I wish to propose for the reader’s favorable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. – Bertrand Russell
O’Flaherty: ¼ [I]f there was twenty ways of telling the truth and only one way of telling a lie, the Government would find it out. It’s in the nature of governments to tell lies. – George Bernard Shaw, O’Flaherty, V. C.
Tell the truth to those who have a right to know it. – Ernest Hemingway
It’s a pity that collections of verbal symbols have been given the all-inclusive term language. I refer to music, mathematics, dance, acting, pictures (moving and still), and many other modes (all modes) of communication as languages too. Then I am able to say that I believe in teaching languages, and only languages, in schools perhaps until the end of high-school and perhaps all through college. I wish to generalize the word language to include every form of communication. Some languages might consist of more than one type of communication. Opera, for example, is a language that employs a number of modes of communication.
Normally, the statement, as opposed to the word, is the unit element in language. “Ouch” is a statement first, in fact a sentence, and a word much later. Now, I wish to generalize the word statement to include statements that are larger than sentences – perhaps constructed of a large number of simple statements, e.g., the complete works of Dickens or, better yet, Poincaré, or, as an example of a somewhat smaller, yet still very large compound statement, Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Thus, I wish to generalize statements to include constructs that are composed of statements, perhaps very many statements, whatever the class of language, e.g., all abstract paintings. In the sequel, then, whenever I refer to a statement, I mean a generalized statement (simple and compound statements of any type, including statements whose constituents are of many different types, i.e., complex-compound statements, unless I specifically restrict myself. Remember I shall not repeat the broadening word generalized; but, unless I specify otherwise, I mean generalized statement when I refer to statements. I shall divide up the statements according to their relation to the concepts truth and falsity. Truth was discussed in Chapter 3. Falsity is discussed in this chapter – beginning with the definition.
I have elected to term the violation of the Truth Axiom falsity. The reader recognizes that the term falsity is likely to be confused with all deviations from truth whether the Truth Axiom be violated or not. Therefore, I shall define a collection of useful concepts to distinguish tolerable deviations from truth from the type of falsity that does real harm in society – falsity that we wish to prevent and that we have reason to believe can be cured by eliminating materialism. I believe I have made a creditable case for this in Chapter 9. In any case, the converse, namely, that violations of the Truth Axiom are certain to persist in a materialistic world, is proved conclusively in Chapter 9.
Some statements do not have a truth value. (I am assuming that the reader is familiar with the section “On Truth” in Chapter 3.) I would like to give an example of a statement that cannot be construed to have a truth value under any circumstances whatever, but it is not easy to do. Under some circumstances the simple greeting “Hello” is a bald face lie as it implies a friendliness or absence of hostility that does not exist. Therefore, I shall specify the circumstances pertinent to the example I shall give in which case I may choose as an example a statement that, under a straightforward parsing, must certainly have a truth value. I have already decided that my example had better be a question as the indicative mode is hard to unload (relieve of hidden, unintended, and/or extraneous meanings). Suppose I attend a cocktail party and I am introduced to a perfect stranger. If I should inquire “How are you?”, I mean absolutely nothing by it. It is the merest formality and is not to be construed as an indication that I actually care how the person is. I may say, under these restricted and all too common circumstances, that the statement has no truth value.
The imperative mode is even more likely to be a good source of statements with no truth value. I can’t imagine under what circumstances the statement “Stop the car here” could be either true or false. (Perhaps the reader will argue that interrogative and imperative sentences are not genuine statements. Undoubtedly, many experts will claim that x + y = 5 is not a statement either – until conditions on x and y are given.) I don’t know that I shall have any further reason to refer to this category of statements.
[Note in proof (1-16-97): I have assumed that the class of statements that are neither true nor false is not empty. To be honest, I should admit that this may be an open philosophical question. I am under the impression that doubts as to the existence of such statements have persisted from antiquity. I am not qualified to argue this point to a satisfactory conclusion, nevertheless I hope the reader is satisfied that the outcome does not affect the validity of this essay.]
In Chapter 3, I discussed the meaning of the term “true statement” and, despite the logical difficulties, found a large class of statements that can be taken as true with a certain probability depending on the number of corroborating instances that have been found according to the principle of induction. This class is not the primary subject of this chapter, except to exclude it from the class of false statements – unless, of course, the probability of being true is very small and is not stated, even qualitatively, e.g., “Man descended directly from the raccoon.” as opposed to “Despite the very great unlikelihood, man may have descended directly from the raccoon.” Also, in Chapter 3, I discussed statements that are logically true, in which case the probability that they are true is 1.0.
Although Newtonian physics is not quite true except under a restricted but very large range of applicability, such scientific theories, which have been overthrown insofar as their complete generality is no longer accepted, are still very useful; and, even if Newtonian physics were not at all useful, we should not accuse Professor Newton of falsehood. Scientific theories put forward in good faith under the normal proviso of fallibility are exempt from the derogation that normally pertains to falsity. We call them, simply, exempt statements.
Most scientific theories turn out to be false. That should not be construed as a reason to abandon the invention of scientific theories even when the inventor – or theoretician – has only the slimmest hope that the theory may bear fruit. Some scientific theories enjoy long-standing credibility and, finally, perhaps after centuries, prove false or at least not true in the way they were believed to be true. These, too, belong to the exempt category.
Presumably, conjectures outside the domain of science, put forward in good faith, with the understanding, circulated wherever the conjecture is heard, that the conjecture is provisional and not only may turn out to be false but should be expected to turn out to be false, deserve the same immunity as exempt scientific statements enjoy. We do not wish to discourage speculation, even wild speculation, in the arts, public policy, sports, and so on.
