The ongoing worries about what happens next between Russia and Ukraine (or others among Russia's neighbors) has me wondering: What's really at stake? Russia isn't really "Eastern" in the sense of being like India or China, but the situation really comes across as a struggle over the embrace of Western values. So what are those values?
I think Western philosophy really boils down to this:
1. Make money
2. Have fun
3. Clean up after yourself
4. Mind your business
Each of these is a little more nuanced than that, of course:
Make money: You are free to produce goods and services by the work of your hands, your mind, and your capital. The profits are yours to keep and to spend or invest as you choose. Conveniently, the more of this you do (and the more of it your neighbors do), the better off we all become -- even without a coordinated effort.
Have fun: You are free to speak your mind and enjoy the things that make you happy, be they material goods, entertainment, religion, or other things. You have the natural right to go about your life free of the intrusions and repressions of government or other powers telling you how to live. Life is short, so you should make the most of what you have.
Clean up after yourself: You can do most things at your own liberty, but you don't have the right to freeload on others. If what you do in the interest of making money imposes a cost on the health or safety of others, you have to pay for it. By the same token, if you choose to do things that harm your health or put you in danger, nobody else is obligated to pay for your recovery.
Mind your business: In the conventional sense, mind your own business -- not the lives of others. Peacefully coexist with one another with a sense of tolerance. But in a more literal sense, mind your own well-being: Get better at what you do and invest in your future well-being. Civilization only moves forward if we all take incremental steps forward all the time, and if you don't do that, you're just trying to get a free ride on the backs of others.
(This essay was originally published on my personal website, but it formed the backbone of our show on April 6, 2014, so I've duplicated it here.)
Thanks for listening this week!