Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pragmatism is Killing You - Part 2

Now that man has been made blind by Hume and Kant, the pragmatists accept all of these unprovable premises (rather than exposing them as false) and build upon them a “practical” philosophy. If you think that is impossible, you are right. But that didn’t stop the philosophers grappling with Kant’s impossible dichotomy. Like Kant, they merely asserted their “deductions” and pretended that somehow they were talking about reality. Like Kant and Hume, they return us to mystical concoctions and deduce that the only thing man can do is his duty to others. Enter collectivism and altruism; the hallmarks of the modern state.

One of these philosophers was Karl Popper (the mentor of George Soros). Popper created an eclectic mixture (a sort of magic potion) that could, he thought, help man in his quest for understanding (considering the position in which he was placed by Hume and Kant). Since, as Hume and Kant taught, we could only deal with concrete disconnected existents that our senses were incapable of grasping, Popper concluded that geniuses like Newton and Galileo had been successful because they took “bold leaps” toward knowledge; and since these leaps worked at the time, the inductive method provides us with a blueprint for how to live practical lives in an impossible universe.

Needless to say, neither Newton nor Galileo took bold leaps in knowledge. Nor did they think that that their minds could not understand reality. On the contrary, Galileo especially knew that he was seeing something real and if his senses saw it, he could count on it.

Consider what it means to approach real-world problems with a basic premise that reality is unknowable for man. Consider what this means for decision-making, for the educational and psychological development of our children, for the principles we establish as a society. How can men know what to do if they are not able to evaluate reality and apply the principles of identity and causality? Even so-called experts in given fields can only be experts in “what has worked in the past” rather than “what will work” according to reason. This view destroys valid inductive method and replaces it with “trial and error” and “copying” the actions taken in the past. The only thing you can do, the pragmatists concluded, is “act first and think later.”

As Dr. Leonard Peikoff writes: “According to pragmatism, the rules governing every branch of knowledge apply equally to ethics: the standard of truth, in morality as in science, is expediency. On this view, ethical ideas, like all others, are provisional tools designed to serve men's purposes in a constantly changing world. Ethical ideas, like all others, are to be judged not by reference to the "unknowable" facts of reality (or to "preconceived" theory or to "dead" abstraction), but by the standard of "practical" success. It follows that any particular ethical idea is to be accepted only so long as it continues to promote the sort of consequences desired by its advocates, i.e., only so long as it continues to "work" successfully. Ethics is mutable; what is right (or good) today, may be wrong (or evil) tomorrow; virtue and vice—like truth and falsehood—are not "rigid," but relative. Again, by a somewhat different route, there are no moral absolutes.”[1]

The result politically can only be collectivism and altruism. This means that the only practical way to deal with people is to herd them into collectives with an imperative to self-sacrifice. This is perfect for politicians who do not know what to do and who don’t want to be held responsible for the damage they do. They need only “collectivize” their citizens into bold altruistic programs and re-distribution. When the programs fail, it is not the politician who has failed, it is the people who did not sacrifice enough.

Since there are no standards of knowledge and no principles for developing knowledge, pragmatists can only take polls of opinion. Since this approach is dependent upon groups, the only viable specialization for pragmatists is sociology and politics. This gives rise to politicians who read polls and pollsters who tailor the truth to the needs of the government.

A politician like Obama wants his policies to work but he has no idea if they will; he only knows that other people have asserted their practicality. And since they didn’t know either, we can be sure that whatever President Obama does, on this basis, will have no connection to history, reality, truth or even principles.

For Obama, history is that version of the past that has been rewritten to show that the problems of the past stemmed from an absence of sacrifice. Reality can only be corrected by the government’s imposing sacrifice on productive citizens. Truth is any statement that expresses this perspective and since the only moral principle is sacrifice, both human and government action must ensure as much sacrifice as possible.

Upon such a foundation is it any wonder that today few men stand on real principles; that the height of “practicality” is to test the winds of opinion; that the only way to power is to be the correct interpreter of the Will of the collective? The top leaders in such a climate, the men who are revered as geniuses and prophets, are those who are clever enough to tap into that Will and convince people that he/she has the best ideas for moving forward; in essence, he or she is the person who most successfully reflects back to the people what they are already thinking; that forced sacrifice for the collective is the only means toward prosperity. It is a deadly infinite loop that accomplishes nothing but repetition of the same mistakes engaged in the past.

