= Hypocrites abandon all pretense of supporting competitive markets =
Ohio has a law on the books that criminalizes “lying” (as determined by the State) in political discourse. In opposition, P.J. O’Rourke and the Cato Institute have filed what one observer calls “the funniest — and possibly best — amicus curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court, ever.”
Yep… maybe, to today’s snarky-smug cynics it’s “best,” but I’m getting tired of this fellow who has spent his life ridiculing any standard of decent behavior, no matter how loosely applied.
Sure, there was a long stretch in my youth when giving the finger to “standards” was a necessary phase and boy did we boomers take to it! The most self-righteous generation in history used our mighty Power of Indignation to take on all sorts of stodgy, repressive authority: right on! Breaking ancient taboos that ranged from racism and sexism to uptight “morality” over normal human libido… a whole industry burgeoned around the ethos of “screw you dad!” And in large measure — despite his heroism against Hitler and all that — Dad had it coming.
But self-righteousness can become a nasty habit and it is currently poisoning America, in particular. Moreover, it just downright stupid to claim that there are NO standards that decent people might universally apply. Like “don’t deliberately harm people.” And “don’t repeat deliberate, out-and-out lies that you’ve been confronted with, countless times and that you know damned well to be false.”
In denying even that extremely loose and generous definition of “lying,” P.J. O’Rourke’s credibility is like the so-called “libertarian” “scholars” at Cato, an intellectual brothel, bought and paid for by an oligarchy that hires mouthpieces to concoct rationalizations and excuses for an oligarchic putsch that will end real competition, real capitalism, real competitive enterprise and real freedom. We’ll say anything you want, oh masters who pay the bills.
They fulfill what has become a complete (and unnoticed by media) betrayal of Adam Smith and the American founders — who knew very well one core fact: that the truest enemy of freedom and fair competition has seldom been civil servants. Across 6000 years, most of the time, those good things were routinely crushed by cabals of cheating, competition-suppressing owner-feudal lords. The same caste that Smith and the Founders denounced.
In this particular case, it’s no wonder that O’Rourke and Cato snark and sneer and ridicule — calling today’s tsunami of organized lying “part of political discourse.” The ability to lie without consequences s fundamental to the Koch-Murdoch-Sa’udi campaign to destroy American aptitude for pragmatic negotiation and instead stoke Civil War. (In fairness, it was part and parcel of the far-left, back when they were the most looming threat to freedom. Even today, the left spawns something called “postmodernism” that also denies the existence of any kind of verification or truth.)
No scientist would ever have any truck with such nonsense. Nor any medical doctor, teacher, journalist or any of the other clades of knowledge who are declared to be enemies by this new Know Nothing movement. Yes, much in life is contingent, arguable, unproved or at least tentative, but the crux of science is that we build a hierarchy of improving models. And there comes a point where we can say “that’s simply false.”
The Big Liars’ goal – to make slander and deception consequence-free – has a perfect illustration: Fox is the only “news” outlet ever to sue not for protection from inadvertent errors or accidental falsehoods but from any accountability for relentlessly repeated and knowing lies.
Oh, the snarks by Cato and O’Rourke can be funny and indeed, they have a point. As illustrated in Kurt Vonnegut’s classic satire “Harrison Bergeron,” law-centered “solutions” to human deficiencies in character are inherently problematic. Naturally, one can concoct a worst-case version of an anti-lying law to ridicule as an example of statist-meddling, thought-policing and nanny-finger-wagging prudery. O’Rourke is really good at skewering that sort of thing. We boomers specialize in sarcasm. (And our vastly better kids will make a great world, when our sanctimonious boomer asses shuffle off this mortal coil.)
But that is not how anti-deception laws would work in any real America, and O’Rourke knows it. Any such law would have to put stiff burdens of proof on the accuser that an assertion was deliberately public, known to be factually false, that the perpetrator had ignored repeated confrontations with the truth, and that the perpetrator was abusing a position of public trust. Moreover, the sliding scale of penalties would consist almost entirely of retractions.
Indeed, one potentially great outcome would be public fora for weighing factual evidence, as I describe in my Disputation Arenas paper. Looseness is an essential feature of American life and no one will go after internet polemicists bandying stupid-ass untrue jpegs.