Falsehoods that are not harmful and amount to no worse than an inadvertent lapse of memory are classified as petty falsity, FP, and do not concern us as a social evil. The fact that I may assert that I went to the store yesterday whereas I actually went to the store the day before yesterday is not of any importance normally and we shall not give it any, except to hope that I am not losing any of my marbles, which I am at liberty to doubt. I can’t imagine why petty falsity would be caused by materialism.
In Remembrance of Things Past, the novelist Marcel Proust commented that the normal state of memory is amnesia. Let us see if this is essentially true. Of course you remember your name and what your job is, but how much do you remember of your past life? What were you doing on the morning of May 23rd, 1990. I know that I spent the morning of that day writing these words, but you, dear reader, you remember next to nothing, unless my choice of day has been unfortuitous for my case. Perhaps, after all, you remember that you were fired from your job at 2:45PM on May 23rd, 1990, when you returned from lunch. This reminds you that you mentioned to your wife only that morning how secure your job was and that you had difficulty starting your car because the lights had been turned on during a cloudburst the day before but not turned off when the weather cleared. You might even remember what you ate for lunch because May 23rd was a pivotal day in your life, but do you remember what you had for breakfast? If so, what about the Wednesday a week earlier? Describe your thoughts and actions on that day beginning with your first thought upon awakening. What we remember is like a chain of tiny islands in a vast ocean of what we do not remember.
But, if the normal state of memory is amnesia, the normal state of knowledge is ignorance. If, to assist human comprehension, the space of all knowledge were pictured as a large piece of paper (never mind the finiteness, boundedness, or two-dimensionality), the parts that would be shaded to indicate what is known (to humans) would be invisible to the naked eye and the piece of paper would appear blank. Certainly, this vast space has tiny little islands of knowledge possessed by human minds; but, in comparison with all the knowledge that is possible, represented by the entire space, including all past knowledge that has passed out of living memory, these tiny island are barely noticeable, except, of course, to ourselves, whose minds are absorbed by them. If we could see our ignorance as well as we see our knowledge, we should have quite a shock. Unfortunately, most of what we believe is part of our ignorance. I wonder which is worse: forgetfulness or ignorance. I know that my own worst fault is something I know but I forget.
Hemingway, in The Green Hills of Africa, asks us to “tell the truth to those who have a right to know it”. Presumably, we are not to tell the truth to people who do not have a right to know it, which, in my philosophy, includes those who pretend to have authority over us. It remains to decide who else does not have a right to know the truth. I refer to this as Hemingway’s Stricture.
We understand that it is justified not to tell the truth to people in authority if it might be harmful to do so. A member of the French underground would not tell the truth to a member of the Gestapo! Justifiable falsity denotes the withholding of truth from authority as required by the Truth Axiom (and Hemingway’s Stricture). The perpetrator must represent false statements as true because of violations of the Freedom Axiom by tyrants representing authority. Justifiable falsity might just as well be included among the exempt statements; however, it is genuinely occurrence equivalent with materialism.
If I lie to authority, although the harm to authority may be grievous, that is just as it must be, and I have violated no moral axiom. When we shall have eliminated the type of tyranny referred to as authority, this distinction will disappear. Thus, in a very real sense, justifiable falsity is not falsity! (We shall employ the symbol FJ to designate justifiable falsity to remind us that, while it is occurrence equivalent with materialism, it is not what we mean by falsity as a violation of the Truth Axiom.)
If materialism is extant, tyranny and the authority of some over others, which perforce imposes upon their freedom, must be present as well. When a representative of authority imposes upon our freedom or the freedom of our allies (presumably lovers of liberty, perhaps even freedom fighters), we are obliged to withhold truth from the oppressor if his knowledge of the true state of affairs is inconsistent with our best effort to regain our freedom. This situation is bound to arise eventually, therefore lying to authority is occurrence equivalent to materialism. Sooner or later every tyrant is someone’s “mark”. (Mark is the confidence man’s term for his victim.)
Thus evil persists, but the evil is the violation of the Freedom Axiom by the tyrant representing authority. The perpetrator of justifiable falsity is forced to separate himself from the tyrant by means of falsehood in the interest of freedom – past, present, or future. Although falsehood is harmful, particularly when it poisons the relationships upon which happiness depends, the evil is not caused, normally, by the (typical) petty tyrant, e.g., a cop, but rather by a system that tolerates materialism.
If we avoided the use of the term falsity altogether in describing this type of falsity, we could have preserved a slightly simpler definition of falsity. Of course, we would still have had to consider separately the exempt cases and cases of petty falsity. The reader is welcome to try to simplify this terminology.
Definition (Ordinary falsity). Ordinary falsity, F, sometimes referred to as grand falsity, is harmful violation of the Truth Axiom such that the harm done is the responsibility of the violator (of the Truth Axiom) as opposed to the case of justifiable falsity where the harm is done by a violation of the Freedom Axiom (by authoritarians) rather than by a violation of the Truth Axiom by the falsifier.
