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the EPOCH JOURNAL

VOLUME IX ISSUE 3

Spring 2016

The Root of Inequality by Noah Burns

Teen 2.0

by Sebastian Barajas

The Grand Old Party by Joe Roberts

plus ‘Principle of Regressivity’ &

Internet Speeds On Inequality

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the EPOCH JOURNAL spring 2016

volume ix, issue iii

editor-in-chief Allison Tretina Sawyer Neale contributors Sebastian Barajas Henry Bartholomew Noah Burns Jason Linden Joe Roberts © 2016, The Epoch Journal disclaimer The Epoch Journal is produced and distributed in annapolis, maryland. opinions expressed in articles or illustrations are not necessarily those of the editorial board or st. john’s college. advertising please contact smneale@sjc.com for information about advertisements mailing address st. john’s college 60 college ave. annapolis, md 21404 submissions are you interested in writing for the epoch journal? we are currently looking for editors, columnists, and general submissions — for more information, contact sawyer neale at smneale@sjc.edu.

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It is with a heavy heart that I write that the ep-

och is reaching its end. We at The Epoch Journal are facing the end of an era: this is the last issue which I will have the pleasure of working on with graduating senior, and co-editor of The Epoch, Allison Tretina (A’16). Allison, in many ways, is journalism at St. John’s College. She has continued the project of keeping the recently resuscitated Epoch out of the Johnnie publication grave, and hasn’t just served as editor of The Epoch, but also of The Gadfly. letter from She has had a great inthe editor fluence on the campus journalistic community and is an invaluable resource, constantly working to help everyone involved with The Epoch write the best pieces they can. She might be leaving St. John’s, but she definitely isn’t done writing. As I type this, Allison is fervently applying to as many jobs in journalism as she can and is planning — immediately post-St. John’s — to study in a Russian language intensive program at Middlebury College. After finishing that program, she hopes to gain experience working at a small-town newspaper before ultimately fulfilling her long-term dream of working in journalism in Eastern Europe. However, as our seniors graduate, summer ends, and a new academic year at St. John’s begins, so will a new epoch dawn at The Epoch. At the beginning of the next semester, which marks the beginning of The Epoch’s 10th Volume, we will move from our previous semesterly publication schedule to publishing The Epoch on a quarterly basis with two issues being released each semester. To compensate for this change in frequency of publication and a need for a greater volume of writings, The Epoch’s system of internal management will be shifting. As of the printing of this issue, The Epoch will now begin hiring Polity members as columnists. In addition to the ‘features’ section you know and love, these

columnists will contribute four columns across the span of the semester revolving as closely or loosely around a particular theme or topic of their choosing as they like. In this issue, we’ll give you a small snapshot of what that looks like with Henry Bartholomew’s article ‘Principle of Regressivity,’ where Mr. Bartholomew (A’19) argues that increased taxation promotes inequality by negatively impacting the poor more than anyone else. Our issue starts with Noah Burns’ (A’18) article ‘The Root of Inequality,’ where, in a damning critique of America’s relationships with and support for foreign dictatorships, he argues that we are very directly promoting the idea that our lives matter more than others. In Allison Tretina’s piece ‘Internet Speeds,’ she details the current global inequality in internet connection speeds and the ability to quickly access information on the Internet. The issue is capped off by Sebastian Barajas’ (A’17) review of the book Teen 2.0, where he illuminates and tries to tear down widespread pseudoscientific biases against teenagers and Joe Roberts’ (A’16) article ‘The Grand Old Party,’ where he attempts to tear down the hypocrisy present in the Republican Party’s cultural warfare. We are doing this so that this 10th Volume of The Epoch allows the magazine to grow into a strong outlet for contemporary political and cultural inquiry at St. John’s. We hope to continue to create an environment where any Johnnie, be they liberal, conservative, green, anarchist, feminist, socialist, libertarian, classical, postmodern, Platonic, or Aristotelian can explore the prominent issues facing our world. We want to continue the project of making The Epoch into a space where people of all backgrounds and philosophies can form, share, and learn about ideas that can help to better ourselves and our Polity. In this issue of The Epoch, on the topic of inequality, we try to accomplish just that. — Sawyer Neale, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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FEATURES

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POLITICAL ETHICS

The Root of Inequality Double standards in our media and our politics

by noah burns

President Barack Obama landed in Cuba last

political beliefs,” (it is indeed a mystery why an month and made history as the first U.S. presiauthoritarian regime would want to quash disdent to visit the country since 1982, when Calvin sent) Obama showed the Cuban people what “an Coolidge arrived by battleship. articulate statesman months away from stepping His visit was hailed in the New York Times down from office” looks like. Cuba must have as an “historic thaw” in U.S.-Cuba relations, a really been melting. major rapprochement after more than fifty years The New York Times’ positive position on of conflict. Particularly, Obama’s visit was seen the president’s visit wasn’t the only one, howas an opportunity for the president to exert a ever. Former Republican presidential candidate good influence on the represand current Sen. Marco Rubio Unfortunately, this sive Cuban government, and as (R-FL), who’s father emigrated a symbol of hope for Cubans from Cuba, called Obama’s political and media hungry for change. On March visit “disgraceful,” since Cuba debate was a clas23 the Times Editorial Board “threatens our national security,” sic example of the said Obama’s speech contained and “acts against our values American method “a healthy dose of criticism” of every day,” and questioned of democracy that Cuban President Raul Castro on how the president could posObama extolled in his sibly visit such a country. The issues of human rights and freeHavana speech. dom, and quoted leading disother Republican candidates also sident Jose Daniel Ferrer calling inveighed against the president’s Obama’s speech, “A light in the visit, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) dark.” Much was made in the New York Times’ saying that Obama sent a message to political coverage of the unusual availability of internet prisoners that the United States doesn’t care through hotspots created by the government dur- about them and their suffering. ing Obama’s visit: Cubans thirsting for informaUnfortunately, this political and media debate tion other than government propaganda. was a classic example of the American method The showers of benevolence thawing frigid of democracy that Obama extolled in his Havana Cuba didn’t end there. Obama pushed the respeech. Within the boundaries of acceptable luctant Castro into accepting questions from the positions, positions established by the media and media, and while Castro appeared a “cantankerthe politicians that have been allowed into the ous autocrat who failed to string together a few mainstream, that method involves vigorous decoherent sentences when a journalist asked why bate of important questions. The question under his government continues to jail people for their debate between the Right and Left with respect SPRING 2016

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to Cuba was, in essence: Is Cuba good enough of tests of American values. Two tests are particfor us? The New York Times acknowledged this ularly instructive for our purposes. The first is to debate in an article published on March 21, compare the U.S.’s fifty year embargo of Cuba 2016, noting the “lingering impediments” to the with its policy towards other similar or worse “historic thaw,” such as Cuba’s human rights regimes. This tells us whether our qualms about abuses. The question that the media and politimeeting with Cuba are to be taken seriously. The cal classes are asking about Obama’s Cuba trip second is to determine whether the United States is: Should a president meet with a man who is “leading by example”: whether we practice commits international terrorism, violates civil the respect for human rights and dissent that we liberties, detains people indefinitely with no have long been (supposedly) punishing Cuba for evidence, defies the international community, disrespecting. (The actual reasons for the emsupports dictators around the world, and whose bargo are interesting, but more complicated than predecessors have a long record of terrorism, I have space to go into here.) This tells us what subversion, and aggression towards his country? our values truly are. That is indeed an important question. The probThough there are many comparable regimes lem is that they are asking it of to Castro’s Cuba, for the first test the wrong president. The vigorous debate I want to take an example of a Should Castro meet with that our democracy is much worse regime. To review, such a man? Because I favor dithe charges levied against Cuba engaged in is between by such prosecutors as Obama, the plomacy and openness between two positions radical- New York Times, and Rubio are states, I would say yes. Castro ly divorced from any human rights abuses, the quashing has little moral high-ground. moral center or sense of political dissent, and underminThe criticisms of him quoted above are largely accurate, and of history or propor- ing American national security the long record of American and values, respectively. How tion. aggression towards Cuba does does Saudi Arabia hold up? Saudi not justify oppression or human Arabia is something of a poster rights violations. But the fact that this question is child for repressive regimes around the world. not asked, while the question of whether Obama They are the oppressive state others only long to should meet Castro is unironically the basis be: brutal, secretive, doctrinaire, and beloved by of a national debate, is instructive. The vigorthe West. ous debate that our democracy is engaged in is On human rights, Saudi Arabia recently between two positions radically divorced from demonstrated the mercy available to defenany moral center or sense of history or propordants in its “justice” system: The country that is tion. Rubio invoked our “values,” evincing a heading a U.N. Commission on Human Rights principled objection to diplomatic relations with panel stayed the death sentence it had previously a country that routinely violates them. Others imposed on Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh for on the U.S. Right echo this concern, and those apostasy, and instead sentenced him to eight on the mainstream Left understand it: do relayears in prison and eight hundred lashes. After tions with such a country undermine our values? the Saudi autocrat King Abdullah died in 2015, a They wonder. Despite our vaunted free press, the large American delegation including Obama, the question never arises: Do our values deserve to First Lady, Secretary of State John Kerry, former be undermined? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other It is possible to conduct many different kinds high-ranking American officials visited Saudi 6

