July 19, 2007

KANT STOP IT, AND LOTS MORE


Caption: Cats have very few social problems (as long as there's a feather to play with.

Welcome to Immanual Kant Week at Goat Rope. All posts this week are devoted to the ideas of that very influential 18th century Prussian philosopher.

In particular, the focus is on Kant's philosophy of history and on the question of whether there's any hope of humanity getting its act together before it's too late. As mentioned previously, this was the subject of his essay Idea For A Universal History With A Cosmopolitan Purpose.

As mentioned yesterday, Kant believed that humanity's nasty and antagonistic traits were necessary for us to develop our potentialities:

The greatest problem for the human race, to the solution of which Nature drives man, is the achievement of a free universal civic society which administers law fairly for all.

The highest purpose of Nature, which is the development of all the capacities which can be achieved by mankind, is attainable only in society, and more specifically in the society with the greatest freedom. Such a society is one in which there is mutual opposition among the members, together with the most exact definition of freedom and fixing of its limits so that it may be consistent with the freedom of others. Nature demands that humankind should itself achieve this goal like all its other destined goals.


That is to say, over time, we are driven by our "unsocial sociability" to develop a social order based on both freedom and rule of law. It's our homework assignment from Mother Nature:

Thus a society in which freedom under external laws is associated in the highest degree with irresistible power, i.e., a perfectly just civic constitution, is the highest problem Nature assigns to the human race; for Nature can achieve her other purposes for mankind only upon the solution and completion of this assignment. Need forces men, so enamored otherwise of their boundless freedom, into this state of constraint. They are forced to it by the greatest of all needs, a need they themselves occasion inasmuch as their passions keep them from living long together in wild freedom. Once in such a preserve as a civic union, these same passions subsequently do the most good.


And we owe it all to our nastiness:

All culture, art which adorns mankind, and the finest social order are fruits of unsociableness, which forces itself to discipline itself and so, by a contrived art, to develop the natural seeds to perfection.


The major remaining problem is that once people in a given country arrive at a rational social order that balances freedom and justice, the law of the jungle prevails between countries.

SPEAKING OF LAW AND JUSTICE, Massey Energy took another hit yesterday:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Failing to perform a pre-shift examination at a West Virginia coal mine is going to cost a Massey Energy Co. subsidiary $50,000.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. fined Richmond, Va.-based Massey's White Buck Coal Co. that amount Wednesday for a misdemeanor charge of willfully violating a mandatory safety standard. White Buck had pleaded guilty to the charge, which involved failing to perform a pre-shift examination at the Grassy Creek No. 1 mine in Nicholas County five years ago.


According to the report, two employees who agreed to testify were fined for misdemeanors.

The company also faces a shareholder lawsuit, potentially $2.4 billion in fines for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, and an ongoing criminal probe of a fatal fire at a Logan County mine in January 2006.


CRIMES AGAINST NATURE? On a related note, here's a Gazette item by Ken Ward about Robert Kennedy Jr.'s visit to WV, where he discussed mountaintop removal mining as a "crime against nature."

GROWING PAINS. Those who think economic growth is all you need should check out Business Week's special report on China, which for years has been the fastest growing economy in the world. The article cites the growing ecological crisis, product safety problems, and other social stresses and recommends, among other things, more and better regulation and investments in the social safety net.

SHAME ON GOOGLE. El Cabrero is a big fan/addict of Google products so it was really disappointing to see that this hugely successful company take advantage of an Appalachian part of North Carolina with high unemployment by sucking up subsidies. Business Week reports that the town of Lenoir, Caldwell County, and the state of North Carolina coughed up $211.7 million to land a computer center. This low road approach has highly profitable companies pitting different locations against each other in a bidding war to see which will pay the most to impoverish the public at private expense.

Uhhh...whatever happened to the market? This is another case of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor. And, for the record, this is one area where El Cabrero is with the Unleashing Capitalism crew.

One group that has done a great job at exposing the subsidies racket is GoodJobsFirst.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

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