Ordinary falsity is the type of falsity that I expect to disappear if materialism is abandoned. The term ordinary falsity refers to most types of violation of truth, including incomplete truth (the truth, nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth). It includes falsehood, fallacies in argumentation, dishonesty, thought control, brainwashing – or more properly “brainstuffing” (but we shall retain the term “brainwashing” in its ironic sense), repression of dissent, and even difficult access to the media. Also, ordinary falsity refers to what George Orwell termed doublethink, the holding, by an individual, of two contradictory notions. It seems that doublethink makes all of the other violations of the Truth Axiom possible because people don’t like to admit that they lie to others, believe in lies, or lie to themselves. Naturally, though, I am concerned to a great extent with the difficulty of bringing the ideas expressed in this essay (or better ideas) to the attention of thinking Americans. From my point of view, this difficulty permits falsehood to reign supreme in these Former United States.
Materialistic falsity (FM) consists of falsity associated with competition (for wealth, power including negotiable influence, and negotiable fame), and falsity associated with “manufacturing consent”, repressing dissent, inculcating materialistic notions in children, systematically miseducating children and adults, and disseminating materialistic propaganda. Developmental falsity (FD) consists of superstition, narcissism, other forms of self-deception, and our tendency to deceive people with whom we have a romantic or erotic relation for reasons not necessarily connected to the best interests of those whom we wish to love. Certainly, FM will disappear when materialism does, whereas it is an open question, which I have answered (for myself) in the affirmative, whether or not FD will disappear when FM does. Ordinary falsity F, then consists of FM and FD.
In my (incomplete) essay “On Television”, which will appear in Vol. II or III of my collected papers , I will catalogue a host of lies promulgated by the most respected people and organizations in America in their television advertising. [Note (6.12.2004). Every commercial has one or more (frequently all) of the following features: (i) dishonest and deceptive statements, (ii) abysmal taste, (iii) idiotic philosophy, (iv) unfair use of unannounced and unapproved junk “music”, (v) disproportionately (sometimes painfully) loud audio track.]
Lately, I have been clipping stories from the Houston Post, an ordinary establishment newspaper. These describe a litany of dishonest practices of which our noblest citizens and corporations are guilty and a few choice specimens appear at the end of this chapter. Lies and dishonest political and business dealings are easy to document and no observant American needs to be convinced of their existence; therefore, I shall give precedence to doublethink and widespread incorrect beliefs held by a large majority of Americans who are painfully aware of the more obvious forms of falsity. Many of these are enumerated in my unpublished essay “A Litany of American Myths”, which is ready for Vol. II of my collected papers .
Fallacies in the sense of Bentham  abound in public discourse. With respect to the fallacies used in the “War on Drugs”, I have taken the trouble to compound a list of my own in “Fallacies and Unstated Assumptions in Prevention and Treatment” . This is one of a rather large number of essays on drug policy that have been gathered together in the first volume of my collected papers . [Note in proof (6-30-96): Today some of my drug essays can be found on the Internet at http://www.druglibray.org/schaffer/DEBATE/opinion.htm.]
Herman and Chomsky  have written in detail how the corporate media mold the minds of gullible Americans to suit their own interests. Although I shall provide a small number of examples of bias in the print media, I shall devote more space to the means by which the counterculture, including so-called alternative media, the very people who complain the loudest about corporate and government thought control, exclude new ideas. In fact, as pointed out by Robert Nisbet , most social activists are busy establishing pecking orders within their movements. Appendices A and B recount difficulties in presenting new ideas to so-called liberals – even.
By now, with all the difficulties I have had getting these ideas published, shouldn’t I begin to believe that the trouble is with me. I have two reasons for thinking otherwise. (1) My writing can’t be that bad. To prove that my quibble with awards (in general) is not a case of sour grapes, I accepted the Ted Peterson Award for the best paper written by a student in the field of computers and systems technology. That is the last award I shall accept. (2) These ideas are quite original and deserve to be published because of their novelty alone. I do not believe I have read any other author who advocates dispensing with money and other financial instruments and dispensing with leadership as well. I shall be delighted to become acquainted with the work of my predecessors if it exists; so, readers, don’t be shy in educating me. I want to hear from you, be it only a criticism.
[Note in proof (12-6-96). Recently, it has dawned on me that my publication record is pretty good for a writer who almost never sends a piece to a person who can publish it, i.e., a professional editor rather than a personal friend or the person whose incorrect views I have read (or heard) and wish to correct, i.e., the very person who has the least interest to see my views published.]
Although ordinary falsity shares with justifiable falsity the distinction of occurrence equivalence with materialism, it cannot be said that the perpetrator is innocent. He is certainly guilty of aiding and abetting materialism with all of its associated evils. In addition, ordinary falsity has associated with it evils peculiar to itself:
People who employ falsity to achieve their goals are in danger of believing their own falsehoods. This leads to self-deception, discussed below, which can be the principal operative characteristic of their minds.
The use of falsehood can be habit forming. Liars may not be able to become honest when they wish to.
They may lose self-respect as well as the respect of others, which may deprive them of love and friendship.
Thus, in addition to loss of good personal relationships, necessary for happiness, they may lose, also, the opportunity to be effective, as no one will trust them.
They may create great inconvenience for themselves and others, perhaps people they love.
They have opened the door to every imaginable evil.
The harm done by falsity depends upon which of its numerous manifestations is operative. Various categories of harm done by F are discussed below. In Chapter 9, I shall offer a proof that ordinary falsity (F), which includes both materialistic falsity (FM) and developmental falsity (FD), is occurrence equivalent with materialism, in particular, it will disappear if materialism is abandoned in the political sense, that is, not merely by an individual who wishes to improve himself but by essentially everyone in the relevant community, which might turn out to be all of mankind. The proof is quite rigorous in the case of FM, which is by far the more harmful of the two subsets of ordinary falsity; however, one should not expect FD to disappear when materialism does unless one believes that the aberrations associated with FD have been inculcated by improper developmental theories having been applied to children and have been exacerbated by subsequent miseduation and that they can be eliminated with proper child developmental procedures, reasonable indoctrination, and a good non-materialistic eductaion.
