Friday, May 28, 2004

Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

The Democratic Party’s adoption of propaganda as a valid political tool has conservatives confused. But, they shouldn’t be. By Democratic Party propaganda, I mean ideas, information, or rumors disseminated for the purpose of helping the Democratic Party.

Why would the modern Democratic Party resort to propaganda?

1. Lack of evidence
When the facts don’t support your position, propaganda can be useful. At this point in history, the Democratic Party’s theories of welfare, race relations, education, economics, and national defense are largely discredited. Socialist ideas have failed for over one hundred years, yet the Democrats want to keep using them. The facts make it clear that socialism destroys society, so, the Democrats have to avoid the facts. Propaganda is all that is left.

2. Simplicity
Propaganda is simple. It doesn’t require evidence. No research is involved. The greatest effort the propagandist has to make is to make the propaganda sound appealing. The intended audience is young, not well educated, not committed to strong religious beliefs, malleable.

3. Effectiveness
Propaganda works! Propaganda has a strong emotional appeal. Emotions, if intensely felt, will overwhelm reason. The purpose of propaganda is to excite the emotions of the audience to the point that they stop thinking and start acting. Salesmen are aware of this effect. They like to get their clients excited about a product because they know that excited people spend money.

4. Fear
Face it. The so called Republican attack machine has the Democrats scared. It seems to be very effective. I call a great deal of what Republicans do propaganda. They vilify liberals in general. They attack prominent Democratic Party figures like Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Democrats think name-calling and rumor mongering are the cause of their decline, and they think that using these same tactics will bring down the Republicans.

If it’s cheap, simple, and effective, why shouldn’t the Democratic Party use propaganda?

1. Perversion
Propaganda of the type now employed by the Democratic Party appeals to people who feel a sense of rejection, disaffection, and anxiety. It excites their paranoia. Indulging distrust, hurt feelings, frustration, and rage only harms these people. It is perverse to take advantage of people who have suffered emotional trauma.

2. Evidence
Facts matter. Opinions, rumors, and dogma are not substitutes for facts. It is impossible to arrive at correct conclusions without adequate facts. Incorrect conclusions lead to ineffective and often destructive action. Not having the facts is very expensive. Also, as long as the Democrats use propaganda, it will be impossible for them to reform their Party. The more they invest in propaganda, the more difficult it will be for them to admit facts that are contrary to their propaganda. If they refuse to use facts to build their case, they will weaken their positions until they have no substance left.

3. Danger
Propaganda is a dangerous weapon that can be turned on its masters. The purveyors of Democratic Party propaganda are tearing down the barriers to self-restraint and legitimizing foul play. Anyone can invent propaganda. Anyone can fantasize outrageous rumors. No one is safe. The modern Democratic Party is attempting to radicalize the American people and the political process. However, once the people throw off the tradition of self-restraint, there is no telling what they will do. The Democrats are generating verbal violence that will eventually be expressed as physical violence. (James Carville, leading Democratic Party strategist and aid to President Bill Clinton said nearly ten years ago that the Democratic Party declared war on the Republican Party. I believe him.)

4. Reason
Propaganda necessarily requires its proponents and followers to reject reason. Outrageous accusations don’t require a reason. Followers of propaganda are never encouraged to ask for what reason the target of the propaganda would behave the way they do. Modern Democratic Party propaganda reduces all conservatives and Republicans to crazy, evil, corrupt, incomprehensible cartoon characters who act without reason.

5. Destructive
The most important reason to avoid propaganda is that it is destructive. Propaganda is used in politics to tear down opponents. If both sides are engaged only in tearing down the other side, eventually they will both become ineffective. I think this explains so called voter apathy. Voters aren’t apathetic; they’re disgusted. American voters do not want to invest their time and resources into a political system that destroys the people who participate in it. The practice of vilifying opponents can backfire. The Democratic Party’s latest folly of vilifying people who say that they voted for George W. Bush guarantees that people who voted for Bush in 2000 will vote for Bush in 2004.

6. Hate
Democratic Party propaganda is permeated with a deep sense of hate. It promotes hate. It is an expression of hate. It reveals the inner hate that Democrats cannot seem to control, which they seem to want to inflame. Convincing people that it is acceptable to hate is a greater evil than hate itself.

Republicans are not without blame. They have employed their own brand of propaganda for years. If Republicans wish to retain the majority, they need to pull back from these practices and stick to the facts.

How should you respond to propaganda?

1. Listen
Listen for clues. Often, propaganda is opinion expressed as fact. Listen for actual evidence. Define the terms of the statement. For example, in the statement “All bankers are crooks”, what do the terms “all bankers” and “crooks” actually mean? Do crooks steal? Are all bankers stealing? Where’s the evidence?

2. Feel
Political propaganda aims to excite the emotions. When you encounter propaganda, be aware of your feelings. Ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” If the statement “All bankers are crooks” makes you feel angry with bankers, then the propaganda has been effective; you have been recruited.

3. Relax
Be aware of your stress level. Political propaganda aims to get the audience excited by increasing their stress level. Take a deep breath. Calm down. Laugh. Don’t let propagandists hijack your emotions. Your emotions belong to you, not them. Question: Why does the propagandist want to make you excited, angry, or upset with someone? Answer: Because he wants you to do something for him. He wants you to vote for him, give him money, spread his agenda, join his cause.

4. Think
Think for yourself. Is any of this in your interest? What will you get out of this? Will this help your family? Will it help your community, city, State, or country? Does it make sense, or does it just sound good? Demand evidence. Demand that the propagandists verify their claims with facts. Ask why the object of the propaganda has been targeted. Ask what the propagandist wants you to do, and whether this is something you wanted to do before you heard the propaganda. If so, why? If not, why did you change your mind?

I worry that the use of increasingly hateful propaganda by the Democratic Party will turn people away from the goal of building a better nation. We still live with the intellectual plague of Soviet propaganda twelve years after they lowered their flag. Democratic Party propaganda appears to be another outbreak of that plague; it has a distinct Soviet flavor to it.

I also worry that the Republicans, not quite willing to abandon the practice themselves, will not take effective measures to counter Democratic Party propaganda. Failure to do so will lead to increasing hostility between the Parties and increasing hostility within our own population. Our nation will be weakened.

The most constructive thing the Democrats can do for themselves and their country is to admit that they have lost the latest round, that there will be other elections, and that they need to take some time to examine themselves to find out how they can improve their position. Simply attacking Republicans doesn’t produce new, better initiatives for Democrats to run on in future elections.

The modern Democratic Party is stagnating in their own putrid propaganda. If the Democrats cannot seriously engage in the competition for ideas, everyone suffers.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Future of Islam
Opinion © by Guy L. Evans

In trying to understand the murders of Daniel Perl, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, Nicholas Berg--I mention their names to honor them--and other hostages taken by Moslem extremists, and in trying to understand Moslem terrorism in general, I ran across an article by David Frum in which he says:

Islam, like all religions, teaches respect for human life. But Islam also contains unique elements all its own. For unlike Judaism and unlike Christianity, the spiritual elements of Islam are mixed with an ideology of war and conquest, even in the pages of the Koran itself. And both the text of the Koran – and the personal example of the Prophet Muhammad – justify killing in general and beheading in particular as legitimate weapons against unbelievers.

Frum also provides a link to an op-ed by Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble With Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in her Faith. In her op-ed, she notes the specific text in which the Koran prohibits killing a human being “except for punishment for murder or other villainy in the land.” Villainy in the land. My goodness. What could this mean?

Villainy is villainous conduct, the behavior of a villain. My copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines a villain as: villain n (derived from the Latin villa meaning country estate) an uncouth person, a boor, a deliberate scoundrel or criminal, a scoundrel in a story or play, and a person or thing blamed for a particular evil or difficulty.

A villain is “a person or thing blamed for a particular evil or difficulty”, and villainy is “a particular evil or difficulty” that has been blamed on a villain. Blame, not proof of guilt, is all that is required to make a person a villain. Anyone who is blamed for villainous conduct is necessarily a villain. Assigning blame for the purpose of portraying a person as a villain is called vilification.

