Archive for January, 2012

Political Science

The other day a reader sent me a question, essentially asking for a recommended reading list for books that offered insight into the political process, adding the observation that she’d learned more about politics from my books than from all the college political science courses she’d taken.  As a practical matter, I can’t comply with her request, for the simple reason that there isn’t a single book, or even a short list of books, that would do that subject justice.  Over the past fifty years, I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of books dealing with politics and history and thousands of articles, and each one has added to my understanding, either of politics or of the shortcomings of some writers in the field. The principal reason why no short list of books will suffice for a good understanding of politics is that, at least in my opinion, the vast majority of books on politics approach the subject in a typical “American” fashion. They’re almost invariably “how” books – how this politician got elected, how this campaign was run, how the Federal Reserve botched the real estate bubble – or some form of biography or, occasionally, the history of political developments.

Usually, buried in lesser paragraphs but not always even mentioned, there are some explanations of why things happened, but very seldom do those “why” explanations deal with the basic structure of politics and government, which is something that my fiction often does.  Those explanations are sometimes referred to as didactic or boring, but they do offer reasons why my characters do what they do or why they can’t do what they’d really like to do.

I grew up in a family that was active in low-level politics.  My father was a town councilman and acting mayor.  My mother was a state officer in the League of Women Voters.  Politics was always a dinner-time subject, and several congressmen and senators were personal friends of my parents, as was a noted U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  For whatever reason, I also read histories, any kind of histories, voraciously.  But when I got to college, a small but prestigious Ivy League school noted for its political science department, I was absolutely stunned to learn how little my professors actually knew about electoral politics, legislative branch politics, or politics on the local level.  They were all experts on the Presidency and the administrative branch, but not on the other branches.  Later in life, after a tour and half in the U.S. Navy and some industrial and real estate jobs [as a lowly and not terribly effective day-to-day realtor], I ended up as a Congressional staffer, first as a legislative director, then a staff director, before I became director of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA. After that, I spent another six years as a consultant to a firm that attempted to influence federal government policy in various areas through the presentation of factual and political matter, call it selective fact-based lobbying as opposed to contribution-based lobbying.  Those experiences confirmed, in general, that very few academic political scientists truly understood the entire political structure.

Frankly, I don’t know of anyone writing books on politics that has my kind of background, not that there isn’t, but such authors must be rare.  There are certainly many distinguished authors who know far, far, more than I do about given subjects, but the problem is that very few of them have a breadth of experience and the inclination to ask why things are as they are and how they came to be that way.  The same is also true of most politicians and their staffers.  They’re preoccupied with obtaining, holding, and exercising power, but most are limited in that because they often don’t understand the nature of power in a larger sense, of the forces that shaped and are still shaping and reshaping the political structure.  They are, however, masters of manipulating the structures close to them and to maximizing their own political power.  This, by the way, is why very few senators or representatives make good presidents, because their careers and their focus are based on getting elected from a very specific constituency that can never represent the wide range of interests and problems that face the American President.  Even a senator from California or Texas is limited, because very few of them truly understand the executive branch, while, on the other hand, very few political appointees understand either industry or the congress, and those do do understand one seldom understand the other.

Add to those factors the fact that most readers of non-fiction want to know the juicy items and “hows” of politics more than the “whys.”  And the “whys” are often disconcerting and unpleasant.  After running an office in the Reagan Administration, I have a much better understanding of exactly why the Civil Service is both cumbersome and slow to react – and it makes perfect sense, given the pressures and structures [and it would take a long article to explain, which most people would dismiss, as I know after trying to explain on a number of occasions in the past… yet that is why it works the way it does, like it or not].

The other problem is that, in my books, I can show what lies behind intrigues, but in the real world it’s even more complex and even a slight reference to a name or an event can trigger a lawsuit, and without concrete references, people tend not to believe what they regard as “theories,” particularly if those theories conflict with their beliefs and biases.  Even when a wealth of information is provided, as it has been in some cases, people tend not to believe what contradicts their preconceptions, whereas, as I’ve pointed out before, presentation of real or realistic factors and structures in a fictional setting allows readers to consider what I’m showing in a more objective nature, whether they agree with my presentation or not.

And that is an abbreviated, but all too long, explanation of why I can’t offer a short answer to the poor reader’s question – and why I’m not about to re-enter American politics again, either as a non-fiction writer, a staffer, or a candidate.


Rules for the Sake of Rules?