America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The free world. “It’s a free country.” George Orwell would be impressed – to use a Chomskyism. Goebbels would be impressed – to use another. Indeed, it is a marvel of propaganda that close to 300 million people think they live in a free country, whereas they are free to behave like everyone else in any essential aspect of behavior. It’s like Hobson’s Choice. (A renter of horses ran his establishment according to this simple rule: every customer got the horse stabled closest to the door, i.e., the next horse in line. Hence, the expression Hobson’s Choice means no choice at all.) Of course, in the U.S. (or Former United States), the government (and others, as documented below) makes an enormous effort to ensure that its citizens will choose voluntarily according to the wishes of the government, which are the same as the wishes of the owners of the country, i.e., the richest and most powerful.
Consider the Government Press Corp. This collection of worthy journalists must report something to their employers (for the most part the corporate media, which are owned by the owners of the country of course) on a daily basis. They go to the government and the government tells them what to report. What would you have them do? Make a daily investigation into the activities of a gigantic bureaucracy and make reports based upon direct observation? That’s slightly impractical; but, besides that, the government has ways of making it so difficult as to be virtually impossible, Bernstein and Woodward notwithstanding. The government tells the media what they want you and I to believe and truth is the first casualty. Just consider what the government told us during the Viet Nam “conflict” and compare that to what we have learned and come to understand since, although we rarely admit that the U.S. was involved in a mean, vicious, illegal, inhumane, and criminal war of aggression against an innocent people.
It is unnecessary to discuss the role of falsehood in electoral politics. Candidates are marketed like beer and cigarets, therefore this topic is subsumed by the next one. It is well understood by nearly everyone. I have nothing original to add.
How many ways do I deceive thee? Let me count the ways.
To be competitive and to win contracts, businesspeople often make promises they have no intention of keeping – promises that, in fact, they know in advance are impossible to keep. When I was a software engineer, I begged the owner of our company not to promise his client certain software that I was working on until I was actually finished writing it, particularly as I had no idea how long it would take to finish. It is in the nature of writing software that no one can anticipate where difficult time-consuming problems will arise. (Also, sometimes, a task for which weeks have been budgeted is accomplished in five minutes!) Finally, the completion date he promised was a date I knew was well outside the realm of the possible. Again, I complained but to no avail. The promised date came and went. The client was irate; but, as the owner explained, it was too late for him to abandon us and begin all over again with another vendor. Regrettably, I quit the company shortly thereafter and the software was never delivered. The client made an attempt to deal with me independently, which I declined.
Just listen to the ads on television. Or see my essay “On Television” in Vol. II or III of my collected papers . “[The AT&T collect-call service] is always cheaper than 1-800-COLLECT.” That is a flat-out lie. “This battery is guaranteed for the life of your car.” Why is it then that, when the battery fails and the guarantor replaces it, you are presented with a large bill?
Recently, the management of a corporation whose preferred stock I owned asked me to vote to redeem preferred stock for an “equitable” number of common shares based on some averaging method for the value of the common stock coupled with a fail-safe provision to account for catastrophic drops in the price of the common stock over a suitably long period. If you ask me, the scheme was intended to be complicated to prevent shareholders from understanding it, but I don’t insist. The upshot was that I was guaranteed that I would not lose by the transaction. ... I lost.
Sometimes the businessman will make a statement that can be parsed mechanically so as to represent a true statement, but contains within it certain verbal traps that make it all but a certainty that you will end up interpreting the statement to mean what the deceiver wants you to believe, which is not the truth. “This car has the highest resale value in its class.” Notice he has not defined “its class” and he hopes that your ear will gloss over these seemingly unimportant words. Also, he does not state that the resale value is the highest percentage of the purchase price of any car in its class even. He hopes you won’t notice that the resale value is higher, in part, because the purchase price was higher. This is falsity, but it’s not lying.
Sometimes a businessperson will sell you a horse without telling you it is sick. A store will sell you merchandise that is to be discontinued next week and for which they do not intend to stock consumables or replacement parts.
“Ten cents a minute anytime to any place.” “We have the lowest prices in the business.”
Since many of my examples come from false advertising and since almost all (all?) advertising is false, I shall say no more here. My essay “On Television”  will be a good source for anyone who doubts. Better yet, if you watch television, take notes documenting the falsity in the ads. Listen, watch, and analyze carefully. Convince yourself.
My essay “On the Separation of the State from the Christian Church and the Case Against Christianity” in Vol. II of my collected papers [1,6,7] covers this subject for the only religion I know much about.
Among the three failings of education, two, at least, amount to the propagation of falsehood. Please see my (forthcoming) essay “On Education” in Vol. II or III of my collected papers .
The schools help spread the official party line about America as discussed below. Also, see the remarks, below, concerning John Gatto’s seven-lesson school plan .
“Stay in school and get good grades so that you can get a good job with high pay.” Wrong!
Horrible, inefficient, and tyrannous bureaucracies in lower education, and to some degree in higher education are the rule – not the rare exception. In higher education, the institutions are run, for the most part, for the benefit of a handful of privileged elite insiders. The rest be damned. I have spoken elsewhere about the conflicting agenda of students, alumni, trustees, faculty, staff, and administration. Normally, these agendas are secret. The students are supposed to think the school is there to educate students. Ha! Whatever blame can be attached to the teaching profession, it would be hard to convict them of not working hard. The administrations impose practically slave labor conditions upon those who have not imposed such conditions upon themselves – usually because of dreams of glory (in the case of the university research elite).
