Wednesday, April 15, 2009
More Inspiration from Britain
A couple of years ago, when I noted an inspiring performance by Paul Potts on the series, Britain's Got Talent, the post touched off a wide-ranging thread on virtuosity, courage, and opera (including how best to share it as a value).
I can't embed the clip this time, but Sandy Szwarc does a very good job of summarizing what you can expect if you follow the link. (Embedding of the video has been disabled.)
She was fat and working class, laughed at as a glutton and shown eating backstage. The stage was set to dehumanize her and make her the joke of the show. Everyone was cynical and against her.My thanks go to reader HL for the tip.
Her dream was to be a professional singer, she said, but she had never been given the chance before. She said she wanted to be like Elaine Paige. Everyone laughed.
The first note was all it took...
A Virtual Interview with Brian Phillips
Dissatisfied with the field of real candidates running for mayor in Houston, fellow blogger Brian Phillips started a virtual candidacy for mayor a while back.
Now, with this interview, he has also donned the hat of "virtual journalist!"
His subsequent discussion of current Mayor Bill White's abuse of nuisance laws to shut down sexually-oriented businesses also reminds me of an earlier post of his in which I learned of a legal concept I had never heard of before: "coming to the nuisance."
Equally important, the concept of "coming to the nuisance" must also be recognized. If for example, I own a hog farm, you cannot complain about the odor if you later build a home next door. My prior use gives me the right to continue to use my property as I have. In this case, you "came to the nuisance"--that is, the "nuisance" existed and you took actions that subjected you to it. In such situations, the guiding principle is "first come, first served".As poorly-protected as individual rights are today, I was a little surprised at first that such matters had already been considered and solved long ago.
But the real surprise is, of course, how much our culture has forgotten -- leading to advocates of individual rights like myself not knowing about such things! Brian Phillips' blog is, for this very reason, a must-read on the subject of property rights.
Ayn Rand as "Prophet"
Amit Ghate gets a column on that very subject posted at Pajamas Media. Take a look at it if you haven't done so already.
Fifty-two years after its first publication, her novel Atlas Shrugged is once again topping best-seller lists. As businesses are "bailed out" and quasi-nationalized; as one regulation leads inexorably to the next; and as the productive and innocent are increasingly burdened with the sins and failures of the guilty -- many people recognize the haunting resemblance to the world depicted in Atlas. Some now characterize Rand as a "prophet." Others, as seen on placards at "tea parties" nationwide, simply observe: "Rand was Right." But that she was right is, in some respects, less important than why she was right. [bold added]You can also file this under, "things that have needed to be said for quite a while about the 'tea party' protests."
"States' Rights" Revisited
Doug Reich sees yesterday's resolution by Texas Governor Rick Perry as a good sign:
In light of all that we know and although this may land me on the federal government's watch list, the entire purpose and function of the federal government needs to be revisited. If it is indeed necessary to have a federation of the states, the U.S. Constitution is in dire need of amendments to once again properly affirm and delimit the power of the federal government which has now clearly, egregiously, and dangerously overstepped the limited role for which it was intended by the Founders and by any rational standard of individual freedom.I don't want today's politicians "amending" the Constitution. (I'd be happy if they properly understood and enforced the one we already have.) Nevertheless, I echo Reich's hope that this be a sign of a less-trusting attitude towards the government on the part of the body politic.
Hopefully, with the action taken by Texas, a general movement towards reassessing the function of the federal government vis-a-vis the states will begin.
I am perhaps more cautiously optimistic, however.
The anti-tyranny premise behind the idea of "states' rights" has long struck me as well-intentioned, but the notion itself problematic because it can distract attention away from the real problem, which is that our officials have long forgotten the only legitimate rights there are: individual rights.
[W]hen [certain] groups wrap their minds around the idea that a perverted concept of states' rights gives them leverage to thwart the legitimate function of the federal government, they run with it -- as [E.J.] Dionne has. And while he may or may not realize that his new enthusiasm for states' rights will play into the hands of paleoconservatives, it will.For example, many religious conservatives (perhaps including Governor Perry) hope to reinvigorate the concept of states rights in order to realize bans on abortion at the state level, violating the individual rights of women of childbearing age.
Reich has helped me better appreciate states' rights as part of the design of our federal government to get in its own way when it ventures down the path towards tyranny. Still, our culture will have to change or the original purpose of such measures will continue to be forgotten, only to be replaced by new tools for politicians to achieve greater power over our lives.
There is ultimately no substitute for cultural change. Checks and balances can only buy us time to achieve it.