principle of government of the people, by the people, for the people, from the formal political to the economic sphere. Democracy, he continued, will triumph over the forces of nihilism only if it can imbue people with a faith in life and in truth, and in freedom as the active and spontaneous realization of the individual self.
Like Bernie Sanders today, Frommadvocated democratic socialism and believed that only a trulydemocratic society politically and economically could stopthe dark clouds of despotism. Today, as President Trump rehashes the language of past tyrants, one can only hope that the desire for freedom will triumph over the urge to submit.
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Posted: at 3:11 pm
But what would repealing Obamacare mean in practice?
It would mean allowing insurers to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions; taking away the tax credits and Medicaid expansions that enabled more than 20 million Americans to newly obtain insurance over the past six years; and, thanks to the elimination of the individual mandate, ultimately causing the exchanges to death-spiral and collapse.
So, in championing the “freedom” that would be unleashed by an Obamacare repeal, Ryan and Pence are really championing the “freedom” for Americans to lose access to any health-care plan.
You know what they say: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to choose.
At least one politician has explicitly rooted for a decline in the insured rate because, duh, freedom.
“If the numbers drop, I would say that’s a good thing, because we’ve restored personal liberty in this country, and I’m always for that,” Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Tex., said at CPAC.
Enshrining discrimination against gay and transgender people has likewise been sold as a way of promoting “religious freedom,” at least for anyone who believes Jesus would be unhappy about compliance with public accommodation laws or, say, the Constitution.
Sometimes the freedoms nominally being safeguarded are not individual ones but those of the states. Or so White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed when explaining why the Trump administration was rescinding Obama-era guidance for schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choosing.
Financial deregulation and the repeal of consumer protections have also been puzzlingly marketed as pro-“freedom.”
“Just like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank has left us with fewer choices, higher costs and less freedom,” quoth Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “It’s evident that Dodd-Frank has made us less prosperous and less free.”
Franklin Roosevelt once declared that the “four essential human freedoms” were freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. The “freedom to get scammed by debt collectors” must have slipped his mind.
Given the quantity of American heartstrings pulled by the words “free” and “freedom,” declaring one’s commitment to “free markets” has also provided cover for all sorts of non-free-market nonsense. A sitting president ordering private companies where to locate, for instance.
“I’m a big free-trader,” President Trump has said, while promoting all manner of protectionist measures. “I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me,” he said at CPAC, minutes after again calling the media the enemy of the people.
Posted: at 3:11 pm
13thseeds arent really supposed to make the semifinals of the District 11 3A wrestling tournament.
They certainly are not supposed to post two pins to get there.
And they are certainly not supposed to deck the fourth and fifth seeds to do it.
But dont tell Freedom freshman 106-pounder Connor Huber that.
Im pretty satisfied with how I wrestled today, said Huber after Friday’s session at Liberty’s Memorial Gym.
He should have been.
Huber pinned No. 4 seed Domenic Vicario of Bangor in 1 minute and 5 seconds in a preliminary then packed No. 5 seed Attkios Clifford of Central Catholic in 5:45 to reach the Saturday semifinal round (10:30 a.m), where hell meet No. 1 seed Andrew Cerniglia of Nazareth.
Huber is the lowest-seeded wrestler in the semifinals
Huber is one of five Freedom wrestlers in the semis, along with seniors Tommy Bonilla (152), Ryan DeLoach (182) and Evan Callahan (220) and sophomore Jase Crouse (285). The Patriots, with 94 team points, stand in fifth, behind Northampton in third at 99.5.
Freedom coach Brandon Hall liked Hubers aggressiveness and wasnt surprised at his 13thseeds performance.
As soon as we saw the seedings we thought Connor should be in the semifinals, Hall said. We felt comfortable saying that, given the competition we wrestle and our schedule.
And the pins werent a surprise to anyone who knows Huber. He said mat wrestling is his strong point and it showed as he radiated control when on top.
But, of course, you have to get on top first, and in December that was an issue for Huber.
My brother (Ben, Freedoms junior 138-pounder) told me I really needed to improve in neutral, Connor Huber said.
