Monday, February 17, 2014

Liberty, Mills, and Lying to Ourselves

Three Cheers for the Nanny State -

Reading this article reminded me of the old "Everything I say is a lie" ... "I'm lying". Wrestle with that for awhile if you choose, but the lady that wrote this ought to pay more attention. If everything I say is a lie, then me telling you "that was a lie"... but if that is a lie, then ...
"We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life. Give us complete liberty, and, barring natural disasters, we’ll end up where we want to be. It’s a nice vision, one that makes us feel proud of ourselves. But it’s false."
"WE have a vision of ourselves" ... well, some of us do. Primarily the folks that are like the lady writing the article. True Christians certainly don't have that vision -- they believe that both their heart and their reason are extremely self oriented and deceitful.

But those cheering for the Nanny State certainly DO believe that THEY, and the "proper authorities" have that vision and it is CORRECT! John Stewart Mill, Augustine, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, etc were all wrong, but the Statists are RIGHT! It is amazing how "refined" the human species has become in just a few thousand years. It must be because ONLY the "liberals" have gotten smarter through "natural selection", and the poor folks that don't see their brilliance have been "left behind".
Mill was wrong about that, though. A lot of times we have a good idea of where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations.
Yup, Mill was wrong ... err, actually, maybe MOST people have a terrible idea of "how to get there", but if you allow liberty, SOME will figure out ways that work, and they may well be REWARDED because MOST were wrong, but since ALL had liberty, SOME figured out things that worked! In biology it is called "evolution" ... make a lot of tries and the ones that work WIN! 
The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly. It’s not quite the simple ignorance Mill was talking about, but it turns out that our minds are more complicated than Mill imagined. Like the guy about to step through the hole in the bridge, we need help.
Yup, that is A "crucial point" ... in fact the STANDARD "progressive" problem in almost all situations is confusing ends with means and failing to get the means right, then not realizing it and running everything into the ditch. Eventually, they are so pissed and disgusted, they start killing people that disagree with them because they MUST be right!!!!
Of course, what people fear is that this is just the beginning: today it’s soda, tomorrow it’s the guy standing behind you making you eat your broccoli, floss your teeth, and watch “PBS NewsHour” every day. What this ignores is that successful paternalistic laws are done on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: if it’s too painful, it’s not a good law.  Making these analyses is something the government has the resources to do, just as now it sets automobile construction standards while considering both the need for affordability and the desire for safety
See, "The Government" ... you know, the folks that brought us BOcare, the TSA, the NSA, the Vietnam war, 17 trillion in debt, etc, etc, ... THEY ... THOSE PEOPLE, they are the ones that "have the resources"! Why? Well maybe because money stolen from some people buys "real smarts" ... or maybe giving a lot of people cushy but insanely boring  bureaucratic jobs somehow makes them "more qualified" than normal humans. Mill was clearly an idiot to think that what we needed was "a lot of attempts", and some mechanism that gave us feedback as to what worked.

I'm  an idiot ... I have doubts. I actually did like the book by Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, "Thinking Fast and Slow", but next to John Stuart Mill, they are about as profound as Reverend Moon next to Jesus. YES!!!! We have A LOT of "cognitive biases" ... and even WORSE problems ... we are mortal  human sinners!!!  The really sad part of it is that knowing that is like a guy whose parachute won't open in free fall -- he is totally understanding of his condition, but he is completely helpless to help himself. 

If he is in that situation because he and 100 other people fell out of a jet, the the author of the column would be the one proudly yelling, "Hey, you are all in free fall, and I have figured that out!!!!" 

Only since the real world lasts longer than free fall even from a jet, she wants to pass laws requiring that we all flap our arms!!

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