Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Disinventing the Individual: You Have No Right to Reality!

Do we have a right to live in reality? For most of human history, the answer has been no, in the sense that people have been forced to live in someone else's vision or idea of reality.

It reminds me of what Thomas Sowell says about planned economies: every economy is planned. It's just a matter of who does the planning, unaccountable elites or private parties.

It indeed comes down to knowledge and power -- the power to be the decider. For example, Obama and the Democrats have the power to define what constitutes economic knowledge of medical costs. However, as in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the more centralized power one exerts over economic realities, the less knowledge one has of them. Total power -- as in totalitarian states -- equates to total ignorance of price signals, and therefore of economic realities of supply, demand, scarcity, etc.

Moreover, the power is only illusory anyway, because there is no way for any human being, or even the most powerful computer, to ever calculate the potential interactions of millions of independent prices. That knowledge is essentially infinite, and therefore requires omniscience to calculate. It is not even calculation, just -- to use the technical term -- bullshitting.

To which Obama responds, "your point being?"

Fantastic book, by the way. Sowell says it's his most important work, and I can see why, as it lays the philosophical groundwork for everything he's written since then (it was originally published in 1980). It is not as reader-friendly as his more recent books, and I'm probably going to reread it before discussing it at length and weaving it into the cosmic narrative. Nor would he ever think of it in those grandiose terms, i.e., "cosmic narrative."

Rather, grandiosity and sweeping generalizations are our department. Which is a quasi-joke, but not really, because if a culture isn't grounded in a kind of grandiose narrative that explains where we came from, where we are, and where we're going -- the Point of it All -- it tends to decay.

The left, of course, has spent the last century or so trying to replace our old cosmic narrative with their new and improved version, but the problem there, as alluded to at the top of this post, is that it is simultaneously -- to reference another of Sowell's books -- "unconstrained" while at the same time being highly constraining because it is forced upon us.

What do we we mean by that? To quote the first reviewer, "This book presents two visions of the world.... The two visions are metaphysical, pre-scientific points of view regarding how the world works. In one view (Unconstrained), people can drive change, intentions matter, and this could improve the world. In the other view (Constrained), people will always be (somewhat) bad, only results and processes matter, and improvements always involve tradeoffs."

Visions of how the world works. That goes to what was said above about who gets to define reality, but more importantly, who gets to define the reality in which we are all forced to live. For example, I live in California, a one party state in which no one has any input except for the unconstrained visionaries who want to control every aspect of our lives.

In California the Democrats even veto God, and insist that we decide what sex we are. So it's really "unconstrained for thee but not for me." The hypocrisy is built in, because it's never "power to the people" but "power to the right people."

The other day I mentioned the obnoxious book on Indians my son is being forced to read. That's because in California it's against the law for a textbook to tell the truth -- or to not speak with a forked tongue -- about any officially sanctioned victim group. Likewise, everything Obama does is to insulate centralized state decision makers from public influence.

That little preamble was provoked by the following passage in Inventing the Individual: "Since the time of Paul, Christian thought has been directed to the status and claims of humans as such, quite apart from any roles they happened to occupy in a particular society." Therefore, "It is hardly too much to say that Paul's conception of deity provided the individual with a freehold in reality" (emphasis mine).

¡Una freeholdia de reality! That is a remarkable observation, for among other things, it "laid a normative foundation for the individual conscience and its claims." Truly, this turned the world upside down -- or brightside up, rather -- because it created limits on the state's power to define reality and force it on the restavus.

Reality has many dimensions, both horizontal and vertical. For example, thanks to the state, we are never even freeholders of our own land, in that (at least in California) we must pay an annual property tax to pretend to call it our own. Nor do children have a right to the truth about, say, American Indians, or Islam, or homosexuals. As such, it is as if the state has a claim on that part of your child's mind.