So did Hall.
We told him that not being better on his feet was going to prevent him from being the wrestler he could be and that he was missing opportunities, Hall said. He was kind of stubborn about it at first. We had to tell him this wasnt junior high any longer and he couldnt just hang on on top.
While Huber will tell you he has a ways to go to be as good on his feet as he hopes to be, he has come a long way.
Connor has improved tremendously on his feet over the last month, said Freedom assistant Colin Ackerman, the former Williams Valley head coach who works with Huber in the room. Hes more confident on his feet, and we have been teaching him moves like dumps and drags that fit his style. And when he gets better on his feet, that opens up more things for him to on top. If hes winning 6-2 after the first period, we might put him on top.
As for his bottom prowess, Huber put it simple: I keep moving. I never stop.
It all started to come together in January, Huber said, when he pinned Silas Patton of Damascus (Md.) in the War on the Shore tournament, where Huber came in sixth.
He was supposed to be pretty good, Huber said.
But not as good as Freedoms 13th-seeded semifinalist Connor Huber.
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Posted: at 6:18 pm
When a bipartisan group of legislators proposed that the Legislature pass more restrictions this month on the use of cellphones while driving, Republican lawmaker Warren Limmer offered a reason why it shouldnt.
They like their freedom, Limmer said of people who want the freedom to endanger other people.
Freedom apparently killed Scott Spoo, 35, of Woodbury this week. He was in the crosswalk on Dayton Avenue in St. Paul on Wednesday when a driver didnt stop.
Peter H. Berge, 60, of St. Paul, has been arrested.
According to witnesses interviewed at the scene, Mr. Berge may have been using his cellular phone at the time of the crash, police spokesman Steve Linders tells the Star Tribune.
Maybe he was. Maybe he wasnt. Even if true, its hardly an anomaly that drivers are on their phones and the rest of us are at risk because of their entitlement freedom, if you will to put us at risk.
On its Facebook page today, Sweet Science Ice Cream, tries a word that just doesnt seem to make any difference to far too many drivers: please.
Drivers with cellphones arent the only ones who cherish freedom.
So do people in crosswalks.
Bob Collins has been with Minnesota Public Radio since 1992, emigrating to Minnesota from Massachusetts. He was senior editor of news in the 90s, ran MPRs political unit, created the MPR News regional website, invented the popular Select A Candidate, started the two most popular blogs in the history of MPR and every day laments that his Minnesota Fantasy Legislature project never caught on.
NewsCut is a blog featuring observations about the news. It provides a forum for an online discussion and debate about events that might not typically make the front page. NewsCut posts are not news stories but reflections , observations, and debate.
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Posted: at 6:18 pm
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service 10:33 a.m. ET Feb. 24, 2017
Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24, 2014 in Washington.(Photo: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., earned the highest scores on a first-of-its kind report card forfederal lawmakers on internationalreligious freedom issues.
Thescorecardrated senators on 14 legislative votes and representatives on 25 in the legislative session that began in January 2015 and ended in December 2016, and then factored in caucus work on the issue during that period.
The ranking was released by the21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a nonprofit group that advocatesfor religious freedom. Its website says it does that from a distinctly Christian perspective while working on behalf of all individuals regardless of religion, belief, ethnicity, or location.
The scorecard focused on legislatorsresponses to measuressuch as a Senate resolution condemning Iran for its treatment of its Bahai minority, and House resolutions on the protection of Coptic churches in Egypt and on combating anti-Semitism in Europe.
Thereport concludes that while both Republicans and Democrats should have done better, with most scoring lower than an A or B, the Senate has been less engaged in promoting religious freedom than the House.
The reports authors said they hoped the scorecard would encourage recognition of those who prioritize international religious freedom issuesand inspire legislators to pay more attention to those oppressed abroad because of their religious identity or practice.
Having served 34 years in Congress, I know that the International Religious Freedom Congressional Scorecard is a much-needed tool, said former Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a distinguished senior fellow at the Wilberforce Initiative who made religious freedom abroad a focus of his tenure in the House.
