Bad Philosophy

Be Wary of Bad Philosophy

Using propaganda with half-baked ideas, politicians tempt us with promises of financial or physical security. They can never deliver those. Worse, the price they ask is your freedom.

By Dan Smith

“Power tends to corrupt”, Lord Acton tells us.  When you give away the power to run your own life as you see fit, politicians tend to use that power to look after their own needs, first and foremost.

The lesson is that you should be suspicious of any slogan or philosophy which asks you to hand over that power. A great many popular political philosophies ask you to do just that. Be wary of such potentially bad philosophy. It’s everywhere and politicians are trying to get you to vote for it, and then use it against you.

Many politicians and pundits will claim they are not linked to any philosophy or ideology. They will claim they just do “what works.” Such supposed pragmatism is often just what sounds good in the moment, as long as you don’t ask too many questions or look at where similar ideas have been tried before. But they’re rooted in philosophy, nevertheless.

Politicians and “thought leaders” will propose all manner of slogans, policies and ideas to see what gets accepted by the public. They drop the ones which don’t catch on and pursue those which the media or their constituents find appealing. While this might sound like representing the will of the people, it really is just groping around trying to find a way to sell bad ideas. Many of the ideas are old failures, repackaged to appear as though they’re new and worthy of trial.

Further, the ideas seem to benefit politicians and their friends a lot more than you or me.

These slogans tend to have one thing in common. They want to cut a deal: you give away more of your personal freedom and the money you’ve earned and, in return, the politicians and elites promise they’ll punish some group you don’t like or make sure you’re safe and taken care of.

That’s been tried, many times and in many forms. It doesn’t work. It’s a raw deal—every time.

Here are a few of those sentiments and philosophies which have been popular over the years [along with commentary about some underlying issues].

  • “It takes a village” – originally an African proverb about raising children, Hillary Clinton popularized the idea that modern society should be run like a small village, where everyone shares the burdens of everyone else and village elders (politicians and elites) make decisions for the villagers [forgetting that the elites and elders whom you’ve never met have no idea what’s best for you and your family; oh, and we’re not living in a small village!]
  • “Promoting family values” – strong families tend to produce productive and kind people, so our laws should subsidize and enforce such a morality, while punishing deviant behaviors [such as defining marriage to that written in scripture, promoting the subprime mortgage crisis and unleashing the brutality of the failed War on Drugs]
  • You didn’t build that” – Barack Obama’s idea that no one is successful on their own—the public roads deliver products and the public schools trained you and your workers, so the successful should “give back”—offer to forfeit more of their income to the collective who support them [forgetting the fact that taxes and fees were already paid for those things; and you weren’t given your success—you risked, sacrificed, created value and exchanged that value freely . . . so there’s no obligation to ‘give back’]
  • “Protecting our vital national interests” – as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said many times, the United States should intervene in World affairs if our national interests are at risk [our “interests” are usually a nebulous concept, but seem to involve oil or allies who purchase our weapons systems]
  • The paradox of choice” – life today has too many options and choices, you become confused and make bad choices [and you should surrender many of your options—to politicians and intellectual elites who somehow know best]
  • “The wealthy become indifferent to human suffering” –social experiments show that the wealthy lose touch with other human’s problems, they are bad people and politicians and elites should help them be better people [as if politicians and elites corner the market on goodness; and despite the vast amounts of charity that the wealthy contribute]
  • “We must be policeman of the World in order to spread American values”—the United States is the indispensable, exceptional nation which must force its values on other nations [often through occupations, hand-picking dictators, election tampering, bombings, invasions and buying foreign officials]
  • “Inequality of outcomes is wrong and dangerous”– pointing to the French Revolution, warriors for economic justice claim that inequality of outcomes is unjust and will tear our society apart; they wish to redistribute wealth to correct for such injustice [despite the curious lack of historical examples of free societies facing these dire outcomes; forgets the incredible standard of living our “unjust” system has created; forgets that redistribution locks people into dependency and stunts investment; and doesn’t consider that a large, active state may be the cause of much of the inequality]

There are other examples which don’t lend themselves directly to policy, but which lay a foundation for permitting the government to take away more of your money and freedoms. There’s today’s popular postmodern philosophy claims that there may be no reality, so one can justify any policy or action which feels appropriate.  There’s also the view that science is showing that there is no free will—our decisions are predetermined, so you might as well submit to your fate [which is apparently defined as what politicians and elites have prescribed for you].

Note that these are simplifications of ideas summarized by someone who finds them largely repugnant. So, you should research and consider them yourself. But be sure to look at the examples where they’re put into practice—because reality is the best yardstick of a philosophy’s worth.

But looking at these slogans and philosophies, one notices a pattern:  you should not live your life as you see fit. Rather, elites and politicians should be making critical decisions for you and everyone else.

The propaganda is designed to sell you on that idea—to get you outraged . . . to say, “something ought to be done!”. Proponents of these ideas want you to surrender your rights and give elites the power to take some portion of what you’ve earned and run ever-larger portions of your life for you.

They use guilt, fear, pride, envy or anger—primitive emotions to keep you from using your logic and reason which might have you question the half-baked, self-nullifying behavior of giving such people more power over you.

They all presume you are a tool of the collective and can be directed by elites to the presumed benefit of the collective. In such a World, your needs and desires are secondary, at best. Many of the same people who claim to fight for diversity also fight to make outcomes and our lives uniform. You are being asked to forsake logic and reason. Your individuality is lost as you become a pawn of the collective.

What could go wrong?

People want “justice”. That’s a good and proper thing. But there’s a huge difference between:  justice in the form of being left alone to pursue your dreams, versus the justice of pursuing equality of outcomes. The former promotes individuality and leads to prosperity. The latter is a dead end. It gives power to people who will invariably use it to benefit themselves. Yielding freedom doesn’t even achieve its primary goal—as elites always end up with better outcomes.

Freedom is the one thing that works, again and again.  People free to make their own social and financial choices, and free to make and learn from their own mistakes, tends to generate the best outcomes.

Question these slogans. Hold onto your options. Consider choosing freedom.

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