I'm just about out of time for today, but the thought occurs to me that if we knew in 1900 what we know today, the left could be declared unconstitutional on first amendment grounds. Why? Because the economy is an information system that continuously conveys the facts about economic reality via prices. Therefore, to interfere with the economy in a massive way -- as in ObamaCare -- is equivalent to burning libraries full of books.

23 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Therefore, to interfere with the economy in a massive way -- as in ObamaCare -- is equivalent to burning libraries full of books.

As Bradbury noted, "There's more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches."

1/13/2015 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"... if we knew in 1900 what we know today, the left could be declared unconstitutional on first amendment grounds. Why? Because the economy is an information system that continuously conveys the facts about economic reality via prices. Therefore, to interfere with the economy in a massive way -- as in ObamaCare -- is equivalent to burning libraries full of books."

Not to mention subjecting those trying to live under it to cruel and unusual (?!) punishment.

High concepts per pixel density in this post, tastes good and filing too. ..

1/13/2015 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"¡Una freeholdia de reality! That is a remarkable observation, for among other things, it "laid a normative foundation for the individual conscience and its claims." Truly, this turned the world upside down -- or brightside up, rather -- because it created limits on the state's power to define reality and force it on the restavus."

It's fascinating how individual liberty and rights literally affects every dimension of our lives in a positive and good Way.

Nothing else works and essentially is just another form of slavery to some degree.
Whenever and wherever there ain't individual liberty there is decay, destruction, regression, and an absence of virtues.

Virtues do more to inhibit our bad human nature than any state regulations, control, thievery and corruption.

The reason the judeo/Christian principle of individual liberty works so well is because it includes the virtues, moral clarity, resposibility, accountability, justice, love, the Commandments and the Golden Rule.

The state, OTOH operates by force and will always erode and destroy individual liberty and the virtues, and everything else that is good.


1/13/2015 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Interview with Sowell. Haven't read it yet, but I Approve This Message.

1/13/2015 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

This entire series opens up some largely unexplored gnous and gnowledge!
Or maybe not unexplored so much but an emphasis on the relationship between individual liberty and Christianity, and the experience and revelation thereof.

IOW's it's been there for awhile but not explored that much in an integrated, metaphysical Way.
This is exciting to me and inspires my soul.
What an adventure we are embarking on.

Thanks Bob!

1/13/2015 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The two visions are metaphysical, pre-scientific points of view regarding how the world works. In one view (Unconstrained), people can drive change, intentions matter, and this could improve the world.

For some reason I'm reminded of Chinese footbinding. Once upon a time, there was a woman with tiny feet, and this was thought beautiful. And so for centuries, Chinese women tortured their little girls to make sure they, too, grew up to have tiny feet. Never mind that feet were never meant to look that way, much less function that way. It was all very well-intentioned, though they weren't trying to improve the world; just their daughters' chances at landing a good husband.

1/13/2015 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

From the interview of Thomas Sowell you provided:

"You mention a very good source of confusion: People have a vested interest in promoting one set of polices rather than finding out what the truth is. In fact, in Basic Economics I go into why some of the studies of minimum wage tend to suggest that it really doesn’t reduce unemployment. One way of doing this, for example, is surveying a group of employers in a given industry before the minimum wage goes up and then, at a later time, after it has gone up and you survey them again and you find out that there hasn’t been any noticeable change. One of many problems with survey research in general is that you can only survey the survivors. In other words, if you were to do a survey of people who were known to have played Russian Roulette and you sent out the questions before the time they were going to play and then you come back six months after they played Russian Roulette, you would probably discover that among the people who did come back there was no harm done."

I love how Sowell brilliantly cuts to the chase with the truth.
I am so thankful I decided to become a truth seeker.

The truth is so much more enlightening and nourishing than the foolish "truths" that other people have, including my own.

1/13/2015 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I had no idea that there was so much metaphysical truth in the idea of free market economy.
How refreshing tasty. Nom nom nom.

1/13/2015 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sowell is big on systemic vs. intentional change. For example, no amount of good intentions could ever achieve the progress of the unplanned, systemic changes brought about by the free market (same with natural selection). The left just can't handle the irony of this, but it accords perfectly with Christianity, because man's fine plans and good intentions result in catastrophic fails & falls, as in Babel.