Harvard graduates consider themselves to be intelligent because they think they know that there is nothing to know. It is the uneducated American worker who thinks that principles count and reality can be understood. Politicians, educated at Harvard and Princeton and other universities, think they are smarter than the average person because they have devoted themselves to the study of how to manipulate other men through statistics, polls and regulations. Most stupid of all, in their eyes, are people who advocate the very idea of a Constitution that defends individual rights to liberty and property. Why? The Constitution is based upon certainty, an idea that their professors have said has no validity. So they make millions of dollars in consulting fees by advising Presidents on which regulations will work based upon their best ‘scientific’ calculations. The smirk you see on their faces, when they explain their solutions, is their absolute certainty that you know nothing. How they know it is a question they haven’t asked themselves since that belief is an assertion of knowledge. They are too busy being 'practical' to answer any questions about the self-contradictions in their views.

This “superior intelligence” of our leaders creates the cover for the most atrocious graft, corruption and harmful regulations. Under cover of “trying things to see what works,” principles are thrown out, force and freedom are considered equally valid, but with a tendency to force because it is more assertive action. When politicians explain the reasoning behind their actions, they explain that they are being bold and aggressive in solving problems. Boldness and aggressiveness give the impression that they are men of action, decision-makers and leaders. The fact is they don’t have a clue about what to do.

On January 8th 2008, Barack Obama said, “"I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible."[2] Here you have the code language of pragmatism; the promise to take action now without any knowledge of whether the action will actually accomplish the desired result. Worse than this, Obama can only copy past pragmatists (such as FDR) whose propaganda says they were great leaders. Whether that is true is irrelevant. The lie has become the truth, they think.

When the ‘best’ economists tell Obama that FDR’s spending was not the problem; the problem was that he did not spend enough, he agrees and creates the most massive spending programs in the history of the world, programs that will enslave future generations to work for bare subsistence while they pay off the massive debt. Though he uses no factual data to prove that this kind of spending has ever worked, he assures himself and the world that economists of all political persuasions recommend it; and even though he does not know if it will work, they somehow do. At the very least, he can blame them when the “chickens come home to roost.”

"For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse."[3] When the results do not come, they will say that it takes time for the solution to materialize...while people starve. Then, after some time, they will claim that they have not spent enough…there are still many people starving. This while every day more Americans lose their jobs, more families lose their savings and more dreams are deferred and denied. No one blames the government's actions for these results…instead the selfishness and greed are blamed. After more time, they will proclaim a new brilliant discovery: they didn’t demand enough sacrifice…while the bodies of starved citizens are buried in mass graves away from the eyes of the cameras.

A pragmatist is seldom concerned about economic facts of reality. He is concerned only about getting through the consequences he created in the immediate moment and then later getting through the consequences he is creating in next moment. If he can make it appear that he is “doing something” about the economy, he thinks, then the voters, those that are still alive, will be happy with his actions, regardless of whether the actions worked or not. All it takes is a little propaganda and a compliant, unquestioning media to obtain credit for the actions but not the consequences.

Where is the practical magic that will make us a productive, thriving country again? What bold new theory of economics will turn us into an advanced new society based on Obama's glowing and hopeful approach to the issues of our day? What principles can we count on when principles are to be avoided and mush is the order of the day?

With Obama saying that we must sacrifice for the common good, few understand what sacrifice means in practice...theft of savings, runaway inflation, labor camps, works projects, bloated government payrolls and utter decimation of the economy. Obama's swagger will soon turn to "failed man walking." By then it won’t matter; there will only be our heroic leader, leading us in a war of retribution against some resource-rich evil enemy.

To what kind of government does pragmatism lead? Since principles are invalid and the only ‘practical’ principle is acting today and thinking later, there is a historical precedent revealing that fascism is the form of government created by pragmatism. When a society comes to the conclusion that individual rights are an old idea and the new idea is central planning by a charismatic leader who tells the people what they want to hear (much like Mussolini), that the purpose of government is to advance the ‘common good’ by means of force, that the people should produce but the government should spend, then there will be no economy to speak of; there will only be the gun and quiet, complacent people trying to muster the energy to conquer hunger.

