Thursday, March 9, 2017

We've Tried Being Reasonable

The Proposition Nation

America, the proposition nation. Founded on ideas. American society was not to be bound by a divinely anointed monarch, or tribal loyalties, or a heavy-handed authority, but rather by the agreement that natural rights grant each man great freedom to live as he chooses, so long as he doesn't impede the rights of others to do the same. Americanism is not a birthright or a blessing or a victory condition; it is a simple logical and moral agreement.

The Founders were all Christians yet they specifically decreed freedom of religion. They were all English-speaking but made no recommendation for language. They were all white but put no Constitutional restriction on demographics, as Mexico does. One wonders if these considerations weren't omitted as a consequence of their absence from the contemporary society. The rich do not worry over money like the poor. The hungry think about food constantly while the well-fed eat when it is convenient. Noble decrees of equality and an appeal to our higher faculties may be easier to make in a ethnically homogeneous society of a relatively high IQ populace bound by a common belief system. Many among us, probably most, do not believe this to be the case. Their conviction is that our multiculturalism drives the reason-based social contract, because we don't have the tribal, religious, or dynastic bindings to rely on. But was that the reality of our founding? They didn't invite the Indians into their new society. Or the Africans. And heavily resisted even non-English speaking Europeans and Catholics. It does seem that man's more primitive instincts towards social organization were overcome in an environment where they were somewhat irrelevant to begin with.

America (or more accurately the West) is so confidant in her citizens' capacity for reason that they were granted universal suffrage, an empowerment of the masses never seen before. Despite some initial limitations set by the Founders, American is a system where every representative, every senator, every governor, every mayor, and every president is chosen by the masses. Surely the contract for the people to chose their government includes the clause that they are, well, reasonable.

To the notion of a society bound by reason, I am a natural proponent. And yet I am abhorred by the results. This is hardly a reasonable society. It is not populated by particularly reasonable people, and does very little to leverage its more rational human assets. We don't organize our society to put the more reasonable people in charge. I encountered this the first time I voted. My ballot included 46 different individual races - and I was from a tiny town and county - plus referendum measures. It quickly became questionable to me how anyone could be qualified to fill out the ballot. Who was I to comment on whether to retain various judges throughout the far-flung state? I considered myself to be more qualified to vote than most, but still not sufficient for the ballot I was provided. I did a fair amount of research on candidates before voting, which is a fair amount more than most I would reckon. How can we be sure the typical American voter is unqualified for the task? Because candidates spend exorbitant sums of money on radio and tv ads. Why? Because the ads successfully influence a significant number of votes. Why are ads successful in influencing a rational person's vote? I'll leave you to make your own conclusion.

Wisdom & Education

In the ancient world wisdom was the highest virtue. Elders were respected; the great minds were highly sough after. Today's world has no interest in wisdom. Technical expertise is highly valued, and credentials, oh do we love our credentials. It seems that credentials are something of a proxy for wisdom. Or at least they once were. At one time a college degree probably did have some correlation with wisdom, because the institutions that granted them were motivated by achieving wisdom. In today's college imparting wisdom is their stated sacred purpose but in practice hardly even an afterthought. Students don't go to college to gain wisdom. They go to gain status. Colleges serve to provide careers to students, academics, and administrators, and recruits for liberal indoctrination. It can't even be decisively claimed that colleges are for acquiring information anymore, as most of it can be found online.

The schools don't drive kids towards wisdom. They seek to impart skills. And not just any skills, but skills that can be captured by standardized testing. In the decade and a half since I graduated, my high school has dropped band, chorus, auto shop, ag shop, industrial arts, and, I think, physics. I'm not entirely sure about the last one. On the school's website I can find a 54-page policy handbook and schedules for all the varsity sports, but not a list of courses. Academics are just not a big priority in education these days.

American parents don't drive kids towards wisdom either. Do you hear parents asking themselves if junior will read Rousseau or understand chaos theory? No, parents wonder what occupation their child will hold and brag about their successes. Typically successes are measured in the acquisition of resources (money) or title (status). Thus children are primarily guided towards money & status. The major difference between white suburban childrearing and gangsta rap is that the rappers are more honest about their ambitions.


Not everyone stives for money & status. Some people reject the rat race or, more often, are rejected by it. Often they are hippies, and they know there is something much more important than petty materialism: caring. Caring is a virtue of course. Caring gives life meaning and is fundamental to Christianity. But it is no substitute for reason. An uncaring civilization can still succeed and provide a nice life for its people (like Germany until so recently) but an unreasonable society will destroy itself or be destroyed, caring or not.

I see on social media the liberal motto it is better to be kind than correct. But those attributes are orthogonal. It's as if saying it's better to be left than purple. One can be kind and correct, or one of them, or neither. Maybe I'm too pedantic when the intended message is clear: it's better to be caring than rational. It seems fitting then that the quip is itself irrational. Better according to what context? Where is it better to be caring than rational? Who says, "you need to be kind and wrong more?"

Caring is seen as enlightenment. And it is! Compare it to the money chasers. They are consumed with acquiring resources, just like every organism on Earth. Even lowly life forms like amoeba and fungi and divorce lawyers spend their time primarily engaged in resource acquisition. If hippies think caring is a higher, more enlightened motive in life I would have to agree with them. Caring is not restricted to humanity. Mammals by definition care for their young. Social animals develop deep attachments to each other. Even crocodiles are said to be make protective mothers. But none are capable of rationale. Caring is a humane trait but rationale is what makes us human. To say it is better to be kind than correct as a life philosophy is practically to renounce one's own humanity.


If future generations will judge us by the fruits of our professional media then we should start destroying the records immediately to save some embarrassment. I cringe thinking our 24/7 news hysteria is constantly being broadcast out to space where it might be received by some intelligent life form. It's no wonder those superior beings choose to remain hidden. Can you imagine how they'd be welcomed here?
Alien: we come and peace, and we wish to share our ancient wisdom with you, and guide you to deeper understandings of existence. 
CNN reporter: What can you tell us about the Russia-Trump connection?
There can be nothing more irrational than making routine logical contradictions with oneself. I point out media absurdity frequently on this blog. It is my top grievance with our society. As long as our established method of public discourse and consensus making is irrational, we can't possibly call ourselves a rational society.


The major point of America is that authority is based on reason and universal egalitarianism. To be sure it was an experiment, and it was not an irrational experiment. The Founders were dedicated to reason themselves and to Enlightenment thought and, in a world where brute strength typically rules, it is truly remarkable what they accomplished. In a rational society experiments are important, but so are results. The results are not looking good. America has been extraordinarily successful and still is, but we're moving in a dangerous direction and very quickly. The major difference between the traditional conservative and the reactionary is that the reactionary doubts the entire premise of the American experiment. Some even doubt the reason-based society altogether and advocate for a return to monarchy! I don't. If you like your reason-based society, and you want to keep your reason-based society, your most immediate task is to realize just how failed the model has become and where we're headed.

1 comment:

  1. Did the founders make some stipulation on demographics? Their immigration policy was very particular.

    Also they didn't agree with universal suffrage. Voting was limited.