1/13/2015 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The left loves to talk about "institutional racism." A perfect example of true institutional racism is the minimum wage, which causes untold harm to blacks. Likewise rent control and affirmative action. Or how about teachers unions that oppose vouchers that would liberate blacks from their crappy state run schools...

1/13/2015 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Much like how they are all about diversity, but in the highest echelons of leftism it's almost entirely white people.

1/13/2015 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

re the the Russian Roulette example, it's the same with poverty statistics: a poor person who becomes rich is no longer counted as a poor person. Even Bill Gates was probably "poor" by the government's definition at some point. Imagine if his current income was figured into statistics of "the poor." The left uses statistics in such a way that the desired conclusion is inevitable.

1/13/2015 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "... The left just can't handle the irony of this, but it accords perfectly with Christianity, because man's fine plans and good intentions result in catastrophic fails & falls, as in Babel."

Or, IOW, the Pro-Regressive Left has never discovered anything deeper or more powerful than the State or has imagined any wealth beyond what it plans to reap; while Christianity discovered the depth and value of the individual, and the blazing prosperity that results from setting virtuous individuals free in a State of Liberty.

The Pro-Regressive Left cannot see that... only the threat it poses to their plans for power.

1/13/2015 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The left only cares about dividing the pie. They couldn't care less about how the pie came into being, or how to make more of them.

1/13/2015 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Well, sort of... I mean, they're happy to let someone else create the pie, and be the arbiters of who gets what slice. Making sure, of course, that their own is more than ample. And if the people who made the pie get a little less, well... they can always make more for everyone to share, right?

1/13/2015 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The left only cares about dividing the pie. They couldn't care less about how the pie came into being, or how to make more of them."

Another thing the left has in common with Islam.
Death to the richindels!

1/13/2015 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

After the death of the richindels:

"Hey! Where's the pie?"

1/13/2015 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

They know how much pie they expect to be available for their reaping. They count heads, apples & flour, and if they don't get their cut, you get cut.

1/13/2015 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

My kind of Muslim: If you don't like freedom, fuck off!

1/13/2015 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

I see a lot of Leftist Catholics unable even to recognize the source of their confusion.

They are driven by their Martha instinct to care for the poor. They conceive of themselves as Those Who Care, and everyone else, by definition, as Those Who Don't. Good vs. Evil. Thus, they consider themselves to be in a heroic struggle, in a fight. Therefore, they must gain power at all costs, in order to Do Good against the Forces of Evil. Everything else pales in significance.

It's almost entirely an emotional preoccupation with themselves.

It is flabbergasting to see it up close, in action, because as soon as you question it, you are tagged as Not Them and a threat. You threaten their emotional stability. They actually test the waters of any conversational group before speaking candidly about what they think. Any counter-assertion of fact is simply a marking mechanism which allows them to identify external threats.

It is rare where I work to find a Leftist Catholic who is genuinely a) open to defining problems accurately, and b) open to facts that challenge them.

In short, the Leftist Catholic is a reincarnation of the Scholastic Philosopher of parody.

1/14/2015 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Bob, yes, that guy deserves a national medal.

I'm really sympathetic to the view that the Paris march was co-opted by the very "leaders" who created the whole mess.

1/14/2015 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ironically, Obama does do some things with which I agree, if not in substance, then in style. Blowing off a parade with a bunch of hypocrites, cowards, and enablers is one of them.

1/14/2015 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger Rogelio Bueno said...

"It reminds me of what Thomas Sowell says about planned economies: every economy is planned. It's just a matter of who does the planning, unaccountable elites or private parties."

Here's a visual:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEIn8GJIg0E

Notice what's missing? No traffic signals, no traffic cops - and no traffic jams. I wonder, does more organization, more regulation, more control equal more social/economic constipation?

1/14/2015 08:48:00 AM  

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