Ethics Re-Imagined, 10/11/2020: The Day That Will Live In Ethics Infamy

No, I can’t let this pass.

1. Has any song in recorded history made so many so stupid? On October 11, 1971, John Lennon’s “Imagine” was released. Many sources call the facile ode to Fantasyland “one of the most influential songs of the 20th century.” Sadly, that’s probably true. Lennon said the song’s lyrics were heavily influenced by Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono. That figures. (Earlier this year, “Imagine” came under fire in this post.)

Lennon’s lyrics are like crack for the unformed, naïve or perpetually infantile mind, and have served as—what? Inspiration can’t be the right word—for dewy-eyed, smug, condescending and even violent progressives for decades. In a lazy 2019 article titled, “The Legacy of John Lennon’s Song “Imagine,” Laurie Ulster writes,

The impact of the song is unquestionable. But disguised within its message of peace and love and its flowing piano melody is a collection of edgy, “dangerous” ideas that challenge society as we know it. The song that has become an anthem all over the world is actually full of controversial lyrics and radical ideas. Lennon once called it “’Working Class Hero’ for conservatives,” and indeed, it challenges the status quo at its most fundamental.

No, the lyrics challenge common sense, reality and logic as we have always known it, and it doesn’t really challenge anything. Nations aren’t going anywhere; property isn’t going to disappear, humanity is not going to join hands and chant together in a “brotherhood/sisterhood” of man as the singer once pandered in a live performance, blowing the integrity of the song while forgetting that if he was going to do that, the line really had to be  a “brotherhood/sisterhood of humankind” or something else that wouldn’t rhyme with the previous line, which ended in “can.”

Standards and systems that are pipe dreams aren’t ethical; they distract from ethics, which must be grounded in reality. Lennon, of course, was a cynic and a hypocrite, and he was also smarter than the lyrics of “Imagine” suggest. I assume he knew the song was crap, but profitable crap. Typically, Lennon, who was probably a sociopath, didn’t care if it rotted the brains of hopeful leftists and idealistic children and become an impediment to practical societal problem-solving indefinitely.

After all, John saw no reason to part with his custom-painted Rolls Royce that he never drove while telling his fans to “imagine no possessions.”

Okay, that’s two posts about this song in year. I hereby pledge never to speak of it again.

2. You keep using that word “rights”…I was going to write a post about how flippantly some announce new “rights” never envisioned in the creating of the United States. I recently read a book review here the eminent professor who authored the piece stated that there was a human right to have a safe, comfortable home. The idea of rights outlined by Thomas Jefferson, however, was that certain rights were established at birth, and governments must not interfere with them, indeed have an obligation to protect them by getting out of the way. The new definition of “rights” being advocated by progressives—not for the first time—are allged guaranteed benefits that require the government to provide by removing property and opportunity from others in order to provide them.

Conveniently, Harvard s School’s Carr Center for Human Rights offers 80 recommendations for “reimagining” Americans’ rights and responsibilities. It’s an Orwellian document, as it would greatly constrain the ability of individuals to engage in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but asserts the opposite: “A right of equal access to public goods and services is deeply rooted in the values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at the heart of the Declaration of Independence.” As a reading of the report quickly reveals, “equal access” means redistribution of wealth, forced equality of outcomes, and regulations and laws designed to advance one partisan agenda over another. The report advocates reparations, reduction of Second Amendment rights, and more. You would think any serious document on such a topic would take pains to appear objective and to avoid partisan talking points and narratives.

You would be wrong.

17 thoughts on “Ethics Re-Imagined, 10/11/2020: The Day That Will Live In Ethics Infamy

  1. I think that the old Soviet Union, Communist China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia tried forced equality of outcome and we can see how well that worked out: No incentive for excellence and mediocrity for all with the exception of party leaders and certain technocrats who were more equal than others.
    As far as Lennon, “Imagine” was a hippy pipe dream that had a nice, catchy melody but had about as much substance as two stoners at Haight Street dreamily blathering on about The Summer of Love.

    • I guess John’s real mistake was trying to live as one with people on the sidewalks of Manhattan rather than having body guards?

  2. 2. I tried reading the referenced document. I couldn’t get past the opening line of the the Introduction: “I can’t breath.” Was it authored by LeBron James?

  3. 1. The key to “Imagine” is the end: I hope someday YOU’LL join US, and the world will live as one. That’s a threat – no discussion, no compromise, only you can give in, only we can prevail.

        • My wife has many Beatles histories, and has been, since her screaming years, a Lennon Lover. But the evidence is pretty damning. He was supposedly reforming right before his death, but there are many, many verified stories of his going out of his way to hurt people, just because he could.

          • He fed reporters a bs line about how he was enjoying life as a househusband, baking bread and taking care of Julian, his and Yoko’s son. In reality hired help did the baking and child care, while John either nodded off or padded about the house naked and drugged to his eyeballs.

            • Sean was the son of John and Yoko. Julian was his neglected son by his first wife. Both sons appear to have turned out to be talented, well-adjusted adults, and better human beings than their father, while showing both respect and compassion for their famous dad’s demons. Sean is even something of a conservative.

  4. 2. I heard this in a podcast today, but I’ve been listening to them all day so I can’t recall what one it was, but I think this is a perfect way to define “rights” moving forward. Someone said a right is something no one else has to work for. Perhaps it should be extended to a “right” isn’t a right when it tramples on others fundamental rights. Pursuit of happiness is a right. Free housing is not. Someone else has to do physical work to make that happen for each individual.
    It’s a little hard to debate these terms currently. They’ve become so ambiguous. It’s time to clarify what we are taking about. Property rights don’t trample on anything, and yet there’s a underlying narrative that property owners don’t actually have rights to use or protect their property. It’s a crazy and dangerous idea to think the property should somehow be redistributed to someone (Or some group) who invested nothing and when there will be real losses to someone to enact this “right”. Life simply isn’t fair. Outcomes aren’t equal and anything that tries to enforce such ideas ends in ruin, historically speaking.

  5. I am sick and tired of idiots who misuse the term public goods.

    Public goods are non rival meaning that if one uses it another can also use it. They must be non-excludable meaning if one can consume all can consume because it is impossible to stop another from using it. Finally, and this deals with paying for them, non- respectable. You can’t say I don’t want to pay for something I do not want to consume.

    Public goods are provided when it is uneconomical for market buyers to acquire or producers to make. This is a market failure. Imagine if everyone had their own private highway or airport. A private home or a candy bar can never be public goods by the very nature of how it is used.

    Simply because government offsets costs of goods does not make them public goods. If one user can deny access to another it is a private good.

    You would think someone from Harvard would know this.

  6. I’ve been reading this blog for a few weeks now – it’s incredible. I have a request for you, Jack – could you write more posts on that Carr’s Center for Human Rights document? Hopefully this is not too off topic for this post, but I recently had a discussion about whether emergency room health care as a “right” (since hospital by law usually can’t turn someone away from an emergency room who could be dying) means that ALL health care/health insurance is a “right.” My thought was that the laws requiring emergency rooms to admit anyone is really to keep from violating the established right to LIFE, and is not commensurate with a “right to health care or health insurance” writ large. Thoughts?

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