Mormons and Equal Racial Treatment

The following page on Race and the Priesthood appeared recently on the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As I’ve said, my superstitious side is devout Mormon, so I was very happy to read the Church’s full espousal of racial equality.

One of my favorite quotes from the page:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him.”

I’ll restate the Valerian view that we are adamantly opposed to discrimination of any kind, including any type of caste system or racial discrimination. Here are probably the top two statements that I’m happiest are now clearly disavowed:

In a broad general sense, caste systems have their origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1958 edition, pages 107‑108

Negroes in this life are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20‑27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them… negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow there from, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of Spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate.
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 527‑528

I believe McConkie intended well with his statements. It’s unfortunate that they were based on fabricated doctrine that was not only false, but also contrary to the very best liberal traditions of Judeo-Christianity (equality before God, justice for the underprivileged).

This is probably as close as the Church will come to an open apology. It is easy to be critical of past transgressions, but we should also celebrate when a wrong has been righted.

Valerian Vision

What if there were a shortcut for understanding the world? Maybe some brilliant people really aren’t that smart, they just use very efficient mental rules?

Valernianism is not just a political or economic theory, it’s a complete world view. It’s a way of understanding people and reaching agreements that benefit everyone. It can be used to quickly break down how things work in foreign countries, cultures, industries, etc. One of the key simplifiers is to use Valerian Vision. That is, to characterize things by answering this simple question:

Who controls what value?

So often we use generalizations that are not useful or are counterproductive. For example, a common Japanese method for describing the difference between Americans and Japanese is to refer to Americans as hunters (independent, adventurous, risk taking, reckless) and to the Japanese as farmers (organized, cooperative, forward thinking, conformist). Never mind the fact that early colonial Americans were agrarian. Are these labels helpful?

We refer to Hitler’s Nazi Party as Fascist and to Stalin’s Russia as Communist, so does that mean they had little in common? Does Fascism correctly entail the network of thousands of forced servitude camps established all over Europe by the Nazi’s? Does the term Communism encompass the unnatural deaths of tens of millions of Russians under Stalin? I don’t believe so, which is where Valerian Vision comes in.

When looking at Stalin’s Russia, we get a very different description from Valerian Vision that we do from the description of Communism.

Communism: noun 1. A society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.

Obviously millions of peasants and farmers were not paid according to their needs and starved. Millions of political prisoners lost their ability to work and their lives. The above description does not seem to describe Stalin’s Russia. What can Valerian Vision tell us?

Who controlled what value in Stalin’s Russia?
Government officials.

What value did the farmers and peasants control? Very little.

The Value Motive predicts that Stalin would want to control as much value as possible. So instead of using his power to benefit the people, he used it to transfer even more value away from the people. The farmers died because they controlled so little value that they were left absolutely destitute. They didn’t even control their own labor and land holdings enough to raise their own subsistence crops. There wasn’t a scarcity of food, but rather a scarcity of protection. The political officials that controlled a lot of value certainly didn’t go hungry.

Political prisoners also controlled extremely little value. They were deprived or their liberty to travel and work, deprived of their speech and freedom of conscience. Even their control over their own life was violated (they were killed)).

Interestingly, Valerian Vision gives the same description of Nazi occupations. The Polish, Russian, Czech and other occupied peoples lost control of their own value. The Germans systemized the transfer of value through force labor camps, prostitution camps, and even extermination camps.

Valerian Vision helps us to see past labels like Fascism and Communism and realize that very bad things happen when people’s value is not strongly protected.

Here’s an example of applying this principle to the health care and cell phone industries.

We’re working on a Valerian Vision App for Google Glasses. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Pulling on the Thread of Equality

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. ~ Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Where did the idea of equality (specifically equal protection) come from? Today we assume that it is a secular idea and part of our liberal American tradition. But is it?

My time as an atheist began with questioning. I started pulling on the threads of belief that I held to see which ones were justified and which were baseless. Over the years I destroyed countless beliefs that could not be immediately justified by evidence.