Moslem terrorists employ vilification as a primary tactic to condemn the behavior of their enemies while excusing their own behavior. (Other political groups who have institutionalized the practice of vilification are Nazis, Fascists, Communists, and the modern Democratic Party.) The vilification of Clarence Thomas clearly illustrates the tactic: The “seriousness of the charge” is more important than proof of guilt, and leveling the charge constitutes proof of guilt. Question: Why would someone level such a charge if it weren’t true? Answer: Propaganda.

If the Koran permits Moslems to kill anyone they accuse of “villainy in the land”, it means that Moslems may kill anyone they blame for any evil or difficulty. This helps me understand the posture of al Qaeda and other Moslem terrorist groups. They place blame as befits their prejudices according to their interpretation of the Koran, and they are entitled to kill every person whom they have decided is to blame. (To the best of my knowledge, no Islamic clerics have asserted that Osama bin Laden’s interpretation of the Koran is in error. In other words, they agree with his reasoning.)

Blame need not be accompanied by facts--anyone can blame anyone else for anything--therefore, all that is required for Moslems to sentence any person to death is the accuser’s strong opinion, belief, or prejudice that the accused party is to blame. In other words, all you need to receive a death sentence from Islam is to piss off a Moslem.

This concept of justice is contrary to the concept in English law of “innocent until proven guilty” or the concept in Latin law of “guilty until proven innocent”. The concept in Moslem terrorist law is that once blame has been assigned, neither guilt nor innocence needs to be proved, and that the assignment of blame is sufficient to warrant death. Of course, they and they alone are authorized to assign blame, and their judgment is infallible. How convenient. How primitive.

Many modern terrorists have been educated in Europe where they may have learned Western liberalism. Blended with the Western liberal concept of victimization--of never taking responsibility for one’s own behavior--unhappy Moslem victims of Western oppression now have no end of villains to kill.

Under American law, the term “villainy in the land” would be regarded as too vague to have legal impact. In other words, it would be impossible for the executive to enforce a law based on the term “villainy in the land”. Without additional context, it is impossible to know what the term “villainy in the land” means.

The vagueness of the law is no problem for the Moslem terrorists. They operate on the proposition that the truth is whatever they say the truth is (in part, this is what “God willing” means), and that the Koran gives them the authority of God to enforce their suppositions. This should make it clear why it will be impossible to negotiate with them. In psychology, such people are called sociopathic and narcissistic. They are often unpredictable, self-destructive, and violent, choosing to kill people who are not like-minded, instead of doing what I am doing, trying to understand them.

To me, going through all the trouble to understand my enemies is necessary to avoid unjust killing. To the Moslem terrorists, unjust killing is necessary to avoid going through all the trouble to understand their enemies.

The problem for peace loving Moslems and non-Moslems is that Islam contains elements that perfectly suite fascist ideology. (People with a fascist outlook, e.g., Saddam Hussein, cannot be restrained by the Koran.) Islam permits arbitrary and authoritarian judgment, and it permits war. Throughout the history of Islam, Arabs, Persians (Iranians), and Turks have found Islam the perfect vehicle for conquest. Members of Hitler’s inner circle urged him to form alliances with Moslems because of their similar views. Moslem governments reflect the fascist character of the culture that Islam promotes, or at least fails to restrain. Modern Moslem terrorists base their decisions to go to war and slaughter thousands of innocent civilians on verses from the Koran. As Dennis Prager likes to point out, there are no Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist homicide bombers because these religions forbid suicide and forbid killing people not sentenced to death under strict codes of law. (Pertinent to this is a story that I remember from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Afghan resistance fighters had captured a boy who was fighting for the Soviets. They could not execute him even though he was acting as an enemy solder because, according to the Koran, he was under age! The very Moslems who, as a rule, executed captured enemy solders in this case obeyed the law of the Koran and refrained from executing this boy. How, under the laws of the Koran, can Moslems justify slaughtering babies today?)

The conflict of ideas is between Aristotle’s critical reasoning and Islamic terrorists’ strict adherence to the text of the Koran. Frum makes this analysis:

Socrates once posed a brain-twister to his disciples. “Is a good action good because it is approved by the gods? Or is it approved by the gods because it is good.” In other words – do the categories of right and wrong have an existence apart from divine will?

Islam’s answer to Socrates’ puzzle has been emphatic: An action is good because it is approved by Allah. There is no independent criterion of morality outside of the will of God. And since the Koran is an absolutely literal and accurate account of that will – since indeed in a deep sense the Koran itself actually incarnates that will – there is no independent criterion of morality outside the text of the Koran.

In other words: If the Koran says or teaches something that seems morally offensive, it is morality that is mistaken, not the Koran.

Intellectually, traditional Islam forms a closed system. You can exit the system (although the penalty for exit – apostasy – is death). But so long as you remain within it, the intellectual system forbids its own reform.

Andrew Sullivan in his book review of The Trouble With Islam says:

Abandoning the role of a thinking person is not something that should be required of any religious individual. Reason and faith, Manji wants to believe, are not in conflict. And yet, as Islam is frequently practiced, reason is deplored as something that should defer in every instance not simply to the Koran but to the political authoritarians who reserve to themselves the sole right to interpret it.

In his book review, Michael Potemra of National Review quotes Manji as saying:

Not solely because of September 11, but more urgently because of it, we’ve got to end Islam’s totalitarianism, particularly the gross human-rights violations against women and religious minorities.

According to Manji, Frum, and Sullivan, Islam can be a totalitarian religion (meaning that it totally controls the lives of its followers, though I’m not sure that this is Manji’s interpretation), a closed system that forbids its own critical self-examination, and a religion that deplores reason and defers questions of reason to religious and political authorities. Add to this the dogma of victimization, and the practice of vilification, and every bad thing that happens to Moslems must necessarily be blamed on unbelievers.

Decisions made under such a system must necessarily be arbitrary (arbitrarily deferring to the text of the Koran), authoritarian (interpretation of the Koran is permitted only by those in authority), and merciless (no appeal is available to those blamed for “villainy”). Other arbitrary, authoritarian, and merciless systems include Fascism (the bastard child of Communism), Nazism (the bastard child of Fascism), and Communism (the source of greater war, torture, and slaughter than Fascism and Nazism combined). The outcome of any form of government that is arbitrary, authoritarian, and merciless is endless slaughter and misery. There are no limits on the power of such governments to kill their subjects, so they kill without limits.

I admit that I have studied Islam very little. All of my conclusions are based largely on statements of critics of Islam, unbelievers, and infidels. However, I remember a statement by the songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens (author of “Peace Train”) who converted to Islam and supported killing Salman Rushdie when he published The Satanic Verses. The former singer/songwriter/peacenik said in a very serious and menacing tone, “No one has the right to criticize Islam.” That chilling statement has stuck with me ever since.

If, under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, I exercise my right to free speech and say something critical of Islam, will the U. S. government defend me from Moslems who, like Cat “Peace Train” Stevens, think that I should be killed, or, will I have to kill them in order to defend myself from blood-thirsty religious dictators? How shall we defend our lives and our rights from such people? Is there any middle ground, any compromise? Apparently not. I am not willing to compromise my right to free speech, and Moslems who wish to kill people for saying things they deem critical of Islam are not willing to compromise what they claim is their right under the laws of the Koran to kill unbelievers.

I am also reminded of the phrase that Moslems use constantly, “God willing”. The brutal and cowardly murder of Fabrizio Quattrocchi was committed “God willing”. Used in this way, “God willing” simply means that there are no consequences for the murderers. They might as well have said, “God did it, not me!” After all, unbeliever infidel dogs, you can’t argue with God, now can you?

Well, actually, yes you can. The Bible is replete with examples of prophets and apostles who argue, disagree, resist, and quibble with the Almighty, and in some cases openly disobey God’s commandments. David comes to mind. Another example is Jesus challenging Jewish law when he tells the crowd, “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” Under Islamic law, the first stone, and every stone thereafter until the woman was dead, would have been cast “God willing”. Under Islamic law, Moslems are never responsible for their own behavior. If God wants them to stone a woman to death, saw off a man’s head with a dull knife, or crash jetliners into high-rise office buildings, then that’s okay with them. The mystery--the greatest mystery of Islam--is how the believers determine that what they do, they do “God willing”.

