Monday, September 09, 2013

The Left has No Means of Becoming Less Stupid

Which, of course, I mean literally, not polemically, and certainly not as some kind of gratuitous insult. I am always here to help. It's what I do. So Back off, man. I'm a psychologist.

This is one of the theses of Kevin Williamson's The End is Near, although he is apparently too averse to hatemail to express the sentiment so candidly.

Rather, he demonstrates how government is intrinsically inefficient, dysfunctional, and irrational, because it has no means of becoming less wrong. In short, it cannot evolve. So it stands to reason that the people -- i.e., leftists -- who support this way of allocating our resources and organizing our collective life will suffer from the same deficit, either as a cause or consequence. They too cannot become less wrong about politics.

"In biological terms, the operative mechanism of evolution is... death. Species evolve because death sorts out the reproductive success of individual members of that species" (Williamson). But the state is more or less immortal. It cannot go out of business, no matter how wrong, how inept, how unsatisfactory its products. Obama is trying as hard as he can to prove this.

Take most any product in the marketplace, and see how it has evolved in recent decades. Williamson cites the example of the cell phone. I remember a friend in the late 1980s who had one of these gizmos -- it was the size of a car battery and didn't work especially well. But at least it only cost 10,000 in today's dollars.

I am not what you would call an early adopter. Rather, I'm a late-to-never adopter, but even my rudimentary cell phone is exponentially better than the Gordon Gekko brick-style model of a quarter century ago. Why is this? And why is the Post Office just as bad as ever?

Imagine if, in 1990, the federal government had decided that cell phones are so important a human right that everyone is entitled to one. They throw billions of dollars at the Cellyndra Company to produce millions of the BrickPhones we still lug around to this day. Because the company has been freed of marketplace constraints, it has no need to evolve, adjust, improve, reduce costs.

Williamson asks us to think about Social Security, which was instituted in 1935. What other consumer products from that era are still in use? Now try to imagine all the innovation that has been lost as a result of Social Security being spared the need to evolve. President Bush attempted one tiny innovation to bring the system up to date, and look what happened. An entrenched government system doesn't know how to improve, but it certainly knows how to defend itself. It does so by enlisting a legion of left wing crockpuppets and sneermongers to come to its defense.

It seems that everything improves except government and those things government deeply involves itself in (we'll leave culture and morality to the side for the moment, but there is a latent relationship there as well, if only because of the educational establishment's monopoly on access to fresh young skulls of mush).

Williamson writes of how "middle-class people have access to things that either did not exist a generation ago or were restricted to the very wealthy." And common consumer goods -- automobiles, for example -- are vastly superior to what existed a generation ago. Today's average car is much better than a luxury car of 30 years ago.

"But there is another class of goods that either stagnates or follows the opposite trajectory: lower quality, higher price. These goods include education, health insurance, and many basic governmental services" (ibid.)

Nor could you improve these things by having even the Most Intelligent Man in the Universe at the top, for the same reason that, say, the visions of Steve Jobs couldn't become reality in the absence of a competitive market offering a continuous stream of corrective feedback, so the company could become less wrong over time.

We again come up against Hayek's knowledge barrier, which the left, by definition, imagines it can break through. But as Williamson points out at the beginning of the book -- citing the famous 1958 essay by Leonard Read -- no one even knows how to make a goddamn pencil (i.e., has personal knowledge of forestry, mining, metallurgy, engineering, machining, chemistry, marketing, sales, et al), so someone who presumes to know how to remake the healthcare system is truly delusional. There's really no other way of putting it.

You might say that ignorance of complexity is a measure of the depth of ignorance. Thus, no amount of knowledge can replace the most important knowledge of all: that the system is too complex to be reduced to some pinhead's abstraction.

And in politics there is no penalty for being wrong, because you're always playing with someone else's money and shifting responsibility to third parties, and no one can see the connections unless they go off grid and exit the educational/media matrix controlled by the left.