So let’s take on the idea that everyone born is entitled to equal protection. If it is a secular idea then there must be some objective basis for it. Is there a scientific test that we can run on each newborn to prove this point? Nope. There is overwhelming evidence in favor of Evolution, perhaps it could support this view of equality? Evolution points out that all humans are genetically related, but unfortunately does not smile on equal protection.

Evolution teaches that we are the offspring of those that survived and reproduced — by any means whatsoever. Eliminating genetic completion is not only justified, but very effective from an evolutionary point of view. The new alpha male of a lion pride will kill the cubs of the former leader so that the lionesses will begin ovulating earlier and be available for his own reproduction. If the Neanderthals genetically competed with modern humans (i.e. sought out the same types of food, shelter, etc.) then evolution says it was wise for modern humans to destroy them (not saying they did definitively). Early European settlers in America competed with the Native Americans for the use of the land. Evolution says that the Europeans did the right thing by defeating and marginalizing them — in favor of their own genetic offspring.

Yikes! Evolution justifies some heinous behavior!

If the idea of equal protection did not come from science and evidence, then where did it come from? Was it simply invented? Was it a religious idea?

One of the first references to equality came from Pericles, who praised Athens for her equal protection of citizens under the law around 420 BC. War historian Victor Davis Hanson attributes the military strength of the Roman Empire to their unique idea of offering citizenship status to non-Romans. So, not only does the idea of equality predate Christianity, it also formed the foundation of the early Greek and Roman Republics.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, however, classic Greek and Roman writings were not widely circulated and largely vanished from the public consciousness in Europe.

Meanwhile the ideas of a Judean revolutionary by the name of Jesus had spread far and wide across Europe. We often study the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the suppression of the Bible as evidences of Christian atrocities. What we often fail to note is that a great deal of unique and peace loving ideas were also spread with Christianity. Crazy ideas like this:

…the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:…whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.

Translation: Good Christians don’t seek leadership positions to control more value, but to benefit the people they lead.

Even the suppression of the Bible itself is a testament of the fact that it contained ideas threatening to Catholic leadership. Take the quote above. Did Bishops and Popes that enjoyed “exercising dominion” want adherents to read Jesus’ views on leadership? No, indeed not.

When the Bible finally did become widely available, philosophers like John Locke used its teachings to observe that we were all Gods children and that the “natural law” (which highly resembled Judeo-Christian law) put us all in a state of equality.

Coming back to the Greeks, I’m summarizing here, but the Greek and Roman classics were transferred largely to the Arab world after the collapse of the Roman Empire, and then reintroduced from the Arab world into Europe, sparking the Renaissance.

Ultimately, its impossible to determine which had a stronger effect on the people of Europe, Greek writings on equality, or St. Peter’s declaration that “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons”. However, the thing that can be determined is that despite the fact that Arab nations were custodians of Greek ideas for centuries, those ideas did not result in the Industrial, Democratic, or Scientific Revolutions occurring in Arab nations. People in Arab countries were simply not protected enough to carry out scientific investigations without fear of recrimination or start and build factories without their property being threatened and confiscated. Indeed, something about the Judeo-Christian tradition made Europe particularly suitable for those revolutions to occur — the idea of equal protection being one of them.

To conclude, our liberal ideas of equal protection are not scientific. They are superstitious and came to use via Christian nations that studied Greek and Roman classics, but also were heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian ideas that declared that strangers, widows, orphans, believers and unbelievers alike were deserving of protection and justice.

Federal Housing Aid for Rich and Poor

Business Insider article pointing out that rich people receive more housing aid than the poor:

The main reason for this is the majority of federal housing aid flows to homeowners, not renters. The mortgage interest deduction is the most well-known program that subsidizes homeownership. That deduction alone is larger than all federal rental aid combined.

Which reminds us of a Valerian principle: “Sad experience teaches that when governments are given the right to discriminate, they will.” This is because granting the government the right to tax homeowners differently than renters is a massively valuable form of control. Naturally people in government will use this power to benefit by themselves by favoring their strongest constituency — in this case the wealthy.

Taking away the right of the government to discriminate with respect to tax policy would fix all of that. Give equality a chance.