The determination that the slaughter of innocent people is accomplished “God willing” would seem to explain some of the barbaric behavior of the Moslem terrorists. They commit any arbitrary, lawless, and merciless act “God willing”, not “Osama bin Laden willing” or “me willing” or “the victim not willing”. No one’s will matters but God’s, and only the terrorists can determine with certainty that they conduct their arbitrary, lawless, and merciless acts of slaughter “God willing”.

The terrorists are seeking to please God as they understand God to be. They seek to do only what God wills. Therefore, they commit arbitrary, lawless, and merciless slaughter of innocent people in the fashion they believe God approves. They must have tremendous faith in God--faith that God willing they will never turn their inhuman, lawless violence on each other.

Moslems like Ms. Irshad Manji give me hope that Islam can be tamed and live in peace with its neighbors, ultimately striving to cultivate the human spirit instead of subjugating all human thought to rigid religious mandates. It gives me hope that some peaceful, sensible Moslems will disavow the totalitarian elements of their religion and ask critical questions like, “How does one determine with certainty the will of God?” and “Is there any will other than God’s will?” She admits that critical thinking is necessary to save Islam. I agree. You can’t build a civilization on the directives of an arbitrary, authoritarian, merciless, humorless, and apparently woman-hating clergy.

By prohibiting critical thinking, Islam contains within itself the certainty of its own destruction. If the text of the Koran permits judgment and execution of accused villains, then whoever is in charge of interpreting and executing the laws of the Koran has unlimited power over all people subject to Islamic law. The struggle to possess that power will devour Islam from within.

I can imagine that under a strict, arbitrary, authoritarian, and merciless system of laws, eventually Islamic authorities will kill all people they designate as enemies of Islam, including other Moslems, until there will be only two Moslems left. Then, one will blame the other for the troubles of the world...

Islam will either be tamed or abandoned. The taming is already underway. For example, most Moslems are citizens of nation States (The nation State is a Western idea). Moslems abide by the laws of those States even when their laws are contrary to the Koran.

Strict adherence to the text of the Koran cannot produce governments strong enough to defend their people from foreign domination. They cannot produce advanced technology. Even self-anointed Moslem purists like al Qaeda understand the importance of using modern Western technology (high explosives, chemical weapons, jetliners, passports, cell phones, computers, television, the internet, etc.) to defeat the unbelieving infidel vipers who created those technologies.

The truth that even faithful Moslems must acknowledge is that the Koran does not contain the sum of all knowledge. The Koran does not contain sufficient knowledge to build a modern civilization, and it does not permit discovery of new methods. It prohibits science and philosophy, both of which are critical to developing modern civilizations. By prohibiting anything that contradicts the Koran, Islam is fated to cultural, economic, and technological retardation. For example, as I understand it, Islam prohibits lending money at interest. Lending money at interest gives investors incentive to take the risks of moving capital where it is needed. Otherwise, capital goes unused and is unproductive. It is impossible to build a modern society without lending money at interest.

Osama bin Laden can’t understand why Islam, at one time the most technologically advance culture on Earth, cannot promote science. He cannot understand that when Islam was advancing in the sciences, Moslem leaders thought that advances in science were more important than strict Islamic dogma. Even in his own terrorist movement, strict adherence to the Koran is ignored when it is inconvenient, such as when high-ranking members of al Qaeda shaved off their beards to escape detection.

This is the future of Islam: In much the same way that Judaism and Christianity have shed their arbitrary, authoritarian, and violent aspects, Islam will be tamed and become a domesticated religion--mostly preaching, sometimes bullying, but otherwise disarmed. Islam will eventually drop its insistence on medieval practices such as beheading, cutting off hands, and murdering women. Moslems will come to understand that dogma is inadequate and that strict adherence to the Koran is impossible and impractical. Whether by internal reform or external domination, Islam will cease its merciless oppression of human rights. Eventually, Moslems will accept that everyone has the right to criticize Islam.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
Solipsism n [L solus alone and ipse self] (1874): a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing. solipsist n, solipsistic adj, solipsistically adv.

In The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment, the authors note that in popular use, the word “narcissism” actually means “solipsism”, the idea that “the self is all that exists, can be known, or has importance.” (p. 42)

Solipsism is useful in explaining why some people are incapable of acknowledging the reality or concreteness of other people and other ideas. Such people are incapable of accepting the reality of the Church, for example, or of the law, or of tradition. Reality is whatever they imagine. Hitler seems to have been just such a person. He never accepted reality, and determined that the world should be as he imagined it.

The idea of extermination camps like Dachau could only occur to solipsists. The millions of people they slaughter are not really people to them; they are aberrant fantasies, unpleasant thoughts. No one is actually being killed because, to the solipsist, there are no other people in the world. There is only one “self”, and that “self” is in the position of ultimate judge. It’s a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of the whole world, you see.

Solipsists can’t believe in God, either. God is external to one’s self and represents things that cannot be known.

Solipsistic people either adopt rules, make up their own (Hitler), or fabricate rules based on existing rules (bin Laden). They cannot trust anyone who does not follow a strict set of rules; rules that the solipsist has determined are the “correct” rules to live by. (See footnote) They don’t know who their friends are or who their enemies are. Faithful adherence to the rules determines whom they can trust and whom they cannot. Solipsists cannot understand people, but they can understand rules. If you obey the rules, then you are a good person. If you do not obey the rules, then you are a bad person. For the solipsist, life is a quest for the perfect set of rules.

Every solipsist has his own personal orthodoxy. His rules are the right rules, and anyone who disagrees or resists is evil, not ignorant, not wrong, not free, just plain evil.

This seems to apply to the current crop of leaders in the Democratic Party. While I don’t understand their rules, to them they are definite, and obedience is critical. Conservatives in general and Bush in particular don’t obey the rules; therefore, they are evil. That seems to explain why liberalism looks like a religion to conservatives.

It seems odd to me that solipsists are averse to clearly asserting their rules. They want to argue from positions based on their rules, but they don’t want to openly express their rules. For example, Democrats argue from the position that all people who oppose affirmative action are racist, but they rarely come right out and say so. Michael Moore, on the other hand, states his rules openly, and is widely dismissed as a self-promoting paranoid crackpot. To me, he is a fine example of a solipsist because he makes it obvious that his fantasies are the only reality that every person on Earth should acknowledge, and that anyone who does not acknowledge his fantasies is evil.

Solipsists don’t want their rules questioned. They have invested their entire lives into the suppositions that validate their rules, and exposing their rules to critical examination jeopardizes everything they live for. By the time they have cemented their lives within their rules, it is impossible to extract themselves. Hitler could never have renounced Nazism. Bin Laden would be killed by his own followers if he backed down one inch from his homicidal dogma.

Leaving an association of like-minded solipsists can be difficult. Imagine the punishment Ted Kennedy would suffer if he reversed his position on any major Democratic Party posture. The Democrats made an example of Ben Campbell in order to make sure that no one else gets any ideas about leaving the Democratic plantation. To be fair, the Republicans aren’t much better (re: Madeline Albright).

As for me, I spend a lot of time trying to understand the founding propositions of every ideology I encounter. For example, the founding proposition of the United States of America is that every person is created equal, that no person is created superior or inferior, and that every person is born with certain unalienable rights, among those, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, it is human nature to be free, there are no natural rulers and no natural slaves, and God did not create any ruling classes.

To me, arguing politics, religion, ethics, or philosophy is a waste of time if you don’t know the founding premises, the rules, that are the basis of understanding, yours and the other person’s. Most people I know can’t state their own founding premises. Many of them rely on pre-fabricated dogma, what I call “opinionated ignorance”. But, that’s a subject for another day.

Solipsism amounts to the position that the truth is whatever I say the truth is. It is impossible to negotiate with people who hold this view because they simply dismiss facts that they have not approved. It is also very difficult to teach them anything. Their personal fantasies are far more important than any mere quest for the truth.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Footnote: I know one person who has adopted Aristotle’s Ethics as Gospel. To this person, people who behave as people may normally be expected to behave are “unethical”, “dishonest”, and “barbarians”. To this person, religion is “fraud”. People who say things this person does not understand are talking “nonsense”. To this person, we are all evil.