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Arabia to pay their respects. Kerry tweeted that Abdullah was a “man of wisdon and vision.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), often called a war hero for enthusiastically participating in the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, called the tyrant whose country was regularly among the top five in the world in executions (often public beheadings) a “man of peace.” In fact, a Wikileaks cable from 2008 revealed that Abdullah’s government encouraged the United States to attack Iran, a prospect McCain once set to the tune of a Beach Boys song. The New York Times described Abdullah as a “moderate,” citing as an example (and please check the source, “King Abdullah, a Shrewed Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, Dies at 90” from January 22, 2015, lest you think I’m taking this out of context) that “he has had hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded.” Since early 2015, the Kingdom has been engaged in a brutal attack on neighboring Yemen, where allegedly Iran-backed rebels have

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been fighting the government. In a March 30th article, the Middle East and North Africa Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, again condemned the Saudi attack, saying, “It’s undeniable that the Saudis are violating international law as they carry out attacks with no apparent military target and use banned weapons, such as cluster bombs.” She noted, “Aerial strikes have hit schools, hospitals, markets and homes. According to the U.N., they account for 60% of the 3,200 civilians killed in the conflict.” Particularly instructive for our study of American values is the comparison that she makes between the (justified) outrage over the Brussels attacks, and the American reaction to the Saudi airstrikes on places like schools, which have been significantly deadlier. While the West decried the barbarity of the Daesh attacks on civilians, and many wonder what it is that makes Muslims so violent, the Saudi bombing of a Yemeni marketplace in the town of Mastaba a

photo by wikimedia


week before Brussels, which killed three times ton’s private email server show enthusiasm for as many Yemenis as Daesh killed Westerners in these arms deals, with one aide (whose name is Belgium, and the on-going United States-United redacted) calling the finalization of the deal in Kingdom military, tactical, intelligence, and lolate December, “not a bad Christmas present.” gistics support went virtually unremarked upon Remember the illegal cluster bombs that Saudi relative to its importance in the American press. Arabia has dropped on residential neighborNo cable news commentators wondered in low hoods, schools, and Doctors Without Borders voices just what makes Americans so savage that Hospitals? They were provided by the United they would provide the arms for a state that they States in the 1990s. The United States doesn’t know uses them to bomb children. Already we just provide Saudi Arabia with weapons: we help can see the root of inequality emerging. them use them. The Guardian reported on JanuThe United States, by far the leading supplier ary 15, 2016 that the United States and United of arms in the world for many years, sold bilKingdom provide operational assistance to the lions of dollars in weapons to the Saudi Arabian Saudi air force, and have access to their lists of government in 2015, a longstanding American targets. policy. In May 2015, the InterWhat about the other chargnational Business Times reported es? Political dissent is severely The United States that the Secretary of State Hillrepressed and criminalized in doesn’t just provide ary Clinton-led Obama State Saudi Arabia. In a 2015 report Saudi Arabia with Department sold $29 billion in by Freedom House, Saudi Araadvanced fighter jets to Saudi bia received a seven in political weapons: we help Arabia — one of many large freedom and civil liberties, with them use them. weapons deals Clinton’s team seven being the worst possible secured for countries that abuse grade. On December 30, 2013, human rights, like Algeria, Egypt, and Qatar. As Human Rights Watch (HRW), among others, her Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro condemned a new Saudi Arabian “anti-terrorput it in a briefing on October 20, 2010, “I’m ism” law as a “denial of the rights to participate happy to say that we have accomplished all the in public affairs, and freedom of religion, peacehard work necessary to complete this package ful assembly, association, and expression….” and this interagency effort has been a top priorWhat about undermining our security? The ity for both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates United States has long considered Cuba and Iran and Clinton and reflects the vstrong cooperation as state-sponsors of terrorism. Saudi Arabia has between our departments to support our wider long supported radical jihadist groups, includnational security goals... The most significant ing those in Syria who are fighting in the ongoitems in these potential FMS sales include 84 ing civil war. The New York Times reported on F-15 aircraft, 70 upgrades of existing Saudi October 14, 2012, “Most of the arms shipped at F-15s to a more advanced configuration, 70 AH- the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply 64D Apache Longbow helicopters, 72 UH-60 Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Blackhawk helicopters, 36 AH-6i light attack Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic helicopters, and 12 MD-530F light training jihadists...” Furthermore, as the HRW report on helicopters.” the Mastaba market bombing notes, “Unlawful The F-15s that Shapiro mentions are among strikes and large-scale civilian casualties are certhose used to carry out attacks on Yemen. The tain to foster further instability and extremism, emails released during the inquiry into Clinwhose effects may be felt not just in the region SPRING 2016

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but closer to home too.” This is a polite way right to due process and a public trial have been of saying that people in the Middle East know rescinded, with targets of strikes needing only to who made the bombs that are dropped on them, be suspected as a “continuing imminent” threat and they often look for revenge. This is not only to the United States to be considered legitimate, the opinion of human rights advocacy groups according to a May 2013 White House fact-sheet but also of the U.S. government. On October describing the legal basis of the drone program. 1, 2015, after Vladimir Putin ordered Russian The actual legal basis that the Obama Adminfighters to bomb the resistance to Bashar alistration relies on is secret (another oddity for a Assad’s government at Assad’s request, the Unit- free society). Those who are to be killed someed States and its allies, including, spectacularly, times have their names added to a secret kill list, Saudi Arabia, issued a joint statement arguing which is presented to Obama. He, not a jury of that Russian bombing in Syria would “only fuel peers, has the final say. more radicalization and extremism.” What about The question of how an “imminent threat” our bombs and the ones we sell can “continue” for long is to the Saudis to drop on Yeanswered in a Justice DepartThe Obama Adminmen? istration has pursued ment white paper leaked in 2013, We have enough information which states that “imminent the most extensive to know whether the conditions threat” does not mean that the campaign of interof respect for human rights that U.S. has to have any specific national terrorism in knowledge of a plot to commit some critics want to place on history. the Cuban regime for normalterrorism against it by the indiization of relations is based on vidual targeted. Often, however, real valuation of these principles, though many the target of the strike is not even known in more such examples can be given. It clearly is advance before an area of suspicious activity not. Even though the United States “protests” is targeted. As the New York Times reported in Saudi human rights abuses officially through April 2015, “Every independent investigation of diplomatic channels, it continues to sell billions the strikes has found far more civilian casualties of dollars of arms to the country, arms which than administration officials admit. Gradually, it it is using to repress its own population and has become clear that when operators in Nevada massacre Yemeni civilians. That is not simply fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the normal relations with a murderous regime. That other side of the world, they often do not know is direct, material support for and complicity in who they are killing, but are making an imperits repression and atrocities. What about the sec- fect best guess.” This is known as a “signature ond test, of whether the United States lives up to strike.” Furthermore, these strikes have involved the standards that it imposes on others? Have we the firing of a second missile, intentionally fired taken the log out of our own eye, before taking to kill those who would come to help the victim the speck out of our brother’s? of the first strike. The Bureau of Investigative What is the Obama Administration’s record Journalism reported in 2012 that news agenon human rights? The Obama Administration cies had found more than 15 instances in which has pursued the most extensive campaign of drones had targeted rescuers. The targeting of international terrorism in history, the drone cam- emergency personnel violates international law. paign, a central tenet of which is the repudiation Even if by some horrific lawyering the Obama of basic principles of law and morality. Human Administration manages to argue that it does not rights like the presumption of innocence and the (by saying, for example that “combatants” not 10

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soldiers in a war on “terror” not a state, have no protection under the Geneva Convention), it is sick, almost as sick as the CIA practice of striking funerals for the victims of their strikes. If the list of nations that engage in state sponsored terrorism were anything but a joke, Obama’s removal of Cuba from the list would have been accompanied by the addition of his administration to it. In Yemen, sales of pharmaceuticals for sleeping, anxiety, and depression increased dramatically at the same time as the U.S. drone campaign in Yemen was ramped up. In an interview with the Guardian, a 13-yearold Yemeni boy named Mohammed Tuaiman said, “A lot of the kids in this area wake up from sleeping because of nightmares from [drones] and some now have mental problems. They turned our area into hell and continuous horror, day and night, we even dream of them in our sleep.” This was after his father and brother had been killed in drone strikes. He was killed several months later. A Pakistani boy, Zubair

photo by new york times

Rehman, testified before Congress in 2013, “I no longer love blue skies.” A drone strike killed his grandmother in 2012, and when the skies are cloudy, drones do not fly. Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist, delivered a plea before the Senate in 2013 to end the drone strikes in his country, six days after one of the strikes hit his home village. He was educated in America, and his association with America caused his Yemeni friends to ask him why the United States was terrifying poor farmers in a remote region of the country. He had no response. As I noted above, the New York Times rebuked Raul Castro’s perfunctory answer to questions about his country’s human rights abuses. What did the press secretary for our “articulate statesman” have to say after drone strikes killed U.S. citizen Anwar al Awlaki and, several days later, his 16-year-old son (who was not implicated in terrorism)? Then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is on video responding, “I would suggest that you should have a far more

