Friday, March 13, 2015

Is giving more significant than we think?

“Civilization begins as human beings 'reach for the stars'. The development of civilization did not grow out of survival needs; was not based upon practical motives (Marshall Sahlins called hunters and gatherers the 'original affluent society'). Civilization begins when human beings project their existence into structures that contain the possibility of immortality. Herein lies the essence of the motive to sacrifice.”

In the world of fantasy, human beings initiate wars because they seek to “gain” something. In reality (scroll down and look at the table below), warfare generates extraordinary, monumental loss. What is the meaning of this human tendency to create events that result in monumental loss?

Economists analyze human activity typically in terms of the desire for gain, an assumption that underlies the theory of “rational choice.” Norman O. Brown, on the other hand, suggests that the desire to possess is superimposed over a deep psychology of giving. The archaic institution of the gift, Brown says, leads to an understanding of the “sacred superfluous.”

Prestige and power are conferred by the ability to give. Gifts are sacred and the gods exist to receive gifts (do ut des). The compulsion to produce an economic surplus is created in order to have something to give.

Archaic gift giving, according to Brown (the famous potlatch being only one example) refutes the notion that the psychological motive of economic life is utilitarian egoism. Archaic man gives because he wants to lose; the psychology is not egoist, but self-sacrificial. Hence there is an intrinsic connection between economic life and the sacred. The gods exist “to receive gifts,” that is to say, sacrifices. Gods exist in order to “structure the need for self-sacrifice.”

The ambition of civilized man, Brown says, is revealed in the pyramids. In their creation, we see how economic activity may have little to do with practical considerations or survival. In the case of the pyramids, monumental efforts were directed toward creation of the “sacred superfluous.”

Egyptians devoted a large proportion of their wealth and psychic energy toward creating these gigantic structures—that are essentially useless. Pyramids serve no practical purpose whatsoever. The creation of these useless structures lay at the dawn of civilization.

Civilization begins as human beings “reach for the stars.” The development of civilization did not grow out of survival needs; was not based upon practical motives (Marshall Sahlins called hunters and gatherers the “original affluent society”).

Civilization begins when human beings project their existence into structures that contain the possibility of immortality. Herein lies the essence of the motive to sacrifice.

The workmen who built the pyramids devoted a large proportion of their lives toward the creation of these gigantic structures that symbolized the immortality of the Pharaoh. They sacrificed their concrete existence in order to feed the Pharaoh’s fantasy. Death was overcome, Brown says, on condition that the “real actuality of life pass into these immortal and dead things.”

Civilization began with the creation of these “dead things;” monumental stone structures that had no purpose whatsoever. The pyramids represented an escape from concrete existence—denial of death. The pyramids were built based on the fantasy that the Pharaoh might live forever.

Pyramids are the place in which “history” begins. Kings create history as they carve out a space or domain into which fantasies of immortality may be projected. The sacred space of history provides the illusion that it is possible to escape everyday (mortal) existence.

Brown suggests that much of civilized activity takes the form of “sublimation:” energy deflected away from the “real, actuality of life” in devotion to symbols of immortality. He writes of the poet Horace, who viewed poetry as a career characterized by self-sacrifice.

Horace felt, however, that renunciation was worthwhile—if success would allow him to “strike the stars sublime.” At the end of his third book, he celebrates his success:

"I have wrought a monument more enduring than bronze, and loftier than the royal accumulation of the pyramids. Neither corrosive rain nor raging wind can destroy it, nor the innumerable sequence of years nor the flight of time. I shall not altogether die."

Horace’s motive for writing poetry was not unlike the motivation that generated the building of pyramids. Brown comments on the passage from Horace above: “I shall not altogether die—the hope of the man who has not lived, whose life has been spent conquering death, whose life has passed into those immortal pages.”

Source: An email from Richard Koenigsberg at The library of social science


Obamacare's 1095-A Nightmare

By Michelle Malkin

Tax season is stressful enough. But if you are like countless miserable Americans trapped in the Obamacare 1095-A abyss, it's hell on stilts on a Segway teetering over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The screw-ups, incompetence and bureaucratic blame avoidance over the health insurance exchange tax forms make the website fiasco look like a flawless product launch.

How do I know? My family inexplicably got ensnared in the 1095-A paperwork pit. It's a government roach motel: Taxpayers check in, but they can never check out.

In 2013, our private high-deductible PPO from Anthem Blue Cross got canceled because of "changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA)." Millions of others like us in the individual market for health insurance -- including self-employed people, small-business owners, writers, artists and home-based entrepreneurs -- suffered the same fate.

My husband reluctantly contacted Colorado's state health insurance exchange, "Connect for Health Colorado," just to see what our options were. Months later, we settled on purchasing a new non-Obamacare plan directly from a different private insurer, Rocky Mountain Health.

The provider network is much narrower than the Anthem plan we had before the feds intervened. Our two kids' dental care is no longer covered, and we've had our insurance turned down at an urgent care clinic -- something that had never happened before.

Better off? Bullcrap. But wait, it gets worse.

Somewhere along the way, the worker bees at Connect for Health Colorado dragooned us into an Obamacare exchange plan offered by Rocky Mountain Health without our knowledge or consent. (How else has the White House inflated Obamacare enrollment figures? Things that make you go "hmm.")

Last month, we received an IRS 1095-A form, which, much to our shock and chagrin, indicated that we had paid Obamacare premiums every month during 2014.