Friday, May 21, 2004

No Limits
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

The following statement appeared in my blog “What If?”:

“As for me, the U. S. and our allies should burn Iran, North Korea, Syria, and every other country that sponsors terrorism to the ground, slaughter their people, butcher their cattle, poison their water, salt their fields, destroy their religion, their culture, and their history, and lay waste every living thing within their borders if that is what is necessary to prevent the terrorists from detonating a nuclear device against us. If you disagree with me, then tell me which city you think is expendable to a nuclear bomb. Obviously, not the one you’re living in.”

For those who have difficulty understanding the English language, let me explain what this means. The above statement is a hypothetical proposition, hypothetical meaning “if, then”. The form of a hypothetical proposition is:

If P, then Q

In logic, it is:

not (P and (not Q))

This means that if you have P, then you necessarily have Q. In simple English, you can’t have Q without P, or Q can’t happen unless P also happens.

The statement I made is that if it is necessary to burn, slaughter, etc., “to prevent the terrorists from detonating a nuclear device against us”, then that is what the U. S. and our allies should do. If P (if that is what is necessary to prevent the terrorists...), then Q (the U. S. and our allies should burn Iran...).

If it is necessary to put locks on the doors of your house to prevent burglars from stealing your stereo, then that is what you should do. If it is necessary to have surgery to remove a tumor, then that is what you should do. If it is necessary to eat less in order to lose ten pounds, then that is what you should do. Get it? Got it? Good!

During the Cold War, the U. S. policy was: If it is necessary to destroy all life on Earth to prevent the Soviet Union from having final victory over the United States, then that is what we will do.

During World War II, the U. S. policy was: If it is necessary to kill 300,000 Japanese people in a single attack to end the war with Japan, then that is what we will do.

My proposition puts me in agreement with such famous Nazis, fascists, and genocidal murderers as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. The number of “innocent civilians” the U. S. threatened to kill with nuclear weapons during the Cold War reached over one billion. To save the United States from defeat by the Soviet Union, we were prepared to kill over one billion people. The number of “innocent civilians” the U. S. and our allies (including the Soviet Union and the Chinese) killed during World War II exceeded the number of people killed in Nazi extermination camps.

It worked. We won. End of debate.

To the hand-wringers, the worriers, the cry-babies, the self-righteous, holier-than-thou critics of America’s wars, and all the Weak Little Men, I have this to say: Shut your cake holes. It is impossible to have a clean war. It is impossible to have a war without atrocities. It is impossible to have a war without horror, grief, and regret. It is impossible to have a war without pain.

To save the United States and our allies from being attacked with one or more nuclear weapons by terrorists (Moslem or otherwise), we must be prepared to take all measures no matter how horrible. We must be prepared to burn the planet to a cinder rather than surrender to tyranny. The reason is simple and obvious: If we say that we are going to stop at ten thousand American casualties in our war efforts, then our enemies will kill ten thousand and one Americans to defeat us. They will learn our limits, and they will exceed them. We must therefore set no limits on ourselves for final victory. No limits, whatsoever. Even to the point of killing all life on Earth.

I am not advocating excess. I am advocating a realistic assessment of the potential cost of winning a war against assassins, saboteurs, and insane zealots who are trying to commit suicide and take millions of innocent people with them when they die. If we could win the war against our terrorist enemies by doing nothing, or by disarming and drinking beer all day, then we should do that. If the only way to defeat our enemies is to set fire to the entire world, then we must be prepared to do that, and we must make sure that our enemies know that we mean it. We have to let our enemies know that there is no possibility that they can win. As much as we abhor the cost of winning this war, the cost of losing it is intolerable.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Questions about Judicial Excess
A letter to Hugh Hewitt and John Eastman

May 21, 2004

Hugh and John,

Regarding the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, I have some questions.

1. What did the ruling say?

2. Does the Massachusetts Supreme Court possess the authority to compel the legislature to write laws at the direction of the court?

3. If yes, under what section(s) of the law do they possess this authority?

4. If no, what actions are available to the legislature and the people of Massachusetts?

5. If the ruling was beyond the power of the court, what actions are available to the people to overturn or render null the court’s ruling?

6. The same question applied to the U. S. Supreme Court.

7. Is there any section of the U. S. Constitution that prohibits courts from exercising legislative power, i.e., the power to write laws, or the power to compel the legislature to write specific laws?

8. What actions are available to citizens who wish to stop a court from effectively writing laws?

9. What actions are available to citizens who wish to stop the U. S. Supreme Court from effectively writing laws?

I ask these questions from the point of view of a process analyst. My concern is that our process of government contains a fatal flaw, that being the court’s relatively unchallenged attempts to usurp the power of the legislature.

I listen to the Hugh Hewitt Show often. I am a member of the Claremont Institute, and I read most of John’s columns (at least, the ones that I aren’t over my head). I also publish a blog at http://onedestination.blogspot.com that focuses on analysis (logic, economics, political philosophy, etc. BTW, Hugh, thanks for turning my on to Steyn, Lileks, Eastman, and the Claremont Institute.)

Our nation has survived mostly intact for two hundred years because the constitutional process has worked so well. I see problems developing with the process when any branch of government exceeds their authority. If we, the people of the United States, do not (or worse, cannot) assert our authority to limit the power of the courts to write laws, then we risk losing our liberty. It is imperative to restore the constitutional process.

I know that both of you are busy. I hope that you will publish articles dealing with these questions, and, Hugh, maybe you can devote a segment of your show to this matter. The question of how the public asserts their authority to limit the unlawful use of power by government is extremely important to voters like me.

Please be advised that I may publish your responses on my blog. My readers (both of them!) will be interested.

Thank you very much for your time.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Entitlement of the Soul
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

The following paragraph appears in

The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment
Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman
Robert M. Pressman
© 1994 and 1997, by Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers

under the heading, Lack of Entitlement, on page 37.

“In narcissistic families, be they covert or overt, the children are not entitled to have, express, or experience feelings that are unacceptable to the parents. Children learn to do all manner of things with their feelings so as not to create problems for themselves vis-à-vis their parents: they stuff them, sublimate them, deny them, lie about them, fake them, and ultimately forget how to experience them. What has been extinguished in childhood--the right to feel--is difficult to call back in adulthood. But until adults understand that they have a right to feel whatever it is that they feel, and that they always had that right, they will be unable to move forward in boundary setting. And without appropriate boundaries, all relationships are skewed and unhealthy.”

Stunning. “...until adults understand that they have a right to feel whatever it is that they feel, and that they always had that right...” Many people have never learned this. I know I didn’t until I read this book. Every person is entitled to have, experience, and express his own unique feelings. This is the entitlement of the soul, the liberation of the human spirit.

Until I understand that I have the right to feel what I feel, and that I have always had that right, I will not be able to move forward and develop healthy relationships. Until I can be honest with myself about my genuine feelings, I can’t be honest with anyone.

I have the right to feel my feelings. I am entitled to have, experience, and express my feelings. I have no obligation to anyone at any time to deny, fake, lie about, or forget my feelings.

My feelings are involuntary. They indicate pain and pleasure. My feelings are my way of knowing what is good for me and what is bad for me. They are my compass. They are true. Feelings don’t lie. They can be trusted. They give me an accurate perspective.

The way to understand my feelings is to say, “I feel this way. Why do I feel this way?” I cannot understand my feelings if I decide that I should or should not feel a certain way based on circumstances or on the expectations of other people.

Learning to distrust your own feelings is the quickest way to go wrong. I spent decades saying that it doesn’t matter how I feel about something, only the mission matters. In times when the mission is critical, that is true. The rest of the time, it is wrong. My feelings matter. They always matter.

The reality of emotional entitlement corresponds perfectly with the reality of unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Pursuit of happiness includes the right to feel, experience, and express your own feelings.

Emotional entitlement is taught by Christianity, also. Your relationship with God is individual, unique, and honest. You can’t lie to God about how you feel, so there’s no point in lying to yourself. In being honest with God about your feelings, you have to be honest with yourself. God already knows how you feel. He’s not fishing for information. He wants you to understand yourself. He is patient. Your feelings matter.