For the last few months of 2011, Cedar City and the local papers kept announcing that at long last, beginning on January 4, 2012, Cedar City’s airport would finally have jet passenger service.  And indeed on the afternoon of January 4, a Delta regional jet took off from the airport bound for Salt Lake City, replacing the twin turboprop Brasilia Embraers that have provided service for almost twenty years. Unhappily, that single jet flight has been the only one, since as soon as the regional jet landed in Salt Lake, the FAA forbid any further passenger jet flights by Delta until an environmental assessment was completed.  And that will take a minimum of two months, more likely four.

Was this for safety or environmental reasons?

Not so far as I or anyone else can determine.  The Cedar City airport has a runway almost 10,000 feet long that was recently upgraded and is capable of landing full-sized passenger jets.  It’s an approved diversion airport and has landed DC-10s.  It is already certified as meeting all standards for jet aircraft, and there are more charter and business jet flights every day than the two arrivals and two departures Delta/Skywest operates.  The regional jets would not have added to the number of flights, only upping the passenger capacity per flight from 30 to 50.

As for environmental reasons, even as a former environmental consultant and an appointee to the U.S. EPA during the Reagan Administration, I can’t see any.  To begin with, the Embraers previously providing service – and once more providing that service – are turbo-props.  In other words, the engines turning those props are jets.  So all that we’re talking about is a slightly larger jet engine.  The airport is located away from most residential areas, but with only four flights a day, and those being flown by a comparatively small regional jet, the noise isn’t an issue.  The airport has often been used by military tankers [KC-135s, as best I can determine] for practice approaches and touch-and-go landings [and their noise can be deafening], and it’s a tanker base for Forest Services fire-fighting aircraft, all of which are far louder and more polluting than regional jets.

So why does the FAA require an environmental assessment when the airport already complies?  Because the FAA says so.  That’s why.  And why did the FAA wait to issue this edict until after Skywest had begun service, when Skywest had arranged for the aircraft and filed the schedule/aircraft changes months in advance?  Well… there’s no answer for that, either.

I may not like environmental rules that stop construction to attempt to save endangered species [like the Utah Prairie Dog], and I may question the benefits of other environment rules and legislation, but I can at least understand their goals and purpose. But… this? It’s an exercise in bureaucratic turf management with absolutely no value or purpose, since it’s already been determined, by the FAA, no less, that there’s no adverse environmental or safety impact.

This sort of bureaucratic nonsense is exactly why so many Americans get fed up with government and is certainly one of the reasons why Republicans are making hay in their campaign against the president and why all too many Americans have given Congress the lowest approval ratings ever.

But… “rules is rules.” Right?



Politics 2012: “Code” and Hypocrisy

On Sunday, a CBS commentator ripped into several of the Republican candidates for president as well as a past Democratic President for extreme hypocrisy.  The only problem I had with what she said was that she didn’t go nearly far enough – on figures in either party, on the media, on Silicon Valley and Hollywood, just for starters.

When one of the leading Republican candidates running on a “family values” platform has had three marriages, with several affairs with other women while married to someone else, what exactly does this say?  What it says to me is that “family values” is really “code” for “I’m for the traditional, patriarchal, chauvinistic society of the 1950s, and let’s not have any serious talk about gender or sexual equality.”  Now… if that’s what you want… and that’s what the voters want, why not say it?  Because it would reveal too much about what too many people really want?  No… hypocrisy is so much more comfortable.

And when did “downsizing” and corporate deconstruction become “jobs creation” instead of unfettered pursuit of profit regardless of the human costs?

And how exactly does legislation that extends government into family planning [or prohibition of family planning methods] and declaring that felonious acts [rape and incest] require the victim to bear a child, an additional punishment… how does that square with the constant rhetoric against “big government”?  Why not just say that any man can get any woman pregnant by any means and she has to have the child?  But don’t justify it under family values or as part of a railing against big government.

But let’s not let those on the other side feel too self-righteous or comfortable, either.

When they talk about the rich paying their fair share of taxes [and, again, I agree with the premise that the top one percent shouldn’t have the right to a 15% tax rate on earned income because of a special definition, when those of us making far less are taxed at rates from 19% upward], they’re really talking about trying to find a way to get more revenue so that they don’t have to think about taxing the 53% of the population who pay no federal income taxes… and that’s hypocritical, too, especially for a nation whose government is supposed to be of all the people and for all the people, because it says that “we want the rich to pay more in taxes while lots of people pay nothing.”  Shouldn’t the majority of Americans pay something in federal income taxes, assuming we are going to remain even semi-democratic?