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photo by wikimedia

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responsible father if they are truly concerned to Syria. Have you seen any coverage of the about the well-being of their children.” continuing devastation from the U.S. attack on The absurdity of the American political Fallujah? According to an article in the Indeand media objection to Obama’s visit to Cuba pendent, July 23, 2010, “Dramatic increases in is summed up in one simple fact: The United infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the States continues to occupy part of Cuba, GuanIraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by tanamo Bay, where, for the last 15 years, human US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by beings have been held without charge on mere survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped suspicion of association with terrorism. Many on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945... Iraqi of them have been cleared, yet still languish in a doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 prison on the island of Cuba (no word from Cruz of being overwhelmed by the number of babies on their plight). with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl For crying out loud, the born with two heads to paralysis United States media and political of the lower limbs.” Have you seen any classes are giving a moral lecture An article from April 4th of coverage of the con- this year in Newsweek pinon human rights to a country on tinuing devastation whose rightful soil the United points the cause: “When the from the U.S. attack States tortured people. This United States reinvaded Iraq, lecture is even more audacious it launched bunker-busting on Fallujah? coming from Obama, whose adguided bombs, cruise missiles ministration admits committing and TOW anti-tank missiles. It torture but has yet to prosecute a single official also fired new thermobaric warheads — much implicated in that torture. (There is one case in stronger explosives with stunningly large blasts. which a Bush Administration official was prosMany of these, according to former Marine ecuted, and it is revealing, and discussed below). Corps officer in Iraq and United Nations weapHe has also refused to prosecute the leaders of ons inspector Scott Ritter, contained some type the Bush Administration for their war of aggres- of uranium, whether depleted, undepleted or sion in Iraq. Most commentators agree that it slightly enriched.” Soil tests corroborate these contributed to the current crises in the Middle claims. Can we imagine the reaction if Cuba East, including the rise of Daesh. Many agree used such a weapon on anybody we consider with Obama’s celebrated critique of the Iraq War human, let alone if they refused to acknowland believe it was a “mistake,” and “dumb.” edge the problem and help the victims 12 years Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called the war a later? Can you imagine the American indict“blunder,” and said on the campaign trail in New ment of Cuban propaganda if this went largely Hampshire that he would not consider prosecutunreported in the Cuban press? And yet, nobody ing Bush Administration officials for their illegal responsible for these continuing crimes against actions, as the U.S. leadership is required to humanity has been held accountable, or likely do under international law. Very few, however, ever will be. describe it as the war crime that it is, according How has the Obama Administration respondto Nuremberg principles. ed to political dissent? The Obama AdministraWe do not hear too much these days about tion has launched a war against whistleblowers, the consequences of the invasion, besides Daesh, or government employees who reveal to the that have killed Americans. We rarely hear about press the illegal behavior of the government. the two million refugees, many of whom fled In March 2015, the Guardian reported that SPRING 2016

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the Obama Administration had pursued eight ing overhead, whose grandmothers were blown prosecutions under the Espionage Act, more apart, who look down the barrel of a gun made than double the number of prosecutions under in the land of the free, and who feel the cudgel all previous administrations since the Act was on their backs carried by the hand we hold up signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1917. When — they do not accept our depraved indifference former army intelligence officer Chelsea Manto their lives. Often, they want revenge. As alning leaked diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, she Muslimi testified, drone strikes are a powerful was prosecuted under the Act and sentenced to recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Al-Qaeda 35 years in prison. During a long detention with in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the main targets no trial, she was subjected to humiliating treatof the U. S. drones strikes in Yemen, had prement that can reasonably be considered torture, viously been having difficulty recruiting and including solitary confinement, psychological turning Yemenis against the United States in stress, and humiliation. The only particular, according to al-Musgovernment official that the limi. We have changed that with At what point, howObama Administration has prosour drone murders. The drone ever, does the everecuted in connection with torture campaign is a terrorism generagrowing pyre of during the Bush Administration tor. Retired Army General Mike is a whistleblower who leaked “accidental” corpses Flynn told Al Jazeera English information on the CIA’s torture in an interview previewed on from drone strikes, program. He served two years in air strikes, wars, and July 16, 2015, “When you drop prison, though the information a bomb from a drone… you beloved dictators he provided wasn’t published, are going to cause more dambecome arson? according to the Guardian. age than you are going to cause Edward Snowden, of course, good.” A 2004 report commisremains in exile, as he would face prosecution sioned by then-Secretary of Defense Donald and likely long-term imprisonment if he were to Rumsfeld found that the United States is a target return to the United States. of terrorism not because of its freedoms but These cases involve the release of classified because of its policies. U.S.- supported crimes, material, although it hardly seems like the mark like the UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, of a free society that a state can jail those who which Madeline Albright infamously thought inform the public of its crimes. Rather, a free or were “worth it” even if they killed 500,000 just society might prosecute those who commitpeople were explicitly mentioned as motivated the crimes that were revealed. This is contions for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Osama Bin sidered a radical point of view. But what about Laden’s open letter to America. cases that do not involve the release of secret Just as the long history of American aggresinformation? One of the larger protest movesion towards Cuba does not justify Raul and ments in recent American history, the Occupy Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and abuses, those Wall St. movement, was forcibly repressed while attacks were not justified by our long history the Obama Administration watched unarmed, of violence, aggression, and support of brutal peaceful protesters maced, beaten, and arrested oppressors in the Middle East. Neither do the all across the country. 9/11 terrorist attacks justify the horror of our These practices undermine our security, the “counterterrorism.” I don’t excuse the murder final charge made against Cuba by Rubio. The of innocent people for any reason. Many compeople who are terrorized by constant buzzmentators such as Sam Harris often try to argue 14

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photo by new york times

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that we are morally different from al-Qaeda U.S. territory, we would not accept a lecture because we do not intend to kill innocent people. from Castro on human rights and freedom. We Perhaps we do not. At what point, however, does would vituperate the commissars who asked, the ever-growing pyre of “accidental” corpses “Is the United States good enough for us?” We from drone strikes, air strikes, wars, and beloved would not accept these blatant hypocrisies from dictators become arson? At what point do we our enemies, and we should not accept them accept that these deaths are the predictable confrom our leaders and from ourselves. sequences of the policies that we support, or at Our inquiry into values, then, does not reveal, least, as citizens who have the freedom to speak as some alleged realists claim, that values are against them, tolerate? When do we take respon- absent from our or any other country’s foreign sibility for our crimes against “them”? Perhaps it (and domestic) policy. At the basis of the statewill be when “their” lives have as much value as capitalist economic system that has caused so much as “ours.” This is the fundamental inequal- much inequality and suffering, at the basis of our ity. This is the gaping chasm at the center of empire and our policies of foreign domination our national and cultural moral and resource exploitation that life over which we have tried serves the state-capitalist sysWhen do we take to place a paper covering with tem, at the basis of institutionalresponsibility for professions of best intentions ized racism and the ideology of our crimes against and high-minded ideals scrawled white supremacy, at the basis “them”? in innocent blood. of patriarchy, and most systems If a country were bombing of hierarchy and domination is French schools, or Belgian resia simple value: “our” lives, the dential neighborhoods, we would not be selling lives of those in power within the system, are them weapons and giving them tactical assisworth more. The master-save relationship, as tance; we would be bombing them. We know Albert Camus describes in his classic anarchist this for a fact, because an “Islamic State” is doessay The Rebel, is that which the rebel rebels ing essentially those things, and we are bombing against primarily. The value system our governthem. Instead of “consistently reinforce[ing]” to ment, economy, and culture are founded upon Daesh “the imperative of target analysis,” as a this relationship. It is the source of what Adam U.S. military spokesman recently did to Saudi Smith called “the vile maxim of the masters Arabia and its coalition in response to the Masof mankind... all for ourselves and nothing taba bombing, we use such terror as an excuse to for other people.” It entitles those in power to commit our own and to support the repressive, amass wealth, maintain privilege, force sex, and authoritarian military dictatorship in Egypt. If ultimately, to kill. Of course, lesser masters have another country decided that it could execute greater masters, and everyone but the greatest Americans with no due process based on suspimasters is somebody’s slave. What we have is a cion and secret law, attacking American funerrelative hierarchy of the value of life, or moral als and killing American first responders, we relativism. would not be debating the number of acceptable This “value” is the one we defend with mascollateral casualties. We would be at war with sive violence every day, and it is the root of inwhoever would perpetrate such a monstrous act. equality. Let us uproot it and that which springs If Cuba were torturing people who had revealed from this “poison tree” and, before taking the evidence of its government’s crimes or who speck out of our brother’s eye, take the log out were detained without charge on suspicion in of our own eye. ■ 16

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TECHNOLOGY

Internet Speeds

On Global Disparities in Broadband Networks by allison tretina

The Unites States’ internet speeds are far from

networks has hardly been the problem, howthe fastest in the world. Many countries in Asia ever. Cities rather have struggled to hurdle local and Europe enjoy faster — ­ and in most cases, laws, and networks within the cities have lacked cheaper and more accessible — internet than the incentives to upgrade their services. country. Building faster networks requires hefty The United States’ peak connection speed capital expenditures that investors frown upon. averages 57.3 megabits per second (mbps), the Though Verizon’s FIOS competes with cable 16th fastest nation-wide internet connection company giants like Comcast, the expense of speed in the world, according to the latest State replacing old copper lines with fiber forced of the Internet report from AkaVerizon to holt national expanmai, a content delivery network sion. The website Ars TechThe prospect for provider for media and software upgrading the U.S.’s nica reports that Verizon even delivery. (Mbps is a measure of partnered with cable companies internet broadband transfer speed. Each megabit is in 2012 to resell cable services. connections have equivalent to one million bits.) While residents in New York looked dismal for Some rural areas have connecpay over $50 a month for every years. tion speeds as low as 7.3 mbps 25 mbps, those in London, and slower. Meanwhile, RomaSeoul, Bucharest, Paris pay half nia boasts of peak speeds around that for typically faster rates, 72.9 mbps, the fastest internet in Europe, and the according to Open Technology’s 2014 Cost of sixth fastest in the world. In Asia Pacific citConnectivity report. However, Kansas City, ies, Singapore and Hong Kong, internet speeds MO; Kansas City, KS; San Francisco, CA; and surpass 100 mbps, nearly double the peak speed Bristol, VA each rank better than some European in the United States. countries. The prospects for upgrading the United For a majority of Americans, the only choice States’ internet broadband connections have for high-capacity data connectivity is the lolooked dismal for years. Yet that may all change cal cable monopoly. Without competition, such thanks to one company: Google. monopolies will choose to increase their revenue Before February 2012, when Google revealed with the same number of people before expandtheir project, Google Fiber, which introduced ing and upgrading its services. Cities, therefore, cities across the country to fiber-optic lines to are left with two decisions to counter the modeliver internet services, cities have maintained nopoly-driven industry: attempt to regulate the the status quo. The infrastructure of internet industry or open an alternative network. SPRING 2016