It took hours of time on the phone and Internet to receive an explanation from Connect for Health Colorado on how exactly this happened. Here was the government's response, word for incomprehensible word:

"We apologize for the delay in responding to your email. After checking your account we are showing you might have had coverage from October 2014 to June 2014. Please call the number below to speak with a Customer Service Representative if this information is incorrect."

"Might" have had coverage? From "October 2014 to June 2014"?

The saga continues. We were finally able to un-enroll after being auto-enrolled in the Obamacare plan. Then, after being bounced around by the state government health exchange to various voicemail dead ends and back, with hours of migraine-inducing, on-hold music in between, we were told there's absolutely nothing wrong with the 1095-A form -- which shows payment of premiums we didn't pay to an Obamacare plan we never enrolled in and didn't want in the first place!

This is just one little horror story. In Minnesota, thousands are still waiting for 1095-A forms that were supposed to arrive on Jan. 31. In California, at least 800,000 taxpayers received screwed-up 1095-As. As a result, some 50,000 people filed the wrong form. Another 750,000 are being told they'll get corrected forms this month. Hah. Good luck with that.

The costs in time, money and anxiety to hardworking families dealing with this paperwork perdition are enormous. Unknown numbers of people are still waiting for their forms as the April 15 tax-filing deadline looms. More face the added expense and aggravation of filing amended returns through no fault of their own.

Where's the rest of the media -- most of whom have been insulated from these problems because they get their health insurance through their employers?

At least one other journalist smacked head first into reality. Laura Krantz, a former NPR staffer, is now a Scripps Fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Earlier this month, she found out that Connect for Health Colorado had mysteriously canceled her health and dental insurance. After four days and eight hours in Obamacare Phone Hell (OPH), she learned she had lost her insurance coverage and her tax credit -- and had to redo all of her paperwork.

Poor Krantz still believes the ultimate solution is "single payer." But another liberal who encountered 1095-A hell has seen the light. San Francisco resident and former Obama supporter Melissa Klein exposed her ordeal with Covered California last week. The state exchange botched her 1095-A and then insisted she had never enrolled despite invoices she showed them documenting her premium payments.

After hours in OPH, her case remains unresolved, and she can't file her taxes. How is it, she wondered, that "Amazon can ship something to NYC in an hour," but the White House and Covered California "can't create a health care system that functions"?

Klein concluded, better late than never: "I no longer believe that the government should mandate health care. ... A great idea is just an idea if you can't execute. And the government has proved time and time again, it can't execute.

Feelin' your pain, sister. Is D.C. listening?



Right-to-Work comes to lucky Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Monday signed right-to-work legislation, making “America’s Dairyland” the 25th state with laws preventing mandatory union membership and payment of dues. It’s both good for Wisconsin’s economy and is a feather in Walker’s presidential cap.

Through a section of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, states were permitted to enact legislation that allowed contracts to be signed between unions and businesses requiring workers at the particular company to pay labor fees, and legally binding those companies to fire workers who refused to join the union. Section 14B of this Act specifically noted that a right-to-work law would prevent such extortion.

Union members make up about 8% of Wisconsin’s current labor force. Just 30 years ago that number was 22%. Indeed, nationwide, labor unions are losing the muscle that once made them mighty – because their numbers have dwindled for the last three decades.

Walker’s tenure as Wisconsin governor has been marked by freeing the entire labor market from the chokehold of union membership. Upon his initial election in 2010, Walker went to work with the State Assembly to dismantle public-sector unions. The Wisconsin Act 10 eliminated collective bargaining for state workers, including teachers, addressed extravagant benefits and pension promises, and protected the state from a $3.6 billion budget deficit. That battle sent Walker to national prominence.

The 2011 Republican-led reform successfully implemented by Walker hit the same funding mechanism in public-sector unions as will now impact private-sector unions: forced dues payment.

Currently, detractors of right-to-work laws argue wage suppression will result without mandatory labor union representation. But that’s just not backed up by the facts.

For example, in 2012, Michigan became a right-to-work state under the leadership of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, also elected in 2010, and the Michigan Legislature. By 2013, its per-capita personal income rose to $39,215 from $38,291 in 2012. And by 2014, more than 8,000 teachers had made the decision not to pay union dues, while total union membership dropped almost two percentage points in the first full year of the law’s implementation.

It’s certainly interesting that as soon as people have the right to work without union interference union participation drops and incomes rise. It implies that, unless unions have some legal leverage enabling forced participation and extortion, they are undesirable and ineffective.

The reason is simple: Right-to-work laws give workers the opportunity to pursue employment without having to pay dues to unions, who frequently use that money to secure political power at the expense of worker protections. Right-to-work allows for greater access to jobs, while a government mandated minimum wage prices some prospective workers out of those jobs. Which one makes more sense if creating jobs is the objective?



Walker and Obama Tussle Over Right-to-Work

After Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed right-to-work legislation Monday, Barack Obama bashed the Republican presidential hopeful. “Wisconsin is a state built by labor, with a proud pro-worker past,” Obama said. “So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I’d encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans – by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave. That’s how you give hardworking middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy – not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead.”

Walker quickly fired back. “On the heels of vetoing Keystone Pipeline legislation, which would have paved the way to create thousands of quality, middle-class jobs, the President should be looking to states, like Wisconsin, as an example for how to grow our economy,” Walker replied in a statement.

“Despite a stagnant national economy and a lack of leadership in Washington, since we took office, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is down to 5.0 percent, and more than 100,000 jobs and 30,000 businesses have been created.”

Obama has spent more than six years undermining working Americans all while claiming to be in their corner – his magic “middle-class economics.” But higher taxes based on class warfare aren’t going to grow the economy. Encouraging work will.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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