The “liberals” just mounted a huge campaign against two pieces of legislation designed to stop internet piracy and protect copyright.  I’d be the first to admit that the procedures used to bring the bills up… and some of the provisions… leave more than a little to be desired, but the hue and cry about intellectual freedom is as hypocritical as they come.  As the comedian and commentator Bill Maher noted, “People just want free shit.”  Google and Facebook want content as cheap as they can get it, and millions of Americans and others really like their pirated books – and I know about that, because every novel I’ve ever written is available somewhere free and pirated.  Hollywood, of course, wants to keep every dime it can, regardless of whether the methods tromp all over the first amendment.  For all the rhetoric, though, it’s not about censorship, but about “free media” in the worst sense of the word “free” on one side and big media profits on the other.

Politicians on both sides are against immigrants, especially illegal immigrants.  Of course, every single person on the North American continent is either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants.  So what they really mean is something along the lines of, “I want immigrants here for cheap jobs no one else will take, but don’t give them real opportunity or education because they might actually work harder and their children might take jobs from mine.”  Just look at how hard the other candidates blasted Rick Perry for wanting to allow higher education to the children of immigrants.

And then there’s education, where both sides have proposed all sorts of “reforms,” ranging from “No Child Left Behind” to demanding more and more of teachers who have fewer and few real resources or throwing more and more funding at schools.  Yet none of these “popular” and politically easy fixes have worked — while both people and politicians have largely ignored the few schools that have actually made education work.  And why haven’t they taken the good examples?  Because they require firm standards and making parents and students responsible, not just teachers, and no politician ever wants to suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, a lot of the problem isn’t with the teachers, but with the students and their parents.

So… when making your choices, such as they are, in the weeks and months ahead, try, just try to think about what all those slogans and buzzwords really mean… and try not to get too ill over all the hypocrisy they embody.



The other day, my wife informed me that one of her favorite lamps had stopped working.  Well, actually, if I’m going to be totally truthful, she told me before Christmas, but since the lamp is replaced by a Christmas lamp, I didn’t get around to dealing with the lamp until the other day.  I discovered, as I’d suspected, that the three-way switch-bracket had shorted out and needed to be replaced.  No problem – except that I had to go to several stores to find a replacement switch, because, apparently, there’s not much of a market for replacement parts for lamps.

Once I got the part, it took less than ten minutes to replace the old switch and get the lamp back in service.  I didn’t look at the printed directions for replacement, of course, because I’ve done the task more than a few times, but when I was about to toss the package on which the directions were printed, I noticed a large “WARNING” label. I couldn’t help but wonder what I was being warned about… and if I’d made some terrible mistake.  So I read the warning.  What did it say?  It warned me to unplug the lamp before trying to replace the old switch and install the new one.

I wish I could say that was a joke, but it isn’t.  Are there people out there stupid enough to try to replace a part of an electrical appliance while it’s still plugged in?  Apparently so.  And apparently, the manufacturer was, understandably, trying to reduce the possibility of a lawsuit brought by someone either that stupid or someone extraordinarily callous and opportunistic.  As I was pondering this, putting away my tools, I happened to glance at my comparatively new step-ladder and saw the warning that told me not to stand on the very top step.

Have we dumbed down everything so much that people don’t know that electric current can kill?  Or that standing on top of a ladder is dangerous?  Whatever happened to common sense?  Or have we reached the point that no one has to take responsibility for their own actions, particularly if those actions are stupid?  Or is it that the lawyers have changed the law so much that, effectively, no one is responsible for their own acts?

Whatever the reason, we’re now inundated with warnings and cautions, and often the cautions for an ad for a drug take as much time as the commercial itself.  Look – all medicines do things to your body.  Anything you ingest can do that, and I certainly read the information on either prescription drugs or even over the counter medications, but does reading all the cautions aloud in a commercial really help… or does it merely cause most people to tune out the fact that any medication can have deadly side-effects for some people?  Those affected are usually a tiny percentage, but that doesn’t make the impact any less severe for those people, and that’s why using any drug or medication should be considered carefully.

But… that’s clearly not happening.  Prescription drug use is up, way up, and often not even because people are ill.  For example, there’s almost an epidemic of college students using ADHD medications to help them concentrate and study for exams or to write papers.  And why do they need those meds?  Because they clearly didn’t think ahead.

All the warnings in the world won’t help if people don’t think about what they’re doing; all they do is raise the bar for legal shysters… and, in a perverse way, invite even more warnings and litigation.