My experience is that Christians are more emotionally healthy than Christ-haters. Christians must take time to be honest with themselves and with God, whereas Christ-haters stuff, sublimate, deny, lie about, fake, and ultimately forget how to experience their own true feelings. To me, this explains why Christ-haters are raging narcissists.

I am still in the process of finalizing my notes and comments on The Narcissistic Family. When these are finished, I will offer a full review. In the mean time, I urge everyone to buy The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment, as well as a spiral notebook, and a supply of pens. Trust me, you will want to take tons of notes.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

What If?
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

What if al Qaeda had not attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001? What would the United States be doing today?

American efforts to attack terrorist organizations would have stalled in the Congress because legislators on both sides would have said that the cost is too high. The American people would not have supported an invasion of Afghanistan, and they certainly would not have supported an invasion of Iraq. Al Qaeda would be operating unimpeded.

People like me who considered the terrorist attacks to be acts of war by Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Libya would have been dismissed as extremists. People who called for stronger action to defend American national security would have been labeled right-wing crackpots.

Terrorist organizations would have grown in number and strength, and would be operating widely throughout the world. Attacks in Israel, Russia, India, England, France, and Germany would have risen. Attacks on American ships, hotels, and embassies would have gone up as well.

In time, at least one terrorist organization would have acquired a nuclear device, and would be planning an attack on New York City or Washington, D. C. But they wouldn’t have done it by now, I don’t think.

Americans would still consider terrorism a foreign problem, something to do with unhappy Moslems over there, somewhere. And they would go about their lives only vaguely aware that there was any danger at all.

In short, there would be no war on terror, there would be no heightened security, terrorist agents would be moving freely about the country, and the government agencies responsible for defending our lives would not be doing so, preferring instead to play politics. The government would be minimizing the threat so as not to upset the stock market. Republicans and Democrats would be fussing over Social Security and other bloated middle-class welfare programs. Workers would be working, investors would be investing, and consumers would be consuming. The clock would be ticking, and no one would be checking the time.

By launching incredibly stupid, premature attacks on September 11, 2001, al Qaeda did the American people a tremendous favor. They demonstrated what war actually looks like, what Americans falling to their deaths from ninety stories out of a high rise building looks like, what people look like when they are running for their lives, and what al Qaeda and their buddies intend to do to all of us if they get the chance. Osama bin Laden is unhappy, and it’s all your fault, you selfish, greedy, American infidel bastards! Al Qaeda demonstrated that people like me are not extremists, that the threat is very, very real, and that we cannot hope to stop all the attackers at our borders.

So, what if none of this happened?

Simple. The American people wouldn’t have changed a thing. They would have completely disregarded the warnings and dismissed the experts as alarmist and extremist. And when the terrorists exploded a nuclear bomb in Times Square, millions of people would have died, the government may have collapsed, and the economy would be a shambles. The government most likely would have declared marshal law. American tanks would be patrolling Los Angeles instead of Baghdad.

There are still people in California, Colorado, and elsewhere in our country who think that the attacks on New York City and Washington, D. C. were not attacks on them. Honestly, I’m really not sure how to comment on that. It’s stunning.

As for me, the U. S. and our allies should burn Iran, North Korea, Syria, and every other country that sponsors terrorism to the ground, slaughter their people, butcher their cattle, poison their water, salt their fields, destroy their religion, their culture, and their history, and lay waste every living thing within their borders if that is what is necessary to prevent the terrorists from detonating a nuclear device against us. If you disagree with me, then tell me which city you think is expendable to a nuclear bomb. Obviously, not the one you’re living in.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Clear Contrast
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

Read these two articles. They will help you understand which side you are on.

“Al-Qaeda says Canada deserves bombing” by Stewart Bell of the National Post.

“What is an American?” by Peter Ferrara in the National Review.

As for me, I am an American and I choose life. I am also merciful. I will gladly help the insane assassins and baby killers in al Qaeda escape the prison of life. Just hold still, Osama. I promise this won’t hurt.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Monday, May 17, 2004

Fighting Prejudice with Prejudice
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

The subject of affirmative action came up recently. An advocate of affirmative action asserted that all arguments opposed to affirmative action are racist. The reasoning is that racists oppose affirmative action; therefore, everyone who opposes affirmative action is racist. This sounded utterly irrational, and I had to think about it.

Change affirmative action to XYZ, and the argument goes like this:
Some people who oppose XYZ are prejudiced; therefore, all people who oppose XYZ are prejudiced.

In logic, this is called a fallacy of composition, that is, reasoning from the attributes of the parts of a whole to the attributes of the whole. For example, some people who oppose affirmative action are racist; therefore, all people who oppose affirmative action are racist.

In form, the argument looks like this:
Some S is P; therefore, all S is P.

The fallacy is obvious, as illustrated by this example: Some advocates of affirmative action are white; therefore, all advocates of affirmative action are white. So, why do the advocates of affirmative action continue to use a clearly flawed argument?

They are fighting prejudice with prejudice. Prejudice in popular terms means a hostile bias and an irrational judgment. Advocates of affirmative action assert that opposition to their cause is a hostile, irrational judgment. This has several effects.

1. It places blame for the failures of the beneficiaries of affirmative action on people who are opposed to affirmative action.
2. It relieves the advocates of affirmative action from the responsibility of presenting evidence that affirmative action is beneficial.
3. It relieves the advocates of affirmative action from the responsibility of any detrimental effects of affirmative action.

In other words, by using the fallacy of composition, the advocates of affirmative action assert that it is impossible for them to be wrong about their position. Placing blame for the failures of affirmative action entirely on their opponents makes the advocates infallible, and makes their opponents agents of pure evil. (It also implies that their opponents possess extreme power and cunning, but that’s a different matter.)

Attributing evil motives to people without evidence is prejudice. Therefore, the position that everyone who opposes affirmative action is prejudiced is itself an example of prejudice.

This is the standard tactic for all fanatics. It’s so simple, anyone can do it: Find one instance of evil and attribute it to everyone who opposes your position. This tactic disregards all valid reasons for opposing a position, and disregards all evidence that a position is in error.

Advocates of positions that cannot be supported by reason and evidence have no choice but to resort to prejudice. I use affirmative action as an example, not a target. There are rational arguments both in favor of and in opposition to affirmative action just as there are irrational arguments for and against it.

The consequence of fighting prejudice with prejudice is that fanaticism is rewarded, evidence is ignored, and reason is punished. It is impossible to build and sustain a civilization on fanaticism. Philosophers build civilizations; fanatics burn them.

The increased fanaticism of politics in America is troubling. Fighting prejudice with prejudice will only result in further division. At a time when the United States is in danger of a nuclear attack by real enemies, increased division makes us vulnerable.

We face a common enemy. It is time to identify common ground and defend it.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Good Power, Bad Power
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

Please read the e-mail posted at www.hughhewitt.com, 9:15 AM, Pacific, from a Marine Second Lieutenant to his father. It is a very revealing and insightful news report and commentary on the situation in Iraq--in many ways, better than the major news organs have delivered.

Just a reminder to readers, the purpose of the war in Iraq is not to turn Iraq into a democratic country; it is to defend the national security of the United States, and in that regard, we are succeeding beyond our wildest dreams. Also remember, if you think things are going badly now, how much worse would they be if the United Nations were in control, or if Saddam Hussein was still in power? Think Rwanda, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, and other demonstrations of U. N. impotence. Think Kuwait, chemical weapons used against Kurds, torture chambers, rape rooms, and three hundred thousand bodies in mass graves. Okay?

Here are some thoughts on the e-mail (all quotes are from the e-mail):

“Until they [the Iraqi people] start to feel some pride in themselves as a nation, we cannot expect them to want to vest themselves in its future.”

On an aside, the way the Left intends to defeat the United States is to make Americans ashamed of their country. Americans will not make personal investments in their nation and in their citizenship when they are ashamed of their country. So far, the Left appears to be succeeding brilliantly. More Americans now hate America than in any other time in history.

“The depth of ignorance is astounding.”