I want to shift gears and enter into the cultural/spiritual aspect of this question. By coincidence, this weekend I read a couple of typically clueminous essays by Schuon, one called Modes of Spiritual Realization, the other The Anonymity of the Virtues.

In the first, Schuon highlights the axiom that there exist three principle modes of approach to God, i.e., knowledge, love, and action. Here we are concerned with knowledge, because naturally we want to become less spiritually stupid: less blind, less deluded, less lost in subjectivity.

As an asnide, imagine if government invented a religion!

You don't have to imagine. It's called liberal statism.

Anyway, let's say I'm some kind of presumptuous brainiac who wants to possess Total Knowledge of God. Well, first of all, if there's a knowledge barrier preventing total knowledge of pencils, what makes you think there's less of a barrier vis-a-vis God?

So, do we have to remain in total ignorance? Yes and no. Schuon writes that

"Strictly speaking, a man should not wish to 'acquire' a particular virtue" -- in this case, knowledge of the Divine -- "but to eliminate a particular vice; to realize a quality is to destroy the fault that is contrary to it..."

Now, speaking of Obama, "There are men with the vain ambition to be exceptionally intelligent, and this makes them all the more stupid." In other words, intelligence is rendered stupid if it is unaware of its intrinsic limitations.

Intelligence is a mirror, and a mirror doesn't require much in order to accurately reflect its object -- basically "purity," or lack of contamination. You could say that the mirror belongs to God, whereas we are responsible for the smudges -- insane passions, envious resentments, quests for domination, pretenses to omniscience, tenured stupidity, etc.

"In a certain metaphysical sense, only our faults belong to us; our qualities belong to God, to the Good as such. By eliminating the vices, we allow the qualities of God to penetrate our soul." Or, "from another point of view... it is we who enter into the virtue" -- in this case, intelligence.

So, as in politics, we become more intelligent by slowly ridding ourselves of the stupid.


swiftone said...

Wow, just wow. First the post connects some important dots for me, and OT's comment sounds a discordant note fo' sho'. The connections between freedom and free markets are newish to me, but like an aha. OT says get out and get political to change things. Did he read the last half? The only thing we truly can change is ourselves, and those who hanker to fix stuff by going into government are really hankering for to get their hands on some of the levers. That way is not freedom. Or free markets. Seek truth, not power.

Gagdad Bob said...

Or, at least rid the Cosmos of one malevolent being before presuming to transform all the other assouls.

Gagdad Bob said...

I left out another really good quote that applies to Obama:

"A proud man either denies his faults or is proud of them; the corollary of this attitude is that he exaggerates the faults of other people or even projects his own faults -- without minimizing them this time -- onto others, including those who have not the slightest trace of them; indeed he does this all the more with such people out of a kind of vengeance" (Schuon).

For a multitude of examples, just think of the disgusting things said of a good and decent man, Romney.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

An entrenched government system doesn't know how to improve, but it certainly knows how to defend itself. It does so by enlisting a legion of left wing crockpuppets and sneermongers to come to its defense."

Aye, those are excellent descriptions of the mindless drones of the nanny State and their synchophants in the media.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of vengeance, that is Obama's number one priority.
He works hard to wreak vengeance on America and the ideals of life, liberty and property.
As well as any who would oppose his personal jihad against everything we hold good, true and beautiful.

mushroom said...

Biologically it's death. Economically it is bankruptcy or the failure of a business. We mourn death, and we feel bad when a business fails, but without the decimation of competition, there is no fittest to survive.

julie said...

Nor could you improve these things by having even the Most Intelligent Man in the Universe at the top, for the same reason that, say, the visions of Steve Jobs couldn't become reality in the absence of a competitive market offering a continuous stream of corrective feedback, so the company could become less wrong over time.

Hm. This strikes me as close to being an "as above, so below" sort of statement, but I feel too stupid just now to flesh it out...

ge said...

