Life and its Alternative Uses
And once inside a cliché, it can be difficult to leave, because the doors lock from the outside. To paraphrase Dávila, there are words we use to deceive others, and more importantly, words we use to deceive ourselves. It is the latter which ensnare us, for which reason "the only man who saves himself from intellectual vulgarity is the man who ignores what it is fashionable to know."
Today, for example, it is fashionable to think it courageous for a sick man to convince himself he is a woman, or to direct animus toward the one race that has, for whatever reason, contributed so disproportionately to the welfare and betterment of mankind. Modesty and good breeding forbid a gentleman from crowing about such an unmerited blessing, but what is the alternative when these barbarians insist you are a devil instead of a benefactor to all?
Oh well. "Intelligence, in certain ages, must dedicate itself merely to restoring definitions" (Dávila). You know, like marriage. I don't give a fig about soccer, but the other day my son asked who I wanted to win in the World Cup. I promptly answered "Japan." I didn't tell him it was because if Japan won, at least children would be spared the spectacle of some musclebound freak kissing her "wife." I remember when perverted old men had to pay good money to see that sort of thing.
Prejudice? Of course. "Prejudices defend against stupid ideas" (ibid.). One man's prejudice is another man's Collective Wisdom of Mankind. After all, we are descendants of the very people who held that particular prejudice. I am personally grateful my mother wasn't encouraged -- or bullied -- to "explore" same sex attraction in college. I mean, it's unsettling enough to think of one's mother having an opposite sex attraction.
"No one wanted to be a slave," writes Sowell. However, until the spread of Christianity, this was never a principled opposition.
Rather, "their rejection of slavery as a fate for themselves in no way meant that they were unwilling to enslave others." There is abundant anthropological documentation for the fact that the mentality wasn't "slavery is morally evil" but "enslave or be enslaved." So a slave didn't so much want to be "free" -- an abstract category that didn't exist -- but simply be the guy with the slaves.
In the link above, Happy Acres Guy alludes to the same thing vis-a-vis collectivism. Think about it: in the zero-sum economic world of the left, the wealthy man is a kind of criminal whose success has come at the expense of "the poor." Therefore, the leftist aspires to be the mirror image of the corrupt plutocrat via state power. Like the erstwhile slave who enslaves, Obama is the man of once modest means who now wields his power like a corrupt mafia lord.
Likewise the Clinton crime family. For them there is no possibility of clean power. Rather, they wish to seize power by any means necessary under the pretext that it will only be used for the benefit of the anonymous multitude of hapless rubes. The leftist convinces himself that his lust for power exists because it is in the service of others. Which is very much like the slaveholder who rationalized that without his paternalism, the childlike and ineffectual slaves would be incapable of caring for themselves.
Speaking of which, Dávila reminds us that power doesn't corrupt, rather, that it "frees up latent corruption." Power did not corrupt George Washington, or Calvin Coolidge, or Winston Churchill, or Harry Truman.
Back to our discussion of the metaphysics of economics. Much of it comes down to the principle that an economy is not really about money or wealth, but rather, about information. This is why we can say there is such a thing as "economic truth."
In a free market, for example, a price consolidates and conveys a vast amount of information about how much of a thing exists and how many people want it -- or about its scarcity and desirability. If too many people want what is too scarce, then the price naturally rises. But at the same time, because of the rising price, more people will be willing to jump in and produce the scarce thing. You can make something a "right" -- like healthcare. But that will hardly make it less scarce.
Especially if the state gets involved and decides the price is "too high," as in college, housing, and medicine. Of course, the state can do nothing to alter the actual cost, which costs what it costs. Reducing the price of diamonds won't magically create more. To the contrary, in the long run it will inevitably result in fewer diamonds. Money doesn't talk. Rather, prices talk and money listens, flowing to where its return will be greatest.
But the real link between metaphysics and economics has to do with time. Recall our definition of economics: the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. And the flow of scarce resources into this or that use will have a cost. But what is this "cost" in absolute terms? We can't say the cost is this or that amount of money, because that is related to a host of factors, and always changing.
Thus, the real cost of anything is the value of its alternative uses. That's a tricky one to wrap your mind around, but you can apply it to life itself. For example, what is the "cost" of watching television? It is simply the forgoing of whatever else you could have done with the time, which is gone forever. Time is the ultimate nonrenewable resource.
So, I wrote this little memo to myself in the margin: the real value of your life is what else you might have done with it. So choose wisely, my friends!