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Yet The Sea Is Not Full

1 The words of Kohelet, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Futility of futilities, says Kohelet; futility of futilities, all is futile. 3 What profit does man have in all his labor wherein he labors under the sun? 4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; and the earth endures forever. 5 And the sun rises and the sun sets – then to its place it rushes; there it rises again. 6 It goes toward the south and turns toward the north; it turns about continually, the wind goes and returns to its circuit. 7 All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers flow, there they flow once more. 8 All matters are wearying; man cannot utter it, the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 Whatever has been is what will be, and whatever has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun. 10 Sometimes there is something of which one says: “Look, this is new” – it has already existed in the ages before us. 11 As there is no recollection of the former ones, so too, of the latter ones that are yet to be, there will be no recollection among those that shall come after.

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Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity, p.39

Crudely put, the argument could be stated this way. Those who hold that the biggest obstacles to human happiness are material, and arise from scarcity and the stinginess and violence of nature, from the indifference of the powers that be, or (within) from disease and death, look to the arts, In this view, the inventors and bringers of the arts are the true benefactors of mankind, and are revered like the gods; the supreme example is Prometheus (literally, “forethought”), bringer of fire, with its warming and transforming power, and through fire, all the other arts. By contrast, those who hold that the biggest obstacles to human happiness are psychic and spiritual, and arise from the turbulences of the human soul itself, look instead to law (or to piety or its equivalent) to tame and moderate the unruly and self-destroying passions of men, In this view, the lawgivers, the statesmen and the prophets are the true benefactors of mankind – not Prometheus but Lycurgus, not the builders of Babel but Moses. The arts are suspect precisely because they serve comfort and safety, because they stimulate unnecessary desires, and because they pretend to self-sufficiency. In the famous allegory of the cave in Plato’s Republic, Socrates implies that it is the Promethean gift of fire and the enchantment of the arts that hold men unwittingly enchained, warm and comfortable yet blind to the world beyond the city. Mistaking their crafted world for the whole, men live ignorant of their true standing in the world and their absolute dependence on powers not of their own making and beyond their control. Only when the arts and men are ruled politically, and only when politics is governed by wisdom about the human soul and man’s place in the larger whole, can art contribute properly to human flourishing.

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, p.39

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity, p.19

For human eros is the fruit of the peculiar conjunction of and competition between two divergent aspirations within a single living body, the impulse to self-preservation and the urge to reproduce. The first is a self-regarding concern for our own personal permanence and satisfaction; the second is a self-denying aspiration for something that transcends our own finite existence, and for the sake of which we spend and even give our lives. Other animals, of course, live with these twin and opposing drives. But only the human animal is conscious of their existence and is driven to devise a life based in part by the tension between them, in part of the fact that he does not fully understand what it is that his embodied life “wants of him.” In consequence, only the human animal has explicit and conscious longings for something higher, something whole, something eternal, something that we would not have were we not the conjunction of this bodily “doubleness,” elevated and directed upwards through conscious self-awareness.

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, p.19

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity, p.12

In a word, we are quick to notice dangers to life, threats to freedom, risks of discrimination or exploitation of the poor, and interference with anyone’s pursuit of pleasure. But we are slow to recognize threats to human dignity, to the ways of doing and feeling and being in the world that make human life rich, deep and fulfilling.

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, p.12

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity, p.11

The bioethicists, whether libertarian, egalitarian or humanitarian, are by and large unconcerned with the positive good of keeping human procreation human, if upholding the difference between procreation and manufacture, between begetting and making. Few of them ponder what it will mean for the relation between the generations when children do not arise from the coupling of two but from the replication of one. Few seem to care about what it means for a society increasingly to regard a child not as a mysterious stranger given to be cherished as someone to take our place, but rather as a product of our will, to be perfected by design and to satisfy our wants.

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, p.11

Capitalism & Freedom p.199

The greater part of the new ventures undertaken by government in the past few decades have failed to achieve their objectives. The United States has continued to progress; its citizens have become better fed, better clothed, better housed, and better transported; class and social distinction have narrowed; minority groups have become less disadvantaged; popular culture has advanced by leaps and bounds. All this has been the product of the initiative and drive of individuals co-operating through the free market. Government measures have hampered not helped this development. We have been able to afford and surmount these measures only because of the extraordinary fecundity of the market. The invisible hand has been more potent for progress than the visible hand for retrogression.

Is it an accident that so many of the governmental reforms of recent decades have gone awry, that the bright hopes have turned to ashes? Is it simply because the programs are faulty in detail?

I believe the answer is clearly in the negative. The central defect of these measures is that they seek through government to force people to act against their own immediate interests in order to promote a supposedly general interest. They seek to resolve what is supposedly a conflict of interest, or a difference in view about interests, not by establishing a framework that will eliminate the conflict, or by persuading people to have different interests, but by forcing people to act against their own interest. They substitute the values of outsiders for the values of participants; either some telling others what is good for them, or the government taking from some to benefit others. These measures are therefore countered by one of the strongest and most creative forces known to man – the attempt by millions of individuals to promote their own interest, to live their lives by their own values. This is the major reason why the measures have so often had the opposite of the effects intended. It is also one of the major strengths of a free society and explains why governmental regulation does not strangle it.

 

Milton Friedman – Capitalism & Freedom p.199

Capitalism & Freedom p.190

One of the major costs of the extension of governmental welfare activities has been the corresponding decline in private charitable activities…

If the objective is to alleviate poverty, we should have a program directed at helping the poor. There is every reason to help the poor man who happens to be a farmer, not because he is a farmer but because he is poor. The program, that is, should be designed to help people as people not as members of particular occupational groups or age groups or wage-rate groups or labor organizations or industries. This is a defect of farm programs, general old-age benefits, minimum-wage laws, pro-union legislation, tariffs, licensing provision of crafts or professions, and so on in seemingly endless profusion. Second, so far as possible the program should, while operating through the market, not distort the market or impede its functioning. This is a defect of price supports, minimum-wage laws, tariffs and the like.

 

Milton FriedmanCapitalism & Freedom p.190

Capitalism & Freedom p.188

Those of us who believe in freedom must believe also in the freedom of individuals to make their own mistakes. If a man knowingly prefers to live for today, to use his resources for current enjoyment, deliberately choosing a penurious old age, by what right do we prevent him from doing so? We may argue with him, seek to persuade him that he is wrong, but are we entitled to use coercion to prevent him from doing what he chooses to do? Is there not always the possibility that he is right and that we are wrong? Humility is the distinguishing virtue of the believer in freedom; arrogance, of the paternalist.

 

Milton Friedman – Capitalism & Freedom p.188