Support for theFrank R. Wolf International Freedom Act, which calls for stronger U.S. responses to religious freedom violations abroad, increased senators and representatives scorecard grades. The actwas signed into law by then-President Obama in 2016.
The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is named afterWilliam Wilberforce, an English parliamentarian, evangelical Christian and leader in the late 18th and early 19th centuries of the movement to abolish slavery.
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Posted: at 6:18 pm
The San Ysidro Port of Entry the largest land border crossing between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. Such crossings are gateways for trade, one of the economic freedoms that make Americans much richer. Unfortunately, a new measure of economic freedom shows the U.S. has become less economically free in recent years. (Howard Shen/UPI/Newscom)
A new report from the Heritage Foundation, the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, shows advances worldwide in cutting regulations, curbing government spending, rooting out corruption, and increasing openness to international trade and investment. Lagging behind? The United States.
The Index is a comprehensive measure of economic freedom that compiles data from dozens of independent sources to measure the extent to which a government intervenes through economic policy to control the actions of its citizens and businesses. The latest edition reflects conditions in the world economy through the middle of 2016.
Since 1995, when the Index was first produced, there has been about a 5% increase in economic freedom around the world. That may sound small, but that modest increase has been accompanied by massive improvements in human well-being. Global poverty rates have dropped by two-thirds as economic freedom has grown.
Economic freedom matters for a lot of reasons beyond income and wealth. It’s true that improvements in economic freedom correlate with increases in economic growth. And countries with higher levels of economic freedom have much higher average per capita incomes.
In addition, however, their citizens enjoy myriad other benefits. They are better educated, for example, and they enjoy better health and longer lives than those who lack economic freedom. Economic freedom even helps the environment: Economically free countries scored almost 30 points higher on the Yale University 2016 Environmental Performance Index than did countries where economic freedom is repressed.
This year, more than 100 countries recorded increases in their economic freedom. Those winners are found around the world, but the Asia-Pacific region had the highest number of countries recording major gains. Forty-nine countries recorded their highest economic freedom scores ever. This group included both China and Russia, though even with their improvements, both continue to lag far behind most western developed economies in economic freedom.
The U.S., regrettably, headlined the list of countries not only losing freedom, but recording their lowest scores ever. Driving the U.S. decline was a new category in the Index: fiscal health. That category measures fiscal deficits and government debt relative to the size of the economy. U.S. government spending has accounted for over 38% of total U.S. economic activity over the last three years, with deficits averaging above 4% of GDP and total government debt exceeding a full year’s output of the economy.
U.S. business and labor freedom both also declined slightly over the last year, increasing concerns that the combination in recent years of expanding government, increased regulatory and tax burdens, and the loss of confidence that has accompanied perceptions of increased cronyism, elite privilege, and corruption is eroding U.S. international competitiveness.
The big question, of course, is whether the election of PresidentTrump will change the trajectory of economic freedom in America. He has promised a strong break with the policies of his predecessor, particularly in areas such financial and health care regulation, tax policy, and trade.
Regulatory and tax reform are clearly areas where even modest improvements could have a major positive impact on U.S. economic freedom and performance. The U.S. corporate income tax rate remains one of the highest in the world, and the explosive regulatory burden of mammoth laws such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill has stifled investment and slowed recovery. Policy fixes in these areas will pay big dividends.
Any increase in protectionism, by contrast, could have a devastating impact on U.S. economic growth and job creation. Though U.S. trade accounts for a relatively modest share of our overall economy (exports and imports together equaling roughly 28% of GDP), the jobs created by the international flows of goods, services, and investment capital are a vital factor in the productivity growth necessary to keep the U.S. on top in terms of economic performance and our standard of living.
One of the most interesting conclusions of the Index of Economic Freedom is that intentions matter. Policy changes that increase or retard economic freedom can have an immediate impact for good or ill on economic performance. The free market, now ascendant in much of the world, is an incredibly fast and accurate monitor of economic prospects, whether at the level of the household, the firm, or the national economy.
At the moment, most market indicators are pointing up for the U.S. Hope is high that policy changes are coming to restore American’s economic freedom. We’ll see if the politicians can deliver.
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