Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our Neocortical Overlords

You find interesting things in foreign newspapers. Two recent pieces from The Australian are cases in point.

The first one, We have a fundamental right to be wrong, is an opinion piece that mentions one of my least-favorite people, Cass Sunstein.

Frank Brennan's recent National Human Rights Consultation report recommends assessing all legislation to ensure it conforms to Australia's human rights legislation.

The report also proposes an information campaign to ensure we all understand our obligations on human rights.

This is an excellent example of the social-engineering approach that assumes everybody needs ideological education and that we will all think the same with a wink and a nudge from people who know what is best.

Especially a nudge, along the lines of the ideas in behavioural economist Richard Thaler and law academic Cass Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Welfare and Happiness.

Not that the pair want to manipulate people's politics or impose their own ideas of social justice on anybody. Far from it: they focus on economic issues, arguing that society can be improved by using policy to nudge people into making decisions they otherwise will not see are in their interest. But Nudge's underpinning idea is that most of us do not know what is good for us. This appeals to people who think they do.

There is nothing perpetually aggrieved intellectuals enjoy more than demonstrating that the rest of us are idiots.
There's more. Read the whole thing.

After that comes Obama descends to pseudoscience, a truly fascinating op-ed written by a Washington Post columnist. It's fascinating that an Australian paper picked this piece to run. Of course, the headline in the Post was a bit different, Obama the snob. Mr. Gerson has this to say:
After a series of ineffective public messages -- leaving the political landscape dotted with dry rhetorical wells -- President Obama has hit upon a closing argument.

"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now," he recently told a group of Democratic donors in Massachusetts, "and facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country is scared."

Let's unpack these remarks.

Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents "facts and science and argument." His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader -- the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains -- the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.

Though there is plenty of competition, these are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.

The neocortical presidency destroys the possibility of political dialogue. What could Obama possibly learn from voters who are embittered, confused and dominated by subconscious evolutionary fears? They have nothing to teach, nothing to offer to the superior mind. Instead of engaging in debate, Obama resorts to reductionism, explaining his opponents away.
But of course! The Ruling Class are our intellectual superiors! We live in the "flyover states." We shop at Wal*Mart. We eat at McDonald's and The Olive Garden. We don't even know the price of arugula! We make bad decisions! (Well, we did elect these clowns . . . )

"Bad decisions," of course, being defined as "counter to our Neocortical Overlords."

I, for one, do not welcome our Neocortical Overlords. As Glenn Reynolds has been describing them recently, they're not so much educated as credentialed, and we're finally figuring that out, as the house of cards we've built over the last hundred years is teetering near collapse.

You're damned right we're scared.

And as Thomas Sowell (among others) has been pointing out for literally decades, the problem with The Anointed isn't that they know so much, it is that they know so much that is wrong.

And they're in charge.

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