But there has to be a backstop! A point where relentlessly repeated lying by media hits a wall called Proved Truth. A point where the resulting shaming actually reduces the public credibility of the Goebbels-level Big Lie machines, out there.
That sort of thing will not suppress discourse. It will sway discourse toward something we used to be good at. Conversation. Fair argument. Debate. Comparison of real evidence. And, ultimately, a word that the Murdochians do their best to rail against, hobble, cripple and destroy… negotiation.
Only dig it… the whole thing will soon be moot as technology provides us with actual, bona fide lie detectors. They aren’t here yet, but as this article shows, researchers are zeroing in.
And see where it may go.
== A Miscellany of much smarter people… ==
…than the Cato sellouts surrounds us! Let’s start with a woman who is incredibly American. “A California woman who applied for American citizenship had her application rejected because she identified herself as a “conscientious objector” who will not bear arms for the United States because she objects to war on secular moral grounds.” She wrote: “As a woman in my mid-30’s, I understand that it is unlikely that I will ever be asked to take up arms to defend this country. I could have easily checked ‘yes’, sealed the envelope, and sent it out,” so, let’s see — taking a self-righteous moral stance on abstract principle, knowing that (1) the matter is of moderate memic importance and (2) that she’ll actually suffer very few negative outcomes…? Yep. She’s already a real American. Proud to keep her.
Is MJ Harmless? I have always liked California’s outspoken, slightly weird but fantastically effective Governor Jerry Brown. He so often hits the nail on the head. “California Governor Jerry Brown said he is not sure legalizing marijuana is a good idea in his state because the country could lose its competitive edge if too many people are getting stoned.”
Oh I can hear howls from most of you, out there. And mark me: it is terrific that we are finally moving away from the insipidly insane and counterproductive Drug War! Marijuana is a lesser problem and should be treated as a minor vice, compared with so many others. And yet…
… those who go too far the other way and say it is not a vice, at all, are coo-koo birds. Sure, as with alcohol, millions can use it once a week with no deleterious effects. And even habitual users aren’t dangerous to others, the way alcohol abusers can be! And yet… those who deny MJ’s one major down side are hypocrites or blinkered fools. For a large fraction of heavy users, it is an Ambition Destroyer. It mellows guys down below the energy level it takes to get up and get innovative-transforming work done. You all know guys like that. And just because MJ is not the problem that puritan idiots said it was… that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem at all… one that we should keep thinking about.
And you can see the common theme with my screed about the mockers of all standards (above). Just because a prudish system was 90% wrong, don’t compound the travesty by ignoring the 1% that was core and right.
Is the “age of the gun” as the Great Equalizer over? See a thought-provoking argument that the past 700 years have been the Age of the Gun – when barely-trained infantrymen were the basis of military power. Says Chris Phoenix: “The implication I see is that Enlightenment ideals may have been based on, or at least supported by, the fact that a fairly small amount of work and training could create an army out of ordinary people. But a quadcopter-mounted gun beats an infantryman. So what happens, socially, when the leaders no longer have any fear at all of the people?”
My answer: It all depends. This assumes that citizen militias cannot have quasi equivalent quadcopters. An Orwellian state would make sure of that. But an Orwellian state does not mix well with the ethos that still reigns in the civilian population from which the military draws its recruits. (The Animal House ethos that P.J. O’Rourke embodies.) Which makes it very hard to make a cohesively repressive occupying force, or a very large coterie of defection-free henchmen. See this illustrated in the 2008 film about drones called SLEEP DEALER. And in my own novel EXISTENCE… and in this discussion of “The Jefferson Rifle.”
Oh, but finally… These guys are a hoot! The “New Monarchists” actually dare to show their faces… as we near the anniversary of the week when two microcephalic grandsons of Queen Victoria ignored every plea by real statesmen and plunged the world into a war from which today, a century later, we are still recovering. Indeed, these guys are focusing especially on the Romanov (czarist) house and even suggesting Putin marry into it for legitimacy!
Oy! Talk about microcephalic!
Want an irony? My short story “The Fourth Vocation of George Gustaf” makes the argument for a mild constitutional monarchy better than any of these guys do! So does Robert Heinlein’s DOUBLE STAR. And mind you, neither of us really believed it! I mean Gee Wiz, if you’re going to make a case for the preposterous, at least make it sound vaguely plausible.