Pragmatism cannot save capitalism, and it is the destroyer of civilization, as attested by the devastation of Europe in the 20th Century. Nor can it provide a working philosophical model for our society in spite of George Soros' fascist Open Society. The only thing that will save our society is a successful battle for capitalism; in short a battle for reason, individual rights and principles rather than pragmatic experimentation. It is either pragmatism or freedom.

Where is Thomas Paine when you need him?

[1] The Ayn Rand Letter Vol. II, No. 5 December 4, 1972 Altruism, Pragmatism And Brutality By Leonard Peikoff

[2] http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/01/09/obama_prods_congress_on_economy/
[3] Ibid

1 comment:

  1. Comment from Principlex and Response:

    “I like this post and follow your logic to about half way through.

    When you say, "For instance, let’s assume the government decides that interest rates on loans are too high and sets the rate at a level it deems proper. The result is that people now have no ability to choose loans that fit their particular needs." I don't understand how the lower rate prevents people from selecting loans that fit their needs. Do you mean that given the "price control" on interest, all loans that don't work at that price go out of existence?”


    Keep in mind, this example is intended to provide an example of how pragmatist politicians interfere with the market place as an outgrowth of their false practicality. I was not making an argument against interest rate controls. It is merely an example of how the government interferes in the market place and the result is not at all the practical outcome intended.

    Interest rate controls by government are subject the same economic consequences as price controls of other commodities. Interest rates are the “prices” of loans and if you manipulate prices, you have unintended consequences that harm people. Interest rates follow the law of supply and demand and if you manipulate demand you necessarily manipulate supply.

    Generally, when the government wants to “stimulate” the economy using interest rates, it will set interest rates below what the free market would demand in order to benefit borrowers. This means that lenders who cannot make a profit at the lower rates will go out of business.

    When the government attempts to lower the price any commodity, this creates a run on that product which means people will buy the product more quickly and this will lower supply. Since the price is set too low, the provider of that product cannot reproduce the product at a loss so he/she goes out of business and the product is removed from the market. So yes, I mean that “all loans that don’t work at that price go out of existence.”

    “In the recent case where the government required banks to loan to credit unworthy consumers, more people were able to get loans. The problem came, of course, when the bubble burst and it was discovered that there was no way for the borrowers to make their payments nor even work to make them since they put up little or no investment when they got their loan.”


    This situation of the sub-prime crisis was not the “pure” case of merely lowering interest rates. In addition to this, government lowered lending standards…and more importantly, the government was not limited to the number of loans it could make because it had the backing of the government and Federal Reserve. In a situation where the government only lowers interest rates, you’ll have a flood of loans to companies that offer the lower rates but with other companies with marginally lower profit pictures going out of business because they can no longer make a profit.

    “"Lenders can’t adjust their loans to the credit rating of the borrowers and as a result they will give some bad loans." It seems to me that they will make many bad loans if they are forced to violate their underwriting standards.”


    Again, I am speaking to just the practice of lowering interest rates…not to a situation where the government also lowers lending standards. The “bad loan” here is for the lender who would have been able to make a larger profit by lending at a higher rate. He is not allowed to consider the potential return to the borrower and thereby loses money that he otherwise would have made with an unregulated interest rate.

    "Smaller lenders must go out of business because the larger companies can offer borrowers additional benefits due to their size." Isn't this true in a free market as well?”


    Yes, but in a free market the smaller lenders can appeal to other benefits such as personal service, local proximity and customer service, etc. When the government lowers interest rates, the larger companies make profits on lower margins but with significantly more loans. In some cases, because of their larger range of services, they may even take a loss on some loans and make it up on other services. They can also cut a lot of dead weight from their larger businesses such as consolidating locations and streamlining businesses processes, laying off people, etc. Smaller lenders are often already lean and may not be able to cut corners due to their small size. To further exacerbate the situation the larger companies will use advertising and other inducements to make people forego the benefits of the smaller companies.

    To quote Henry Hazlitt:

    “Now we cannot hold the price of any commodity below its market level without in time bringing about two consequences. The first is to increase the demand for that commodity. Because the commodity is cheaper, people are both tempted to buy, and can afford to buy, more of it. The second consequence is to reduce the supply of that commodity. Because people buy more, the accumulated supply is more quickly taken from the shelves of merchants. But in addition to this, production of that commodity is discouraged. Profit margins are reduced or wiped out. The marginal producers are driven out of business. Even the most efficient producers may be called upon to turn out their product at a loss.”