HT to @UsefulAggregate

Control and College Athletics

NOTE: The following post is contributed by a fellow Valerian, with minor edits made by myself to make it suitable for a general audience.

From this article on conferences within the NCAA seeking more autonomy:

“What’s really hard in these kinds of things is for people to vote themselves less political authority,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday. “They don’t do that. That’s not a natural thing to do.”

Props to Commissioner Jim Delany for understanding value.

The non-FBS conferences “have mobilized, and rightfully so,” Benson said. “I think everyone wants to protect their turf and wants to protect their future.”

And protect their value.

For a Valerian, the solution is obvious: protect the value of the individual. The most important issue here is not Big 5 conferences or the smaller conferences or whatever. The party that always needs the most protection is always the individual because they are always the most vulnerable. And so it is in this case as well:

“When critics rip universities for spending lavishly on coaching salaries, locker rooms and facilities while athletes struggle to pay for basic expenses…”

Who ultimately is getting exploited in the massive struggle to control the billions of dollars in value generated by college sports? Not surprisingly, the individual. It’s the kids that are fleeced out of the value they produce. Which shouldn’t be surprising. Which is why it is so important that their value be so strenuously protected. Athletes, even young 20-year-old athletes should be able to control their labor and capture the value produced by their athletic prowess. I mean, why not? Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in college and captured its value. Why are college athletes any different?

The president of the NCAA (unsurprisingly) disagrees:

Despite a growing public perception that college athletes in revenue-generating sports should be compensated beyond their scholarships, NCAA president Mark Emmert reaffirmed Wednesday that his conversations with school presidents don’t echo that sentiment.
“There’s certainly no interest in turning college sports into the professional or semi-professional,” Emmert said at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York City.

There’s certainly no interest on the part of those that currently control the value these athletes produce to transfer any of that value away from themselves, and to the athletes themselves. Entirely predictable.

He also conceded that schools and the NCAA haven’t done a particularly good job in recent years of explaining the value of scholarships.
The countervailing voices of this notion that student-athletes are being taken advantage of has been the dominant theme and had played out pretty loudly in a variety of outlets,” Emmert said. “The reality is schools are spending in between $100,000 and $250,000 on each student-athlete.”

Well, golly! Playing a little detective Columbo here, we might ask, you know, because we’re not familiar with college sports, “How much control do student athletes have over the $100,000 to $250,000 in value spent on their behalf?”

Oh, you mean to say that they don’t have any control over it? You don’t say… So, who does control that value? Administrators, coaches, and the Universities? Hmmmm… They control $100K to $250K per student? No wonder they have an interest in keeping student athletes under the their thumb…they’re worth a lot of value!

Valerianism 101

(Updated 10/14/16)

What is Valerianism? It’s an extremely simple world view that makes understanding and predicting human behavior almost trivial (and also happens to form the most sensical fusion of liberal, conservative and libertarian ideologies). Here are the core tenets:

