Sunday, October 02, 2011

Vox Homer

Thought is also always rooted in values and motivations. We ordinarily think not for the sake of thinking but to achieve certain goals based on our system of values. Here possibilities for confusion arise: the conflict between treasured values and measures that are regarded as necessary can produce some curious contortions of thought-"Bombs for Peace!" The original value is twisted into its opposite. Motivations provide equally ambiguous guidelines. There are those who would say that what counts are the intentions behind our thinking, that thought plays only a serving role, helping us achieve our goals but failing to go to the root of the evils in our world. In our political environment, it would seem, we are surrounded on all sides with good intentions. But the nurturing of good intentions is an utterly undemanding mental exercise, while drafting plans to realize those worthy goals is another matter. Moreover, it is far from clear whether "good intentions plus stupidity" or "evil intentions plus intelligence" have wrought more harm in the world. People with good intentions usually have few qualms about pursuing their goals. As a result, incompetence that would otherwise have remained harmless often becomes dangerous, especially as incompetent people with good intentions rarely suffer the qualms of conscience that sometimes inhibit the doings of competent people with bad intentions. The conviction that our intentions are unquestionably good may sanctify the most questionable means. [Ed]

Dietrich Dorner, The Logic of Failure.

Democratic political theory places a particular importance in checking the power of government, fearing that the untrammeled exercise of power is the pre-condition of eventual tyranny. Therefore, the constitutions of Western governments place checks and balances on the exercise of governing power. The threat of malevolent government is easily recognised, what's not recognised however, is the threat of the benevolent yet stenosophistic mob.

Stenosophism's evil lays in frustrating the goal of its possessor, through an inability to grasp the complexities of the situation, and hence act appropriately to achieve his goals. So while the actor may have good intentions, his actions produce unintended effects. Being on the side of the angels is of no merit if a man's actions have resulted in the ruin of the temple.

Now one of the many problems with recognition of evil is the common misunderstanding of evil as being associated with malice. But malice itself is of no harm unless it is expressed in act; an act which results in the privation of the thing being acted on. What matters then is not the intentionality behind a an act but the consequences of it. Hence, men acting with incomplete knowledge are more likely to harm than make better. This isn't rocket science. For example, we don't ask the passengers to fly an aircraft, no matter how competent they feel or how sincere their intention to fly well; we demand a suitably qualified pilot. Pilots' knowledge of the reality and complexities of flying gives them a greater understanding of the consequences of their actions: something the passengers don't have.

Now, it's quite possible for the pilot, despite all his training, to crash the aircraft, but the odds are far less likely than if we were to give a random passenger control of the aircraft. Now, this may sound like a silly example but it isn't. Everyone recognises the importance of airline safety but very few recognised the importance of government survival, yet government survival is far more important than flying an aircraft. A country can survive without an aviation industry, but it can't survive without a government. Think about who controls your social security, regulates the banks, conscripts your children and polices your streets.

Even Austrian Economics, that great bastion of individual choice,  relies on the common good of property being protected by the existence of government. It the government fails so does property, and the world quickly descends into a Hobbsian state. Tyranny is not the only fear of the constitutional thinker ( Essentially as social "systems engineer"), so is self destruction.

John Boyd, a military strategist,  thought about system destruction in the context of military operations quite a lot. His way of beating the enemy was to assess the situation (gain a greater grasp of reality) and then act accordingly. One the implied methods of attack, according to his theory, was to get the enemy to become disorientated with regard to reality and to act in such a way that contrary to his interest.  The ideal Boydian strategist then, should be able to get the enemy to shoot himself in the head voluntarily and eagerly by perceptual manipulation.What you want, if you wish destruction, is for the enemy to eagerly pursue actions which are contrary to his goals.

In my opinion, Boyd had some flaws with his theory, and one of them was the failure to recognise that most humans simply don't have the capacity to fully grasp reality: It's a hardware problem. You can teach people all you want about system stability, but the proof of it is in being able to apply it in practice; there has to be a functional ability there.

The stable democracies of the west were initially set up with a limited franchise, as the respective constitutional architects were well aware that limiting the power of a irresponsible or evil monarch was of no benefit if political power was passed onto to an irresponsible, stupid or evil mob. They wanted political power wielded by responsible hands to ensure system stability as they were well aware of both the malice of kings and the stenosophism of the proles. Something that seems to be forgotten in today's deification of the common man and unquestioning approval of the universal franchise. A lot of righties, who otherwise vigourously defend current democracy, fail to note that the leftward shift of modern culture is correlated with the expansion of the voting franchise.

Now, how you limit the franchise is open to honest debate. Personally, I'd like the qualification to be based on a proven ability of an individual to successfully manage their own affairs. A man who can't get his own stuff together has no right lecturing me on mine. Bankrupts, adulterers, criminals, people who still have a mortgage, certain welfare recipients, those who are not paying taxes, people possessing too much wealth, etc, would all be excluded the franchise in my scheme things. The point here is not where you draw the line, but in recognising that a line needs to be drawn. To many people on the right worry endlessly about the responsible and limited government power without paying any attention to responsible voting: not recognising that one is impossible without the other.

Democracy fails when the imprudent prevail.


Country Lawyer said...

"the failure to recognise that "All" humans simply don't have the capacity to fully grasp reality."

Corrected that for you. It isn't most, it is ALL.

None of us are capable of fully grasping reality.

And this is the fundamental flaw in your thinking.

Certainly a pilot is better at flying his plane than a passenger, but is he better at flying two planes at once? or twenty, or a hundred?

Of course not.

And that is the problem. There is not one human that is capable of foreseeing the full consequences of their long term plans. Of being able to control all the factors needed.