When I began this chapter literally years ago, I had no idea that serious people could imagine in the wildest stretches of their imaginations that falsity might be a valid means to effect useful social change. Lately, I have been shocked to find many single-issue activists who wish to employ falsity as an important part of their strategies. In many cases, these organizations purport to represent positions that I support; however, I am beginning to believe that many social activists are no better than businesspeople – except that the “profit” they seek is fame, although many people make a living from activism. As business people, they are “no better than they should be”. Amazingly, I have been criticized for warning such people that “a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” [Matthew 7:17]. (I hope nobody thinks that the biblical Jesus didn’t have a single lucid moment.) In a recent case, I was warned by a friend, the “designated” enforcer of the official group conformity, that I would be asked to resign if I expressed dissent over what are clearly corrupt practices according to the ethics presented in this essay, which are taken to be “my opinions”. (Opinion is the dyslogistic term employed to disparage logical proofs that are not understood, usually because they conflict with preconceived notions or violate the received wisdom or the brainwashing of the “victim”.) In the aforementioned recent (July, 1996) episode, the majority could not or would not present even a clue as to why, let alone a reason why, they wished to defend falsity so vigorously – nay, ruthlessly, as my feelings were not to be considered. Another organization; another hopeless case!
I would like to have a succinct summary of my argument that “honesty is the best policy” in one of my forthcoming essays, but, probably, not this one. Perhaps I shall have written the proposed essay in time for the second or third volume of my collected papers. Concurrently, I am considering the conjecture that SIAOs replicate, within their own organizations, the evil they wish to eliminate or the circumstances that give rise to that evil. I wish to determine whether or not the conjecture is true; and, if it be true, why. (SIAO rhymes with cow by analogy with the Italian word ciao, therefore it is pronounced like sow, our name for an adult female pig.) Appendix A and, especially, Appendix B pertain to many SIAOs.
Nisbet's Conjecture (stated by Nisbet as a theorem ): Activists are engaged primarily in pecking-order fights among themselves.
Wayburn's First Conjecture: All SIAOs replicate within themselves the very evils that cause the problems or are identical with the problems they wish to solve.
Wayburn's Second Conjecture: All SIAOs are harmful.
Wayburn's Third Conjecture: All organizations are harmful.
Note: Organizations might properly be termed conspiracies. In which case, Wayburn's Third Conjecture would read “All conspiracies are harmful.” Organizations would then be defined to be conspiracies. One hopes that exceptions to Wayburn’s conjectures exist.
Some artists betray their own artistic values to achieve popularity. This violation of inner truth will not be discussed here. It is touched upon in Chapter 3 and in some of my essays.
Two principal evils in society are widespread belief in falsehood and suppression of dissent. For example, nearly everyone in the United States believes that market economies and free enterprise are superior to planned economies of every sort, even though there is no justification for such a belief. Attempts to universalize belief in God and the belief that the nature of God is known can be interpreted as the supporting structure for this economic and political party line as illustrated in my essays on religion in Vol. II of my collected papers and elsewhere . This would not be so troublesome a circumstance were it not for the difficulty of gaining access to the mass media to refute this notion. In America it is often said that we support freedom of speech and that dissent is not repressed. This is true, but only in an inconsequential way. For example, I have written letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines both big and small and no one has ever printed an argument in favor of a planned economy. I am a member of both Phi Kappa Phi, an interdisciplinary honor society, and Sigma Xi, a scientific research society. Presumably these organizations should print the views of their members. Apparently they do not, if the views do not correspond to the official state religion of the United States, which is essentially the struggle for wealth and power under the great god money. This struggle is sanctioned by the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, which is based on the love of money, cf., Lawrence Durrell’s famous Avignon Quintet .
Not only are dissident views not heard in the mass media, but Americans are bombarded daily with propaganda favoring party-line economic policies that are absolutely certain to terminate the existence of the human race on this planet, as we have shown in this essay. Every sitcom (television situation comedy) is a thinly disguised advertisement for the conspicuous consumption of material wealth, primarily in the form of automobiles, clothing, home furnishings, and alcoholic beverages. Not only are the televisions flooded with ads, but the programs themselves are nothing but ads for the party line. This is thought control.
Independent thought is disappearing in the United States. One hears statements on television that presuppose general agreement on what constitutes good music, the meaning of our national flag, which entertainers are universally appreciated (We all love Lucy?), who our greatest heroes have been, and on and on. Of course, dissent is still alive or you would not be reading this book, but the number of independent thinkers has dwindled significantly (approaching extinction?) in just the last twenty years. There is good reason to believe, though, that 1990 is a turning point and a new generation of Americans is coming of age. Hopefully, this generation will react against the excesses of the last ten years; but, more important, they will begin to think for themselves and examine the premises that have been foisted upon them by people consumed by their own self-interest. (Presumably, this hope is excessively optimistic.)
