Is Conservatism a Choice?

Now that I am a college freshman at the University of Michigan, I often reflect back to the stressful times of completing my college applications. Although, the process was difficult, I can say I am very happy with the outcome. It was amazing and even a bit astounding of how great Michigan. Here was this amazing university in my own backyard, and I would have to honestly say, I didn’t really know it existed until I was in the 9th grade. I attended an art school in Detroit, that has faced, and still faces problems. In the Detroit Public School system, money is a big issue. Because resources are limited, administration only focuses on schools who perform the best. This structure creates a cycle in which there is no better outcome.  In Detroit, school must pass yearly progress report called AYP. If a school fails to meet AYP for more that 3-5 years, they can be shut down. Few to none of the schools in the Detroit Public School system are up to par and can compete with others in neighboring counties, let alone the country. And with the current system in place, there seems to be little to no change.

In Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on  the Revolution in France”, Burke expresses his conservative ways in which he does not support the French Revolution. He fully advocates classical conservatism and favors hierarchy. Burke believe we should look to the past and follow tradition.

Edmund Burke Photo taken from Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Edmund Burke
Photo taken from Intercollegiate Studies Institute

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Football or something in the Middle?

My photo

U of M first game of the year

While growing up I was the only girl amongst a whole crew of boy cousins in my family. I wasn’t treated that way though. I was treated like one of the “guys”. I played every game and got just as dirty as they did. I learned how to be very aggressive when playing sports because they taught me how to play and that’s why I’m never afraid to get dirty or be rough still to this day. I know one sport that was the most fun to play though, football. Football is the most fun sport to play when you’re a little kid, you get to tackle each other and run to catch each other until you find someone to tackle again. Now, imagine being a little kid, and not being able to put your head down and tackle someone coming toward you while you’re running with the ball to defend yourself.l. When I read the article NFL Rules Changes: When is Football No Longer Football?, my childhood memories with my cousins was the first thing I thought about. In this article the controversial topic of banning the “Tuck Rule”, which is the rule where you are able to lower your helmet to break free of on coming tackles coming from the defense. The NFL has been in and out of trouble because of the multiple brain injuries arising from the sport so they think eliminating this rule will help the problem and a question arose from it; would football still be considered football with the banning of that rule? The answer they came up with in the article was yes, it would, but I to a child playing it would not be considered football. It would be somewhere between basketball and football. The whole point of football to a child is the tackling. To adults, it may not be as important because we understand the complete rules of the game and no that this specific rule may not make that much of a difference, but to a child, it can mean so much more. Sometimes I think we forget about what it was like to be a child and we just think about life now. I can’t imagine how football would have been for me without the “Tuck Rule”, and although people’s lives are at risk because of the rule, I’m sad to see it go.

sad

Death and Community

Wherever there is life, there also must be death.  Therefore, death is a concept that has been around since the beginning of time.  And despite all the years that people and communities have had to deal with it, no one has come up with a universally accepted way for how to react after a loss of life.  People of different cultures all have their own unique ways of carrying on after a member of their community passes, and no tradition can be labeled as wrong or right.  With that being said, it is not only interesting, but also important to look at how different cultures deal with death and what their respected traditions might say about the specific society. Continue reading

Tradition Edition

United States Constitution

United States Constitution

Earlier this week, we discussed the excerpts of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. In class, tradition was one of the most common words used to describe modern conservatism. As a conservative, I would have to agree that this is true, especially in our strict interpretation of the United States Constitution. With that being said, Burke’s emphasis on using tradition to aid decision making, throughout history has not always produced positive results. Burke’s argument surrounding prejudice is the perfect example of how people in power have used tradition as a mask to implement or continue to enforce discriminatory policies.

The Judicial Branch was originally supposed to be the weakest of the three branches, as discussed in Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 78. The Supreme Court is unable to raise/spend money, build up our nation’s defense or use the military to enforce their rulings. The Justices were left with the job of only making judgements. Furthermore, the Justices who are nominated by the President and appointed by the Senate, do not have term limits, to ensure that their only commitment is to the Constitution of the United States and that their focus is not that of Congress, who’s main concern is to be reelected. Continue reading

FIFA and the Social Contract

Football soccer goal netThe Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, as it is more commonly referred to, is the global governing body for the sport of soccer. It is meant to run much like the representative governments of countries all over the world, with a congress that assembles to make decisions. The Federation is also similar to other governments in the social contracts it makes with its “subjects,” in this case, teams all over the world. Clubs agree to play by FIFA’s  rules in order to participate in competitions like the World Cup and Champions League. In the case of FIFA, the social contract is quite Hobbesian. The Federations answers to no one but itself, and this has caused a fair bit of controversy over the years.