Ignorance is the enemy of self-government. Ignorant people cannot govern themselves. The level of ignorance permitted in America’s public schools is dangerous to the students and dangerous to our nation. Many students graduate high school without knowing who George Washington is, and what the three branches of government are. They have never read the Declaration of Independence or any part of the U. S. Constitution. Such people are not capable of self-government.

“Finally, there are leaders here trying their best but who cannot gravitate away from western values and logic. These values and approach are often perceived as weakness. Weakness is seen as opportunity for the terrorists.”

Logic is the antidote to fanaticism. Fanatics cannot tolerate logic because it costs them valuable recruits. People who have studied logic and who use it to make their lives better rarely join extreme causes. They are very difficult to persuade because they know how to defeat bad arguments. (People who understand logic are generally released from jury duty in the U. S.) Logic reveals the benefits of both self-restraint and the precise use of force. To my knowledge, no public schools teach logic, and few universities do, either. When they teach logic, it tends to be something called “modern logic”, which is not really logic; it is logic with a strong left-wing political agenda.

“The lingering problem are the many different factions who are completely mercenary in their interests. Hard to believe but the insurgents care very little for the innocent people and easily justify their deaths so long as their individual agendas are furthered. This is pervasive here, particularly with Islamic extremists. They are merciless on the citizens. I have no ideas how many summary executions these people have committed on the citizens of Iraq who they perceive as cooperating with the coalition but it is in the thousands. We have seen it happen.”

In other words, in the primitive world, power is all that matters, and restraint is considered weakness.

The e-mail from the Lieutenant helps to illustrate the difference between good power and bad power. But, why use power at all?

How do you counter rumors when the people listening to them have no idea what the truth is?

How do you appeal to people whose maximum education amounts to a bundle of prejudices, opinionated ignorance, and fanatical indoctrination?

How do a limited number of educated people subdue violent hordes of ignorant people?

Answer: Power.

It is impossible to negotiate with people who have their entire lives invested in prejudices, who see reason as weakness and fanaticism as strength. The only alternative is power.

The reason the fanatics and terrorists are displaying power is to gain the support of the ignorant, rumor-obsessed masses. The acts that we condemn as atrocities by terrorists are deliberate displays of raw power designed to intimidate their audience.

Raw power is the natural state of primitive communities. Watch young children interact with each other. They don’t reason with each other. They don’t discuss their differences. They push and shove and punch and kick and bite and throw things and hit each other over the head with their toys and scream and cry and tell Mommy. They grab whatever they feel they want. They use every tool at their disposal to overcome their siblings and peers. They see the world as a competition, and they are trying to win. Cooperation and self-restraint for the common good is beyond their understanding.

So it is with primitive cultures, which includes most non-urban cultures on Earth. In other words, the world in largely inhabited by primitive people who have little of the education necessary to live in peace with neighbors in an urban environment. Atrocious, horrifying displays of power are extremely persuasive to such people.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, were not intended to impress Americans as much as they were aimed at primitive peoples who happen to be Moslem. They were not aimed at educated Moslems, moderate Moslems, or non-Moslems. Those attacks are largely forgotten today in America and Europe. However, they are legend among the ignorant, rumor-obsessed Moslems of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. The attacks were displays of raw power, and Osama bin Laden used them to enhance his esteem among the Moslem masses. He succeeded brilliantly at this task, to the point that he could even afford to lose Afghanistan. Today, Osama bin Laden is the single Moslem voice that the entire world pays attention to. Folks, he got what he wanted.

American voters need to understand that the use of power, even brutality, can be beneficial in influencing primitive peoples of the world. They hate us because we are wealthy (poor people generally hate wealthy people). They will cooperate with us because we are powerful, we frighten them, and we can protect them.

If we use our power to subjugate primitive people, then we will reap greater resentment. If we use our power to protect and cultivate them, we will gain their temporary allegiance. However, because we are not Moslems, we can never seriously expect to gain the trust of third-world (or even second-world) Moslems.

The fact that we use power to defend our nation does not make us barbarians. We seem to know the difference between good power and bad power. However, if good power wins the war for our national security, then we need to use good power, and if bad power wins the war for our national security, then we need to use bad power. In any case, we need to win the war for our national security.

The people who are worried that the Unites States is heading down the path to Nazism need to stop being so hysterical. While that danger always lurks, I don’t see it as a serious threat. Taking a stand to defend our nation does not make us Nazis. Comparing the actual Islamic/fascist threat against the hypothetical domestic/fascist threat, I prefer to defeat the actual threat first.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Cult of Romantic Victimhood
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

Victor Davis Hanson has a fine article entitled “The Wages of Appeasement.” Please read the entire article. While the purpose of the article is to show the price the world has paid for American appeasement of the revolution in Iran in 1979, he touches on one point that I find instructive.

No longer having to defend the indigestible nonsense of Karl Marx, the modern Left has melded the idea of anti-capitalism with the idea of the noble savage to form what Hanson calls “[t]he new cult of romantic victimhood.” Hanson says that after the fall of the Soviet Union, “...there filtered down a vague notion that the United States and the West in general were responsible for Third World misery in ways that transcended the dull old class struggle. Endemic racism and the legacy of colonialism, the oppressive multinational corporation and the humiliation and erosion of indigenous culture brought on by globalization and a smug, self-important cultural condescension--all this and more explained poverty and despair, whether in Damascus, Tehran or Beirut.”

In other words, the cult of romantic victimhood says that wherever you find a problem in the world, it’s America’s fault. Never mind dictators like Saddam Hussein, never mind religious zealotry, never mind indigenous opposition to modernization, never mind the facts, America is entirely to blame. Under this dogma, the greatest threat to the world is American capitalism.

The term “cult of romantic victimhood” caught my attention because it seems to define the modern Left, especially the elements of the Democratic Party that I consider enemies of the United States. They truly fit the description of a cult. My copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines cult this way:

Cult: 5 a: great devotion to a person, idea, or thing, esp: such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad.

Fad: a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal.

The people who now follow the fad of romantic victimhood with great devotion and exaggerated zeal are of a generation raised on fads. Their pop icons, the Beatles, were the royalty of fads. Any fad the Beatles initiated, the cultists would follow.

These same people are following fads to this day. After the Beatles broke up, and especially after John Lennon was murdered, many of these people were set adrift, waiting for the next Lord of Fads to emerge to show them the way. Recently, Howard Dean showed some promise. John Kerry is trying to revive some old fads like opposing Richard Nixon and the Viet Nam War.

However, old fads hold no appeal. New fads must be invented to keep the faddists interested and energized. Hating President Bush is just such a fad. There is no reason for Americans to hate President Bush, even those who are opposed to him politically. Hating Bush is simply a fad, and people who claim to hate Bush are trying to join the elite circles, join the cult, as it were.

The cult of romantic victimhood excuses the excesses of the cultists and the excesses of their mascot groups (in particular, Moslem terrorists and murderers) because they have attained the enlightened status of tragic victims of American oppression. Hanson says about the Democratic Party in particular, “...past decorum and moderation go out the window when the pretext is saving indigenous peoples from American oppression.” According to the Democrats and some Moslem terrorists, the Iraqi people must now be saved from the Americans who sacrificed their lives and fortunes to eliminate the indigenous dictatorship. According to the cult of romantic victimhood, Saddam Hussein is just another victim of American oppression.

The assertion that Moslem terrorists are tragic victims of American oppression puts the Democratic Party in direct, nearly verbatim, agreement with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The Democratic Party’s ideological agreement with al Qaeda makes their stated opposition to terrorism suspect, and helps explain the rapid back-peddling Democrats are doing on the war on terror. Don’t forget, my friends, that on September 10, 2001, the day before al Qaeda attacked the United States, the leaders of the Democratic Party were busy wiping their asses with the American flag. They hated America then, and it appears that they still do.

The Democratic Party as a whole joined the cult of romantic victimhood a long time ago. That’s fine. It’s their Party. They can take it in any political direction they want. However, Americans who vote for Democrats under these circumstances are complete fools.

Americans who hate America must necessarily hate themselves. If they were sincere, they would flee the country. But, they don’t flee, and many who have fled have returned. America, it seems, is the best place the America-haters can find to live.

