On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on federal versus state and local government, parenting via empty threats, reasons for everything, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 21 October 2012

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Podcast Segments: 21 October 2012

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: I’ve been setting up Paul’s old MacBookPro after destroying my laptop, and I’ve been working on repairing the fencing for our horse pastures. I’ll be speaking on the conflict between Christianity and capitalism in Boulder on Monday evening.

Question 1: Federal Versus State and Local Government

Question: Is it proper for state or local government to enact laws that a federal government should not? A proper government is one that fulfills and is limited to the role of protecting citizens from initiations of force by other individuals or other nations. However, in a free and proper society, is it proper for local and state governments to enact laws that go beyond the proper functions of a federal government? For example, in a properly-governed United States, could states enact certain laws that regulate behavior beyond what the federal government could enact, perhaps based on the religious or other values held by most people in that community – on the assumption that any person who disagreed could leave the area?

My Answer, In Brief: The primary goal of all levels and branches of government must be to respect and protect rights. To do that, government should be divided into local, state, and national levels, each with different functions. That way, individuals have more political influence, government can be more responsive to local conditions, law can be developed by inductive experimentation, and the power of any one level of government is checked by the others.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Parenting Via Empty Threats

Question: Should parents make empty threats to their children? At the grocery store last week, I heard a mother threaten to throw away her daughter’s favorite toys unless the daughter behaved. That seems to be pretty common: parents make empty threats in an attempt to scare their kids into better behavior. They’ll say that it works, and perhaps it does. But what are the consequences? Are such empty threats a valid parenting technique?

My Answer, In Brief: For a parent to use empty threats to manipulate his child into obedience means destroying his own credibility – and often doing so is downright malicious.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Reasons for Everything

Question: Does everything happen for a reason? When confronted with some unwelcome turn of events, many people tell themselves that “everything happens for a reason.” What does that mean – and is it true? Is it harmless – or does believing that have negative effects on a person’s life?

My Answer, In Brief: Everything has a cause, but not everything has a reason. The universe is not run by any deity or force with some greater purpose in mind. To believe that it does begets evasion, apathy, and evil.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • What do you think of Robert Heinlein’s advice on voting: There may not be a candidate worth voting for, but there sure is a candidate worth voting against?
  • Do you know if James Taggart’s marriage to Cheryl, resulting in her suicide, is a parallel drawn from Dostoevsky’s marriage to a peasant girl because he felt sorry for her, resulting in her suicide?

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  • Start Time: 1:00:36
  • Duration: 3:53
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:04:30

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