Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs under Fire

Forty years ago, as I was studying for a Masters in counseling, one of the key things we studied was Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs", the idea that people can only focus on higher-level needs after lower-level ones are met. At one level, this is obvious: someone with serious unmet physical needs (such as air, water or food) may not even be able to pay attention to such less-obvious needs as friendship.

Recently though, the top level of Maslow's hierarchy (Self-actualization) has come under attack from at least two directions. One criticism is that there is no evolutionary value to self-actualization. Another, and the reason for this post, is that (like Lord Keynes' endorsement of politicians spending more in hard times) it told leaders what they wanted to hear. As Keith Humphreys puts it here (in a post linked by Instapundit): "Maslow did what Kolhberg did in his theory of moral development and Rollo May and all the existentialist psychiatrists did in their theories: He asserted that the objectively highest state of human development was to be like him and like people he admired."

It's becoming clear to me that I could have been a more-critical thinker in college and grad school, as I happily digested the worshipful teaching of Keynesian economics and Maslow's psychology. I wonder what convenient self-praising beliefs I'm just as uncritically ingesting today?

Friday, August 27, 2010


I've been concerned for the past 3 years about the possibility of hyperinflation in the U.S., a la that of the early 1970s, but hadn't really thought through what an even worse case scenario would look like. Typler Durden, on the other hand, lived through hyperinflation in Chile during that period, and describes the dangers and the opportunities in Zero Hedge.
"Once basic necessities are unmet, and remain unmet for a sustained period of time, any asset will be willingly and instantly sacrificed, in order to meet that basic need.
To put it in simple terms: If you were dying of thirst in the middle of the desert, would you give up your family heirloom diamonds, in exchange for a gallon of water? The answer is obvious—yes. You would sacrifice anything and everyting—instantly—in order to meet your basic needs, or those of your family."
So clearly Mormons are on to something here with the idea of storing a year's supply of food.

Even then, Durden suggests, there is opportunity (see the article for two great examples):
"Buy when there’s blood on the streets.
That’s Baron de Rothschild’s famous line—but it hides a key insight, one which should be highlighted perhaps even more forcefully than the line itself:
Even in the midst of Apocalypse, things will get better."

On the other hand, Durden adds, things might then get worse in a different way:
"...just about every period of hyperinflation has been stabilized by some subsequent form of autocratic or totalitarian government."

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Welcoming the Stranger

Last night's mid-week at Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL main campus) featured a dialog with Matthew Soerens, co-author of the immigration-related book "Welcoming the Stranger."

Three key points were made:
1 It isn't even financially possible to just deport everyone who has entered the U.S. without permission, or overstayed a visa. The cost of doing so would be in the trillions.
2 It isn't fair to just give such people unearned amnesty, as they have indeed violated legitimate laws in coming or over-staying here.
3 For some such persons, there is currently no legal way for them to make things right, short of leaving the U.S. and never returning, even if they have U.S. citizens in their immediate families.

Therefore, the discussion concluded, some process of legalization needs to be developed, some way for such persons to make things right without just going away forever.

The analogy offered was this: if no one obeys the 55 MPH speed limit on the Interstate highway, the cure is to raise the speed limit, and then strictly enforce the new limit. As applied to immigration, if we aren't enforcing our current laws, then let's change them to laws we ARE willing to enforce. (Otherwise, in a few more years, we'll be asked to legalize yet another batch of even-newer would-be immigrants, attracted by whatever amnesty is offered those here now.)

So far, so good. But as I left, I realize two more things are needful:
4 Before those who have NOT followed the rules are legalized, we FIRST need to welcome all the would-be immigrants who did follow the rules and applied for legal entry to the U.S.
5 Anyone being legalized needs to understand and commit to American core values -- nothing else holds us together as a nation.

Those who act as though America were the worst country in history are both incorrect and make it more difficult to welcome newcomers. Similarly, those who seek freedom here without affirming freedom for others may never be able to be safely welcomed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Three qualities of satisfying work

Here's my favorite quote from the excellent book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell:
"Those three things--autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward--are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying." (p. 149)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Best book I've ever read about the Mideast

[Note: This is a copy of my Amazon Vine review here.]

In preparing for a study trip to Israel and Jordan with Willow Creek church's "Dr. B." in 2007 our group was assigned to read two books about the area and its issues. One (Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour) was excellent; the other (mercifully nameless here) was awful. Ever since, I've sought a better book to cover the same ground as that second book.

Tea with Hezbollah is that vastly better book. In it, two Christians set out to have tea with spiritual leaders throughout the Mideast and discuss with them Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. It's a crazy idea - reminding me of the title of P.J. O'Rourke's book "Holidays in Hell." Yet somehow, it happens, the trip is described in very interesting detail, and in each meeting along the way each response to the story is faithfully recorded.

I've not been to all the places mentioned, but have been to some of them, and heartily agree with the authors about the importance and difficulty of that particular teaching of Jesus, both 2,000 years ago and today.

I was amazed how often the authors' feelings about a particular place or group exactly matched my own from our trip. I was also impressed by most of the responses - deeply in two cases.

The book also includes an excellent story within a story, a modern equivalent of Jesus' story that adds much to the book.

Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or None of the Above (carefully listed in alphabetical order), this book is fair and honest and well worth reading. It does not sugar-coat or ignore tough issues, but keeps the focus tightly on Jesus' parable, and what that means today.

One other personal note: I now feel I better understand one particular group a recent DNA test reports is among my ancestors.

Highly recommended!