People Space

Objectivity and Reason in a Mad World

Feelings Over Reason

Some years ago I was a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Like all COCs, it was as much a social organization as a business one; something I accepted, though I’m not really all that social.

This was back in the wild days of the Internet boom, with web design companies springing up like dandelions in a wet season (my own company did access and hosting for those smaller companies). It was also a time of retrenchment of local manufacturing companies and plenty of layoffs were being done among line workers.

The COC was, of course, concerned. Deeply, muchly heart-feltedly concerned…just ask them. So like night follows day, a panel was formed to address the problems of the newly unemployed line-workers. As luck would have it, I was selected to be on the committee.

This committee was composed of folks from the telecommunications and Internet Services businesses (like ours)–no retail or manufacturing people where to be seen. I noted the unusual weighting of the panel, and got a slightly snotty reply that the makeup was intentionally of those growing companies–the ones who represented “the future.”

Our expected product was some recommendation to the newly unemployed manufacturing workers on how to prepare for and get a job in the local area. To a person, the committee (excepting me) came up with a plan to encourage them to take the webdesign and networking classes at the local community college. After all;  who could argue with the value of such education?


Looking around the room, and seeing folks who were graduates of good colleges, many with MAs, MSs, or BFAs, I asked: “If they complete these courses at the community college, who here will promise to hire them?”

You could have heard a pin drop, until one young woman said in a supercilious tone, “We only hire BFAs.”

I replied, “When a guy who’s been working on the line for 10 or 15 years loses his job and then hears the Chamber recommending that he take those courses, he thinks we’re telling him that we will hire him of he does this. He isn’t concerned about self-actualization…he’s on the bottom level of Maslow’s Hierarchy: he needs to pay his rent and put food on the table.

If he spends his money and time on a handful of webdesign classes at the Community College, he’s going to discover that they are worth pretty much squat. We’ll be doing him a disfavor. Tell him to take a machine print reading class, or auto repair, or something in the trades.”

I became a pariah in the room. The meeting broke up soon after–they met later without me and, sure enough, recommended the webdesign and networking classes.

Two things: I was never invited to another committee and I learned that people who are in the social in-crowd typically are more concerned about how they feel about an issue (and how the other in-crowders will see them) than how to fix it. That’s why so many feel-good programs that are shown to be both wasteful and useless, continue on.

I’ve taken in troubled teenagers, homeless folks, and in one case a young woman who had every addiction, but who was working hard to clean up her act. There was even a time we took in an entire family for 5 months. I don’t mention this to get someone to think well of me–we had the means to do it at the time and it seemed the thing to do. Not every effort was a success, but some were and I carry no regrets for kindnesses done.

But I’m the one the committee considered mean and selfish. Go figure.

Why Law Matters

The most frightening power is that of the multitude to choose the master of the land. The founders of this nation knew that as well as any, hence the brilliant balancing of power within our Republic.

The President is chosen by the voters and at the same time the Representatives are voted in. To prevent the whole Congress from being the braying hounds of partisanship, the Senate was selected by the elected folks of the States–until the progressives finally won the battle to turn the Senate into a second, longer termed, House. This balancing act against the President was reinforced by the most perfect weapon of individual rights–the law of the land in the form of our Constitution.

But of course every possible grievance is reason, in toto, to dissolve the Constitution and select the correct outcome of the day. Since “we’re not perfect,” the infantile demanders of “perfection” take the good and throw it away–and then say, “but that’s not what I wanted to happen,” when the results come rolling in. Think Venezuala.

The history of the the world is not, as Marx claimed, a history of class warfare–it’s a history of competing dictatorships, many of which were supported by the very people who ended up as it’s serfs. The rule of law is the ONLY protection against a mob installing the next thug dictator…and now many, if not most, of our own people scoff at that.

An Old Lady Wins

I know a 70-year old woman in these parts of Virginia; let’s call her Jan. She and her husband ran a farm until he died 4 years ago–now she tends to the farm as well as she can.

It’s a hard life, and one made harder by a feud between them and a neighbor. I’ve no idea what issue started it and who is in the wrong; I only know the more recent events that have sprung from it.