The World of “Now”

Once upon a time – and I suppose a fairy-tale beginning is appropriate – when young people were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the questioner would receive a plethora of answers:  president, a fireman, a police officer, an astronaut, a baseball star, etc..  Today… the most common response is: “I want to be famous.”

The pop art icon Andy Warhol once said something to the effect that everyone would have fifteen minutes of fame, and whether “everyone” will ever have that, Warhol was certainly right about the fifteen minutes part.

As I see it, though, never has fame been so short-lived, and the problem with this mindset is that the incredibly fleeting nature of present-day fame has also tarnished the value of experience, which is far different from fame.  Fame results from the praise of others;  experience is a combination of knowledge, skills, and understanding gained over time, yet an older practitioner in almost any field is usually regarded as old-fashioned and less able than a younger, more “vital” person.  And frankly, outside of the limited field of athletics, that’s a total fallacy.  Yet the fame and media culture has sold this image, and people, especially the American people, seem to have bought it lock, stock, and barrel.

Of course, the fact that fame is fleeting has always been acknowledged by human beings. The Romans had a slave whisper to a conqueror during his triumphal chariot ride through Rome, over and over, “Fame is Fleeting.”  A.E. Housman wrote the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young” with the lines:

Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man…

I can remember a time when there was at least grudging respect for age and experience and when such scorn for anything not current was expressed by phrases such as “that’s so yesterday.”  Once, American students actually had to know who the past presidents were and what they did. Once, most actors, not just a fortunate few, had careers lasting more than a handful of years.  Once, executives had to have experience in the business they were running. As I noted earlier, I doubt it was coincidental that Borders Books failed, given that the company, in its later and declining years, kept hiring CEOs and other executives who had no experience in the book industry, although they were semi-“famous” for accomplishments elsewhere.

Studies of CEOs have shown that, in general, the most effective CEOs are the ones who are the least famous, but the highest-paid ones [who are seldom the best] are the tallest and best-looking. And yet, with the growing cult of “fame,” companies go for “big names” and impressive appearance, whether they have the experience and the talent for the position, and at least one major financial company is headed by a big-name whose lack of competence has already been publicly shown.

The problem with the “now” culture is that it’s the culture of the moment, and that’s the culture of lemmings, where everyone follows the current fad, the “flavor du jour,” and current fads never last.  Because they don’t, and because they tend to exclude those with experience beyond the present and the accepted, when times change, and they always do, those in control make mistakes that older and wiser heads would caution against.  Or put another way, there’s a very good reason why Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world… and why Donald Trump has had to be bailed out of the majority of his projects, despite the “celebrity apprentice” un-reality reality show.

Fame and public personality are all too often just a flash in the pan, fool’s gold.  So why do so many people seek fame and try to emulate the merely famous, all too often ignoring the people who’ve actually accomplished something lasting more than minutes or months?



There’s a certain amount of accuracy in the old saying “Truth is stranger than fiction.”  Every professional writer also knows, whether he or she will admit it or not, that the best fiction is far more “true” to life than life is.  Seemingly “impossible” coincidences and occurrences happen in life.  Almost everyone knows of one or has experienced it, but, especially if it’s a happy or fortunate one, it won’t ring true in fiction.

Is that because, at heart, we all know that impossible doesn’t happen most of the time? There’s a rule of thumb in writing that the only kind of coincidence or improbable happening that will work is one that goes against the protagonist… and even that’s iffy.

The word “fiction” comes from a form of the Latin verb “fingo,” meaning to fix or make, but, in Latin, there was usually a connotation of falsity attached to its use, such as putting on a brave face, and even a statue was an “imago fictum,” a made image, if you will. So how has fiction, or at least “serious” fiction, come to the point where it has to be, if you will, truer than true, or seeming to be more true to life than life is?

For that matter, why is “uplifting” fiction seldom considered “great” literature?  Does fiction have to be depressing, with a dark ending, to be considered “great”… or is it just the critics who think so?

Then, the other day, I ran across a forum entitled something like “Worst/Most Overrated Books.”  I couldn’t help myself – sometimes I do have a morbid streak – and I read through the entries.  I was amazed, because only two of the entries I read described what I would have thought were really “bad” books.  Interestingly enough, both those entries came from librarians.  Almost all the complaints were about books that someone, and sometimes, lots of someones and critics, had suggested were good books, books by people like J.D. Salinger, Ian M. Banks, Orson Scott Card, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Steinbeck, and a number of others. Two entries even mentioned the Bible and Shakespeare as vastly overrated.  Even the very worst works by any of these writers are vastly superior to much of the true garbage being published today… and yet… why do readers pick on what they think of as the weakest work of good writers?  Because those works don’t meet the readers’ expectations?