  • The central concept of Valerianism is value. Value is anything that people want and it can take many forms: food, water, clean air, money, shelter, liberty, etc.  Another way of saying it is that value is anything worth controlling and can come in any form.  We don’t often hink of “controlling people’s attention” or “access to personal photos and videos” as value, but they certainly are.  YouTube allows people to monetize their control of people’s attention and Google Photo allows Google to see what kind of car you drive and what auto accessories you might be interested in purchasing.
  • We capture value when we have control over it. Full control and even legal ownership are not required (e.g. the fire department doesn’t own your house, but they control it in the event of a fire). For that reason we use the term “control value” instead of ownership. The most valuable form of control is absolute and arbitrary control.
  • All people seek to control as much value as possible. If given the choice we would all rather own $100 than $10. We would all prefer to have more control over the air we breath than less. This tendency is called the value motive. It is completely independent of people’s intentions, which may be selfish or altruistic. Controlling a lot of value is a prerequisite even for accomplishing great things that benefit humanity. We are this way because of evolution, i.e. the organisms that controlled the most value were more likely to survive and reproduce. All living creatures are programmed to seek out and control value.
  • The more control over something you have, the more of its value you capture and the better off you are individually. For example, you capture more value from a $100 bill than a $100 Home Depot gift card.  You can do more with the $100 in cash even though the nominal values are the same. If you strongly control or own something then you can exclude others from controlling it, you can transfer it, contract it out, and capture all of the gain or loss in value of that thing. If your control is strongly protected, that means it is nearly impossible for someone seeking your value to take it away.
  • Control over value can always be monetized. This is just a matter of converting one form of value to another.
  • Something does not need to be directly valuable to you in order to constitute value.  As long as you control something that is valuable to someone, then you control value.
  • Almost all coercive transfers of value result in winners and losers (coercive transfers include dishonest and fraudulent transfers and any other transfer that results in an unwilling transfer of value).
  • Generally speaking, voluntary transfers of value result in winners all around — otherwise the parties would not trade.
  • Because almost all coercive transfers of value result in losers, and transferring control of value equally to all citizens requires that control be taken away from the privileged and elite (that they become the losers), it is very difficult and uncommon to establish a Valerian society.
  • Our universal desire to control as much value as possible puts us in an inherent state of competition with each other. Even in a state of abundance, we still desire (for good or for evil) to control the value of others.  This is also part of our evolutionary programming since we hold more dearly those things we see valued by those around us.  For example, a caveman would see clams as far more valuable after observing another caveman harvesting and eating them. We see this tendency today when a backyard trampoline can sit idle for days (i.e. an abundance of trampoline time) until one child starts bouncing and then every other child wants on, too.  Monkeys behave similarly, they don’t just want to sit on any good branch with equal likelihood, they weight more highly the branch currently occupied by another monkey.  Because of this, protecting the control of all individuals over their own value is the foremost challenge of civilized society.  Put another way, the intractable problem is not scarcity of resources, because resources may or may not be abundant, but rather the scarcity and mutual exclusivity of control, which will exist in any imaginable society.  The inherent problem is not that value is scarce, but that it is valuable and the number of people wanting control over it is greater than can actually control it.
  • We all seek to protect our control over our value. The more layers of protection the better.
  • Protection is protection. It doesn’t particularly matter where it comes from. Protections can be economic, religious, cultural, institutional, legal, etc. As long as they protect your right to control your value, that is all that matters. For example, some countries have weak institutional protections, but perform well because they have strong cultural protections.
  • Equal protection is the strongest protection. All members of the same class have the same legal and institutional protections. Promoting the equal protection of members of your class also protects your own value. The larger your class, the more likely you are to be mutually protected. People in general are more strongly protected when all citizens of a country belong to the same class i.e. a “classless society”.
  • The biggest threat to our protection is the value motive combined with coercion (i.e. people that can forcefully satisfy their desire for more value). As long as value exchanges are entered into voluntary, both parties are likely to come away controlling more value — otherwise they wouldn’t have agreed to trade. It’s generally the case that when one party forcibly seizes value from another that the seizing party benefits and the other party suffers.
  • Therefore, the power to coerce value away from people should be strictly limited to governments, and the governments’ activities narrowly limited to protecting individual value. Governments should have no right to arbitrarily seize value unless it’s absolutely necessary to the universal protection of individual value (e.g. to repel an invasion). Sad experience teaches that when governments are given the right to discriminate (between individuals or groups), they will.
