April, 2009

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Individual Vs. Government

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

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Nate Whitaker

I have pondered a lot about this concept of Laissez Faire type government both as a social and economic perspective. As I read Koch’s book I realized there is one fundamental difference with “purposeful action” and “Laissez Faire.” It concerns to whom they are applied. For me, it seems that a “hands-off” approach is best for government; the least amount of government we have, the better off we will be as a whole in society. It is different though regarding the individual. It all comes down to information and opportunity costs. Koch’s MBM philosophy consists of Vision, Virtue and Talents, Knowledge Process, Decision Rights, and Incentives. For a government, it is inefficient to attempt to discover what the best “Vision” or “Incentives” are for society as a whole. For the individual or a company it is much more feasible. As each individual strives to better him or herself, this in turn betters the whole. If individuals want to be charitable, this makes society better off without all of the negative results that come with too much governmental interference.

Just sitting around, enjoying a Koch

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Andrew Barnard-

Ever since Chris Martin posed the question in class a few weeks ago about how a politician could effectively have a platform while also adhering to liberty theory, I have tried to come up with policy solutions to current problems that are in line with Hayekian political philosophy. Any politician or government must be able to provide policy proposals in order to effectively govern; the mere act of governance is not incompatible with the principles of liberty theory. To answer the question posed in prompt number one, I feel it is absolutely necessary to have “purposeful action” , or positive policy approaches to political, societal, or yes, even personal issues.

To make any effectual decision or implement any such decision we must, at some point, choose what we feel to be the “correct” plan of action. This requires an assumption, or at least, attitude of capability on our own part.  Notice however, that capability does not equal infallibility.  This distinction makes all the difference.

In his chapter “The Science of Human Action”, Koch argues for a general framework (MBM) which he advocates as better facilitating “purposive action” while also preserving the competition required in a free society.  I feel he has succeeded in doing so.  He writes on pg 31, “As with everything, they [mental models] must always be challenged and improved.  We need to constantly ask ourselves if we, in our own way, are thinking and behaving as if the world is flat.”

Under the framework of MBM (correctly understood and applied), the possibility exists for the necessary positive action as well as the vital and crucial mindset open to competition and thus, progression.  At a governmental level, policy must be made, there are issues that will have to be addressed.  At the personal level, a life of humble inaction and indecision will be met with nothing but failure.  Rather it is our duty to argue for, and if successful, pursue the course of action we fell is best; it is only by this self-interested act that any competition comes to be.  MBM will be successful and legitimate on any level.  Any application without constant acknowledgement of fallibility and an openness, even desire for competition of ideas is undeserving of the name MBM, and is in fact merely a perversion of the principles of liberty.

The Science of Success prompt

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I have two prompts for you to consider this week:

1. Koch argues that his five dimensions of MBM philosophy are broadly applicable to societal, business (organizational) and personal settings. Since MBM is rooted in the science of human action—which is founded on the notion that humans can best achieve their ends through purposeful action—how would you reconcile this with Hayek’s notion (or Postrel’s argument) that “purposeful action” in a societal context often leads to unintended adverse outcomes. Can MBM be applied in a societal context, or has Koch overreached on his extension of MBM to bring purposeful structure to social/political systems?

2. The MBM “guiding principles” are integrity, compliance, value creation, principled entrepreneurship, customer focus, knowledge, change, humility, respect and fulfillment. Contrast these to the virtues we explored at our first session where we discussed Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Has Koch missed anything that you would deem essential to your own purposeful action in realizing your own dreams and aspirations? Is there a personal message that you can take away from The Science of Success? If so, what is it?

Friday, April 17th, 2009

“Every pretension to absolute knowledge therefore belongs to the domain of the idol.” The idol being an “invisible mirror”, bound by the humanity of he who looks upon it. “The idol always moves toward its twilight.

Jean-Luc Marion

When humanity calls

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

“When war ceases to be a gladitorial activity confined to a small part of the population but threatens the very continuance of society, it becomes too serious to be left to the generals”

Maurice Marks

A Long Way Gone

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Colonel Graff states the following on page 155, “Well, Yes.  For a few minutes there, it actually occurred to me to wonder what kind of man would heal a broken child of some of his hurt, just so he could throw him back into battle again.  A little private moral dilemma.  Please overlook it.  I was tired.”

This novel is full of private moral dilemmas.  From manipulating Ender’s ‘normal’ life by monitoring his every move, covering up his fights, and convincing a 6-year old to submit his life to the will of the government to pushing Ender to the extreme in every stage of his progression through battle school, this novel is full of examples of people using unrestrained power to control the natural order of things.

Graff states that people are generally free until society needs them, and then they loose their freedom.  This is a terrifying assertion.  Because as soon as the government has power to determine when we are to loose our freedom, we have already lost our freedom no matter what the state of society.  What I am saying is that even in the best of times we are slaves to society if there is the possibility of the government overtaking our lives in the case of a societal ‘need’.