FIFA has long been regarded as a corrupt organization. According to Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandalsthere were widespread allegations of election-rigging in FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s 2008 reelection. The book also cited various demands for payment under the table in contract negotiations. In FIFA’s social contract, the worldwide members give the congress the right to make decisions and look out for their best interests, but the organization has repeatedly breached this contract.

Most recently, there is an ongoing scandal over the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. FIFA officials were found to have accepted bribes from officials in Russia and Qatar, the two countries selected to host the next two world cups. While many are calling for FIFA President Sepp Blatter to be replaced, this is unlikely due to the way to organization is structured. As it would be under Hobbes’ contract, the sovereign, in this case Mr. Blatter, cannot be overthrown by his subjects. A recent New York Times article highlighted the apparent corrupt culture in the worlds largest governing body in sports, describing internal investigations made by FIFA. It cited “erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions” in FIFA’s internal investigations that further tarnish the administration’s reputation. According to the article, the Federation itself paid for the investigations, and “FIFA declared that FIFA had done nothing wrong.”

This lack of accountability was cited by critics of Hobbes’ social contract long before the creation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Jean-Jaques Rousseau and John Locke are the most well known opponents of Thomas Hobbes’ contract, and their ideas are  commonly seen as the basic for modern democracy. Rousseau criticized Hobbes’ version of the social contract because he believed that the rich and powerful should not be the only ones involved in the governing of society. Locke believed that while people gave up some rights in a social contract, they still retained certain basic rights. This is the problem that has plagued FIFA for years. The rich and powerful members of the organization continue to influence a cycle of corruption that only angers and hurts the teams and players who are beneath them. The senior members and congress make decisions to benefit themselves because there are not rules in this social contract preventing them from doing so.

In a so-called democratic process, corruption and other governmental issues should be eliminated through the collective effort of the people. According to Rousseau, it is the general will of the people that should be the source of the law. In a modern democracy, it is the responsibility of the elected representatives to fulfill the general will of the people. This is not occurring in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. They are operating under a corrupt version of Hobbesian philosophy, and it will take a replacement of the sovereign by the will of the people to change the current course of the sport worldwide.

War and Hobbes

“If there be a common power set over them both [parties in a contract], with right and force sufficient to compel performance, the [contract] is not void” – Thomas Hobbes, 17th Century philosopher and author of Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan

This quote from Leviathan is about social contracts and the state of nature as Hobbes sees it. He discusses the promises we make and specifically how when we enter into a contract with another party, there must be motivation to prevent us from breaking the contract.  Most of the time this “motivation” is going to be punishment, which must be worse than the benefit we would gain from breaking the contract.

Another important aspect in Hobbes’ theories are that a state of nature and a state of war are synonymous. It is my belief that no one truly lives in nature anymore.  Sure, there are some tribes in the amazon jungle that could be considered in nature, but in our civilized society, with iPhones, social media and other technologies it is impossible for us to live in nature. So then how can we see Hobbes’ social contracts in work? By looking at war.

There are many similarities between the United States’ military and Hobbes’ Social contract theory but I will only be

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, prisoner of war for five years (via wikimedia)

focusing on the aspect of motivation. It is hard to think about someone being punished in war because it’s almost impossible to top the trauma they’re already experiencing. As I began thinking about punishment I thought about the recent occurrences with Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was serving in the US army in Afghanistan when walked away from his unit, or went AWOL (absent without leave). In doing so he broke the contract he had with the military, an action that Hobbes would no doubt disprove of.  He was then captured and held by the Taliban for five years. In May, 2014 the United States traded five Taliban members in exchange for Bergdahl. Many believed that the United States shouldn’t have traded for him because he abandoned his post and deserted.  I did some research and found out that desertion during a time of war is a crime punishable by death (although it is mostly handled with persecution).

A person would only go AWOL if they believed they were going to die or be severely wounded, so at first I wondered what the point in killing someone who walked away was.  But then I realized that the military is employing Hobbes’ philosophy that the punishment must force the parties to remain in their contract. So the punishment of death gives a possible deserter two choices 1) a consequence that they understood was a possibility or 2) die as a coward who is putting all the other brave soldiers in jeopardy. Any rational soldier would chose the first option which is exactly how a Hobbesian contract is supposed to work.

(via wikimedia)

I understand that this sounds harsh, but we live in a time where there is no draft.  Every soldier in our army is fighting voluntarily and knows that there are potential consequences of their service.  So once a soldier is actually facing possible death, they cannot back out at the last moment and decide that they would prefer not to fight. Imagine if all soldiers abandoned their post as soon as danger was imminent.

Hobbesian contracts are best exemplified in nature, but seeing as that is something that is nearly impossible to find in today’s world, war is the next best option.