  • Because people seek to protect the value they have (i.e. and not transfer it away), agreements to exchange value must necessarily be enforced to ensure that both parties transfer the promised value. This tendency necessitates the formation of governments as third party enforcers.
  • The highest priority is protecting individual value because individuals are the most vulnerable (least able to forcibly protect their own value). Protections of group value (of corporations, unions, etc.) should act as extensions of individual protections, and not supersede them.
  • People are people. As much as we’d like to think that some members of society (scientists, doctors, economists, government officials, etc.) don’t have a value motive, they most certainly do. This doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means they’re human.
  • The foremost measurement of any society is how strongly and equally its members are protected. For example, anarchy and tyranny are near each other on the political spectrum because citizens control very little value in both of those societies and their value is poorly protected. A society that strongly and universally protects individual rights is said to be “Valerian”.
  • In Valerian society, the government is prohibited from discriminating against any religion, creed, nationality, sexual preference, person, company, industry, etc.  For example, in a Valerian society, all companies would be treated equally (just like religions are treated equally today in the U.S. as a consequence of the 1st Amendment) so the government couldn’t provide a lower tax rate for oil companies and a higher surcharge tax for medical device manufacturers.  The government would not have the right to subsidize or privilege any industry over another.
  • Modern Democratic societies often allow the government the right to discriminate in the hopes that the power to discriminate will be used to help the disadvantaged or encourage certain economic behaviors, but over the long term government use their control over value to benefit themselves and the “already privileged”.  Hence we see automobile subsidies going toward purchasing luxury Tesla vehicles for wealthy individuals rather than buying inexpensive first time cars for the poor.  We see tax breaks for wealthy home owners paying mortgages, but no commensurate break for poor renters.  Wherever possible, the government should not be given the right to discriminate, and where it is given, it should be monitored very closely for abuse.
  • An individual’s material well being is directly tied to how much value (s)he controls and how well that control is protected.  For this reason, a multi-millionaire in China is not nearly as well off as a person of equal net worth in America.  In China, corruption is so rampant and often necessary for business success that you can easily be accused (and perhaps guilty) of having ill-gotten gains.  Hence the Chinese investing in U.S. real estate.  Likewise a Mexican immigrant controls more value just crossing the border (also sees a GDP per capita boost) into the U.S. even though his possessions haven’t changed.
  • People are happiest with industries where individual consumers control the most value.  One example is in the U.S. where consumers have a great deal of control in the cell phone industry, deciding what phones to buy, what apps to download, what photos to take, messages to send, etc.  Phones are continually getting better, faster, and cheaper (for the value they provide).  Alternatively people are unhappy in industries where they control little value, like the education and health care industries in the U.S.  In the case of medicine, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, employers and the FDA have far more control over the medical treatment decision making process than patients do.  It is no wonder patients are unhappy with our healthcare system, they control so little value.
  • A nations economic well being is a function of how many people the country has and how broadly control is distributed within that society — i.e. the sum of how much value each individual controls.  An economy is not strictly made up of capital, consumption, and labor, but rather, of how much value is being generated and how strongly control over that value is protected.
  • In a Valerian society, all individuals, groups, and species of property are entitled to the same protection. For example, if value is being taken away from one citizen, then it should be taken away from all citizens. All insurance companies should be governed by the same rules. All stock ownership should be equally protected regardless of whether it is publicly or privately held, or whether the owner is rich or poor.
  • All societies have protection vacuums.  A protection vacuum is a portion of society (in the case of N. Korea a very large portion) where value is unprotected or less protected than the rest of society for whatever reason.  Protection vacuums constitute the most miserable states for human beings and should be minimized and eradicated wherever possible.  Past protection vacuums included concentration camps for Jews, Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, etc. during WWII.  Some protection vacuums in the U.S. are necessary like the prison system, but should be only sparingly used and tightly monitored.  Other groups in the U.S. that find themselves in protection vacuums are illegal immigrants, collegiate athletes, African Americans, low skilled workers, patients, students, the poor, etc.
