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Month: August 2022

“A tax is not an assessment of benefits. It is a means of distributing the burden of the cost of government. The only benefit to which the taxpayer is constitutionally entitled is that derived from his enjoyment of the privileges of living in an organized society, established and safeguarded by the devotion of taxes to public purposes. Any other view would preclude the levying of taxes except as they are used to compensate for the burden on those who pay them, and would involve the abandonment of the most fundamental principle of government—that it exists primarily to provide for the common good.” – Justice Garman, Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 204 Ill. 2d 142 (Ill. 2003) (internal cites and quotations omitted).

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“Though there is nothing I would not do to comfort an afflicted person, and I really believe that one should do all one can to show great sympathy to him for his misfortune, for miserable people are so foolish that this does them the greatest good in the world; yet I also hold that we should be content with expressing sympathy, and carefully avoid having any. It is a passion that is wholly worthless in a well-regulated mind, which only serves to weaken the heart, and which should be left to ordinary persons, who, as they never do anything from reason, have need of passions to stimulate their actions.” – Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, Reflections; Or, Sentences and Moral Maxims (trans. J. W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell)

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“Psychologists have attempted to understand how and why individuals and groups who
usually act humanely can sometimes act otherwise in certain circumstances. A number of
psychological concepts explain why abusive behavior occurs. These concepts include:

Deindividuation. Deindividuation is a process whereby the anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion provided in a crowd allows individuals to participate in behavior marked by the temporary suspension of customary rules and inhibitions. Individuals within a group may experience reduced self-awareness which can also result in disinhibited behavior.

Groupthink. Individuals often make very uncharacteristic decisions when part of a group. Symptoms of groupthink include: (1) Illusion of invulnerability-group members believe the group is special and morally superior; therefore its decisions are sound; (2) Illusion of unanimity in which members assume all are in concurrence, and (3) Pressure is brought to bear on those who might dissent.

Dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process whereby individuals or groups are viewed as somehow less than fully human. Existing cultural and moral standards are often not applied to those who have been dehumanized.

Enemy Image. Enemy image describes the phenomenon wherein both sides participating in a conflict tend to view themselves as good and peace-loving peoples, while the enemy is seen as evil and aggressive.

Moral Exclusion. Moral exclusion is a process whereby one group views another as fundamentally different, and therefore prevailing moral rules and practices apply to one group but not the other.”

– James R. Schlesinger, et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations

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“A dominion whose well-being depends on any man’s good faith, and whose affairs cannot be properly administered, unless those who are engaged in them will act honestly, will be very unstable. On the contrary, to insure its permanence, its public affairs should be so ordered, that those who administer them, whether guided by reason or by passion, cannot be led to act treacherously or basely. Nor does it matter for the security of a dominion, in what spirit men are led to rightly administer its affairs. For liberality of spirit, or courage, is a private virtue; but the virtue of a state is its security.” – Benedict de Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise (trans. R.H.M. Elwes)

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“The traditional philosophic treatment of politics has been based on an unreal conception of human psychology. As philosophical ethics are grounded not in reality but in the dreams of authors, the resultant politics are equally utopian and useless as guides for the practical challenges of policy making.” – Menachem Lorberbaum, “Spinoza’s Theological-Political Problem”

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“The Desires, and other Passions of man, are in themselves no Sin. No more are the Actions, that proceed from those Passions, till they know a Law that forbids them: which till Lawes be made they cannot know: nor can any Law be made, till they have agreed upon the Person that shall make it.” – Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

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