Mankind seems to have a talent and a tendency for holding contradictory viewpoints simultaneously. George Orwell referred to this phenomenon as doublethink. It is not clear if this faculty has been cultivated by tyrants to enslave us or if this faculty has permitted the rise of tyrants (if we don’t approve of them) or leaders (if we do). Clearly doublethink is a characteristic that plays into the hands of those who wish to exploit us either to accumulate wealth or to wield power. The ruling class in the United States, for example, has used this weakness and its power over the mass media to repress dissent or, more properly, to make effective dissent nearly impossible. We are not certain which of our undesirable characteristics – our gullibility (susceptibility to doublethink), our greed, or our “will to power” – is the root of our difficulties, or if our institutions, which arose accidentally, inculcate undesirable characteristics upon us, but we are reasonably certain that, if we can overcome these shortcomings by creating better institutions or undergoing a spiritual revolution, we will have a better chance to survive as a species and to approach a destiny worthy of a transcendental creature who may be the evolved state of ourselves.
It is possible, as suggested by C.W. Dalton , that doublethink is made possible by the fact that our brains are divided into two parts, the right brain and the left brain, which are in conflict. Dalton suggests that the rational left brain never will be able to overcome the unreasonableness of the “creative” right brain. (Are the functions of the two parts of the brain supposed to be interchanged in left-handed people?) The bicameral brain theory is consistent with the two aspects of truth discussed in Chapter 3. The part of truth that corresponds to our notion of truth as beauty pertains to the right brain, scientific truth to the left brain. Regardless of the manner in which doublethink arises, it seems clear that respect for truth can eliminate it because the two aspects of truth, as defined in this essay, are never contradictory. This corresponds to our supposition that reasonableness and aesthetics are two sides of the same coin. We claim that the difficulties described here are caused by failure to adhere to the Truth Axiom. Our answer to Dalton is that doublethink seems to be just as harmful to the right brain as to the left brain.
We may reserve judgment on (or even reject) the bicameral theory of the brain and still retain the terms “right brain” and “left brain” as metaphors for the creative and rational parts of ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether these aspects of our minds actually reside in the right brain and the left brain or not. Unless I forget to do it, I shall retain the quotation marks to remind us of that – if I use these terms again.
But, why do we believe the preposterous? Under questioning, most of us will reveal allegiance to conflicting sets of ideas. On the one hand, practically no one believes that the U.S. economy could function without business; so, presumably, business is good. People imagine that capitalism is the optimal economic system. But, many of us, although fewer than previously, despise business and commerce. We ridicule television ads. We are cynical as to the motives of the giant corporations. Practically no one thinks that they will stop polluting the environment without outside coercion if they can improve their profits by polluting. Practically everyone knows someone who has been treated unfairly by big business. Most people have suffered somewhat at the hands of commerce, yet they continue to have faith in the “American way”. They wear tee shirts with the logos of giant corporations on them. They tolerate the intrusion of commerce into their living rooms. How can we believe in an economic system that is despicable? Is this not doublethink?
Perhaps a better example of doublethink can be found among young people for whom the possibility of achieving great wealth is not absolutely ruled out. Many of them will categorically deny that they think they have a good chance to become rich and yet they behave as though it were nearly a certainty. [In a recent poll, 27% of those questioned thought that they personally would become rich! I do not insist on the correctness of this figure.] Nearly any person – talented or not – who devotes himself (or herself) totally to the pursuit of wealth cannot be prevented from acquiring a great deal of it, but most people are unwilling to impoverish their lives to that extent spiritually, or even socially, so their chances are not really very good. After all, they are in competition with fanatics.
When one simultaneously believes two mutually exclusive notions, it is impossible to make a reliable decision in a situation that depends upon which notion is true. Moreover, the victim may be inconsistent in ordinary affairs, which could damage his personal life or his career. He may lose the respect of rational people – although, it should be admitted, hardly any rational people exist; therefore, it is unlikely that his relationship with a rational person will affect his life. Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of a rational person, I can testify that it is next to impossible to establish a satisfying relationship with any resident of the United States without making incredible allowances for the tragic states of their minds. Also, and this is debatable, the author is blamed frequently for the defects of his critics.
When we deceive ourselves, we are unable to make decisions wisely that depend upon seeing things as they really are. This is related to doublethink, unexamined assumptions, etc.
The following is taken from “Fallacies and Unstated Assumptions in Prevention and Treatment” in Vol. I of my collected papers and elsewhere .
We think we know almost everything; what we actually know is almost nothing – and most of that is false. The most pernicious type of ignorance is belief in falsehood. We are ignorant, but our minds are filled with something. In the beginning, our minds begin to be filled by words, which represent ideas. Next, our minds begin to be filled with notions, i.e., unexamined assumptions, promulgated or inculcated by parents, teachers, government, business, etc. Some of these notions we hear repeated everyday, but others are buried so deeply that never are we aware of their existence. In either case they are prejudices, by definition, since they have been assimilated without the exercise of judgment or reason, i.e., from Latin: prejudicium – before judgment. Some are true, but most are false. Social institutions are willing to go to great lengths to prevent falsehood from being exposed. Heterodox views are everywhere repressed. The world stands on the brink of the Orwellian abyss.
People who are unwilling to examine their prejudices are said to be closed-minded. The notion that all fundamental philosophical questions have been answered is the ultimate mind closer. The world is filled with closed-minded people and most of them will never be influenced by appeals to reason, but that does not excuse any one of us as individuals from dragging out and examining under the cold light of reason even our most cherished prejudices. The world may not be ready to give up its myths, but there is no law of the universe that says we cannot understand something merely because our ability to make a living depends on our not understanding it. As soon as one of our assumptions is questioned or its opposite averred by even one solitary soul, it becomes incumbent upon us to drop the contested claim as an assumption and provide for it, instead, a proof. If the claim be metaphysical, it must be supported by reasonableness, aesthetics, and utility. That’s what I believe. None of us is completely open-minded. I am curious to know, however, why there is such a great disparity between what one can say to an individual and what one can say to the general public.
