Thursday, January 20, 2011

America: A Dumbed-Down Plutocracy?

The Left and the Right are all about constructing narratives targeted toward certain segments of the population. The Left tend to be more self-aware about this; after all, that's where I get the phrase "constructing narratives." The Right usually aren't that bright. Their constructed narrative, after all, is that American Decline is attributable to increasing secularism - "turning away from God." Now, that's a really stupid narrative-construction right there. I'm not sure it's more stupid, though, than the Left's constructed narrative - in effect, that American Decline is attributable to a dumbing-down to serve the interests of a corporatist oligarchy-plutocracy.

The Left's narratives are a holdover from another religious viewpoint - Marxism. It's about as anti-reality an ideological narrative as whatever spews forth from the Right. Anyone with anything resembling a sound understanding of economics is quite familiar with the ideas of Mises and Hayek on the benefits of the private property, i.e., capitalistic order, while the Marxian-inspired ideas are against the Mises-Hayek understanding of things. So if you apply the neo-Marxian analyses to the current state of America - with its demonstrably-ill-informed public and corporate ownership of politics - you end up with the theory that this is an outcome of the capitalistic order. More wealth accumulates in fewer hands, which in turn fuels more pro-wealthy policies at the expense of the populace, who are further dumbed-down in the process, etc. This stuff is very cliche' and could fit right on a napkin just like the Laffer Curve (which is a truism, actually, while Marxism in its various guises is pure shit).

The basic reason we have what we have in America today is that people are often very pragmatic: they go with what they think is the best available to them, all things considered. The current set-up we have now, is what we have because that's what the American people have chosen. They do realize in a pretty clear-cut way that the current state of things is pretty lousy; they have a commonsense "instinct" that the politicians are totally cynical and aren't squaring with them; they have a commonsense understanding that their government has done things in their name that are not too admirable; they have a commonsense perception that they are indeed ill-informed but what can they really do about it? What better alternatives are there, anyway? In a country with a mixed culture - a product, fundamentally, of mixed premises - the best results you can expect will be mixed.

If, however, Americans were shown a viable alternative that's clearly better than the status quo, then there's hope for this country after all. They just haven't been shown the better alternative yet. That better alternative does not, however, come enmeshed in left-wing narratives about a dumbed-down plutocracy that needs to "go Euro" to save itself. Rather, it comes enmeshed in a neo-Aristotelian respect for reason at perfectionistic levels. That means not fucking up a commonsense understanding of what capitalism, i.e., the private property order, is all about. It means abandoning the various retarded (usually Marx-inspired) notions that capitalism is, in effect, zero-sum and exploitative. It means actually embracing the capitalist ethos, while recognizing what it takes, intellectually, on the whole, to do so - again, a neo-Aristotelian respect for reason at perfectionistic levels, which entails enhanced cognitive (and therefore economic) efficiency. Americans do want to think critically; they have the intimation that doing so would greatly enhance their flourishing; they just need a guidebook of some sorts that they haven't yet gotten....

(Next on my radar: the Right's obvious narrative failures - fundamentally, a disrespect for the intellect and reason, purportedly in the name of spiritual enrichment.)

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