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State and local governments have yet to do dozens of college towns across the country. The either. A stimulus bill was passed in 2009, but cities that ranked better than most European instead of installing fiber, the allotted money countries in the Open Technology Institute’s funded wiring remote areas. On the municipal annual report on the cost of internet connectivity level, if building regulations and permit reare the cities that have went ahead and built their quirements aren’t discouraging new fiber lines, own networks, wiring every home with fiber. state laws definitely are. Though 300 municipal “When you talked to mayors a few years ago, broadband networks exist across the country, they would tell you about all the other problems legislation in about 20 states creates multiple they had that mattered much more than bandadministrative and financial hurdles for new width,” Levin told the MIT Technology Review networks, according to ProPublica. last year. “When you talk to them today, they Nevada, ProPublica reports, implemented recognize that this is something they really need, population restrictions. “Municipalities were and that it isn’t about streaming TV but also prohibited from providing broadband if the making sure businesses and schools and healthpopulation exceeds 25,000; for care facilities are going to have counties, it is 55,000 or more.” Google, by introduct- what they need in the future.” In Florida, state governments Google, by introducing ing Google Fiber demanded residential broadband Google Fiber to the market, has to the market, has networks demonstrate how they ignored short-term returns to ignored short-term planned to turn a profit within provide the country and its cities returns to provide the with a public good — one that four years, an unrealistic time country and its cities neither the government nor the span for such networks to become profitable. private sector were previously with a public good. Since Google Fiber went able (or willing) to provide. This live in Kansas City in Kansas is essentially the same way by and Missouri in 2012, the present and future of which the United States’ roads were built in the broadband has lain in the hands of Google. Tolate 18th and 19th century. Hundreds of comday, Google Fiber operates in Atlanta, Georgia; panies invested millions of dollars in a project Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas without a foreseeable profit. City, Kansas; and Provo, Utah. Unlike the U.S. transportation infrastructure, In the wake of the debut, AT&T announced however, it is one company that has singlean upgrade to one gigabit per second connechandedly bailed out the country’s internet infrations at prices radically lower than before, and structure. Unfortunately, it may take longer to promised to expand its services to a hundred properly improve the government’s technology more cities. Many customers saw faster speeds policy than build roads across the country. But without additional charge, according to the MIT at least until then, Americans can enjoy faster Technology Review. Time Warner Cable, for one, internet than ever before. ■ has begun offering connections five times faster than the speed they were offering a few years ago. Google Fiber inspired action on the municipal level, too. Gig.U, a project started by a former lawyer of the Federal Communications Commission, Blair Levin, has taken the model of Google Fiber to bring gigabit connections to 18

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photo by jason linden

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BOOK REVIEW

Rethinking the Teenage Brain by sebastian barajas

During my senior year of high school, I wrote

able to my project, had I known of its existence: my final paper on the need for my classmates it questions the very findings that had stumped and I to have greater freedom in our education me. In fact, Epstein’s investigations reveal that and our personal lives, and to be treated accordthe claim about teens being preprogrammed ing to our ability, not our age. This was an emoto misbehave is not only questionable but also tional subject for me, but I knew it was imporfundamentally unscientific. tant to show that even though I was a teenager, This may seem far-fetched, considering and therefore expected to be irrational, I could the number of articles published in respected argue my point in a mature manner, thereby publications like The New Yorker, National doubly proving it just. Geographic, Salon, etc., all Despite my honest efsupporting the modern theory in review fort, my parents and teachof adolescence. But we should ers viewed my project to bear two things in mind when Teen 2.0: empower teenagers as they we read these articles. First, Saving our Children and would a dog’s project to much of the consensus derives Families from the Torcatch a squirrel: it was never from the media feedback effect: ment of Adolescence going to succeed, but there people writing articles about by Dr. Robert Epstein was a kind of virtue in the books about news segments effort. All the real facts seemed to be against about other articles, all of which seem to corrobme. Driving statistics, neuroscience, psychology, orate one another, though in fact they are most and a hundred other fields have all convened often based on a single piece of information. to form the modern conception of a teenager: a Second, even when there is a consensus among creature that by its very nature cannot be treated actual researchers, that consensus can still be as an equal, or even as a rational being. The wrong. Scientific claims have to stand on their sheer number and authority of such arguments merit — not the mere fact that most scientists ultimately crushed my resolve, and by the time I currently believe them. presented my paper to a panel of judges, I felt I Luckily, the flaws in the argument about the was entirely alone: preaching my sad Ptolemaic teen brain are of a common sort, and therefore universe to a Copernican world. easily explained. As it so happens, they are But unbeknownst to me, Dr. Robert Epstein nearly identical to the flaws in arguments made published Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and in recent years by foolish souls claiming that Families from the Torment of Adolescence that neuroscience has “disproved feminism” because same year. This book would have been invalumen and women have different brains.

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Neuroscience only gives us a tool to observe adolescence did not exist at all. the brain — which, like everything else, is A few studies have even tracked “before and shaped by the nature vs. nurture paradigm. For after” data on isolated communities where large example, we have recently discovered that procultural changes (i.e. western influence) actually fessional chess players use a different part of the create teenage behaviors in places where they brain to play chess than do beginners. But even had been previously unknown. Studies like these with this information, we still have to answer (of which there are surprisingly many) provide the ancient question: is it nature or nurture that very convincing evidence that turmoil and forms this brain and this behavior? Are some misbehavior during the teen years is a cultural people born with a brain arrangement that makes phenomenon (i.e. due to nurture), not a natural them more disposed to become professional one. chess players? Or does the act of playing chess We might then ask, “But what about their for tens of thousands of hours actually change brains? All you would have to do to prove that the brain, just as exercise changes the body? the teen brain is a product of nature, and not nurThis kind of question must be ture, is to go to non-westernized resolved by a controlled study or communities and scan teenagers’ Neuroscience only an experiment; a brain scan by brains to see if they are wired gives us a tool to itself tells us nothing. observe the brain — badly, right? Surely someone Given this fact, let us turn has done that?” One would think which, like everything our attention to teenagers. Let so. Shockingly, not a single else, is shaped by the neuroscientist making claims us allow two observations to be nature vs. nurture true: 1) Teenagers have strucabout the teen brain has ever tural differences in key parts of been challenged enough to think paradigm. their brains, and 2) They have it necessary. I have recently higher rates of irresponsible contacted Dr. Epstein, who still behavior. Again, this only establishes a correlakeeps tabs on this field. To this day, no one has tion, which could mean any number of things — ever conducted any such study. for example, it could simply mean that the way It is impossible to overemphasize how badly teens behave changes their brains. The goal now these facts undermine the argument that teens is to prove that it is, in fact, the brain structure are preprogrammed to misbehave. Demonstratthat causes the behavior. Basic common sense ing the universality of both teenage irresponsidictates that we begin by making sure that teen bility and teenage brain differences is not merely irresponsibility (e.g. driving accidents, rebellion, helpful, but absolutely necessary in order to moodiness, depression, etc.) is universal. That is, make the kinds of claims hundreds of books and we have to show that they happen regardless of a articles have been making. The fact that there is teenager’s nurture, including the kind of “exerno clear evidence for either one means that our cise” his brain gets. notion of adolescence is supported entirely by But Epstein finds that this is not the case speculation based on a correlation. This is not — in fact, quite the opposite. There are many science. communities and cultures all over the world Further, even if someone did conduct a cross(both today and in history) where none of these cultural study, and found that teens have equally behaviors spike during the teen years. In these underdeveloped brains no matter where on earth communities, teens tend to be assimilated into we look (which Epstein thinks highly unlikely), the adult world shortly after puberty, and accord- a scientist would still have to explain why teeningly behave just like adults, almost as though age misbehavior is not universal, despite the SPRING 2016

