Society as a Social Network

Society as a Social Network

RIGHT PROGRESS | Foundation Article   If you want it done right, you’d better do it yourself. It’s fair to say we’ve all heard something like this at some point in our lives. And if it’s sometimes on point, it’s not really a good way to get stuff done. After all, most of us are not going about building our own refrigerators or performing surgery on our dogs.  Yet this “do it yourself” sentiment is exactly the one our government adopts every day to solve some of the most complex and enduring problems faced by society. The result is a massive, sprawling capital city filled with agencies, administrations, bureaus, commissions, councils, boards, and committees dedicated to making your life better.  When it comes to doing things right, it’s clear that the District prefers to trust itself. It’s policy has borne fruit, in some ways: Washington, D.C. is home to some of the richest zip codes in the nation, with a high median income bolstered by cushy jobs in public service, consulting, and “advising” (lobbying). At the same time, many of the problems government is supposed to be solving–left-behind students, income inequality, joblessness, and more–are persistent and, in some cases, worsening. We see two possible conclusions: either we redouble our efforts and trudge on, or we find better ways to confront the issues of our time. Now, Right Progress has immense respect for the servants who work for our government.  Many of them are good at heart and want to make a positive difference in our world.  The problem, however, is not the bureaucrat; it’s the bureaucracy. The individual is...
Creating a Culture of Dignity

Creating a Culture of Dignity

RIGHT PROGRESS | Foundation Article   Looking into the eyes of a dog can be a profound and moving experience. It’s why those ASPCA commercials pull the heart strings so well–you know, the moment you see the eyes of a scared and defeated animal locked away in a cage, that something is wrong in the world. You feel like it’s your duty to lend a hand, to help rescue a living creature who has no control over its destiny. That feeling comes through in a lot of similar situations: dog fighting, child neglect, human trafficking.  All of these things tend to trigger a single, common thought: “He/she/it deserves to be treated better.” We know that to be true by instinct; we know that all living creatures have a dignity that belongs solely to them. It is a mark of our humanity to understand suffering and want to put an end to it. But while it seems strange to many of us now, that human understanding was not always easy to come by. It might seem obvious today that no one should have a right to enslave others, but slavery was policy in America but a mere 150 years ago. Even now, millions of sex slaves are trafficked over borders and across oceans. We all tend to agree on what a child “is” after a point, but millions of abortions and millions of protesters show that we disagree on when that point is. And as much as we know about the human mind, we’re still unclear about differences in sex and gender, how economic incentives work, the best way to...
What’s in a Name?  Understanding “Right Progress”

What’s in a Name? Understanding “Right Progress”

RIGHT PROGRESS | Foundation Article   Alright, we admit it: Right Progress is kind of a funny name. After all, when it comes to using a word like “progress,” it’s hard to know why anything else needs to be said. Why bother putting another word before it? We already know what progress means, right? Don’t be so sure about that. We hear a lot about progress, often from so-called “progressives,” and we hear about the constant need to move our country forward and stimulate growth. But we also know that confidence in our institutions – both public and private – has been suffering for some time now. We know that our system of government and our representatives are often more frustrating than inspiring. Even if we still believe in progress, it’s probably not in the kind of “progress” we’re getting. As a group of millennials, we at Right Progress think that one of the biggest problems our generation faces is trying to understand exactly what “progress” should mean in the 21st century. Our first issue is historical. It is true, historically and currently, that the political left is associated with progress and being the true agents of progress. It was the morphing of Theodore Roosevelt into Bull Moose Progressive that led to his exit from the Republican party – a removal led by conservatives like Elihu Root, Howard Taft, and Henry Cabot Lodge. This fracturing was cause for the results of the 1912 presidential election, when the “moderate” progressive Woodrow Wilson ascended to the presidency. Ever since, “progress” has been identified with the political left. This association is not entirely...
Covering Current Events? Become a Political Omnivore

