Friday
Feb012013

R: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

Friday, October 5th at 7.30pm

When it comes to creating and maintaining families, are the rules pretty strict or do many roads lead to Rome? What causes some families - and children in particular - to flourish, while others drift into dysfunction and insecurity? Are there characteristics common to most successful families - and certain patterns discernible in failing ones?

This, the opening sentence of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, has inspired historians and social scientists to critically analyze paths to success versus paths to failure in a variety of societal units. If certain features of good families can be generalized, how should we go about universalizing them? Who or what should assist families in eradicating "maladaptive" behaviors or methods? 

This Friday at 7:30 p.m., the illustrious alumni and guests of honor of the Federalist Party will be gracing us with their presence in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room to enlighten us about how the "Anna Karenina principle" is applied to history, society, and family, to diagnose the ills plaguing modern families, and to discuss what makes the family as a unit successful or unsuccessful. All are welcome.

Friday
Feb012013

R: Civilize the savages

Thursday, September 27th at 7.30pm

The attacks on American civilian officials serving in Libya this month prove, if there was any doubt, that we have long been living in an age of total war. Civilian life, respect for diplomatic institutions, and a reverence for the right to free speech do not come close to characterizing modern radical Islam. While the attacks were originally attribtued to pro-Gaddafi forces, there is emerging evidence that al-Qaeda was also invovled. It is clear that the effects of universalizing ideology, for this new age of radicals, greatly trumps any imperative to observe human rights conventions. But is radical Islam really to blame? Is it not a bit ironic that the nations now condemning these actions were themselves wrapped up in two successive world wars, which featured violations of every level of protocol known then to man? Perhaps this is precisely the argument of right-wing secularists like Geert Wilders - that Europe has evolved and the Islamic world has not.

More generally, what are the limitations of religious practice in a liberal state? Should the state be able to compel deference to the polity? Was Marx right that the state is fundamentally at odds with religion? Or is de Tocqueville to be believed when he claimed the two can indeed function harmoniously - as they did in America? Given the healthcare law's contraception mandate, is that still the case? Is the Church supposed to acqueisece, or take up arms? If the second, then can we really blame other religious people for staying true to the doctrine of their faith? Join us in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. as we debate the limits of liberalism, tolerance, and when (if ever) religious devotion crosses the line.

Friday
Feb012013

R: Natural rights are a social construct

Thursday, September 20th at 7.30pm

Rights, rights, rights. Everybody has them, and everybody gets theirs violated at some point or another. It seems as though we live in an age of an ever-expanding charter of rights, but fewer insitutions who have the military force or political will to enforce them all - and even fewer individuals within them who have any working knowledge of where their rights originate. It seems as though it is this lack of understanding that leads to bold (and largely unfounded) statements like, "[Jobs/birth control/welfare/child support/insert-your-wish-list-here] is a human right!" This article from our problematic (yet well-intentioned) libertarian friends at Reason.com highlights the deeply problematic rhetorical use of "rights" at the Democratic convention this month.

So how did we get here? When did we lose our understanding of what is and isn't a right? If rights are sourced from the Creator, as the Declaration of Independence claims, are there a set number of them? If they origniate from the communities that establish them, why can't anything become a right if enough people agree? What is the difference between positive rights and negative rights? Does the state have an interest in protecting the rights of some - but not all? Is this just? Is this utilitarian? (Hint: Yes.) Join us in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. as we debate the source, extent, and merits of "natural rights."
Friday
Feb012013

R: Repress Freud

Thursday, September 13th at 7.30pm

Sigmund Freud made a name for himself with his contributions to psychoanalysis and his theories attributing mental illness to repressed sexual episodes during childhood. Many of his views on such medical topics now roundly debunked, he is still widely respected for laying down the foundations of modern psychology - and for his provoking political philosophy. In 1929, Freud published Civilization and Its Discontents, outlining a startling view of human history. Human conflict is not necessarily focused on the capitalist oppressor and the proletarian victim, but rather on society and the individual. The former wants to impose conformity and a crushing order, while the latter wants freedom and opportunities for expression of individuality. 

Despite his atheism, he argued that religion has worked to keep civilization intact by fostering communal values. This functions as a paradox, because while an ordered society is necessary to keep man's aggresive sexual and belligerent impulses in check, it is also the source of man's discontent and frustration. Was Freud right? Are we battling a war of conflicting desires within ourselves? Are we nothing but crazed monsters that make due living our wretched lives of quasi-fulfillment, forbidden by our own understanding of our destructive capabilities from seeking to be the ÜBERMENSCH? Or, has dear Sigmund completely misunderstood human nature? Join us in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. as we defend and debunk the theories of the great practioner of modern psychology.

Friday
Feb012013

R: Cut the safety net

Thursday, September 6th at 7.30pm

Ronald Reagan once quipped, “a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.” Since the Republican Party’s nomination of Paul Ryan for Vice President, a new national debate over how we think about entitlement programs has arisen. While many conservatives believe that the federal government has expanded at an alarming rate, others fear that drastic measures to reduce the welfare state could do irreparable harm to the most needy in society - something that goes against central "American values."
 
Taking all this and more in mind, the Federalist Party will look to tackle fundamental questions: What should the government’s safety net look like? Where is the border between a compassionate society and a nanny state? Can other groups help those in need better than the government? Should we ever play politics with people’s livelihood? Can entitlements ever be reformed? Ultimately, what kind and level of government involvement in entitlements is best to secure human flourishing? Can history - ancient and modern - be a guide for the 21st century? The American conservative heart is surely compassionate enough, and the mind nimble enough, to answer these questions with care and responsibility. Join us in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to tackle the core of some of the most important issues facing voters this year as they make their choice for president. All are welcome.