To summarize, we accept much falsehood for two important reasons: (1) most of what we believe was learned before we were able to examine its reasonableness critically, and (2) we are bombarded by lies every single day of our lives. As an example of lies we learned when we were young permit me to cite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. The words “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” leave young children with at least three incorrect notions: (i) the United States really is a single nation rather than a hodgepodge of nations living under two sets of laws, one for the rich and one for the poor, (ii) the idea that we are politically indivisible and that no part of the federal entity will ever separate itself from any other part, and (iii) we actually enjoy liberty and justice, now in the present rather than at some time in the indefinite future. [I ignore, for the present, the words “under God”, whatever God is, because, when I was a child, they were not recited.] As an example of the lies with which we are bombarded every day let me cite the claim by government that the purpose of the armed forces of the United States is to protect us from foreign enemies. Who is going to attack us? Mexico? Canada? Japan is a real enemy. Do the armed forces protect us from Japan? One can construct a long list of lies sponsored by government, business, academia, medicine, and every other established institution simply by turning on one’s television set and listening critically for a few hours – perhaps only a few minutes.
Today, October 9, 1996, I heard the term group think in a lecture by Lloyd Jeff Dumas. I believe it should be mentioned here. Group think is falsity that arises due to a group of individuals deciding incorrectly what is so when none of the individuals would have come to an erroneous conclusion left to himself. Clearly, this is one of the hazards of organizations. Dr. Dumas gave examples of erroneous conclusions arising from the interaction of otherwise intelligent individuals. His examples were catastrophic engineering design decisions that resulted from the members of the group fearing disapproval and lacking the intellectual courage to present what they imagined was a minority opinion that they expected would not be popular.
People who make “false” promises, usually businessmen and salespersons, are creating a growing class of people who don’t trust them and, eventually, will “cross them off their lists”. In business, this is fatal. But, it can ruin careers in the valid pursuits too, e.g., music, scholarship, science, erotic love if that may be considered a career, etc.
In the singular case in which the liar needs to communicate something vital to his own interests or even to the interests of others (as not every liar is disinterested in the well-being of his fellow man) he may not be believed, which could be catastrophic – as in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.
Deception, like other forms of Grand Falsity, poisons the mind of the deceiver as he becomes more and more susceptible to that which he avers; i.e., he begins to believe his own lies. From deception follows self-deception, which causes the same sort of harm that is caused by doublethink, which, after all, is a form of self-deception.
Moreover, deception subverts relationships, which, as we have assumed, are necessary for happiness. An entity that uses deception to gain an advantage will eventually find itself trusted by no one, even though its absolute ruin may be postponed for rather a long time. “Evil’s death is sure – but slow.”
Example. Most world-bettering organizations hope to forge positive relationships with those whom they try to influence. How will this relationship be affected by the common knowledge that the organization has used deception to gain influence, in particular, the deception that its goals are circumscribed when, in fact, they are global? An example is drug policy organizations that ask only for an examination of drug policy when their goal is the legalization of all drugs. (My personal approach is to point out that the laws against drugs are immoral and unconstitutional and, therefore, drugs are legal now. My antagonists know where they stand with me.)
Nevertheless, we persist in the fundamental error of believing we are in possession of knowledge that in fact is only conjecture. Over and over again individuals think they have the answers to the fundamental philosophical questions. They believe and act upon the belief that they understand a supreme metapower of the universe and know how the metapower wants man to behave.
Let me disclaim any absolute knowledge of that sort here and now lest anyone imagine that I am claiming anything like it. Whatever I assert without proof must be scrutinized carefully and the best that can be said for it is that it seems reasonable, appeals to our sense of aesthetics or beauty, and appears to be advantageous to the well-being of the human race. These judgments are always subject to revision in the light of new facts and new thinking.
I wish that our religionists would take a similar position. Unfortunately, for the most part, they do not. The dogmatism of religion permeates every aspect of our lives. Politicians espouse, with nothing less than religious fervor, ideologies built upon falsehood and illogic. The truly religious person knows that almost all knowledge, especially religious knowledge, is provisional. Jesus could not have improved upon the thinking of the ancient Jewish prophets had he believed that their philosophy was immutable. Regrettably, he did not seem to recognize the provisional nature of his own enlightenment; at least his chroniclers did not give him credit for recognizing it.
When enterprises engage in this type of falsity, everyone suffers. Let us assume that it is generally better to know than not to know. Granted that valid information is useful and has economic worth, the cost of it is driven up whenever it is withheld. This cost must be borne by all of society. Those who like to hoard “trade secrets” may find themselves with an information deficit, eventually, should the practice spread or be directed against themselves. Personally, I prefer to share whatever useful knowledge I possess with anyone who has a use for it regardless of his behavior toward myself or others. This is the spirit of generosity advocated by my philosophy. It happens to coincide with the Jesuist attitude. (I refer to the philosophy of Jesus before Simon Peter crowned him Christ, the Son of the living God [Matthew 16: 16], as Jesuist. I refer to the rest of Christian philosophy as Paulist salvationism, except where later interpreters have been responsible.)
“The derivative of a real-valued function of one real variable at a point xo is the slope of the tangent to the graph at xo.” This will pass and get the student by in the early stages of a mathematical education, but it makes the derivative seem to be a mere number, which is false. The derivative is a linear transformation of a particular type. The initial statement is oversimplified and is guaranteed to lead to misunderstanding and other difficulties later on. (The reader will kindly excuse an example from mathematics, but oversimplification in pedagogy is rife. Undoubtedly, many children feel that we are insulting their mental capacities.) A simpler example is, “The vowels are A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.” What about the U in “union” and the O in “one”?