Ender’s story isn’t necessarily fiction, either.  Governments all over the world have drafted soldiers and trained them to kill other human beings.  In some places, there is no draft at all with such cases as Ishmael Beah in the memoir A Long Way Gone.  In Sierra Leone, children soldiers were kidnapped from their families and trained to ruthlessly murder the enemy.  In such cases, I see no difference between the rebel soldiers and politicians forcing people to act in ways that contradict their moral codes.  They both are using power to make others do things for the ‘greater good’.  Both groups think they are in the right.  Both groups assume power to force a set of morals upon people who may be unwilling.

Heather Fawson

The Great Give and Take

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

As Ender was, in a way we are all continually “used by humanity”. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself,” and I believe that we are no one when we are alone.  We define ourselves as people by the relationships we have, the knowledge we are able to acquire (which is undoubtedly connected with people in all cases I can think of), and our position in a group or society.

People have their agency and can choose how much they want to be involved with humanity, this is of course disregarding all societal and familial pressures, so it is the individual that has the privilege of deciding their destiny.  At the same time, people are not meant to be alone.  At some level or another people are connected with other people.  While individuals have their agency one cannot predict or completely control others agency, at an extreme even the will to live is a choice.  This can effect our decisions and our use by humanity beyond our control.

Ender and his genius siblings with their varying degrees of compassion and humanity represent the spectrum of human interest.  All are involved with others in their rise to power but the protagonist is seen as the most enlightened of them all because of his ability to be ruthless at times and sacrifice what is necessary as well as strive for understanding and thus compassion.  This is the model for the ideal character and a type for the ideal person.  People can be self interested but also with that seek for compassion and understanding to enhance themselves as part of an interconnected societal web.

Sacrifice for the Greater Good

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

“Now he was the master soldier and he was completely, and utterly alone.” This quote by Orson Scott Card brought to my mind a quote I had heard many years ago by C.B. Randall.  He said, “Decision making is a lonely business, and the greater the degree of responsibility, the more intense the loneliness.”  As I step back from the details of this book, I can see how Ender was faced with constant situations where he had to make decisions alone. 

This was extremely difficult for Ender, but it was in the best interest of mankind’s future.  Ender was in a unique position where he was the only one living with the temperament and intelligence to save the world.  Because of this, Ender’s superiors felt that they had the obligation to mankind to see that he succeeded at all costs.  Ender did succeed, and for this all mankind was grateful and hailed him a hero.  This success came at an extreme cost.  Ender was taken from his family, left to fend for himself, forced to kill to preserve his life, and then manipulated into playing a game that was really a war.  The psychological effects of this would certainly have left any human damaged.

In this case, and other’s similar to it, leadership would defend their decision and claim Ender as collateral damage.  This illustrates my point that, for the greater good, leadership will sacrifice liberty to ensure liberty.  This kind of decision can only be made by the “master” and him alone, forcing the leadership to face their degree of responsibility and act.   

Popular Humanitarians vs. a Life of Luxury

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

“Human beings are free, except when humanity needs them.”  ???  Does this statement by Graff make any logical sense at all?  Last time I checked, humanity’s needs are greater than they have ever been.  People are starving everywhere, wars dot the middle-east, and genocide dominates many African countries.  If my calculations are correct, I am needed NOW, and according to Graff, I have lost my freedom.


Perhaps that is the reason why I have been given so many blessings, so that I will be able to bless the entire human race.  I am doing well in school, I have a great family, and I have enough material means to fill my needs.  What else could I possibly need?  Maybe, just maybe, I do have some “divine calling” to help other people out who are less fortunate.  But what if I don’t?  Should I be looked down upon?  Maybe. 


We cannot force people, especially children (Ender), to save humanity.  But we can give them the guilty eye that may or may not haunt them forever.  I know an extremely wealthy man that owns over fifty luxurious cars.  Am I to judge him, assuming he doesn’t help humanity enough?  I say let him do what he wants with what he has earned and the popular consequences will naturally follow.  Man is free to choose ALWAYS between saving humanity and following their own self-interest.

Killing the American Dream

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

“Welcome to the human race.  Nobody controls his own life, Ender.  The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given you by good people, by people who love you.


When I first read Valentines’ statement, my mind instantly turned to the idea of the American Dream.  Within the U.S. alone there are millions of children that grow up with the idea that “you can be whatever you want to be.”  Millions of others are daily realizing their dreams through their individual actions.   Aren’t Valentine’s statement and these ideas of proclaimed liberty contrasting?  To a small extent yes, but largely I believe they can simultaneously coincide.


The American Dream is a reality, but it requires a revision.  There is the chance to “be whatever you want to be,” so long as it fulfills the wants or needs of others.  If there is a need to be filled, there will always arise someone willing to fill that need.  A child may believe completely that he can become the next President of the United States, but if he runs for the communist party, the chances are that his dreams will discover acute failure. 


There are times when one person, supposing to know what is best, and unable to persuade others to his side, tries to forcefully override the rights of another person or group.   There is no way that this can be morally justified in anyone’s mind.  If there is no way to bring two distinct visions together, except through the use of deception and deceit, those dreams should not exist.  Disasters may occur and people may be hurt, but not so many as one would think.  Potential disasters are often avoided by self-interested individuals willing to do the honorable when all hope has disappeared.  The pessimist is often beat down by self-interest.