It’s perfectly reasonable to say that you don’t like tax policy, health care problems, economic unfairness, and corporate fraud. Such arguments show judgment, and can be persuasive. However, calling President Bush a Nazi is evidence of great devotion and exaggerated zeal. It is also an indication that the followers of such ideas are impressionable. They need professional help, not political slogans.

Members of cults must pay careful attention to what is expected of them. They must take care to say and do only what is expected of them. They are seeking the approval of the other cultists. Above all else, cultists seek approval.

I can understand why non-Americans would join the cult of romantic victimhood. The purpose of the cult is to reject America and everything American. But I can’t understand why Americans would join this cult. Whose approval are they seeking?

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Friday, May 07, 2004

The Myth of Risk Avoidance
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

After reading John Derbyshire’s outstanding and thought provoking article “The Eclipse of Risk” for the third time, I thought some comments were in order.

First, JD is the only person I know who has the nads to say, “Women are natural socialists.” Quoting Aristophanes from the play The Assemblywomen, “No one will be motivated by need: everybody will have everything”, JD touches on an absurd fantasy of the Left. The Assemblywomen is a comedy, and the audience is supposed to laugh at the statement that no one will be motivated by need, because it is a ridiculous idea. Everyone is motivated by need much of the time.

JD also notes that women and the elderly, the Democratic Party’s two bedrock constituencies, have made risk avoidance an obsession. Their paranoia about economic realities will ensure that the Democratic Party will remain strong at least until the baby boom generation finally kicks off.

He ends with the questions:
“Do we really want to drive risk out of our lives? And if we do, will it, as Horace said of nature, somehow find a way back in?”

Answers: No, and yes.

Risk avoidance is a fantasy. Risk cannot be avoided, it cannot be driven out; it can only be mitigated. Risk is part of human nature. The very fact that we are subject to pain and death means that risk is essential to our existence.

Instead of avoiding risk, we have learned to substitute moderate risks for extreme risks. Examples:
1. We have substituted the moderate risks of driving (overcoming great distances) for the extreme risks of shortages (caused by great distances).

2. We have substituted the moderate risks of harmful effects of medicines for the extreme risks of injury and disease.

3. We have substituted the moderate risks of harmful effects of processed foods for the extreme risks of food poisoning, parasites, and famine.

We also trade risks for enjoyment. For example:
1. We trade the risks of disease for the enjoyment of tobacco and alcohol.

2. We trade the risks of harmful effects of some music for the greater enjoyment of music.

3. We trade the risks of driving for the enjoyment of touring.

We trade risks for benefits. For example:
1. We trade the risks of travel for the benefits of food, work, entertainment, etc.

2. We trade the risks of betrayal for the benefits of friendship.

Excessive or unreasonable risk avoidance results in loss of benefit. The most certain way to avoid the most common risks of the day is to stay in bed. The risks of accidents and assaults are greatly reduced by staying in a warm, safe place and never leaving. However, staying in a warm, safe place incurs the risks of starvation and loneliness. (The socialist model seems to be avoiding the risks of efficiency, innovation, and progress by devaluing or ignoring their benefits.)

There is a tendency to trade away easy to identify and less dangerous risks for risks that are harder to identify but are ultimately more dangerous. For example, the death rate among people on low-fat diets is at least equal to the death rate among people on high-fat diets. Yet, the causes of death for people on low-fat diets are harder to identify, and therefore, there is no public outcry against low-fat diets to equal the public outcry against high-fat diets. Likewise with handguns: The number of lives saved by using handguns exceeds the number of lives lost by about ten to one. However, this information is harder to identify, therefore, public outcry for “gun control” (handguns are already highly controlled, therefore, “gun control” actually means gun confiscation) continues because the benefits of not confiscating guns (the evidence that confiscating firearms from law abiding citizens ultimately results in more deaths from firearms) is too complex for many people to understand.

Trading less dangerous risks that are easy to identify for more dangerous risks that are harder to identify suits stupid people. But, for those of us who think about these things, it is completely unsatisfactory. As for me, I’m tired of stupid people telling me I’m immoral. Stupidity is immoral. It’s also inexcusable.

Excessively risk-averse people are simpering cowards. They have every right to be, and they have every right to bring their paranoia into the political arena. But, they should expect to lose. Common sense is common to Americans, and the promise of the Left that they can make the world a safer place by taking away our freedoms simply doesn’t appeal to people with common sense.

Not to worry, risk is with us for all time. We need to engage in the age-old practice of getting together and deciding which risks we will accept and which risks we will not. This is the reason the U. S. government was formed, “[To] establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” The Americans chose to exchange the known risks of monarchy for the relatively unknown risks of self-government. I think they made the right choice.

Risk avoidance is simply a myth. Risk cannot be avoided. There is risk in everything. The best you can do for yourself is to determine which risks you will accept and which risks you will not. Avoiding risk means avoiding reality. This is acceptable within limits. However, habitual avoidance of reality is insanity, and political avoidance of reality is social suicide.

Reality contains risk; fantasy contains no risk. If they were not contrary to each other, we would have no reason to distinguish between reality and fantasy. The promise of the Left--the socialists, the Communists, and all the others--that they can eliminate risks is a fantasy, an absurdity, and when it is asserted as fact, a very bad lie. Beware ideologies bearing utopian promises.

It is worthwhile to take some time to list risks that are acceptable to you and risks that are not. You may surprise yourself.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bad Investments
Opinion © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

Sometimes, a quote just hits the nail right on the head. Here’s a gem from Mark Steyn’s article in National Review, November 10th 2003, “Jews You Can Use.”

“The Fuhrer was so over-invested in ideology that he persisted in jamming every square peg of hard reality into the round hole of his prejudices.”

Bingo. Nuclear strike. Game over.

Steyn posits the idea of being too invested in ideology to permit “hard reality” to interfere with “prejudices”. Another term for “hard reality” is “facts”, and another term for “prejudices” is “unfounded, but strongly held beliefs”, otherwise known as “dogma”.

This answers two questions for me.
1. Why do Weak Little Men behave the way they do?
2. What constitutes opinionated ignorance?

Answer: Bad investments of emotion and intellect in self-destructive dogma.

In defense of human nature, we all place our trust in some dogma. Dogma is a necessary substitute for knowledge. It is impossible to know everything, and dogma fills the voids in our knowledge. Following peaceful dogma allows us to get along with people who hold similar beliefs. Following violent dogma results either in dominance of our neighbors, or ostracism and defeat.

I have heard some people assert that all dogma is detrimental because dogma is unverified or unverifiable. In other words, unless dogma is verified as true, it must be considered false. However, this belief is contrary to logic. In the science of logic, ideas that cannot be verified as either true or false are considered indeterminate. Indeterminate ideas cannot be known to be either true or false. For example, as Aristotle explained very clearly, propositions about events in the future are indeterminate. It is impossible to know the truth of them until the event occurs. Events in the future are prime subject matter for dogma.

Dogma has many benefits for normal people. However, dogma poses particular problems for philosophers. Philosophers must place all information into two categories: 1) Facts, and 2) speculation. Beliefs necessarily fall into the category of speculation.

The fact that a piece of information falls into the category of speculation does not mean that it is untrue, only that it has not been verified as either true or false. (With this understanding, people who deny the existence of God are not philosophers.)

Back to the point that Mark Steyn makes, investment in dogma acts to restrain people from recognizing facts. Strongly held beliefs can have the effect of preventing people from observing and admitting facts. Anti-religious people often make this point. However, anti-religious people often commit the same sin as their religious brethren; they, too, hold strong beliefs that prevent them from observing and admitting facts.

Philosophers are not devoid of beliefs. However, a philosopher must be prepared to discard any belief that is demonstrated to be false. Giving up strongly held beliefs can be traumatic, causing profound grief. Our beliefs are part of us, and losing them means we lose a part of ourselves.

Most people are not prepared to give up their beliefs because they are too emotionally and intellectually invested in them. Investment in beliefs carries the same consequences as investment in property and personal relations.

Investment in good beliefs is a good investment. That’s why I am a friend of the Church, and a friend of any religion that preaches cultivation of the human spirit. I am also a friend of the sciences that improve the human condition, and likewise, entertainment that celebrates instead of disparages being human. I am a friend of religions, sciences, and entertainment that love human beings, even when they are at odds with each other. (Much modern entertainment contains strong elements of contempt for human beings, and therefore, to me, is not entertaining.)

