Archive for May, 2010

Dealbreakers

May 1, 2010

   I think it’s time I tried to explain my political philosophy, since I’ve been ranting this long without ever doing it before.  Provided, of course, that I even have a coherent political philosophy.

   I’ll begin by talking about one part of it, namely my basic trust in the individual’s knowledge of his or her own will.  I believe that it’s a lifelong quest, that it’s difficult, and that many, many people never achieve it.  And just as many never even try.

   But the danger in a democracy is that partisan leaders try to convince the electorate that something is not just a problem but a crisis, and that only their policy can work.  The “problem” can be given all kinds of slants, but liberals love to promote how unfairly entire groups of “oppressed” people are treated, and that this injustice must be corrected now.

   My complaint is, not with the concept of “inequality” itself, which can be discussed intelligently, but the way politicians and demagogues present what they claim as evidence of how serious the problem is.  It’s all done with numbers.  Only numbers.  People’s lives are presented as numbers which are placed on a grid.  This grid is meant to represent the presumed “misery” of the members of designated protected classes because of where they are fixed on that grid, and the injustice is that they – their number, really –  are not given a better “spot”.  The “misery” is then linked to all kinds of scores they want to assign to our lives, whether income, job distribution, education level or number of sex partners.  Anything, in other words, that is predominantly the result of our own individual decisions.

   The worst lie about that, to me, is that the numbers are presented as substitutes for the people themselves.  This is because it’s so much easier to show the “misery” of people when you can show their number at the bottom of the grid.  The number is meant to tell the whole story, as in “how can they not be miserable with a number like that!”

   Imagine!  These idealogues want you to respond emotionally to quantified representations of actual human beings, but don’t want you to ever meet the real people who the numbers represent.  You can be sure they never met them. 

   The most egregious example I know is the paid-less-than whine, as in “Women are paid only (blank) percent of what men get for the same work”.  The number changes, but lately the ploy must be working because it keeps getting higher.  It was 70 last time, I think, up from 65.

   I don’t even know where to begin on that one!  SAME WORK??  By what definition?  I happen to be a bureaucrat for over forty years.  I’ve seen the kinds of government forms these statistics are based on.  Do you know what idiots fill them out?  Did you ever read the questions that are asked?  Do you trust what any Washington statistician will do with those answers?

   I’ll deal with the misuse of statistics another time.  But for now, I just want you to imagine what the demagogues must think of you.  They must feel that the best way to manipulate you is to make you think of all people as numbers on a grid.  That way, you don’t need to ask whether the people so represented have any will of their own.  A person’s wilfulness is what leads them to make decisions that have consequences, the kind of consequences that actually move their numbers around on that grid.

   But you, and I, are not supposed to think about that.  The more prominent the number, the more detailed the presentation of the grid, the less you are supposed to think about the members of the “oppressed” class as people who actually make their own decisions.

   An unfortunate byproduct of this technique is that there are good reasons to believe statistics.  At least sometimes.  With diseases, for instance.  Nobody decides to get tuberculosis, and demographic studies of its distribution can be valuable.  But what angers me, what amounts to a DEALBREAKER, is when the statistics are used to appease “protected” groups, or classes, in order to advance the ideological power struggle.  They are used to paralyze thinking citizens into allowing the protectors, the paternalists, to advance their own interests.

   Wishful thinking!  Some day, perhaps, politicians will actually address voters as thinking citizens.  Instead, they offer policies that are only supposed to be evaluated by the movement of numbers on a grid.

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