And how many of those expectations come from the readers’ perceptions of what “reality” is and by how much the writer fails to portray the “reality” the reader wants?

Of course, if that’s so, it does suggest that most “professional” critics either lead pretty dismal lives or have a rather poor opinion of life and the world in general.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

There’s more than one kind of wisdom.  One way of classifying wisdom is by category: what to do; how to do it; when to do it.  But there’s also the other side:  What NOT to do [i.e., bad idea]; how not to do it [i.e., bad implementation of a good idea]; and when not to do anything [i.e., when to leave well enough alone].

One of the biggest problems in politics today is the fixity with which both politicians and voters hold their ideas.  Those on the far right insist that cutting taxes and spending is always the right thing to do, while those on the far left are all for the opposite. At times, each has been correct, but it’s not just knowing what to do.  It’s knowing how and when to do it… and when to leave well enough alone.  Yet the ideologues insist that there’s only one “right” answer, and that, essentially, it’s right all the time.

There’s also the tinkerer’s philosophy:  If one idea doesn’t work, try something else. That’s even before asking whether the implementation or the timing was good. Unfortunately, while there are times when it works, it’s often corrupted into a version where even when things are going well, the tinkerers decide that they could be better if something else were tried.  I’ve seen all too many organizations, from government to education to private industry, where goals and missions and organizational structure changed so quickly that nothing was going to work.  What’s so often forgotten is that the larger the structure, just like a massive ocean liner, the longer it takes to change course.  Why?  Because any organization that has survived has developed practices and procedures that work.  They may not work as well as other practices, but because they do work in most cases and for most people, changing takes time and explanation, and Americans, in particular, are often far too impatient.

One of the ideas behind the American government is the idea that power must be shared, and that the party in power gets the chance to implement its ideas, and if they don’t work, then the people can vote them out. For most politicians, though, the idea of sharing anything is a total anathema. Congressional districts need to be gerrymandered so that the seat always remains with one party.  Political appointees of the other party must be kept from their positions to which they have been appointed by a president of the other party, no matter what.  By using a “hold,” a single senator can keep a nomination from ever even being voted on by the Senate, yet, so far as I can tell, that particular procedure appears nowhere in the Senate parliamentary procedures.

What’s almost fatally amusing about this is that over the past generation, neither party has been exactly either effective at improving government or the living conditions of anyone but the wealthy, and yet each holds to both its ideas and as much power as it can, claiming that if it only had more seats and power, it would fix things.  If asked exactly how, each side falls back on generalities, and when the few politicians who actually want to do something come up with specifics, such as adding a year to the retirement age some ten years from now, or eliminating tax subsidies for billion dollar corporations with record profits, or suggesting spending federal funds on concrete improvements in infrastructure, the entire political system turns on them.

Looking at it from where I sit, it seems as though most people aren’t happy with things as they are, but they’re even less happy with anyone who wants to change things, and when they do want change, they want it their way, or no way at all… and that’s no way to make things better, at least not in a representative democratic republic.


The Charity “Model”

Before and during the holiday season, we were inundated with supplications from various charities, especially the ones to whom we’ve given in the past. We’ve managed to gently request that most of them stop calling – which has to be done on a charity by charity basis, because they’re exempt from the blanket provisions of the “do not call” list – and we’ve also informed them that we will not EVER pledge or respond to telecommunications requests for funds.  Even so, the postal and internet supplications continue ad infinitum… or so it seems.

No matter what one gives, it’s never enough. There are more homeless orphans, political prisoners, third world inhabitants needing medical care, starving refugees, endangered species, abandoned and homeless pets… the list and the needs are truly endless.  I understand that.

What drives me up the wall is that many of those charities and causes in which I believe and which I support seem to increase their petitions – even though my wife and I only give to them once each year and request that they not bother us more than once each year.  Now… I know that almost all fundraisers are taught to “develop” their clientele and press for more funds from those whose donations show they are sympathetic.  For what it’s worth, I’ve served notice that pestering us for more support is more likely to get them less… and that other worthy and less obnoxious causes may well get what they used to receive.

There’s also the question of “gratitude.”  One state university with which my wife and I are acquainted has adopted a de facto policy of not acknowledging “small” contributions, those under $1,000.  Apparently, the development office can’t be bothered.  Interestingly enough, the small “Ivy League” college from which I graduated responds to donations of any size with not only a receipt, but a personal letter, often with a hand-penned personal notation, to donations of any size – and in the early years after my graduation, some of my contributions were modest indeed.  Just guess which institution has been more successful in raising funds, and has an alumni participation rate of over 70%.