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photo by getty images

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brain differences hypothetically being so. Provwould be for lesser primates. ing the point about the brain, but not about the But instead of fostering the kind of brain behavior, would only indicate that the brain difexercise teenagers desperately need, the past ferences we worry about probably have little to few decades have seen a move to allow them do with how teens and adults actually behave — even less of it. Many public schools are now run which is all that truly matters. So the argument like minimum-security prisons, where students that teenage misbehavior is preprogrammed is cannot enjoy even trivial freedoms like talking refuted either way. It is not supported by any real during lunch, carrying Ibuprofen, and touching science, and never has been (and judging by the one another. New technologies allow parents to evidence so far, likely never will be). So search raise their teens in miniature police states, monias we might through all of the magazine articles toring cell phone, internet, and car use. This kind and books written on the teen brain, we will of micromanagement would be like swaddling never find an argument based on the scientific a child until age 18 on the grounds that he is not method — only superficial observations dressed yet strong enough to walk. It is an unreasonable up and corroborated until they assumption that nevertheless give the illusion of being so. But instead of foster- proves itself true, since if we did We might then reasonably ing the kind of brain swaddle a person until age 18, ask: “But if teens’ faulty wiring he could not properly develop. exercise teenagers does not cause their bad drivThen we could publish research desperately need, ing and erratic behavior, what on the weak, uncoordinated the past few decades “teen body,” and use the same does?” In addition to the “before have seen a move to pseudo-logic to justify swadand after” studies mentioned earlier, there is actually a large allow them even less dling until 18 — and perhaps body of evidence that teenagers’ even longer. of it. misbehavior (and probably their But remarkably, despite the brain structure) is in fact the fact that we seem to be doing result of not getting the right kind of brain exereverything in our power to keep teens immature, cise. Epstein argues that teens need to develop Epstein’s research using a measure called the faculties such as autonomous choice, leadership, EDTA (Epstein-Dumas Test of Adultness) sugand meaningful participation in a community gests that about a third of teenagers (mostly from — meaning that their responsibilities must be the U.S. and Canada) are in fact “more adult” real, not artificial. He gives examples in which than the median adult. The teen brain seems to these conditions have allowed teens to thrive: be so powerful that it can often transcend its communities where they create and enforce their fetters and develop adult faculties even when its own laws, and institute divisions of labor, all environment resists it. with minimal adult supervision. These examples Given our deeply ingrained faith in the sciprove that — given proper direction and opporentific community, it may be difficult for many tunities — teenagers can behave just as responof us to believe that something as basic as a sibly as adults. The fact that such examples are correlation-causation fallacy could have gotten rare does nothing to detract from Epstein’s point: past so many respected scientists. But we have he only has to prove that such a thing is possible. to admit that it is possible. Sloppiness can infect If the teen brain were really hardwired against any group of experts, especially where there this, the success of a complex democratic are reputations and large amounts of money at government run by teenagers would not merely stake. Many neuroscientists and psychologists be rare, but intrinsically impossible — just as it have built their careers on the claim that the SPRING 2016

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teen brain is a “car without brakes.” They write books, and millions of adults buy them. Every parent and teacher craves to hear experts assure them that teenagers are simply insane, and that their outrageous behavior has little to do with their upbringing or their schooling. No one wants to buy a book that exonerates nature, our happy scapegoat for the miseries of the teenage years, and then puts us at the top of the new list of suspects. And for this very reason, no scientist interested in money and fame wants to write that book. Even for Epstein, Teen 2.0 was a labor of love, not of profit. This is why his research only gets two sentences on Wikipedia’s page on adolescence, while vast paragraphs are devoted to the same superficial observation and unscientific speculation that have dominated the field for decades. I should note that many of the neuroscientists who make claims about the teen brain do so with honorable (if misguided) motives: often they want to get sentences reduced for juvenile offenders. But sometimes, having good motives

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can make things worse, since it only makes it that much more difficult to see the harm we cause, and to find solutions that create less collateral damage. Of course, to use words like “harm” and “damage” may seem strange to most of us, since we do not see any harm in demeaning teenagers: we think it simply a rite of passage to be an object of ridicule for a few years, and then we grow out of it. But we must bear in mind that our anti-teen attitude has contributed not only to their marginalization and apathy — a bad beginning to their relationship with society — but also to their dehumanization. We may protest that child abuse is its own problem, unrelated to the pseudoscience of the teen brain. But when psychologists publicly claim that teens have “the neurophysiology of apes,” this is quite literally an act of dehumanization (indeed, it seems that every article written on the teen brain is obligated to invent its own dehumanizing analogy). It is therefore difficult to make the case that treating teens as subhuman — starving them,

photo by getty images


beating them, subjecting them to humiliation listeners, battering ourselves into indifference. and rape — has nothing whatsoever to do with We decided it was easier to wait for the world to our pseudoscientific project to draw as great a treat us better than to keep fighting for what we distinction as possible between a real person and felt was right. And now that we are older, finally a teenager. allowed to move our hands and feet, we immeBut even if the harm caused by our irrational diately rebel against our past — not because we prejudice never led to anything beyond stifling know better, but because we feel we can never and frustrating teenagers for a few years, to be real adults until we show as much disdain deny a person the chance to grow during one of for teenagers as we were shown at their age. the most important periods of his development Clearly, time has taught us neither compassion certainly stunts that development. If I might innor reason, but rather subordinated them to what dulge my own speculation based is practical and self-serving. on Epstein’s research, I would In Teen 2.0, our adult ideas Many neuroscientists imagine that the brains of most about adolescence are stripped and psychologists adults are measurably deformed down, their rot carved away have built their cafrom missing so much exercise until they reveal a truth much reers on the claim during the teen years — and I more closely resembling our am confident that proper science old teenage intuitions than our that the teen brain will one day support my claim. current adult superstitions. Of is a “car without If we are still convinced that course, that truth is complex — brakes.” the mainstream conception of as all truth must be. Scientists the teen brain is sound, I have who tell us the truth is simple one last point to make. The claim in question (as mainstream neuroscientists have for decades) is that teenagers are simply wired wrong, and should trip deafening alarm bells in our minds. there is nothing that can be done to make them But in Teen 2.0, Dr. Epstein addresses that satisfactorily mature before age 25. But even complexity very well. His book is not a closing, if we refuse to trust Epstein’s research, anyone but an opening: a challenge for all of us to meet who has paid attention to other human beings the needs of teenagers that our society has, until has known at least one teenager who behaved re- now, cordially ignored. ■ sponsibly without needing to be constantly prodded. The mere fact that this everyday occurrence is even possible is already proof that the truth cannot possibly be as simple as “teens are just hardwired wrong.” The claim that took hundreds of news segments and articles to work into our minds is, in fact, so tenuous that a single lucid observation from our everyday lives is enough to critically undermine it. So how is it that we become so divorced from reality? Surely, there must have been a moment for each of us when we started our own little doomed teenage essays. Why did we give them up? Probably not because our reasoning was wrong. More likely, it was because we were ashamed to spend our arguments on uncaring SPRING 2016

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POLITICS

The Grand Old Party Defenders of ‘Morality,’ but Only When it’s Politically Beneficial

by joe roberts Author’s Warning: If blatant hypocrisy in your political leaders upsets you, you will be extremely angry at the end of this article.

Right for what it truly is. Every time that the Right uses the rhetoric of morality, you can probably assume that they are trying to screw yet another minority out of their rights. he Republican Party loves to hail itself as the Let us begin with the hot-button issue of the defender of morality in the United States. This last 40 years: abortion. In 1973, the Supreme is, undoubtedly, a description they have attribCourt decided in the Roe v. Wade case that a uted to themselves, usually based on the fact that woman had a right, under the 14th Amendment’s Lincoln was a member of the GOP and not actu- Due Process Clause, to privacy over her own ally because they are, in fact, body and thus the right to an protectors of moral fibre. They abortion. This, mind you, was Every time that the tout themselves as the last stand not a tight 5-4 decision by a diRight uses the rheto- vided court, but a very clear 7-2 against the moral corruption ric of morality, you caused by liberal justices, a libvictory for Norma L. McCorvey can probably assume (using the pseudonym Jane Roe) eral media, a liberal President, that they are trying and, God forbid, liberal voters. and all women throughout the For a party which criticises the to screw yet another United States. Instead of acpresident for being too scripted, minority out of their cepting the court’s decision, the you’d think they might consider Republican Party, the supposrights. looking at a thesaurus. edly staunch and, if you listen to My biggest problem with the them talk, sole protectors of the GOP’s insistence on calling themselves the party Constitution decided that they did not like this of morality is their extremely selective use and conclusion, and have since done everything in understanding of the word. When it comes to their power to undermine it in open defiance of issues regarding abortion, gay marriage, LGBT the ruling. The Right say that the decision in Roe rights, civil rights, voting rights, immigration, is both a violation of states’ rights and the court and, even more gallingly, refugees — they are behaved like a legislature in determining whethhappy to stand up and tout their credentials as er or not abortion was a constitutionally guarthe moral choice. If by defending morality they anteed right. I would like to ask these staunch mean ensuring the social fabric of the United advocates of the Constitution to decide whether States remains firmly in the 1950’s, then, sure, the decision in Marbury v. Madison (which gave I’ll concede they are the defenders of ‘morality’. the Supreme Court the ability to determine the I wish to expose the moral rhetoric of the constitutionality of a law) only applies when it is

