The Is Of Identity
There Are Perils In Categorizing People
Also on today’s menu:
Fed Raises Interest Rates
Alfred Korzybski, a Polish-American scholar who developed a field called general semantics, which aimed to increase humanity’s ability to transmit ideas from one generation to another, warned of what he termed “the is of identity,” a complex theory that he illustrated with a discussion about a chair. He said that, if one names an object “a chair,” it immediately creates a mental image of something someone can sit upon. As I understand his argument, that has created a perception of what a chair “is” that may not conform to reality. Perhaps the chair is not sturdy enough to sit upon, and the person trying to do so will fall to the floor. Perhaps it is a work of art intended for viewing only. The point is that language must be precise to avoid misconceptions about the object of the discussion.
“The is of identity” has become something of a family joke because it sounds so absurd, but the truth of Korzybski’s argument displays itself periodically, and so it has done with the current political climate. People are quick to classify others as “progressive” or “libertarian” or “Free-Staters” or “right-to-lifers” or “pro-choice” or any number of other names that immediately assign them to a category one can either praise or condemn. In fact, people who seem to fit into a certain category may not fit into the precise role that the term implies. It is not who that person “is.”
Croydon Selectman Ian Underwood made that point about those like himself who joined the Free State Project. “If you ask what Free Staters believe,” he wrote, “that’s the wrong question. The right question is: What does a Free Stater believe? And the answer is: It depends which one you’re talking about. The only way to find out is to ask. Just like with anyone else.”
Closely aligned with libertarians, getting Free-Staters to agree on any particular issue is like the proverbial herding of cats. It can’t be done. They will generally agree on broad principles such as respect for the autonomy of others and being a good neighbor, and probably agree that they should pay for the services they use but not be forced to pay for those they don’t, and to support the charities they want to support without having to support those with missions they do not agree with. But, just as liberals will agree on the need to support the less fortunate, but not all will sign on to the idea of taxing the wealthy at exorbitant rates, so will Free-Staters and libertarians disagree on particular courses of action.
Underwood is vilified for succeeding in cutting in half the budget for the Croydon School District (until voters rebelled and overturned the decision at a special school board meeting). Similarly, another Free-Stater, Mike Sylvia, is vilified for his attempt to have New Hampshire secede from the United States, or for his role in the Gunstock controversy, which has resulted in the recreational area’s temporary closing. But that is not all that those men “are.” Ascribing the same traits to all who have supported them on one of those issues is likewise wrong.
That point was illustrated when Jade Wood and Doug Lambert, who were appointed by the Belknap County Delegation to serve on the Gunstock Area Commission, concluded that Peter Ness and Dr. David Strang, appointed by the same delegation, came out on opposite sides in the debate over how to reopen the mountain. Wood and Lambert concluded that Ness and Strang would have to resign in order to get Gunstock operational again.
Now Governor Chris Sununu has joined in the call for the two commissioners’ resignation. Other members of the county delegation — some of whom, like Lambert, had expressed concerns about Gunstock — have now joined in calling for Ness’ and Strang’s resignations.
People are individuals, and can hold different views that sometimes intersect, and some of them are willing to listen and learn while others hold tenaciously to their beliefs no matter what the facts may be. Classifications can create a false “is” that deceives people and leads them to false conclusions that impact how they treat others.
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Democrats have grown increasingly impatient with Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) for opposing measures that most members of the party support. The most recent clash was over a spending package to reduce health-care costs, combat climate change, and reduce the federal deficit.
On July 27, Manchin made a surprise announcement that he would now support the stalled legislation which would involve $433 billion in new spending over the next decade. The bill supports investment in clean energy production, allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, and increases taxation of wealthy Americans, many of whom have been able to avoid paying any taxes in the past.
The new agreement falls short of the original $3 trillion plan known as the Build Back Better Act, but in Manchin’s words, “instead, we have the opportunity to make our country stronger by bringing Americans together.”
Fed Raises Interest Rates
The Federal Reserve has announced a rate increase of 0.75 percent for borrowing, and indicated that more increases are coming in the Fed’s efforts to lower the inflation rate, which at 9.1 percent is increasing at the fastest rate in a generation.
This is the fourth time the Fed has raised interest rates this year.
While part of the reason for the high inflation rate is the federal spending to keep the economy going during the pandemic, the main reasons are the supply-chain problems due to cutbacks in staffing and open positions in the shipping industry and the Russia-Ukraine war, which is putting pressure on food and energy prices.
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