In her time as the head of several local non-profit arts/music organizations, my wife has had to raise funds, and she made it a policy to hand-write thank-yous to every single donor.  In every case, the organization was in debt when she took over, and in every case, the number of donors rose, and she turned it over to her successor with a healthy surplus.  She’s adopted a similar policy as the chair of a national educational music association… and again the outcome of recognizing donors has resulted in a significant and healthy increase in donations and support.

Yes, in economic hard-times, people often cannot contribute as much or as often as once they may have, even though the needs are often greater, but those who give don’t like to be pestered and guilt-tripped, and they would like a little personal recognition for their concern and generosity.

It’s something to think about anyway.


More Musings on Morality

What is morality?  Or ethics?  The simple answer is “doing the right thing.”  But the simple answer merely substitutes one definition for another, unless one can come up with a description or definition of what “right” or “ethical” or “moral” might be.  A few days ago, a reader (and writer) asked what would seem to many to be an absurdly abhorrent question along the lines of, “If morality represents what is best for a culture or society, then isn’t what maximizes that society’s survival moral, and under those circumstances, why would a society that used death camps [like the Nazis] be immoral?”

Abhorrent as this type of question is, it raises a valid series of points.  The first question, to my way of thinking, is whether ethics [or morality] exist as an absolute or whether all ethics are relative.  As I argued in The Ethos Effect, I believe that in any given situation there is an absolutely objectively correct moral way of acting, but the problem is that in a universe filled with infinite combinations of individuals and events, one cannot aggregate those individual moral “absolutes” into a relatively simple and practical moral code or set of laws because every situation is different.  Thus, in practice, a moral code has to be simplified and relative to something. And relativity can be used to justify almost anything.

Taking, however, that survival on some level has a moral value, can a so-called “death camp” society ever be moral?  I’d say no, for several reasons.  If survival is a moral imperative, the first issue is on what level it is a moral imperative.  If one says individual survival is paramount, taken admittedly to the point of absurdity, in theory, that would give the individual the right to destroy anyone or anything that might be a threat. Under those circumstances, there is not only no morality, but no need of it, because that individual recognizes no constraints on his or her actions.  But what about group or tribal survival?  Is a tribe or country that uses ethnic cleansing or death camps being “moral” – relative to survival of that group?

Again… I’d say no, even if I agreed with the postulate that survival trumps everything, because tactics/practices that enhance one group’s survival by the forced elimination or reduction of others within that society, particularly if the elimination of other individuals is based on whether those eliminated possess certain genetic characteristics, or fail to possess them, is almost always likely to reduce the genetic variability of the species and thus run counter to species survival, since a limited genetic pool makes a species more vulnerable to disease or even the effects of other global or universal factors from climate change to all manner of environmental changes.  Furthermore, use of “ethic cleansing” puts an extraordinary premium on physical/military power or other forms of control, and while that control may, in effect, represent cultural/genetic “superiority” in the short run, or in a specific geographic area, it may actually be counter-productive, as it was for the Third Reich, when much of the rest of the world decided they’d had enough.  Or it may result in the stagnation of the entire culture, which is also not in the interests of species survival.

The principal problem with a situation such as that created by the Third Reich and others [where so-called “ethic cleansing” is or has been practiced] is that such a “solution” is actually counter to species survival.  The so-called Nazi-ideal was a human phenotype of a very narrow physical range and the admitted goal was to reduce or eliminate all other types as “inferior.”  While there’s almost universal agreement that all other types of human beings were not inferior, even had they been so, eliminating them would have been immoral if the highest morality in fact is species survival.

Over the primate/human history various characteristics and capabilities have evolved and proved useful at different times and differing climes.  The stocky body type and small-group culture of the Neanderthals proved well-suited to pre-glacial times, but did not survive massive climate shift. For various reasons, other human types also did not survive. As a side note, the Tasmanian Devil is now threatened by extinction, not by human beings, but because the genetics of all existing Tasmanian Devils is so alike that all of them are susceptible to a virulent cancer – an example of what could happen when all members of a species become too similar… or “racially pure.”

Thus, at least from my point of view, if we’re talking about survival as a moral imperative, that survival has to be predicated on long-term species survival, not on individual survival or survival/superiority of one political or cultural subgroup.