Freedom quest of Zork (the) Hun

The cost of free is freedom

Declaring war on stupid


2015-08-29 Mark Twain

Reading with my coffee in the morning, within twenty minutes, I was confronted with a week’s worth of stupidity. I couldn’t help noticing a system in their nature.
Before I share them with you, let me give you my definition of what ‘stupid’ is – or to be more precise, what ‘stupid’ means to me.

Stupid

Stupid is not dumb or unintelligent. Stupid is not ignorant or uninterested. Stupid is usually the result of willful acts. The willful laziness to think, the willful ignorance of evidence contrary to one’s opinion, the willful disregard for reality.
Stupid is simply saying or doing something without actually thinking about it. Without really thinking it through. Without considering the logic, the possible implications and the evidence available both for and against.
Doctrinaire ideology is quite often stupid. Dogma is stupid. Religions, especially the political ones such as communism and environmentalism are stupid.
Stupid is what stupid does says Forest Gump. I do not believe that the people I will be quoting are stupid, but they can say some really stupid things.

Stupid comes in many varieties such as personal, collective or institutional but I suspect that in each case, stupidity is a collective act to support group identity and conformity.

Personal stupid

It started with a call for a ‘war on poverty’ on Facebook with a comment:
“only world-wide war on poverty will provide lasting change”, evolving into this short exchange:

ZGH …..and we know this because all the other wars are so successful……
freedom is the only effective ‘tool’ against poverty, waging war on anything creates only devastation

AM –  Can’t help but disagree. We need the same grass roots activism that we have against Monsanto and GMO against greed and poverty, poverty is no less under freedom than fascism or dictatorship. Some families will always be poor where OK others take advantage to make themselves not just wealthy but wealthier still. Greed knows no boundaries, poverty end in an early grave, under educated, mal adjusted children, all of it unnecessary.

The point of the post or the video it is commenting on is not the point of this post. Analyzing the causes and the circumstances of this latest Muslim invasion of Europe is serious business. What we can know for sure, however, is that it has nothing to do with greed, poverty or genetically modified organisms.

Doesn’t she know that freedom reduces poverty? Did she never hear about the Fraser Institute and its economic freedom index? Doesn’t she know that more than a billion people have been lifted out of abject poverty in the past two decades? Is she not aware that we did not yet have a famine in this century? Does she not know that famines (especially in modern times) are mostly the result of politics? And how on earth did Monsanto and GMO in general get into the poverty picture? Genetic engineering is poised to be the most powerful force in the elimination of hunger and poverty around the world. We may have issues with this or that company in particular or some philosophical, moral or even practical questions about genetics in general, but NOT about its effect on poverty and food safety.Anti-GMO ‘activists’ do not have a problem seeing millions of children die, just as Rachel Carson had no consideration for the harm her faulty science caused.

This short rant is just pile of unexamined stupidity, slogans from the communist political dictionary. The idea that the rich is responsible for the poverty of the poor, that being rich means that the rich is ‘greedy’, that there is no difference between the outcomes of ‘freedom’ and fascism.

Stupidity on a personal level is a tool of social identification. With the dropping of emotionally charged buzz-words and seeing the reaction to it one can easily identify the social groups aligned with his own world view. It functions like dog’s sniffing each other’s butts or marking their territory.

Collective stupid

Then I picked up the latest issue of The Economist on genetic engineering to find this pearl in it (highlights are mine):

If CRISPR can be shown to be safe in humans, mechanisms will also be needed to grapple with consent and equality. Gene editing raises the spectre of parents making choices that are not obviously in the best interests of their children. Deaf parents may prefer their offspring to be deaf too, say; pushy parents might want to boost their children’s intelligence at all costs, even if doing so affects their personalities in other ways. And if it becomes possible to tweak genes to make children smarter, should that option really be limited to the rich?

The suggestion that parents with a disability would insist that their children should also be handicapped is preposterously stupid. So is the idea that intelligence could come at the expense of other personality traits. The last of the unexamined pearls of wisdom is the idea that the rich will have yet another unfair advantage just because they are rich. Don’t they know that they already do? Charles Murray dedicated a whole book, “Coming Apart” to the subject.
Don’t they care how primitive this truism is? That you can buy more stuff if you have money than if you don’t?

The Economist is pro genetics but it is also pro statist and very much trying to be populist (if not outright collectivists). It often tries to balance the populism when trying to discuss potentially controversial subjects, and genetics is a very contentious subject in Europe.
Collective stupidity is a political tool to manipulate collective opinion. It has to be simple and slogan-like to make it easy for people to identify with them. The Economist is not as stupid as let’s say David Suzuki, Naomi Klein or Helen Caldecott could be, but the principle is the same. Unifying the sympathetic masses with unexamined emotional slogans.

Institutional stupid

But this two has been definitely trumped by A libertarian sermon on immigration.

“There is a common perception that there are two alternative libertarian positions on immigration: government-controlled borders and open borders.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There is only one libertarian position on immigration, and that position is open immigration or open borders.”
– Jacob G. Hornberger

The blog post is full of logical fallacies, mostly of the straw-man type. The comments of the poster in the ensuing conversation are also mostly wrong.
I will not torture you or myself with analyzing the post as I will address the question of immigration in my next post. The only point that matters here is the argument of the author that I cannot call myself a libertarian if I do not agree with his dogmatic interpretation of what that means.

Is it possible that he cannot see the immigration problems of Europe? Can’t he see how immigration became politicized and in practice it mainly serves the interest of the statist political parties? Can’t he understand that more of the same will harm the cause of liberty instead of helping it? Does he really think that the dogmatic approach will gain more votes than it will cost? Could it be that he just doesn’t care?

I suspect that the answer to the last question is yes. For an alarming number of libertarians ideological purity is more important than the actual betterment of the world. For many, liberty is a religion, not a practical political philosophy to make the world a better place. What people of faith need are easy to identify dogmas and emotionally charged sermons. Reverend Jacob’s sermon is very explicit on the issue: if you do not buy the dogma, you are not part of the flock. It never seem to cross his mind that introducing an idealized libertarian policy into a socialist reality may not produce the best results. Let the whole world come to pick up our welfare cheques! That is institutional stupid.
There is an interesting exchange between Hans Herman Hoppe on immigration and Walter Block’s rebuttal to Hans Herman Hoppe in The Journal of Libertarian Studies. Which argument is closer to your heart does not really matter. The debate examines the issues.

Capitulation

Can we wage a war on stupid? Is it even possible to live without it? Group identity is important and so is communicating ideas in a way that makes them easy to grasp. I just wish that at least the people who articulate them would be a little more critical before voicing them.
I don’t think we should have a war on anything. Only persuasion can solve our problems, not aggression; no matter how strongly we feel about the issue.

Can I wage war on stupid? I should not. Heeding Mark Twain’s advice, I am ready to capitulate. The only thing I can do is shedding some light on stupid ideas, ‘examining’ them if you will.
Next Post: immigration.

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