Arman's stuff
Via The Register...

(Mon May 10 12:29:40 2010)

Can't make up your mind? No big deal, we'll do it for you!

If you read the article here, you'll find the statement I quote here:

Sunstein's writing swings wildly between technology utopianism, such as lauding the Hive Mind in his 2005 Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, and dystopianism. His 2000 book warned of a world where wider choice of information meant people only read material that only confirmed their own prejudices.

These look like two polarities, but in fact they're sides of the same coin: they arise from the belief that ordinary people can't think rationally and make up their own minds. Both naturally lead to paternalism, because some kind of benevolent agency is required to save us from ourselves. Sunstein has a very clear idea of what this might be.

The key statement, one that I believe sums up the entire liberal ideal, is nestled within: "...the belief that ordinary people can't think rationally and make up their own minds."

In a liberal utopia, you wouldn't have to worry about getting sick, because medical care would be ever-ready to serve you; you wouldn't have to worry about having a job, because even if you were laid off, your bills would be paid by the state. Electricity, water, waste, and even food and entertainment would be within the reach of everyone, rich or poor (though there would be no rich or poor, because there would be nothing that the rich had that the poor couldn't). The only trouble is that there are always those pesky outsiders. Be they simple folk who just want to live life by themselves (say, the Amish), or overly-complicated armchair theorists (read: conspiracy theorists), you're going to have someone that disagrees with you. Someone will always want to do things their own way, even if that way is by far harder, or more costly, or less efficient than the state-sponsored way (take me, for instance; this blag isn't exactly the easier way to go about making my voice heard; it would be far easier/cheaper/etc. just to sign up for a free blog somewhere). Those that decide to do things their own way would, naturally, disrupt the natural flow of things, especially if they decide that since they aren't actually using a service, they shouldn't have to pay for it. And worse yet, they might stir up followers, which would disrupt things further still. A state-run utopia wouldn't stand a chance. So what do you need? You need to make decisions for these people.

There are different ways to do that; the current favorite seems to be to rush things through and sort everything out later, like the medical nonsense that recently got passed. That way, you will get the leeway to "take care of" the "poor, helpless, stupid people" out there, without anyone getting in your way.

So what's the flip side of this coin? People, like it or not, often can't make decisions for themselves, or at least make the absolute wrong choice. What else can be done, but regulate right over the top of them?

Basically - let them get hurt. I know, I know, it's harsh, but it works. To build muscle, you have to work hard enough to actually damage your muscles; when they repair themselves, they build themselves stronger. Thoughts and actions are the same way; there are so many people who can't make decisions today because, frankly, they've never had to. As babies and toddlers, Mom and Dad did everything; then the school system gave you simplified routines to memorize, and eventually, they graduate with a small amount of rote memorization. Coast through college, and get a job pushing papers. Through it all, they never had to give more than a tiny thought towards making even a simple choice.

So make them decide. They don't want health insurance? Sure, no problem. If they get into an accident, they have to take care of themselves. They won't die because of it, no more than if they were in a car accident and didn't have anything but the minimum insurance. Will it be hard? Yeah, of course. That's the point. But no one should coast through life. I have struggled - am struggling - to get a good education, a good job, and a life for myself and my family. I've worked hard. I spend time fixing my house, working in my garden, and earning a paycheck, so I can put money in the bank and food on the table. I don't have to work 'til I bleed building bookshelves or planting tomatoes - but I want to do it, because I know there is a reward. No gardening, no tomatoes. Just like no saving means no retirement, and no TV now means my kids won't have to pay for college later. I learn the little things now, so I can make the big decisions later. That's the options; either you let people learn, and fall, and pick themselves up again, or you make their decisions for them. Now, from a management point of view, the latter is by far he better option; make the same decision for everyone, like it or not, and you're done. But it's like helping a butterfly out of its cocoon; the work getting out is what lets it fly. Otherwise, its wings stay crumpled and useless.

Which, oddly enough, I think describes a great number of Americans today...

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