Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.
– Irene Peter
It is not a matter of coincidence that the collapse of civilization is accompanied by otherwise intelligent men and women negating their mind’s capacities to think, reason, and understand the complexities of their world. When systems and practices upon which previous social relationships were grounded no longer work, it can be said that the conduct of humans in society is subject to the principle offered by Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic: “Justice is serving the interests of the stronger. Just action is obedience to the laws of one’s state.” I add my own definition in the sentiments of economics: “justice is the redistribution of violence.”
Life experiences inform me that there are no objectively “true” or “correct” principles by which we ought to live. There are, however, principles that lead to differing consequences, the preferences depending upon whose interests are at stake. Politicians are perfectly happy with Thrasymachus’ opinion, while many of us would prefer principles that placed individual interests above those that give priority to collective political interests. It is up to each of us to think through the implications of either alternative, just as the political establishment has consistently found it to its interests to condition and subordinate our minds to its purposes.
Those who seek to control our lives must first gain control of our minds. If one of your neighbors went through the neighborhood with a gun, informing you that he was the sovereign authority therein, and that you were required to obey his orders, how would you respond? When, as a child, I visited my aunt and uncle on their farm, there was a retarded man in the neighborhood who informed us that he was the local sheriff and we had to do as he directed. Since he was completely harmless and pleasant, the neighbors tended to humor him and treat him with respect.
But when you listen to the gaggle of Democratic Party presidential candidates with essentially the same baseless claim to run your life with policies that would be far more disruptive of your interests, you become aware that you are not hearing the voices of good-natured chuckleheads; but of men and women who fully intend to make their delusions enforceable through the coercive powers of the state.
Most conservative and Republican speakers make only token, superficial responses to the leftists, because they have little depth to their own understanding of what is at stake. The explanation for this, I suspect, is that for decades conservatives grounded their thinking and policies on anti-communist premises. When the Soviet Union collapsed they lost their raison d’etre. They tended to embrace private property and free-market principles not so much from deeply-held convictions traceable to the supremacy of the individual over collectives, but as tools to be employed against the “evil empire.” I heard one current articulate conservative distance himself from the Austrian school of economics and the libertarian philosophy on grounds he was unable to explain. When individuals give up on the principles and practices that provided the foundations for a free, peaceful, and civil society, they find themselves standing intellectually naked in a world that is destroying them and not understanding why.
With rational thought and the search for truth being jettisoned by so many as standards on how to live in a complicated world, it should surprise no one that the modern political arena resembles nothing so much as H.L. Mencken’s “carnival of buncombe.” The likes of Jefferson, Franklin, and Sam Adams no longer dominate political thinking, while Hamilton’s thinking has taken over not only in Washington, but on Broadway! Without norms that aid intelligent minds in the search for understanding, why should we expect politicians to propose policies grounded in anything more profound than the whims of collectivists or the foggy sentiments of “tradition”? With the recent rash of mass-shootings that conveniently provide the statists with more fear-objects to reinforce their powers over a gullible public, I expect that many, if not most, Republican politicians – long defenders of the Second Amendment – will abandon their defenses of clearly expressed Constitutional principles and join with the Democrats to further curtail rights of gun-ownership.
One of the most valuable lessons learned toward the end of Western culture is found in the study of chaos. For those who had not already discovered, one of the truths to be found in the dregs of our deceased civilization is that our world is far too complex, interconnected, and changing in ways difficult to identify or measure. Chaos theory informs us that complex systems are unpredictable; that efforts to anticipate and plan for the future are as prone to error as are the attempts to explain the past (e.g., what was the cause – or causes – of the American Civil War?). As our world becomes ever-more complicated, its previous linear simplicities become more non-linear in nature (e.g., the well-known example of the straw that breaks the camel’s back). For this reason, a hunting/gathering society would be easier to organize and direct to desired ends by central management, than would a modern, international, industrial enterprise.
The institutional order depends for its support on members of the general public believing that it is capable of gathering and assessing information in order to craft rules that will lead to predictable outcomes. But as the study of chaos and complexity shows that such talents are nowhere possible, it becomes evident that promises by political systems to establish order in a complex world are illusory. The more far-reaching the range of what they presume to promulgate, the more widespread the resulting damage. This is why socialist systems have produced the most dramatic records of death and destruction from the massive mobilization of hubris that has energized such erstwhile utopias as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, China, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela, to name some of the more recent and obvious.
If understanding from work in chaos has demolished the traditional rationale for political systems being able to predict, and thus plan for outcomes in complex systems, then the arrogance of collectivism has suffered a lethal blow. In contrast with coercively mandated agencies of ersatz order, the physical, biological, chemical, and economic realms – each functioning according to their own ineluctable processes of causation – produce regularities that do not depend upon whether men and women acknowledge or accept their influences. Persons driven by the obsession for power over others will not be dissuaded by forces they can neither control nor circumvent, but will reach into their imaginations to invent any subterfuge their intended victims will find plausible that will serve their anti-social ambitions.
Chaos makes it difficult to either predict the future or explain the past. My mind is strange: it insists upon factual evidence and sound reasoning before coming to conclusions. Even then, these conclusions are subject to change with additional evidence and/or rational explanation. I have a vested interest in my opinions being as consistent as possible with the complicated patterns the universe presents me, and I find that a clearly functioning mind is the best means for accomplishing this. I do not find opinion polls – where people share their ignorance – nor threats of punishment, nor the opinions of a goat-herd who claims predictive powers from squeezing the testicles of one of her goats, sufficient bases for thinking and acting as I do.
