18A032 The Mind of a Statist by Jim Davies, 8/7/2018    


Just to see what would happen, recently I exchanged emails with a gentleman I encountered on social media who had not told me he would like to consider some ideas about freedom. The good advice given in TOLFA is not to waste time debating with people but to invite them to join that Academy and if they decline, to move on to the next; but I was curious to test that. I found the advice was correct after all.

To protect the guilty I'll change his name to David Lewis, and he is quite articulate and seemed courteous, at least initially, and he's even older than I am so is seasoned by a long life. I think the first topic we discussed was FDR's part in the eruption of WW2; as I see it he is a prime instigator, while David thought him a World Savior. We moved on to other subjects.

I suggested we begin at the beginning and try to agree on what "government" is; how it is defined. Clearly, there's no point in discussing anything unless everyone agrees what it is. David offered this: "government is an institution that coordinates those who wish to live in a society". This rosy picture is probably rather popular. A third of a billion people have all sorts of interests, and like a large orchestra they need a conductor, who will benignly steer each to make good music together. But I pointed out to David that the stem word "govern" does not include such activity. I invited him to consider the dictionary definition, and pointed out that it is concerned with authoritative rule. Rule, clearly, means that choices are over-ruled. I added that we could reinforce the dictionary by observing what governments actually do in practice, and pointed him to those helpful pie-charts towards the end of the IRS' "1040 Instructions."

Now, Mr Lewis is not so dumb as not to see where that would lead; but he would neither change his definition of "government" nor attempt to justify it further. This was an unmistakable indication of a fixed opinion, a prejudice fortified against the possibility of being changed by reasoned persuasion. That is perfectly consistent with the holding of a religious belief.

I ought to have cut communication off right there, since we could not even agree on the definition of the terms being used; but wishing to explore the Statist mind further, I pointed him to TOLFA.

After digressing into the 911 government emergency service (he thought it wonderful, I see it as highly sinister) he wrote. "Curiosity finally got the better of me. First thing I notice is 'Ayn Rand.' Strike one. Second: you have an absolute right to own and operate your own life, any way you wish That means my neighbor has the same absolute right. That could be tricky."

Those familiar with the Academy will know that these appear in Segment 1, which ought not to be reached without having spent time on the Entrance page (to find how much study work is needed) and the Benefits page (to see whether it will be worth the effort) and the How Best to Use page (to avoid waste of time and gain the most.) So David had ignored the advice, bypassed these important preliminaries and plunged right into Seg 1 - in whose middle he spotted something he disliked: a mention of Ayn Rand. "Strike one", he called it. He subsequently admitted he'd never read Rand, so was dismissing TOLFA on the basis of a second-hand prejudice. Very clearly, there was no serious intent to consider what it offers.

The exchange ground on like a tennis rally, David's first forehand being the eye-popping "some things that are axiomatic to you would not be to me". So having waved off Rand's excellent explanation of what an axiom is, he demonstrated that he did not have even the vaguest notion of its nature; to him, an axiom is a matter of opinion, not a fixed and undeniable premise. This became all the more astonishing when, a little later in the rally, he glued himself to the definition "an axiom is a universally accepted truth" - ie, something against which nobody holds a contrary opinion. So here was a further attribute of the Statist mind: an ability to adhere to both of two wholly contradictory ideas. Aristotle, weep.

Wishing now to end an obviously fruitless rally I tried one further approach: Mr Lewis had embraced a (rather feeble) dictionary definition of one term ("axiom") after having refused to accept the clear dictionary definition of another ("government") so I invited him to explain this double standard. I asked him three times; yet still, he failed to explain or excuse his contradiction. I conclude that his only consistent conduct is to endorse a dictionary when it agrees with him and reject it otherwise.

I think David Lewis is an intellectual lightweight, who has far too high an opinion of his own abilities, so cannot be sure he is typical of all Statists. But to the extent that he is, this exercise may not have been entirely fruitless; it tells us something of what they are like. In summary:

  • The Statist sometimes idolizes its heroes, as in many cults. FDR saved the world, even if to do so he caused the deaths of scores of millions of people, and any contrary view is heresy. "Don't confuse me with facts."
  • He operates by myth, regardless of fact and reason. Government is a benevolent necessity, no matter how that word is defined and regardless of what it does. This is quite important; everyone makes choices daily, and if once the idea penetrates the skull that government is a choice-denying outfit, trouble may follow.
  • However his world-view was formed (school, media...) it is reinforced by knee-jerk rules like Rand is Bad, no reading required. Ayn Rand reintroduced reason, championed individual achievement and castigated the welfare state, so must be really dangerous to Statism; hence, her books' places on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
  • His rock-solid belief in the status quo is proof even against rabid contradictions, whose joint presence in the mind is accepted without question.

The Statist's mind is therefore a seriously damaged organ, and all this is highly typical of a religious cult. Beliefs are absorbed by constant repetition, especially when young, and well-nigh impregnable barricades are built around them. Only in some kind of personal crisis are they ever going to be questioned. Fortunately, crises do happen.

At any one time, out of one or two hundred friends, we each know someone in that situation. We ask if they'd be interested in considering some ideas about freedom. Those for whom life and the Statist world-view isn't working out too well, agree to join the Academy with an open mind. All we have to do is to invite one at just such a moment, once a year. The rest is math.

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