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politically beneficial? Except it’s not funny, in the least. Pro-life, Their refusal to accept the decision of the it seems, only means while the foetus remains court is, you guessed it, on supposed moral in the womb; once the baby is born, it’s fair grounds. That morality is of course to be found game for the nut jobs who all have access to a in their Christianity. Apparently, God doesn’t gun because the idea of background checks and like the idea of a woman having an abortion. I’m reasonable gun control is apparently anathema sure you all remember that part of the Sermon to the Constitution. This is presumably in order on the Mount when Jesus, after laying out the for people to defend themselves against the Beatitudes, goes into a long diatribe about how same tyrannical government which is forcing abortion will destroy the moral fibre of society Christians to actually live up to the mantras laid and Planned Parenthood is the result of a moral- out by Christ, such as being tolerant and acceptly corrupt civilization. It comes right before the ing of others. These blind advocates of the 2nd bit where Jesus says that homosexuals shouldn’t Amendment love to leave out the beginning be permitted to marry. of the amendment: “A well regulated Militia, Oh, that’s not actually in the being necessary to the security Bible? Well I figured that reviThe argument against of a free State”. If we are to sionist history is totally acceptignore the archaic nature of this abortion is entirely able, as that is clearly what the clause in favour of a modern indefensible without interpretation, which ignores the Republican Party masters in. Acreligion to fall back cording to these Constitutional well-regulated militia part of the on. historians, the founding fathers 2nd Amendment (c.f. Heller v were all Christians who wanted District of Columbia), then there a strict Judeo-Christian society is still absolutely no justification which rejected all other faiths and laid out strict to oppose common sense gun regulations. If we Biblical principles by which to live. Apparently, don’t ignore that clause, I like to assume that the the first amendment should be read, “Congress “well-regulated militia” would not be populated shall make no law respecting an establishment of by people who would be disqualified by a backreligion, other than Christianity”; that last secground check. tion is just implied. But back to abortion. The right would have The argument against abortion is entirely you believe that abortion is destroying the fabric indefensible without religion to fall back on. If of American society. The ‘liberal’ justices of the you’re not willing to accept the 14th AmendSupreme Court and the abortion centres around ment interpretation in favour of abortion, the the country are ostensibly guilty for the murder 9th will do just fine. “The enumeration in the of millions of babies. They assert that life begins Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be at conception and not at birth. This is, without a construed to deny or disparage others retained doubt, a philosophic assertion and not a scienby the people.” This clearly lays out that the tific one. This ‘philosophy’ stems directly from government may not make laws to disparage the their religious beliefs, and when I say religious inherent rights of the people. But the conservabeliefs, I mean what the church has claims God tive movement at large does not like that either. says, not what is actually based in Scripture. It Just remember, the only important amendment is important to point out that abortions in this in the Bill of Rights is the 2nd one. Funny that country are only legal before the point of viabilthese ‘pro-life’ activists are fans of the only ity (the stage of development of the foetus where amendment that ensures you have the right to it could survive outside the womb). So to say own a deadly weapon. that foetuses which have been aborted are babies 28

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is a gross and politically motivated conflation of potentiality and actuality. A few months ago, a video emerged alleging the practice of selling foetal organs by Planned Parenthood. This provided the Republican Party the opportunity it had been waiting for, and they immediately began the process of trying to defund and dismantle Planned Parenthood. It came out very quickly that these videos had been heavily doctored, and David Daleiden, the person responsible, has since been indicted for tampering with a government record and offering to buy foetal tissue. That, however, has not stopped the Republicans in the least. Then again, why would facts stop these people from trying to assert their ideological dogma? Carly Fiorina, in one of the debates where she was still somehow relevant, went on a rant about the Planned Parenthood video. Mind you, there was absolutely no truth to the scenes which she very vividly described as happening in this video. She ended her imaginary diatribe with a boisterous state-

photo by wikimedia

ment that she would not back down on this issue because it was about protecting the moral fibre of this country. Blatantly lying to the country in a nationally televised debate seems a bit immoral, doesn’t it, Carly? Planned Parenthood does not receive any federal funding for abortions; that is all privately financed, as mandated by federal law. Its federal funding is for, primarily, women’s healthcare, and often it provides essential services in its clinics in areas where a hospital either cannot or will not provide for them. That has not stopped the Republicans from decrying the moral degradation of our federal government in funding an organisation that might actually be trying to help women. Their crusade to close down Planned Parenthood clinics continues, and once again women’s basic healthcare needs are being seriously threatened by a tyrannical, dogmatic party. The conservative movement’s opposition to abortion, while clearly indefensible, might not be so hypocritical if it weren’t for the fact that

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these same people are opposed to doing anything hensible, particularly in the crossroads between to ensure that abortions aren’t necessary in the abortion and rape. Former-Rep. Todd Akin first place. They staunchly oppose the providing (R-MO), once said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, of birth control or even condoms in school or the female body has ways to try shut that whole through health insurance plans on Obamacare. thing down,” when asked if he might temper his They dogmatically insist on abstinence only anti-abortion views in the case of rape victims. sexual education, meaning that teenagers across Akin, I have some questions for you: A) Have the country have no meaningful understanding you ever looked at a biology textbook? B) What of the dangers of unprotected sex. They claim to the hell constitutes an illegitimate rape? want to stop teen pregnancies, yet they cannot Repeatedly failed presidential candidate and get it through their thick skulls that teenagers former-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) in the same will have sex whether you teach them about vein once told women who had been raped and it or not. In 2008, a University of Washington wanted an abortion that “rape victims should study found that teenagers who make the best of a bad situareceived comprehensive sex edution.” This, by the way, is the It takes no effort at cation were 60% less likely to all to conjure up neg- man who has endorsed current get pregnant than someone who Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on ative feelings inside received abstinence-only educathe grounds of, according to of us: frustration, an- Rick, nearly identical ideologition. These policies are, I think noyance, agner. But you may be catching my drift cal viewpoints. Is it any wonder by now, based in their religious that women overwhelmingly this knee-jerk reacbeliefs. Because they think that vote for Democrats when these tion is not our only pre-marital sex is bad because are the prominent voices of option. their God said so, they use their the conservative movement? religion to justify condemnBut let’s not forget, these are ing millions of students across the same people who say they America to an extremely lacking appreciation of are defending morality in the United States. I things like sex, STIs, and, most importantly of wish I, like Fiorina, was lying to you in service all, consent. Is it any wonder we have an epiof a political agenda. I can promise you, I am demic of rapes and sexual assaults which has led not. What kind of warped view of morals these many to describe our current society as having a people claim to have, I genuinely cannot wrap ‘rape culture’? my head around. But don’t worry, the right-wing has an atroLet us turn our attention to the conservative cious view of rape to go along with their other stance towards LGBT rights. If you want to be reprehensible views about abortion and women. simplistic, there’s a very easy way to describe Clayton Williams, Republican gubernatorial the right wing: anti-LGBT. But the depths of nominee for Texas in 1990, once said, “Rape is that stance is worth far more attention. Sen. Ted kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax Cruz (R-TX) is the poster boy for the anti-LGBT and enjoy it.” I give you permission to take a stance of the conservative movement. He has break from reading this article to go and puke. made calls for people, both elected officials Coincidentally, Williams ran, and thankfully and voters, to openly defy the Supreme Court’s lost, against Ann Richards, mother of Cecile ruling on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, saying, Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Fed“People are not obliged to obey justices who are eration of America. More prominent conservadefying the Constitution, defying the law, who tives have said things which are equally repreare committing acts of judicial tyranny.” I would 30

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like to know where Cruz was on the “judicial tyranny” of the Supreme Court in the case Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed for unlimited campaign donations, equating money with protected free speech and forever changing the dynamics of campaign donations. Or what about when the Court effectively declared George W. Bush president by rejecting a recount in Florida? Did he oppose those decisions as an overreach of the Court? No, of course, he didn’t, because he liked those rulings. But when the Court rules against discriminating against minority groups which Cruz doesn’t like because he is a homophobic bigot, that is, naturally, judicial tyranny. This is the man who touts himself as the only true protector of the Constitution in the entire Washington establishment, while at the same time performing the rhetorical contortionist act of saying he isn’t a member of the establishment. Let me clarify something for Cruz and his supporters. He is only an outsider of the Washington establishment because every single

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senator and 95% of Congressmen openly despise him for being an unapologetic egotist, more interested in his own political gains than the actual governance of the United States. The only people who actually like Cruz are the House Freedom Caucus, a group of Congressmen who take it as a point of pride to be as homophobic, xenophobic, and racist as is humanly possible without actually being Adolf Hitler re-incarnate. I am genuinely surprised former-Rep. David Duke (R-LN), the former Grand Wizard of that wonderfully enlightened group known as the Ku Klux Klan, decided to endorse Trump and not Cruz. My guess is that is only because Trump yells louder than Cruz does. And, is there any chance that someone like Duke wouldn’t be convinced by that kind of ‘logic’? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), described the choice between Cruz and Trump as a choice between “being shot or poisoned.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the President pro tempore of the Senate (the third in line in the Presidential line of succession) said

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he was warming up to Trump, if only because these Christians feel that their religion is conhe’s not Cruz. Well done, Cruz, you have the stantly under threat? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) most senior Republican in the Senate saying that is the first non-Christian to win a primary, and you’re worse than the most hated man in Amerhe, at least in public, identifies as both ethnically ica. It’s like the movie trope where the villain and religiously Jewish. We have yet to see an teams up with the hero to fight the even worse openly atheist presidential candidate from either villain, except this time they can’t decide which major party. It seems as though the Christian one to team up against. Trump has one and only Right confuses losing their complete strangleone thing that endears me to him: he’s not Cruz. hold on American politics as an affront to their On the other hand, Cruz also has one thing gofreedoms. This is because these white Christians ing for him: he’s not Do Trump. Welcome to have never had their rights stripped away from the Sophie’s Choice of American conservative them systematically, so they conflate an increase politics. Maybe the Republicans will do us all a in equality for all citizens as a shedding of their favour in the event of a brokered own rights and freedoms. This convention and have Trump and is, of course, a narrow-minded, Trump has one and Cruz fight to the death to be the ignorant, and ultimately stupid only one thing that nominee. view of the progress of society. endears me to him: But Ted Cruz, and many, But the bigger question many other Republicans’ opposiI have relates to the original he’s not Cruz. tion to LGBT rights is not limintentions of the article at hand. ited to opposing gay marriage. How is it moral for these soNo, no, that would be far too called Christians to discriminate ‘liberal’ for Ted Cruz and his fellow bigots. No, against an entire community, simply because apparently legalising gay marriage and removing they do not like or understand them? Cruz and discrimination against the LGBT community is the Republican Party love to tell the American an infringement of their religious liberty, in the people they are defenders of freedom, justice, same way that forcing white business owners to and morality. That freedom they are defending serve black people was an infringement on their seems awfully like the liberty to be unapologetireligious freedoms. (It wasn’t). From now on, cally homophobic and use religion as your shield whenever you hear Ted Cruz or another Repubwhen someone challenges you on it. I would lican say the words ‘infringement of religious like to remind everyone that Cruz often uses his liberty’, feel free to replace it with, ‘an infringe- father as a surrogate to stump for him. Rafael ment on my right to discriminate based on Cruz is a man who claims that gay marriage and hatred and ignorance.’ This has led to a spate of Obamacare will be the death of the American laws across Republican-controlled state houses Society. This is the same man who left his wife that are supposedly defending religious liberty. and 3-year old son in Calgary to fend for themThey are in fact open codifications of the right selves, reconciled with his wife, and then later to discriminate based on sexuality and gender. divorced her. What an upstanding defender of Progress is apparently only a facet of the left the Christian ideals of marriage Rafael Cruz is. wing of American politics. He is also an open advocate of the same hateful At this juncture I wish to ask, why is it that anti-LGBT discriminations as his son, such as (white) Christians have such a deep persecution conversion therapy centres. complex? In a country where the odds are totally Where is the morality in subjecting gay teenin your favour if you are a white Christian, agers to conversion therapy? Conversion therapy versus, let’s say a black Muslim, why is it that is something Cruz and his buddies refuse to 32