And a group of "smart" people working in tandum can often be worse, not better at making decisions because of the personalities involved.

Finally, as for democracy, the single most important factor in the way our government works is Gender.

Look at Lott's work on women's suffrage. As soon as a state gave women the right to vote, the size and scope and nature of government changed. Despite few women holding office, men immediately began catering to women for their votes.

When you speak of long term thinking and short term thinking, there is a huge divide between women and men.

Women as a political force are by their nature tyrannical and totalitarian in their drive to make things "safe."

So I am in fact all for limiting the franchise and the easiest corrective is to end women's suffrage.

This is never going to happen until Western Civilization collapes and then the issue of who gets to vote will be moot and irrelevant.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Country Lawyer

The whole crux of your argument seems to be, because no one can have a perfect perception of reality, then no one can make any superior claim with regard to it.

Certainly a pilot is better at flying his plane than a passenger, but is he better at flying two planes at once? or twenty, or a hundred

What sort of twisted logic is this? A pilot can't do the physically impossible any more than a passenger can. Are you seriously suggesting that even in the above scenario, you reckon that the passenger would perform better? Would you get into an aircraft with a common passenger behind the control stick instead of a pilot?

Yeah, sure.

The crux of your argument seems to be that the only person with a claim of authority is the perfect, otherwise everyone is the same. It's perfection or nothing for you.
Sorry, the real world doesn't work like that.

Success in the world, is measured by an ability to interact with it successfully, and there are some who are better at it than others. It's just a fact of life. Otherwise the dissolute drunk, the street ho, and the petty criminal would be just as happy and successful in life as your typical professional graduate. It doesn't work out that way. Some ways of life are objectively better. There is enough scientific evidence to show that on average its better to be married than not on a variety of measures. To say otherwise is reality denial.

As for women; I'd rather the vote of a smart woman to that of a stupid man's. I don't care about the sex or race of a voter, just how well he/she can manage their life and how well they see their interest intertwined with others.

Country Lawyer said...

No, the crux of your argument is that because some people are better thinkers (how you measure that I would love to see how that works) they should be put in charge of everyone else.

Its a nonstarter.

Certainly they are better able to judge the direction of their own lives (or to use your metaphor to pilot their airplane) but once you put them in charge of everyone else's lives (all the other airplanes) the crashes start occuring.

That's not twisted logic, its common sense.

No one is capable of doing that and no one is better able to tell (order/force/compel) a person how to live their lives than the person themselves.

The crux of my argument is that there is a perfect authority: God.

What you lack is faith. You don't trust God, because you don't trust men.

Placing a human being or a group of human beings in charge of everyone else will fail. Always does fail, always moves toward tyranny and oppression

And since it cannot be perfected (as you readily admit) it should never be done in the first place.

People individually are better governors over their own lives than any government, any group of cognitive elite.

You still have not defined Common Good. I suspect you're utilitarian in your outlook (the common good is situational and whatever has the best outcome should be done, this is the direction of most "common good" arguments).

You mention happiness as a measure of a person's life and that is utilitarian. (Oh, how I hate that word. I loath it. So much evil is wrought in the pursuit of it. As if it is the goal, and not a by product.)

Utilitarians tend to be sociopathic:

Tell me, how would you impliment the type of government of the better thinkers? How would you put it in place, how much authority would they have over all of us, what would be the limits, why would they be beholden to those limits.

It was not dumb women, but unhappy smart ones that brought us feminism, no fault divorce, and alpha chasing.

Something to ponder.

Intelligence is often not wisdom.

The Social Pathologist said...

No, the crux of your argument is that because some people are better thinkers (how you measure that I would love to see how that works) they should be put in charge of everyone else

No, they should be put in charge of the common good.

No one is capable of doing that and no one is better able to tell (order/force/compel) a person how to live their lives than the person themselves.

How people want to live their lives is really up to them insofar as it affects them personally. Once their actions start impacting on the community, their "freedom" comes at some expense to others besides themselves. Every right is a reciprocal obligation by someone else, therefore liberty is not some absolute, rather a balance between individual and community interests.

You still have not defined Common Good. I suspect you're utilitarian in your outlook

No, I'm an ontological realist.

Tell me, how would you impliment the type of government of the better thinkers

I'm not trying to weasel my way out of this because the answer is not suited to a combox discussion, but think along the lines of the American founding fathers. Who did they enfranchise? People can have liberty without the right to vote.

JMsmith said...

Country Lawyer,
When you write that "no one is better able to tell a person how to live their life than the person themselves," there's a good deal of ambiguity in the phrase "better able." It is true that the dictates of the self will appear (to the self) more legitimate, and so compliance will be greater. If I tell myself to go and drink a can of beer, I'm not likely to grumble and shirk the task. But it is most certainly not true that these dictates will yield optimal outcomes. I would almost certainly be healthier if my diet were under the direction of a competent dietician, and my retirement account would almost certainly look a lot better if I could afford a professional investor. There are good reasons to let people manage their own lives, but that they do a good job of it is not one of them.

And not a few do a truly horrible job of managing their lives. They are not happy because they are free; they are miserable because their live is a complete mess. I'm not a social Darwinist, so I don't say these people "belong in the gutter" (real or metaphorical). The only alternative, so far as I can see, is paternalism. Adults who cannot manage their lives surrender autonomy for rational order.

This leads to my agreement with SP. A man who cannot govern himself cannot govern others, and so men who lead disorderly lives should not vote. SP isn't proposing an intelligence test or an aristocracy of Ph.D.'s. But a man who can't keep a marriage or a household together should not be entrusted with management of the state.

The Social Pathologist said...

Thanks JMSmith,

Jehu said...

I'd be perfectly happy to start with voting requires you to be a net tax payer.