All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. – Aristotle
I’ve been writing here for right at three and a half years. If the post counter is to be believed (blogspot being what it is), this is the 2281st post here. Prior to TSM I spent six months and a bit over 1800 posts at DemocraticUnderground.com in the “Gun Dungeon” irritating the Progressive faithful. (Most honest expression of the faith ever posted there: “There is no room in the progressive agenda for gun rights.”) Before that I spent a few months in the mosh-pit of talk.politics.guns and at the late, lamented Themestream.com. I have been a member of AR15.com since February of 2001. I have posted about 8,500 times there, and am still active.
In the last, oh, three years or so, on top of the fiction I prefer, I have read the following books (not a complete list, and certainly not in order):
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer
Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond
Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty by Randy Barnett
Shooters: Myths and Realities of America’s Gun Cultures by Abigale Kohn
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by James Webb
Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different by Gordon S. Wood
1776 by David McCullough
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by LTC Dave Grossman
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass and Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, both by Theodore Dalrymple
For the Defense of Themselves and the State: Legal Case Studies of the 2nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution by Clayton Cramer (Contact Clayton directly. I’m sure he’d be happy to sell you an autographed edition.)
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg
Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control by Gary Kleck and Don Kates
Whose Right to Bear Arms Did the Second Amendment Protect? edited by Saul Cornell
True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer
and, by association,
Conversations with Eric Sevareid by Eric Sevareid, which has two interviews with Hoffer
Honor: A History by James Bowman
And, of course,
Silent America: Essays from a Democracy at War by Bill Whittle
This is in addition to all the blogs, court decisions, op-eds, news pieces, and other internet reading I’ve done. Next on deck are Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and Capitalism and Freedom, and F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. (Be still, my beating heart.)
I’m 44 years old. I think I’ve finally developed a firm grasp on just how much I don’t know. I believe I’ve developed a firm grasp on what little I do know. I’m reminded of that quote from The Purple Avenger‘s blog:
“I now understand”, he said, “why engineers and their like are so hard to examine, whether on the stand or in a deposition. When they say a thing is possible, they KNOW it is possible, and when they say a thing is not possible, they KNOW it is not. Most people don’t understand know in that way; what they know is what we can persuade them to believe. You engineers live in the same world as the rest of us, but you understand that world in a way we never will.”
I’m interested in what works. In the course of writing this blog, I’ve had numerous discussions, both in posts and in comments, with others interested in the same things I am from similar and from widely divergent perspectives. In my six-part discussion with Dr. Danny Cline, he stated:
I do indeed believe that man has innate moral knowledge (I wouldn’t say an instinct, but that’s a pretty minor problem). I should say rather that I believe that I have innate moral knowledge.
In a comment to Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Lose, Billy Beck said:
At the root, I don’t understand how and why individuals don’t “lead” themselves.
But he had already answered his own question:
(Y)ou people are talking about blowing the place up, whether you know it or not. That’s the only way it can go, as things are now, because there is no philosophy at the bottom of what you’re talking about.
In Philosophy, Who Needs It, Rand said:
As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation — or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears….
Dr. Cline may have an “innate moral knowledge,” I won’t gainsay him on that, but my observation of objective reality leads me to believe that he is by far the exception rather than the rule. The overwhelming majorty of people “accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentifed wishes, doubts and fears” and are therefore incapable of leading themselves anywhere. Aristotle was absolutely right: the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.
And we’re failing in that – horribly. The entirety of Western Civilization is, apparently. If this was a WordPress blog, I’d have a category titled “Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools” filled with story after story of how parents, lawsuits, and socialist influences not limited only to political correctness and teachers unions have caused our education system to largely give up on the duty of education, and instead become twelve years of daycare. We’ve produced generation after generation of people with no coherent philosophy. At least, no single philosophy, or one that stands up to scrutiny.
For example, many localities passed minimum-wage increase initiatives with the last election. Speaker-elect Pelosi promises to address this apparently crucial issue in the first 100 hours of the new Congress. Why? Because a lot of Americans are convinced that the minimum wage is too low. Dale of Mostly Cajun isn’t. Neither is Tam from View from the Porch. They’re in good company. As Leo Rosten channeled recently deceased economist Milton Friedman on the topic:
“The public,” sighed Fenwick, “is not well-informed about economics, and will pay for its innocence. Increased minimum wages lead to increased costs, which lead to higher…. Then many honest, low-wage earners in the South (where the cost of living is lower; which is one reason wages there stay lower) will become disemployed. And many more of the young and no-skilled, in Harlem no less than Dixie, will remain more hopelessly unemployed than they already are.” Fenwick regarded Rupert Shmidlapp innocently. “Tell me, honestly: Would you rather work for $1.25 an hour or be unemployed at $1.40?”
While Shmidlapp was wrestling with many unkind thoughts, Fenwick gave his guileless smile: “I am strongly in favor of wages rising — which is entirely different from raising wages. Let wages go up as far as they can and deserve to, for the right reasons, which means in response to demand and supply and freedom to choose… Take domestic servants, Mr. Shmidlapp. Why maids, cooks, cleaning women, laundresses have enjoyed a fantastic increase in their earnings. And notice, please, that domestic servants are not organized; they don’t have a union, or a congressional lobby. Or take bank clerks…”
In Arizona, voters decided to ban smoking in public places but also decided to raise taxes on cigarettes to fund a child health-care program. What will they do with the fallout from dwindling tax revenues? (Oh. Silly me!) I’m sure there are other similar examples from all over the country.
For far too many people, what they know is what they can be persuaded to believe, and they can be persuaded to believe two or more mutually exclusive things simultaneously with apparently little effort. Without putting my tinfoil hat on too tight, I’m convinced that the primary reason our education system, and that of the majority if not entirety of Western civilization has collapsed is that ignorant people are easily persuaded, and politicians like it that way. So do trial lawyers. A populace with a conscious, rational, disciplined philosophy cannot be easily lead around by the nose. Such a philosophy must be avoided in a democratic society if power is to be acquired and accumulated.
To have a populace with such a philosophy, it is crucial to start with the education of youth. Some of us have been lucky in our education. I owe my basic beliefs to the quite good education I received as a child growing up on America’s “Space Coast” during the Cold War and our race to the Moon. The rest of it has been a desire to educate myself that comes from I don’t know where. I know I’m relatively rare; I’ve seen who we keep getting for elected officials and the programs they keep foisting on us to keep getting elected. We don’t “lead ourselves” because most of us aren’t willing to lose what we have in order to become tomorrow’s forgotten martyrs. We know that there are not enough of us to affect radical change – and radical change seems to be the only answer. “Blowing the place up” worked once. I hold little hope that it will again, because the general populace does not share a common philosophy in any way, shape, or form. I’m afraid Henry George was right:
A corrupt democratic government must finally corrupt the people, and when a people become corrupt there is no resurrection. The life is gone, only the carcass remains; and it is left for the plowshares of fate to bury it out of sight.
And I’m afraid that Osama Bin Laden and his ilk through their madrassas schools have inculcated a shared philosophy that will allow them to build a new empire on the buried carcass of the West.
Aristotle never said empires had to be benevolent.