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condemn, in fact many of them openly support why would facts or historical context be of any these ‘treatment’ facilities, despite the fact that is relevance to you when you could instead stand not only terrible and scientifically unsound psyon ideological hatred? Trump, is of course, chology but also incredibly harmful, leading to even worse than Cruz on this issue, calling for numerous suicides among gay teenagers who are a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country. forced to try and become straight. The only criti- Never mind the fact that there are laws, or that cism that Adolf Hitler would level against these the President cannot just unilaterally dictate that conversion therapy centres is that they don’t an entire religion of 1.5 billion people cannot go far enough in ensuring the continuation of a enter the country because he’s not a big fan of straight, gender binary society. Oh, the morality! them. Or, even practically, how could one could While we’re on the subject of Rafael Cruz, enforce that law as the entry visas and border we can take this opportunity to discuss the terchecks don’t have religious tests? But Trump rifically enlightened views of has said that he will be the great the Republican Party when it unifier of this country; he will Where is the moralcomes to immigration, or for do this by making sure that there ity in subjecting gay this article, more significantly, are no people left that don’t look teenagers to conver- or think like him. refugees. Rafael Cruz fled Cuba sion therapy? at age 18 as Castro toppled BaBut, it’s important to retista’s government. Rafael Cruz, member that the Republican however, fought alongside Fidel Party almost unanimously tried Castro. What if the American political leaders to supersede federal jurisdiction in saying they had treated the Cuban revolution the same way wouldn’t accept refugees. The millions of peothe Republicans treat the Syrian crisis. Would ple, mainly women and children, who are fleeing Rafael Cruz have been allowed to enter the Unit- the horrors of war and jihadism want to come to ed States? No, of course, he wouldn’t. He would America for a better life, yet that is not enough have been branded as a danger to the safety of for these Republicans to show their Christian this country and turned back around when he compassion. The craziest part about all of this is landed on American soil. And, unfortunately, that ISIS is the Republican Party’s favorite tool they would have been right as Rafael Cruz has for inciting hatred and fear, so they are extremesought to make it his life’s work to ensure that ly familiar with the kind of persecution they are other people do not get the same opportunities or fleeing. Yet, unflinchingly, they do not want to rights he was given, in fact working to ensure it help them, unless you consider carpet bombing stays dangerously unsafe to be a member of the the hell out of an entire country helping. LGBT community. If Cruz is using his dad as a Even the staunchest Kissinger defenders metric for why refugees should not be allowed balked when he and Nixon carpet-bombed Laos to enter the United States, then I commend him and Cambodia. But in 2016, why not bring back for his integrity (He isn’t). Instead Cruz hails his the darkest aspects of American exceptionalism? father as a role model, an example of someone The idea that these people call themselves Chriswho came from nothing in a dangerous, wartians, and yet, when faced with the greatest hutorn country to make it in America. But those manitarian crisis of our time decide that it’s not Syrians, they’re not the same, because they’re up to them to help is disgusting. These people Muslim. Let’s remember, since 2003 we have who turn starving, terrified women and children accepted 1.5 million Muslim refugees from the away because of “our safety” have absolutely no Middle East and not a single one has committed right to call themselves Christians. Perhaps it’s an act of terror in this country. Not even one. But time they opened the good book they claim to SPRING 2016

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love so much and read a few things from it. so far, might be the most hypocritical thing to Ironically, the only person truly espousing the ever come out of a Republican pundit’s mouth. most ‘Christian’ message is the possibly atheist, Apparently, the new conservative God is not Jewish, socialist from Brooklyn. The irony conone that’s found in the Scripture. It’s a God who tinues when you consider that the notoriously believes in small, discriminatory government un-Christian Christian Cruz lambasted Trump that concedes its power to the amoral, if not imfor his “New York values,” a thinly veiled atmoral, free market. He has been accused of betempt at calling him immoral and un-Christian ing condescending in his answer, because he was because of where he hails from, and not because apparently criticising other Christians and telling of the clearly immoral things he says and does. them how to live their faith. If by condescendCruz, it should also be noted, has a wife who ing, they mean actually telling Christians that works for Goldman Sachs on Wall Street. “Do the God they supposedly believe in doesn’t think unto others as you would have them do to you,” that unrestricted capitalism is the answer to all said Christ in Luke 6:31. If Cruz of America’s woes, then sure, it Kasich has been were to have others do unto him was condescending. It was conas he has to them, he would sit tagged with the death descending in the same way that there helplessly while his rights knell in the Republi- a preacher tells his congregation were progressively stripped about what Christianity stands can Party for being away, he would have no control the Democrats’ favor- for. It was, however, not condeover his own body, be unable to scending in the way that Cruz ite Republican. marry the person he loves, have consistently tells you that they no access to his basic healthcare are the only people defending needs, and would probably be morality in this country, only to deported for no other reason than he looks Histhen clearly be doing the exact opposite. panic. But that’s all irrelevant in his eyes and in Kasich has been tagged with the death knell the eyes of his supporters, because his patently in the Republican Party for being the Democrats’ hateful views are all in service of defending the favorite Republican. Well, no, in reality he’s moral fibre of this country. not our favourite, because he himself continues To be fair to Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), he to restrict access to abortion, albeit with far has run the closest thing to a reasonable, comless bravado than his fellow Republicans. But passionate Christian campaign on the Repubhe is a man that we respect because he doesn’t lican side. His answer, when questioned about allow his ideology to come in the way of being why he expanded Medicare and Medicaid in the a responsible and effective leader. But, apparstate of Ohio during his time as governor, was, ently, being concerned with governing is not the “When you die and get to the meeting with St. modus operandi of the Republican Party anyPeter, he probably isn’t going to ask you much more. It’s now a party of slash and burn extremabout keeping government small, but he’s going ists at war with their own leadership because to ask you what you did for the poor. When I get they feel they’re not right-wing enough. Anyone to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer who has watched Kasich over the last 25 years for what I’ve done for the poor.” An answer knows that he is a tough and thoughtful conserworthy of the Christian mantra he lives by. But, vative. He was given a 100/100 conservative in the most predictable fashion, he was roundly rating while he was in Congress. This man is lambasted for his ‘liberal’ policies. Some even no moderate, but he is what passes for a moderwent so far as to say he misunderstood morality, ate in a time ruled by Cruz, Trump, the House which if you’ve followed anything I’ve written Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party. Then again, 34

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photo by wikimedia

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it’s hard not to come across as a moderate when attraction is that he’s a ‘successful businessman’. you stand on a stage next to America’s two most It’s even more ridiculous when you realise that well-known hate-mongers and don’t say things this is the same man who makes his line of suits like you want to carpet bomb Syria (looking at and ties in China, one of his favourite targets in you Ted), or kill all terrorists’ families (who else his racist, xenophobic tirades about how Amerbut The Donald). When I listen to Donald or ica is always losing. For some reason, I don’t Ted speak, I half expect to see Jerry Falwell rise have much faith in his ability to stop American from the dead to endorse one of them, his corpse jobs flooding out of the country. re-animated by the sheer pride of permanently The prescription, as always, is to lower taxes. ruining the Republican Party. It really doesn’t matter what economic issue is But when it comes to questions of income at hand, you can be sure somehow, some way, inequality, at a time when the income and wealth the Republicans will find a way to make it about gap is at unfathomable levels, taxes being too high. But the unseen since the days of feudalCutting taxes on the most frustrating thing of all ism, the moral rhetoric of the is their unwillingness to actuwealthy has not and right is usually nowhere to be ally analyse the last 40 years will not put more found. Instead they espouse the and realise that trickle-down money in the hands of ‘virtues’ of free market capitaleconomics is at best a theory the poor and middle for hacks. Cutting taxes on the ism as the only possible saviour of the middle and working wealthy has not and will not put class. classes in America. This market more money in the hands of the is the same one that, when given poor and middle class. Comprefree reign following the repeal of Glass-Steagall, hensive spending programs and strict regulations proceeded to so soundly screw the middle and on major corporations who act irresponsibly working classes that we call the financial colmight be a good place to start. Having some lapse of 2008, “The Great Recession.” That compassion for the working classes, instead of same ‘free market’, following the crash, has continually trying to slash their benefits because seen Wall Street bounce back practically unthey’re ‘freeloaders’ would be a nice change for scathed, on the taxpayer’s dime, and yet those the party of so-called Christians. The people the same taxpayers continue to suffer. All the major Republican Party stands up for should not be candidates on the Republican side are for free the uber rich. It should be the grassroots contrade and a free market, as if they are willingly servatives who are consistently forsaken when ignoring the damage both of those things have they have elected a leader into office. Unforcaused the middle class they claim to love so tunately, they have convinced large swathes of much. Trump, in perhaps the only sane statement the country to consistently vote against their that has come out of his mouth this election own interests by using hateful, divisive politics cycle, has said that he supports trade protections and espousing a demagogic social view of what for American jobs. He then, however, proceeded America should be. to keep talking and demonstrated that he has I have, for the futile attempt at brevity, neabsolutely no idea what that would mean. His glected to touch on the hypocrisy of the Right idea (I use that word loosely) is effectively faswhen it comes to ‘moral’ drug laws, draconian cist control over every business in the U.S. that criminal justice policies, their unwillingness to would try and move their manufacturing outside condemn murderous police officers (because apthe country. This astounding lack of understand- parently you can’t support and respect the police ing is particularly strange given that his biggest if you don’t think they should be murdering 36

