A Modest Life Re-examined

Those who choose to live principled lives should be aware of its difficulty. First, one must decide upon what principles to live by and this, in my experience, has taken the most effort. Then, one must figure out what criteria one will use to judge one's actions against said principles. And finally, one must follow through.

I understand that my decision to live a moral life brings me challenges. I understand that because of the values that I hold, I have trouble developing and maintaining a social life. But the fact that I continue living the way I do means that I believe the benefits of acting with principle outweigh all the costs that come with it. Even in times when I struggle and seem to give up on my principles, I would like people to know that I do not regret one instance of living the way I have lived.

In a previous entry, I mentioned that living modestly is one of the strongest values that I hold and I even went to the extent of defining the criteria. Although I still believe in this principle, I must admit that I have been struggling with it recently. One of the specific criteria that I mentioned was the $50,000 rule, meaning that I could only keep that certain amount of yearly income with every dollar exceeding that threshold to be donated.

I am regrettably abolishing this rule due to a change in circumstances of my life. Some of you may know already that I might attend graduate school for a Masters degree in political theory. In order to be responsible, I must save up as much money as possible and that requires me to not donate money in the near future.

The re-examination of my principle has also led me to conclude that my decision to establish the threshold was a pointless one from the beginning. In the entry where I outline my criteria, I also mention that they were subject to change due to necessity and it was clear from what I wrote that I understood that change was inevitable. Therefore, given my willingness to adapt to ever changing conditions, I should have seen that there was no function of establishing that threshold. A rule is not much of a rule if it constantly changes.

Political Theory and Environmentalism

As I was reading F.A. Hayek the other day, I noticed an extremely thought provoking passage about how philosophers only effect practical men in the distant future. Philosophers deal with novel, abstract ideals while the practical politician deals with common beliefs. Hayek further writes:

The state of opinion which governs a decision on political issues is always the result of a slow evolution, extending over long periods and proceeding at many different levels. New ideas start among a few and gradually spread until they become the possession of a majority who know little of their origin.

The reason why this passage spoke to me was because political theory is one of my two passions, the other being environmentalism. I have already figured out that my contributions to the protection of the environment would not have any visible effects, and if by chance some of it were visible, it would only be so years after my death. Now that I realize that my contributions to political theory could also only be felt in the distant future, I am a bit saddened. I know I am assuming too much by even thinking that I have or will contribute anything to political theory or environmentalism. The point I am trying to make is that if in the slightest chance I do contribute something, I will not witness it, and it is most likely that no one will even know.

Defense of Theory

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.

- Keynes