Covering Current Events? Become a Political Omnivore

RIGHT PROGRESS | Foundation Article   Politics Version 1.0 Ask anyone, young or old, and they’ll probably tell you “Congress is broken.” Buzzwords like “partisan gridlock” or “obstructionism” might follow. We fantasize about the “old days,” believing that the political process was carried with more dignity then than it is today. But we know these thoughts to be dreams. For all the goings on in Washington, for all the degrees of specificity and nuance of 21st century politics, it is easy to forget the nature of “Politics” in its most natural and general sense—one we actually get from the Greeks. Politics, broadly considered, involves the affairs of the city—polis in the Greek—encompassing the acts of human beings as political animals. Politics, then, is as old as human beings. From the first time a man spoke to another man and to solve a problem, politics was born. In other words, as Hannah Arendt writes in her 1958 work The Human Condition, “No human life, not even the life of a hermit, is possible without a world which directly or indirectly testifies to the presence of other human beings.” Why Can’t We Be Friends? In this sense, politics has always “been,” which is to say there have always been problems to resolve. Cities and nations come into being because humans are not quite as self-sufficient as we like to think. It turns out we need families, friends, communities, cities, and nations. But we’re all very different, and so we tend to disagree. Politics is, as a result, characterized by conflict. But not all conflict is man against man. It can be...
Why Aren’t Markets Working for YOU?

Why Aren’t Markets Working for YOU?

RIGHT PROGRESS | Foundation Article   Markets work off of a pretty simple premise: I want your bag of apples more than I want my $5.00. You, being more expert in the production of apples, see my money as more valuable than your apples. If we were to exchange, both of us would have something more valuable to us than what we had before. This act, committed billions of times every day, generates the growth of wealth that has benefited mankind so greatly in the past 200 or so years. The crux of this system is freedom. If either actor is coerced, then all of the assumptions about value creation must be rethought, for value has been determined by an outside party. It will surprise no one that this outside party tends to be government. It really must be said simply: government interference in exchange puts an end to what anyone could call a market. It is, to use a phrase growing in popularity, Cronyism: a system where government officials grant preferential treatment to particular industries, organizations, or individuals in ways that violate equality under the law and corrupt the idea of free exchange. In the first example, both sides stood to benefit from the exchange of money for apples. But what would happen if the government passed a law where every person was required to subsidize the apple industry with an additional dollar? This might reduce the price of apples, but it would also be rather unfair to those who do not buy apples. It would also be quite unfair to industries who compete with apples. Indeed, when...
What is a “Good” Culture, Anyway?

What is a “Good” Culture, Anyway?

RIGHT PROGRESS | Foundation Article   If you were asked to define a word like “culture,” where would you start? Most of us would probably lead with the obvious: movies, music, television, books, and so on. After some thinking, we might expand a bit to include blogs, journalism, advertisements, or current slang, mannerisms, and jargon. If we thought about it even more, we would probably look at some big social issues: our thoughts on gay marriage, abortion, religion, familial breakdown, or stereotypes. The more scientific could start talking about blood and tissue cultures, but that starts getting weird. So Breaking Bad is just as much part of culture as Tweeting, The Avengers, Buzzfeed, and the 99%. Put simply: “culture” is a big tent – and theres’ a lot of strange stuff going on underneath. Less talked about, but hugely important, is what you consider a “cultured” human being. When we call someone a gentleman, we are saying something about his social bearing, his dress, speech, or the respect he gives fellows. Wikipedia tells me that Cicero referred to the cultura animi – the cultivation of the soul – but we could take it back even to Plato’s Theages dialogue, where a rural farmer, Demodocus, tries to compare raising his child to the cultivation of his plants! And aye, there’s the rub. If culture is so broad, then a bad culture does broad damage; if good, then it stands to benefit us all. With such a range, it should hardly surprise that lines of “culture warriors” stand ready for deployment over shows like Girls or songs like “Blurred Lines.” At...