Those who scheme to acquire coercive authority over the lives of others find encouragement in the intellectual vacuity that leaves otherwise intelligent persons bewildered and easily distracted by peddlers of political buncombe. Audiences that await both thoughtful causal explanations and solutions for the destructive turbulence of Western culture, have found traditional institutional sources wanting.
Those whose conditioning has led them to look to the central ring of the political circus for White House candidates have seen the arrival of young circus clowns providing early entertainment. Like children whose fantasies are unburdened by pragmatic realities, Democratic Party presidential wannabees promise the electorate all sorts of freebies: free college tuition; free medical care; free child-care; free housing; reparations for the descendants of slaves. Lest any of these collectivists be accused of insensitivity to costs, new taxes are proposed: some just increased amounts of current tax bases, others in the form of a “wealth tax,” a confiscatory estate tax, or, perhaps the most disgusting of all, Beto O’Rourke’s proposed “war tax,” to be imposed upon families who did not have any of their children in the military! (Perhaps Beto is taking to heart the bumper-sticker from the 60’s that read: “war is good business: invest your son!”) Not to be overlooked is New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s reprise of Henry Wallace’s stand-in role for Karl Marx. Having declared himself the enemy of private property, along with extending compulsory schooling to pre-kindergarten children, de Blasio has shown that not being socially housebroken is no barrier to the presidency!
At one highly-respected college, students learned that the period of the Enlightenment was a creature of the racist dispositions of white-European-males, and should be disregarded. While at a prominent private K-12 school, a math teacher was dismissed after speaking at a conference where she defended Western Civilization. She later defended her actions in these words: “I want all my students to learn critical thinking, to explore, to be skeptical, to value those things, that we value, to grow as an individual.”
Why should we be surprised to discover, in these years of rampant turbulence, that so many people have abandoned the rational, principled thought that has heretofore enlightened our minds, as well as the intellectual tools and skills that permit us to think and act in an uncertain world? Why are modern men and women content to live without the clarity of thought and sound analytical reasoning that has for so long prevailed in Western culture? Without such standards for understanding and making judgments, what else do people have for evaluating human conduct? Why would we not expect that part of our reptilian brains – i.e., that functions as “see, act” – to become more dominant?
When a cataclysmic event of such magnitude as the collapse of a civilization so terrorizes members of a culture as to lead them to believe that the end of the world has befallen them, they may respond in the most irrational, frenzied manner. Such was the thesis underlying Otto Friedrich’s book The End of the World, A History. The sacking of Rome, the Lisbon earthquake, the Black Death, and the Nazi Holocaust, were some of the examples provided by Friedrich. So, too, can be added the fears that drove the Salem Witch Trials, and the hostilities to the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the birth of Western Civilization, which combined to challenge established religious beliefs and led to heresy and blasphemy trials and people being burned at the stake. History provides other examples that may help explain the frenzied outpouring of political “solutions” to problems traceable to political interventions in the affairs of mankind. I am reminded of the fears, anger, and hostilities occasioned when the Industrial Revolution upset the prevailing economic order, causing so many of those inconvenienced by the revolutionary change to resort to machine-breaking riots known as the Luddite movement. It is important, as always, to distinguish cause and effect in these cases: Copernicus and Galileo did not “cause” stake-burnings. Such punishments were, instead, officialdom’s reactions to creative people acting contrary to established interests. Perhaps the past can provide some unknown presidential wannabe with the means of increasing his/her popularity amongst the electorate/media/or academic wing of the boobeoisie. I have a few modest offerings.
One of the more amusing utopians was the 18th century French socialist philosopher, Charles Fourier, whose works I discovered in my undergraduate college years. I am surprised that none of the younger fantasists has claimed to be channeling Fourier on the climate change issue, as he foresaw managing oceans in order to make the earth’s temperature more moderate. In the process, the French visionary informed us, the oceans would be turned to lemonade, a consequence that a modern presidential candidate could use to reduce unemployment among children by reducing the costs of operating lemonade stands!
In his novel Erewhon, the 19th century utopian, Samuel Butler, proposed a system wherein criminals would be regarded as “sick” people and sent to government hospitals, while sick people would be considered “criminals” – for not being able to participate in the productive work of a society – and be sent to prisons. Might unthinking members of the phylum Boobus Americanus embrace such an offering as a “real-world” solution to two major social problems?
Josiah Warren – the 19th century advocate of voluntarily-based communes – created the first of a number of “time stores” in which prices would be based upon the amount of labor associated with producing and selling each item. Warren might be credited with the idea of crypto currencies, as such labor-theory notes could be used in the buying and selling of goods/services at other time stores. Should Sen. Warren’s presidential campaign begin to falter, we might hear her claim to be a descendant of Josiah Warren, and contrary to what Josiah would have done, propose a system of federally-mandated price controls premised on the Marxist labor theory of value.
With George Carlin no longer around to help keep me amused – his mind never functioning in the default mode – I will have to depend on the politicians to keep me entertained. I haven’t checked today’s news, but when I do, I may find that Rep. Dildock will have proposed a bill that would send everyone now living in America back to the country wherein their most recent ancestor lived, and require each to apply for residency or citizenship in order to re-enter this country.
The late Richard Weaver reminded us that “ideas have consequences,” a truth that should be in the forefront of our minds as we sift through the rubble of our fallen civilization for future direction. Added to his warning is another admonition: the failure to live without clear, questioning, energized minds also has consequences.