There are two aspects of man’s existence which are the special province and expression of his sense of life: love and art.I am referring here to romantic love, in the serious meaning of that term—as distinguished from the superficial infatuations of those whose sense of life is devoid of any consistent values, i.e., of any lasting emotions other than fear. Love is a response to values. It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person’s character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness. It is one’s own sense of life that acts as the selector and responds to what it recognizes as one’s own basic values in the person of another. It is not a matter of professed convictions (though these are not irrelevant); it is a matter of much more profound, conscious and subconscious harmony.Many errors and tragic disillusionments are possible in this process of emotional recognition, since a sense of life, by itself, is not a reliable cognitive guide. And if there are degrees of evil, then one of the most evil consequences of mysticism—in terms of human suffering—is the belief that love is a matter of the heart, not the mind, that love is an emotion independent of reason, that love is blind and impervious to the power of philosophy. Love is the expression of philosophy—of a subconscious philosophical sum—and, perhaps, no other aspect of human existence needs the conscious power of philosophy quite so desperately. When that power is called upon to verify and support an emotional appraisal, when love is a conscious integration of reason and emotion, of mind and values, then—and only then—it is the greatest reward of man’s life.
Ayn Rand
Think about ethanol again. The benefits of that $7 billion tax subsidy are bestowed on a small group of farmers, making it quite lucrative for each one of them. Meanwhile, the costs are spread over the remaining 98 percent of us, putting ethanol somewhere below good oral hygiene on our list of everyday concerns. The opposite would be true with my plan to have left-handed voters pay subsidies to right-handed voters. There are roughly nine right-handed Americans for every lefty, so if every right-handed voter were to get some government benefit worth $100, then every left-handed voter would have to pay $900 to finance it. The lefties would be hopping mad about their $900 tax bills, probably to the point that it became their preeminent political concern, while the righties would be only modestly excited about their $100 subsidy. An adept politician would probably improve her career prospects by voting with the lefties.Here is a curious finding that makes more sense in light of what we‘ve just discussed. In countries where farmers make up a small fraction of the population, such as America and Europe, the government provides large subsidies for agriculture. But in countries where the farming population is relatively large, such as China and India, the subsidies go the other way. Farmers are forced to sell their crops at below-market prices so that urban dwellers can get basic food items cheaply. In the one case, farmers get political favors; in the other, they must pay for them. What makes these examples logically consistent is that in both cases the large group subsidizes the smaller group.In politics, the tail can wag the dog. This can have profound effects on the economy.
Charles Wheelan
The universality of reason is a momentous realization, because it defines a place for morality. If I appeal to you do do something that affects me—to get off my foot, or not to stab me for the fun of it, or to save my child from drowning—then I can't do it in a way that privileges my interests of yours if I want you to take me seriously (say, by retaining my right to stand on your foot, or to stab you, or to let your children drown). I have to state my case in a way that would force me to treat you in kind. I can't act as if my interests are special just because I am me and you're not, any more than I can persuade you that the spot I am standing on is a special place in the universe just because I happen to be standing on it.You and I ought to reach this moral understanding not just so we can have a logically consistent conversation but because mutual unselfishness is the only way we can simultaneously pursue our interests. You and I are both better off if we share our surpluses, rescue each other's children when they get into trouble and refrain from knifing each other than we would be if we hoarded our surpluses while they rotted, let each other's children drown and feuded incessantly. Granted, I might be a bit better off if I acted selfishly at your expense and you played the sucker, but the same is true for you with me, so if each of us tried for these advantages, we'd both end up worse off. Any neutral observer and you and I if we could talk it over rationally, would have to conclude that the state we should aim for is the one where we both are unselfish.Morality, then, is not a set of arbitrary regulations dictated by a vengeful deity and written down in a book; nor is it the custom of a particular culture or tribe. It is a consequence of the interchangeability of perspectives and the opportunity the world provides for positive-sum games.
Steven Pinker