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unarmed black men), their consistent stripping the views of fiscal conservatism and social of the voting rights of blacks, Hispanics, and temperance. Be the party of freedom that the other minorities (think of anyone who might not Republican Party loves to say that it is, despite vote for them, and the right has probably tried all evidence to the contrary. to stop them from voting at all), their consisI was once told by a dear Republican friend, tent and successful attempts to as I lamented the rampant child The only thing you destroy the unions and collective poverty and income inequalbargaining rights of the workers can be sure the Right ity in the U.S., to “get off my (because when workers unionmoral high horse.” Until the wil fight for is their ize, they tend to vote for the Republican Party stops using continued right to left), and their unashamed marChristianity as a weapon of disdiscriminate under riage to special interest groups crimination, stops hating women teh guise of religious and minorities, ceases to dissuch as Big Oil, Big Pharma, freedom. Wall Street, and, of course, the regard the working and middle Koch Brothers (unfortunately, classes, and no longer produces the left is equally reprehensible Presidential candidates such as on this front, minus the Koch Brothers). Perhaps Santorum, Ben Carson, Fiorina, Cruz and Trump a second part of this essay will be necessary. — then, respectfully, I’ll continue to enjoy the In all regards, the Republican Party has done view from up here on my high horse. ■ everything in its power to divide and destroy the legal protections of its citizenry for which many so hardly fought. The only thing you can be sure the Right will fight for is their continued right to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. Because in this country, only if you’re a white bible-thumping conservative do you deserve liberty. Democrats are often accused of voting blue purely because it’s a Democrat on the ticket rather than considering the values of the Republican candidate. The Democrats certainly have their demons, and I will be the first to admit them and often rail against them equally hard. But their demons don’t even register on the scale of insanity, Al Sharpton notwithstanding, established by the Republican Party. I would truly like to know how any self-respecting conservative could possibly stand by the GOP when they continue to have such a hate-mongering, women despising, minority loathing, un-Christian message. I implore the conservatives who don’t stand by the ideological idiocy of the social policies of the Republican Party to break free. Create a conservative party that isn’t held hostage by hatred and fear, and instead form a party which espouses SPRING 2016

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ECONOMICS

Principle of Regressivity How Taxation Hurts the Poor

by henry bartholomew

Income inequality is playing a larger and larger

the rich consume a majority of that product, for role in our political discussion today. It has it means that the poor’s budgets will have that increasingly become the focus of campaigns like much more to work with. Bernie Sanders’, and remarkably enough even This, in turn, has implications for the rest of Hillary Clinton’s. Something rather crucial to our policies. Opponents of free trade, for exthis discussion of inequality is something known ample, often cite damage to our manufacturing as the principle of regressivity. What the princijobs as a reason to oppose these policies. Howple of regressivity states is that ever, the principle of regressivity changes in the economy will More than technolog- says that if these policies produce affect the poor more than they cheaper goods and services, they ical change, though, are of a greater advantage to the will affect the rich. A simple the principle of reexample: central heating. poor than to anyone else. gressivity is about Before central heating existed, Another example of an area the wealthy could leave for structural change in where we should carefully take tropical regions while the poor the principle of regressivity the economy. endured the cold with the aid into account is our tax policy. of fires and blankets. After To many, the logical solution to central heating, both can now afford to stay in income equality is raising taxes and using the their homes and be warm, but this is obviously a increased revenues to fund social programs for much bigger deal for the poor than the rich, who the impoverished. However, as Socrates tells Powere already warm, albeit at a higher price. lus in Gorgias, he who does what seems best to More than technological change, though, him, but is unable to bring about the good he is the principle of regressivity is about structural striving for is the least powerful in the city, and change in the economy. A rich person may use the most to be pitied. We must therefore look 1000 gallons of petroleum products a week, beyond the surface of the question. while a poor one may use 10 gallons. NevertheAn increase in a tax, to a greater or lesser exless, the poor person is far more affected by an tent, will have a negative impact on the econoincrease in the price of oil, because that oil takes my, which is essentially the basis of the Laffer up 15% of their weekly budget, as opposed to curve theory in taxation economics. However, 0.1% from the budget of the wealthy person. we know from the principle of regressivity that However, that works the opposite way as a negative impact on the economy will affect well. A drop in the price of a product means the poor more than it does the rich. This leaves much more to the poor than the rich, even if us in a conundrum, as we now must determine SPRING 2016

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whether the benefit accruing to the poor through these programs is sufficient to balance any potential damage to them from the weakened economy. This is by no means an obvious question, and certainly one worthy of the attention of our foremost economists. Similarly, if we contemplate a policy that we know will have a negative effect to our economy, even if this policy will accomplish great good, we should reflect that it is the poor who will bear the heaviest burden. Let us suppose, for a moment, that a just and necessary war is to be declared, improbable though that may seem. It should undoubtedly factor into our considerations that whatever strategic or humanitarian gains we may achieve will come at a cost to the economic well-being of some of the most disadvantaged members of society. Much the same can be said of environmental regulation. Although there are times when these things are crucially necessary, we must understand the costs before we make the decision. â–

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In Mr. Bartholomew’s article in the last issue of

Epoch, he gives a fair analysis of the trade-offs between low and high minimum wages. A low minimum leads to a higher employment rate but not necessarily a living wage, whereas a high minimum leads to a lower employment rate, but a better chance of a living wage. Our challenge is to strike a balance between these seemingly contradictory options: to increase employment while ensuring that people are paid enough to live on. To this end, Mr. Bartholomew proposes letter to two measures: 1) allowing the editor: minimum wages to be deA response termined on the state level, to “Solving because each has a difthe minimum ferent actual living wage, wage and 2) introducing a lower problem” minimum wage for youth, because they have difficulty competing with older workers, but do not require as much money. While I think Mr. Bartholomew does an admirable job of illustrating the issue and its complexities—and freely admits that “no system is perfect”—I want to open a discussion particularly about the second proposal: to impose a lower youth minimum wage. While I sympathize with the author’s drive to reduce youth unemployment, I am skeptical that this particular measure could be either an effective or a fair way to do so. Mr. Bartholomew’s main argument seems to be that while youth do have a need to work and gain experience, they also have less need for a serious income than adults do: “Youth intend to build savings, supplement their income, and obtain experience. Again, why should these be covered under the same regulation [as adult wages]?” I find several causes for concern with this argument. First of all, if we are concerned about the welfare of lower class youth (which Mr. Bartholomew seems to be), it is unclear what income there is for them to “supplement.” Many

lower class youths are forced by economic hardship to take leading roles in supporting not only themselves, but their own parents and siblings (and sometimes even their own children). Lowering the youth minimum wage could further undermine their ability to do this effectively, which would surely worsen their plight. Secondly, many youths are evicted from their homes the instant they turn 18, and are expected overnight to be able to feed, shelter, and educate themselves. For this reason, young people’s ability to scrape together a decent pile of money before they become adults can be a matter of life or death — especially for the lower classes. As such, lowering the youth minimum wage on the grounds that they have less need for money is simply unjustifiable. And finally, we must consider that it is, generally speaking, morally questionable to pay two people different wages for doing the same job. Now, I do appreciate Mr. Bartholomew’s argument that people in different circumstances will have different expenses. This is why I am open to his proposal to leave the minimum wage to be decided on a state level. But when we consider a youth and an adult living in the same state, working at the same company, doing the same job, and the youth is being paid less than his adult coworker for no reason other than his age, this is a double standard. In fact, some would even argue that this is a form of discrimination. It is important to remember that in a capitalistic economy such as ours, a salary is not simply a measure of what we need, but of what we deserve as productive workers. The amount of self-respect that we acquire by earning our own income cannot be underestimated. To deny a person the full measure of the self-respect he has earned (especially in cases where there is so little of it to begin with) is to deny that person basic fairness. Still, Mr. Bartholomew has put his finger on a deeply troubling and pertinent question: how do we help young people compete with older and more eligible workers? While I agree a solution SPRING 2016

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needs to be found, I do not believe that a lower youth minimum wage would be either an effective or a fair way of accomplishing this goal. On the contrary, I suspect that the true solutions to this problem will not be as simple as toggling where we set the minimum wage, but instead must also involve far-reaching improvements in our social programs and education, especially where low-income families are concerned. I would like to thank Mr. Bartholomew for opening a provocative and important discussion, and I would welcome a response from him, if he felt inclined to offer one. ■. — Sebastian Barajas

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The Epoch Journal - Spring 2016  
The Epoch Journal - Spring 2016  
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