Investment in bad beliefs is a bad investment. Beliefs that advocate murder, torture, degradation, contempt, and other assaults on human beings are bad beliefs. Dogmas that advocate improving the human condition by murdering human beings (Nazism, Communism, Islamism, or any other dogma that advocates unjustly taking the lives of human beings) are self-contradictory, destructive, and doomed to failure.

The Nazis under Hitler lost the war and half of Germany to the Soviets because they made bad investments in their own dogma. Saddam Hussein made the same mistake and lost Iraq as a result. Al-Qaeda under bin Laden are making exactly the same mistake, and are dying by their own hand, and at the hands of overwhelmingly powerful enemies. Bad investments yield bad results.

My caution to young people is to take special care about the beliefs you invest in. Large consequences can flow from small decisions. If your destination is New York, make damned sure the highway you are driving on is the one that leads to New York.

My advice to old people is to cut your losses and surrender your bad investments in bad beliefs. Trust me, it is painful. You will suffer anxiety and depression. However, divesting yourself of bad investments will save you even more grief in the long run. As Hugh Hewitt often says, “The first rule of holes is, if you want to get out of one, you have to stop digging!”

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Physical Fallacy
Economics lesson © 2004, by Guy L. Evans

The physical fallacy in economics states that:

The value of any object does not change with time, space, and risk.

Knowledge and Decisions (Professor Thomas Sowell, © 1980, by Basic Books, Inc.), Chapter 3, “Economic Trade-Offs” explains the subject in detail. The physical fallacy can also be applied to goods, services, and knowledge.

The primary example of the physical fallacy in our time is government-controlled price regulation. Price regulation supposes that the value of the regulated object is fixed by its cost to produce plus a meager profit margin, and that experts can determine the value of the object more accurately than consumers can.

The cause of the physical fallacy is ignorance of essential economic processes. Economic outcomes are easy to understand. Economic processes are more difficult, and beyond the understanding of most people, due to insufficient education.

1. Risk aversion
Both the buyer and the seller take some risk in every transaction. Risk is inherent in economics. The physical fallacy excludes the reality of risk from economic transactions. The result is unrealistic risk aversion, and a belief that risk can be eliminated from economics.

Socialism in any form asserts that risk can be eliminated or substantially reduced by government intervention in the economy. The socialist method of determining how businesses succeed is to analyze in retrospect only successful ventures. The analysis eliminates all business failures and excludes risk, speculation, and calculation from the formula. What you end up with is the idea that all prices should be set slightly higher than costs, and that by doing so, every business will succeed. (pp. 70-71)

John Derbyshire talks about risk aversion in depth. In his article, “The Eclipse of Risk” he says, “Women are natural socialists.” His explanation is worth reading. (I mention this because it took me three and a half years to find this article after I read it the first time. The lesson here is when you find an interesting article, SAVE IT!)

2. Resentment
Resentment is the natural result of ignorance. If the cost of a widget is $1.00 to the producer, the consumer will resent having to pay $5.00 to the retailer for the same widget. If the consumer is ignorant of the cost to the retailer to supply the widget, he will resent having to pay $5.00. The consumer will find it easier to believe that he is being cheated than to understand the actual cost to the retailer of transporting, stocking, and advertising the widget.

Socialism includes a strong element of resentment. Socialism seeks to eliminate what socialists think are unnecessary components of economics, but which in fact are essential. The result is economic failure.

3. Hindering risk-takers
The most damaging effect of the physical fallacy is eliminating or severely hindering risk-takers. Brokers are a good example of risk-takers. In socialist economies, brokers are considered unnecessary overhead, or worse, cheaters.

In free economies, brokers take risks that producers and consumers cannot afford to take. A good example of a broker is a bank. The bank stores money from depositors and pays them interest as an incentive to deposit their money in the bank. The bank then loans the money to borrowers. In loaning the money, the bank takes risks that the depositor may not wish to take. The bank is prepared to deal with risks of lending (load officers, collectors, and lawyers) that the depositor is not. Individual depositors could not afford to take the risk and incur the expense of loaning their money to strangers. The value of the bank to the economy is that money that is taken out of circulation (savings) is put back into circulation (lending). Otherwise, savings would be a drag on the economy.

4. Denying reality
Denying that the value of any object varies greatly depending on time, space, and risk results in the fantasy that economics can be controlled, and that bad consequences of bad choices can be eliminated. In this fantasy, the person who suffers the consequences of his own bad choices is labeled a victim, and his oppressor must be discovered and punished. Socialism is built on this kind of reality-denying fantasy.

5. Endless political intervention
Asserting that the value of an object does not change with time, space, and risk allows experts to determine the value of any object, and in so doing, allows them to substitute their judgment for the judgment of consumers.

Professor Sowell makes the point that ignorance of economic processes leads to the belief that ordinary economic processes can be misunderstood as problems, and that political intervention causes further economic problems requiring further political intervention. Professor Sowell writes:

Perhaps the greatest achievement of market economies is in economizing on the amount of knowledge needed to produce a given economic result. This is also their greatest political vulnerability. The public can get the economic benefits of such systems by judging results without understanding processes. But in their political behavior, the public must judge processes—including economic processes of which they may be ignorant or misinformed. Public misunderstandings can lead not only to misinterpretations of economic benefits as harm, but to actual harm resulting from policies designated to “correct” perceived problems. Once the process is underway, every perceived problem—whatever its reality or origin—calls for political solution, and these “solutions” tend to create a never ending supply of new problems to be solved. (p. 69)

Refuting the physical fallacy:
The physical fallacy is refuted by the fact is that the value of every object varies greatly according to time, place, and risk. Value is not determined by price. Price is determined by value. The value of every object (including goods, services, and knowledge) varies greatly depending on demand (needs of consumers plus ability to purchase).

For example, compare the value of a gallon of gas when your gas tank is full versus when it is nearly empty. When your tank is full, the price of a gallon of gas is too high because you don’t have any need for additional gas, and you don’t have any place to store additional gas. You’re going to use the gas for personal consumption; therefore, you have no need to store an inventory of gas. In this case, the price of a gallon of gas greatly exceeds the value of a gallon of gas because you don’t need more gas. When your tank is nearly empty, the price of a gallon of gas is acceptable because you need the gas. In this case, the value of a gallon of gas exceeds the price. The value of a gallon of gas is determined by need (time and place) and capacity to pay (risk).

Physical objects are resources used in realizing ideas. Without the ideas, the objects have no value. Ideas determine the object’s actual value.

The physical fallacy is the result of ignorance of economic processes. It is the belief that the value of an object does not change with time, place, and risk.

The result of believing the physical fallacy is the conviction that risk-takers (brokers, investors, lawyers, salesmen, etc.) are cheaters, and that making profit from taking risks is immoral.

The physical fallacy is at the heart of socialism. The socialist formula of setting prices slightly higher than costs (see Consequences: 1. Risk aversion above) can be deduced from successful businesses, but cannot be imposed on unsuccessful businesses to make them successful. When the physical fallacy is refuted by the fact is that the value of every object varies greatly according to time, place, and risk, it is clear that the socialist formula cannot work. Government cannot legislate value.

In the U. S., the Democratic Party is wedded to the physical fallacy. The ignorance inherent in the physical fallacy is institutionalized in the Democratic Party. Electing Democrats will assure unnecessary shortages, limits on freedom, lack of innovation, resentment, class warfare, punishing successful enterprises, and endless government tinkering with the economy.

Avoiding the physical fallacy:
Judge the value of goods, services, and knowledge for yourself. Focus on value relative to price. These questions will help you determine value:
1. What is this worth to me right now?
2. Is it worth more now, or in the future?
3. What risks am I willing to take?
4. What risks are unacceptable to me?
5. Can I find someone else to take the risks for me?

Please buy Knowledge and Decisions. If you have it, read it again. Buy a copy for your children and make sure they read it. It is the best primer on economics that I know of. If I find a better one, I’ll be sure to tell you about it.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?