The Left has No Means of Becoming Less Stupid [the means may be there but they are bra-brains who reject it]...
6 weeks of faithful listening to Rush plus daily visits here, respectfully abstaining from cOmmenTing, and cold-turkeying from "Sulzbergers' Folly"* oughta get the ball rolling at least halfway there

* nyt, nyet?

Unknown said...


I remember reading here less thana year ago about how sensation limits realit and that in death, when sensation is no longer available to us, in death, we are plunged into the flood of unmediated reality. It was described really well, like being turned inside out. I have spent an hour searching for the words death, sensation, and limit and all the forms of those words but was unable to rediscover that insight. Would you care to comment on this phenomenon. I do realize you have not actually experienced this.

Here is my take. Just as a 2d being sees in 1d, and us 3d beings see in only 2d, gaining knowledge about our higher dimension surroundings from induction, a 4d being would really see things as true 3d objects, seeing into things. As Collridge said, science only takes away surfaces, but there is an inside that is prior to all surfaces, that science and discursive reason cannot get at. Discursive reason begins from incompleteness and moves to completeness by means of logic, where as noetic perception is immediate and direct. This is analogous to dimensionality. Discursive reason is like 1d vision because it sees only one thing at a time, and then moves to the next, in a chain of thought finally arriving at the conclusion. Noetic vision sees all at once as if it has a wider field of view. Therefore it is getting at the inner essence of things directly.

Assuming that reality is constituted by a spectrum of reality that is infinitely rich, our senses limit this reality, giving it an intelligible form. Our concepts of the world shape our perceptions. And our concepts are shaped by and linked to our senses. Once deprived of our senses, we come up against reality as it is, what I call "just this" , this mysterious, ever arriving moment of reality, right here, right now.

Since you are not familiar with seeing or being in the world this way, like 4d x-ray vision, you would necessarily be quite bewildered.


Gagdad Bob said...

Some of what I supposedly said sounds vaguely familiar. But I take issue with not having experienced it. The extreme gardening incident of two weeks ago briefly tore the spacetime continuum.

Magister said...

Social Security, which was instituted in 1935. What other consumer products from that era are still in use?

This would've been a good question to ask in the 80's, when everybody was entering the New Era of personal computers. But the Plantation Owners in charge of the system squealed and shrieked. Every incremental improvement was painted as an existential threat to the Plantation. I remember it well.

The only thing a government entity has to do is spend. Since they don't risk insolvency, they don't have to be as smart as private firms, which are do or die. Even with the smartypants areas, like NSF, I'd like to see a serious analysis of ROI.

And I'd like to see US government spending come down from 40% of GDP to around 25%.

Magister said...

Putin must be laughing his ass off.

River Cocytus said...

There's one way you can make the market process totally fail to produce more fit results. Destroying the cultural and moral fabric of a people, which is that 'field' that energizes free agents to move in the right direction.

That causes the market to function merely as an expression of mass pathology, since in the absence of trained culture, religion, or the exceptional person who can gain such through independent experience, humans revert to bestial passions.

There is no freedom without personal restraint.

Unknown said...

Can you comment on how sensations limit reality, put a limit on reality, or limit our perception of reality? Is that anything to speak of?

River Cocytus said...

Inasmuch as reality is within the range of the senses, sensations reveal reality. Inasmuch as reality is beyond the senses, sensations do not reveal reality. Inasmuch as we believe reality to be only within the range of our senses, our sensations cause us to discount and ignore that which is beyond them.

We cannot know directly anything which is beyond our senses. It must be understood through an analogy or be analogized into something sensory that we may perceive it.

Unknown said...

I am fully aware that nothing is hidden, that everything needed for our awakening and flourishing already right here right now. That does not mean that the human mind is not also concerned with a variety of subjects ancillary to our ultimate concern, such as the relation of what can be known and what is to self-identity, and what it means to cease to be a living being with a material body. That said, my inquiry is mainly philosophical relating to apologetics or worldview, that is answering objections of materialist reductionists who deny that human personality is more that chemical reactions in the brain, not Buddhist epistemology.