  • There can be many forms of Valerian government. Democratic governments are favorable not because they give you a right to vote, but because they give you the right to govern yourself (to control your own value). As we’ve seen in Russia, Iran, Iraq and countless times throughout history, the act of voting can be rendered meaningless if institutional and cultural abuses prevent the vote from having any effect. At the same time, Valerianism has no inherent respect for the will of the majority per se. Aside from normal human decency, nothing about the will of the majority ensures that it will protect individual value equally, and it is often a threat.  We’ve seen this countless times in America where the majority votes for discrimination (e.g. Jim Crow laws in the South), but the will of the people is overridden as unconstitutional by the Courts.
  • Government benefits for the needy are compatible with Valerianism. However, in order to ensure that they do not represent an unjust transfer of value, the following rules should apply. 1) If a society desires to offer a benefit, then all of society should equally pay for it without weakening the protections of any group, individual, or minority. 2) All of the value of that benefit (i.e. complete control) should be transferred to the beneficiaries or the beneficiaries’ legal representatives. This second rule ensures that the government is offering the benefit in good faith, and not in order to control more value itself. For example, if a society wants to offer people assistance for food, it should transfer all of the tax money raised for the program to the needy individuals (food stamps are a good example where the beneficiary controls most all of the value of the benefit). If the government wants to provide education, all of the value for that purpose should be transferred to the children (in the form of cash or “education stamps” controlled by the children’s legal representatives – their parents). The government should not build and maintain schools, hire teachers, dictate curricula, etc. because doing so means the government is capturing much of the value of the benefit and has a strong motivation to protect and further its own interests rather than the interests of the students.
  • The reason that the major, positive revolutions of the past millennium (Democratic, Scientific, Commercial, Industrial, Renaissance, Enlightenment) originated in Europe was because those nations were more Valerian than any others of their time. The Industrial Revolution began in England because it was the most consistently Valerian society to have ever existed.
  • The first modern republic in world history, The United States of America, was founded on Valerian principles. Taken as a whole, its founding documents of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, achieve the highest form of Valerianism of any body of work of any significance in all of world history. The principal exception to Valerianism within them of course being the discriminatory treatment of African Americans and the question of slavery.
  • All religious traditions contain elements of Valerianism. Historically speaking, the Judeo-Christian tradition has been particularly conducive to building Valerian societies (all of the major revolutions of the last millennium occurred in Christian nations). This is not because Christianity is a “superior religion” per se, but because it contains many Valerian ideals. We would be surprised to find that many of the liberal values that we all accept today came to us via the Judeo-Christian tradition. Biblical ideas such as: God is no respecter of persons (all people are equal), rights to life and property, and doing justice to the weakest members of society (orphans, widows, strangers) are highly Valerian and should be emphasized within Jewish and Christian faiths. All faiths (Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.) should highlight their own Valerian principles and deprecate beliefs that promote inequality, prejudice and injustice. Valerianism is vehemently opposed to caste systems, lesser rights for the unbelieving (e.g. infidels), or prejudicial treatment of any group or individual (homosexuals, women, children, minorities, etc.).
  • People that use their knowledge of value to promote universal and equal protection are referred to as “Light Valerians” or just “Valerians”. We stand in awe of past Valerians such as John Locke, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the recently departed Nelson Mandela. True Valerians are very few in number because they must be both enlightened, and selfless. They are not proven until they’ve transferred value away from themselves in favor of others or advanced our understanding of Valerianism.
  • Those that use their knowledge of value to seize more value and control for themselves are referred to as Dark Valerians. Dark Valerians are far more common. The brilliant and charismatic ones are extremely dangerous.
  • You don’t understand someone until you understand what (s)he values.  Tremendous professional and political success can be built off of openmindedly understanding what value people want, and delivering that value to them.
  • The best way to quickly make sense of any industry, company, culture, nation or other new situation is to simply ask, “Who controls what value?”  and “How is that control protected?”  This is called Valerian vision.  In Japan, for instance, your control over your possessions is fabulously well protected, but at the same time young workers are culturally prohibited from switching jobs between companies.  Japanese individuals therefore have protected control over their possessions and poor control over their own labor.
  • Although most all of the observations of Valerianism are irrefutable facts, as an ideology it is difficult to discover or promulgate because it advocates for the privileges and discriminatory control of the elite to be revoked — something they oppose and in modern times have the power to thwart.  It relies not only on the interest and agitation of the disadvantaged, but also on the virtue and decency of those in power to concede.  The default case in human history is for those in power to favor ideologies (academic, religious, environmental, economic, etc.) that reinforce their own control.  This is called motivated reasoning.  