About 5 months ago the neighbor (a very large 50ish man) accosted her on her own land–to make a long story short, he assaulted her (threw her to the ground). It wasn’t hard enough to cause many bruises or marks, but it terrified her. Of course she called the cops who came and took her statement then went to him. Result–it was a he said, she said situation. The local prosecutor declined to press charges.

So Jan found herself alone with no expectation of help from the authorities. She was convinced that the abuse would escalate unless something was done, so she took to wearing her husband’s old Smith and Wesson 38…all the time.

Apparently embolden by the non-response of the police, Big-boy showed up at Jan’s house, banging on the door. She simply opened the door, with the  side-arm perched on her hip and told him to leave her property and never come back. Big-boy saw the weapon and without a word left.

According to Jim Carey, Jan doesn’t deserve protection.  Lucky for her she has the means to protect herself.

Reason Doesn’t Apply

I’ve an acquaintance (call her Sally) who’s adamantly against allowing citizens to carry handguns of any type. She can endure “hunting” firearms  (though she doesn’t really support hunting), but thinks self-defense weapons are both unnecessary and dangerous. Citing the (peer reviewed) research of John Lott does not sway her view in the least and any standard argument leaves her unfazed.

So I found it interesting when I brought her up on one particular path–specifically: the carrying of handguns by off-duty police. She has no problem with off-duty cops bearing arms amongst us. When asked why it is desirable for a cop to carry, but not her law-abiding neighbor, the immediate response was, “The Police are trained.”

Now I can honesty say that based on my experience at the local range, many of my weapons-bearing friends are significantly more skilled in the handling and use of handguns than plenty of police officers. But that, as you can imagine, meant little to Sally. So I asked, “If I were to take the same training as the local police, would that suffice to gain your support?” Immediate answer: “No.”

Though it took a long, round-about discussion to get the point, we finally landed on it–She had absolute faith in an “authority”, but none in her fellow citizens.

So there you have it: some people trust the average citizen’s judgement and ability above the bureaucrat’s, while others will put their full trust in the bureaucrat.

And never the twain shall meet.

How I Stopped Being Liberal

I was a typical college socialist back in my graduate school days. The assumption among many folks back then–as is still true among academics today–was that government could do a good job of directing economic activity, and the results would be more “fair.” Fair meant more evenly of course.

Now truth be told, I wasn’t a big socialist in my heart–I accepted the necessity of more government because I thought it worked, but I had no love of dealing with bureaucrats. Because of my lack of belief in the one true solution, I was amenable to debate on economics and found myself struck by a short one I had (in the old Greeks’ Cellar)  with a friend who was a grad student in economics.

When I mentioned that I thought government could do a better job of directing the economy than “free market chaos,” Randy (my buddy) replied;
“Ed you’re a mathematician, a man of reason. What is the true measure of any theory or model?”

I responded with,  “The ability to predict.”

“Right. Now I would task you with looking at the predictions of Keynesians and socialists, versus those of the monetarists and classical economists, then you tell me which approach gives the better predictions.”

I did. And was soon after a strong libertarian.

Now don’t get me wrong–the libertarian impulse attracted me before. I really don’t get the love of government–I see it as a necessary part of a functioning society, but it should be limited to those areas for which government is particularly suited. As a doctrinaire college liberal, that meant pretty much every area since I accepted (as do 90%+  of college folks) the belief that government is both efficient and effective.

It is not. The decades since my 1970’s conversion have shown time and again that heavy government in economies leads to impoverishment. It’s actually easy to see, if you’re committed to reality rather than popular belief. Sadly, many folks hold dear to secular beliefs as strongly as some hold to religious ones.

I’ve lost many friends by pointing out the failures of their beloved socialistic actions. Not infrequently they will say (loudly, usually) that even though I may be right, they still believe in their vaunted better world. Typically their better world is one filled with people just like the one they see in the mirror.

Reason does not rule man; superficial beliefs do. The most deadly is the belief that men can and will become better through the force of well intentioned government, that we can all be made to behave in the proper, government sanctioned manner–eat less fat, more fresh vegetables, no smoking (and whatever you do, don’t run with a knife).

To paraphrase a great movie line: I do not hold with that…I aim to misbehave.