Control is Essential to Happiness

From a New Yorker piece on the Psychology of First Person Shooter Games

“Control, compounded by a first-person perspective, may be the key to the first-person shooter’s enduring appeal. A fundamental component of our happiness is a sense of control over our lives. It is, in fact, “a biological imperative for survival,” according to a recent review of animal, clinical, and neuroimaging evidence. The more in control we think we are, the better we feel; the more that control is taken away, the emotionally worse off we become. In extreme cases, a loss of control can lead to a condition known as learned helplessness, in which a person becomes helpless to influence his own environment. And our sense of agency, it turns out, is often related quite closely to our motor actions: Do our movements cause a desired change in the environment? If they do, we feel quite satisfied with ourselves and with our personal effectiveness. First-person shooters put our ability to control the environment, and our perception of our effectiveness, at the forefront of play.”

Or put another way: “We are genetically programmed to control value.”

All of this makes complete sense. Our ancestors that recognized value and successfully controlled it were the ones that were successful in the their environments (i.e. didn’t get killed by exposure, or hunger, or violence) and thus lived to reproduce. We are their progeny. So, when someone asks, “Why does that politician/businessman/religionist/militarist appreciate value?” The right answer is, “Because he was programmed to. Just like you. Just like me. Just like everyone.” Which is why we shouldn’t be surprised when someone takes an interest in controlling our own value.

“the psychologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues found that, between 1960 and 2002, Americans have increasingly turned to external explanations for the shapes of their lives. The shift is not a function of socioeconomic background; the attitude change occurred across demographics. This, in turn, suggests increased alienation and, as a result, more of a need for a means by which to reassert the control that otherwise seems to be missing from our lives.”

If, indeed, Americans do have less control today than in 1960, we shouldn’t be surprised to find an increasing divergence where people recur to virtual worlds to get the control they’re looking for and this partial abdication of real world control then leaves our real world value less protected, and we lose more of it. At some point I’m optimistic that Millennials that are used to very high levels of virtual control, will start to demand the same of the real world and reverse the trend.

The Question of Same Sex Marriage

Wrapping things in bacon means you raise them to a new level of awesomeness — an experiential plane akin to guilty pleasure. Most of the debate surrounding same sex marriage deals with the unfairness of denying homosexual couples the same privileges as heterosexual couples. What are some of those privileges?

  • Visitation rights in the hospital
  • Survivorship social security (SS) benefits
  • Right to transfer property to surviving spouse without paying inheritance tax

So let’s ask the question, is it fair for heterosexual couple to enjoy these benefits and deny them to homosexual couples? Absolutely not, and I’m frankly not familiar with anyone on the right or left who maintains that position. But let me ask a more fundamental question, “Is it fair for married couples to enjoy any benefits not enjoyed by the unmarried (coupled or not)?

  • Shouldn’t you be able to decide who can visit you in the hospital?
  • Is it fair that married couples can transfer SS benefits, but the unmarried can’t?
  • If an inheritance tax is fair, then it should apply to the married and unmarried alike, right?

The fact that homosexuals are being denied equal privileges is a specific example of a much larger problem:

In the U.S., married people represent a privileged class.

The Superset teaches us the danger of privileged classes. Granting privileges unequally gives the gov’t the right to discriminate, and when they have that right, they most always take advantage of it (as seen in the case of same sex couples).

How do we best rectify this injustice? By allowing same sex couples to join the privileged class or by abolishing the privileged class all together?

How did we get here anyway? In the past, marriage had a different meaning than it does today. In the pre-birth control years, sexual activity bore significant risks for women; the risk of being pregnant for 9 months and caring for the child once born. Different societies reacted differently to this risk. In Japan, records of abortion go back hundreds of years. Polynesian islanders resorted to infanticide to keep their populations in check. Many Christian nations adapted by encouraging women to restrict the supply of their sex (i.e. chastity).

It seemed to make sense, in light of the risks that women were assuming when they married, that they needed legal protection. This is at least partly how married people came to form a privileged class. But in the post-birth control years, marriage does not equal procreation. Many mothers are choosing children without marriage, and many married women are choosing to remain childless. This makes the status of “married people as privileged class” very difficult to justify. Also, child support laws protect women and children regardless of whether the child was conceived in a marriage.

So, how to do you do right, not only by homosexuals, but also by all of the underprivileged “unmarrieds”? By granting all of the same rights and protections to all people, irrespective of their marital status. Would that mean that a wife would have to pay an inheritance tax on property received from her husband? Yes, if that’s the standard applied to everyone else. But the good thing about equality is that it makes it much easier to see what is fair and what is unfair. If it is unfair for a lesbian to pay an inheritance tax on property she inherits from her deceased partner (married or unmarried), then the inheritance tax must be inherently unfair as well.

A Healthcare Manifesto Sponsored by Creative Maladjustment

I took the assignment to address the question: What would Lincoln or Dr. King say if they were ePatients? What kind of manifesto would they subscribe to? I was quite familiar with Lincoln and so decided to listen to Dr. King speeches for the last several weeks. It’s very difficult to concisely summarize his thinking — he was a brilliant and compassionate man. It would be correct to state that he wanted full equal rights for African Americans, but then Dr. King would surprise you by going even farther:

I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.

The most shocking thing I noticed was that probably more powerful than his eloquence was his courage in telling the truth as he saw it. Remembering that about Dr. King, if I were to formulate a manifesto it would be something like this:

1) All individuals in the American healthcare industry should have the same rights and protections as individuals in any other industry.
2) All groups in the American healthcare industry should have the same rights and protections as groups in any other industry.

The shortened version would be “equal rights for patients”. The second part of that equation is necessary also as a precaution for protecting patients. For example, if you represent a health insurance company and the government passes a law that will hurt your business, but that only applies to health insurance (not to auto, disaster, or other insurance companies) how will you respond? I would not blame you if you responded by trying to protect yourself and offset the value that you’ve lost by transferring the loss to someone else. Not surprisingly healthcare organizations are tempted to take the value they’ve lost away from those with the least ability to protect themselves — patients. This is why equal protection for organizations is extremely important as well.

These ideas would certainly involve radical changes, but I don’t think I’m radical…just maladjusted.

…there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of goodwill will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self defeating effects of physical violence.
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

The Exhaust of Medicine X

Stanford’s Medicine X conference has just driven by. It was an amazing ride. Tempted to wait before writing for the insights to distill in my mind, but feel the urgency to describe it before the exhaust dissipates.

At the beginning of the conference I tweeted (click image to enlarge):


Love these responses.

After talking and soaking in so many experiences from fellow MedXers, my main takeaway was “purpose”. It was this eerie feeling that most everyone you spoke with wanted to improve things, just like you. They were not hung up on dogma or politics. They were passionate enough to have educated themselves and could speak articulately on the issues. For me it was like soaking in a hot spring and floating in space — at the same time.

The thing that left the greatest impression on me, and was also a salient illustration of that purpose, was Regina Holliday sitting on a panel and addressing a question from the audience. She blustered at the questioner who was talking about issues in healthcare: “Nothing’s stopping you, if you want change, make it happen! Do it. Do it now!” It was raw. Emphatic.

Regina Holliday.

She paints a tailored story for people for free on the back of sports jackets. I’m trying to imagine how she can process so many different factors and create a representative work of art in so little time. Paintings with embedded brilliance and poetry. Members form a group called the Walking Gallery (click image to enlarge):


Medicine X had some of the most brilliant people from around the planet, all with a common purpose. The thought that came to mind watching Regina was a curiosity to know if she had a manifesto to match her enthusiasm, brilliance and artistry. Liza Bernstein talked about the indignity of Apartheid and shared a quote from Nelson Mandela. Mind flashes to the U.S. Civil Rights movement.

You see, African American civil rights leaders marched — they boycotted discriminatory bus systems, they sat in restaurants where they were prohibited — but that’s not all. They stood for something. We all know exactly what that something was. Everyone should enjoy the same rights regardless of skin color. Separate was not equal. Police in Alabama could spray water canons and release the dogs. People watching on TV were appalled by the violence, but we often see violence on TV. Individuals could be silenced and maimed, even assassinated. But there was no stopping the idea.

What is the ePatient idea? Let patients help? Give us our damn data? Patients rights? What would Martin Luther King Junior say if he were an ePatient today? What would Lincoln say? I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll be giving it some thought in the coming weeks. In the meantime Regina will be haunting me. “Do it! Do it now!”

What a great experience.

HT to Susannah Fox for the use of the term “exhaust”.