This is done routinely in the United States and, presumably, elsewhere. For example, children are taught that the United States is the greatest country in the world and that its economic system is not only adequate but essentially perfect.
Also, I think that life as an improper game should be viewed as an example of ordinary falsity – especially since we are indoctrinated as children with the notion that it is not. Further, we are bombarded continuously with the lie that our materialistic success in the world depends upon ourselves alone and that, essentially, anyone can achieve materialistic success. (Even if anyone can achieve success, certainly not everyone can achieve materialistic success.) Presumably, this diminishes the size of the criminal class somewhat, but at the expense of millions of bitter old men.
As children catch on, they begin to despise adults. The result is usually completely different from the intended effect and as undesirable as it possibly can be from the viewpoint of the tyrants who indoctrinate children. Children may join anti-social gangs and make as much trouble as possible for the “system”. I wish only that their rebellion would be focused on the real enemy and be more useful politically. People who don’t figure things out until they are no longer children should not be blamed if they turn to crime.
In a democracy, everyone is entitled to be heard. The criteria for publication are simple: (i) not clearly false, i.e., no existing proof that it is false, (ii) not trivial or irrelevant, and (iii) more or less original – certainly not the subject of undue repetition. Here, in America, where dissent is practically impossible, my remarks have been censored essentially in direct proportion to their originality. Whereas numerous trite and banal observations or deductions that came fresh from my own pen many years ago are routinely retailed as though they were worth repeating by people who have access to my work – invariably without attribution. I am beginning to wonder if an organization dedicated to social reform may not be an impossibility. [Note. Wayburn’s three conjectures touching upon organizations were stated above, however the reader might be interested in the author’s sole attempt to start an egalitarian organization.]
It might be worthwhile to take a moment to describe the circumstances surrounding the writing of “American Myths and Higher Education”, which has been renamed “A Litany of American Myths” , because those circumstances provide a specific instance of the difficulty of communicating important ideas to the public or any segment of the public, even if their lives depend on it.
For foolish reasons of my own, I permitted myself to be inducted into the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. (I no longer pay dues.) An essay called “American Myths and Higher Education”, which has been renamed “A Litany of American Myths” , was written to refute an article by William Bennett concerning what should be taught at American universities. Bennett’s article appeared in National Forum, the official publication of Phi Kappa Phi, which is supposed to be an interdisciplinary honor society but rarely publishes the views of working scientists and engineers.
I sent a condensed version of my rebuttal of Bennett’s article to the editor of National Forum, explaining that I had a right to have it published as I was a member of Phi Kappa Phi (I do not know if Bennett is) and my dissenting opinion had to be heard in the spirit of free discourse. Now, I am not going to beg anyone to publish anything I write. This was a demand based on common decency and years of paying dues essentially for nothing – certainly not for the useless articles in National Forum, which were generally wrong, irrelevant, or merely trite.
In a reply that showed that the editor had completely misunderstood the content of both my paper and the cover letter, I was informed that I had no such right and that he would decide what went into the journal. So far, no article of mine that is critical of the American economic system has been published in National Forum; nor have I noticed criticism as direct as mine published in National Forum by anyone. (The articles consist mostly of the standard “quarter-inch-wide” academic drivel written by professors of non-disciplines or outright Fascist propaganda such as Bennett’s.)
I must conclude, after a lengthy correspondence with the editor, the president, and the academic advisor to National Forum, that, despite its avowed goals, Phi Kappa Phi does not permit dissent. It is basically a Fascist organization. (The term Fascist is used in a definite technical sense, namely, in reference to any plan, policy, idea, or system of thought whose purpose is to make capitalism work.) Perhaps someday I will publish some of the correspondence with Phi Kappa Phi. Suffice it to say that it shows to what lengths people will go who wish to suppress the truth – mostly from stupidity rather than malice – I can only hope. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. My article was renamed “A Litany of American Myths” as I shall say most of what I have to say about higher education in another essay.
Appendix A features yet another rather prolix passage on the repression of dissent. Since all of that appendix was written on the same day and once stood alone, I shall not combine that passage with this one, which might not have been a bad idea, but this book can stand a little disorganization. It was not written by a machine. Or, worse, someone who learned to write in college; or, in the worst possible case, someone who taught writing in college!
This is discussed above. Probably, though, nearly every reader has thought sufficiently about the TV ads he has seen that he is convinced they are all dishonest in one way or another. I only hope that I am not insulting your intelligence by discussing it at all. Anyone who has the slightest doubt might wish to see my forthcoming essay “On Television” in Vol. II or III of my collected papers . Unfortunately, I made my observations a few years ago and some of the ads I analyzed for the essay may be too old to be remembered vividly by the average reader. Of course, I can repeat the exercise, but watching television even for a week is not something I look forward to.
The direct harm done to the consumer by false advertising is relatively unimportant compared to the harm to children caused by the bad examples set by “respectable” corporations the names of which are household words and which represent America itself to the young and impressionable. “If AT&T cheats, why shouldn’t I?”
In Chapter 4 of this essay, I attempted to state the fundamental assumptions upon which this work is based. Unfortunately, my quest for completeness was doomed from the outset. Even the use of a single word rather than another will reflect an unexamined and unstated assumption of which I might not be aware. I believe that this is true of everyone. The most I can hope for is consistency. Hopefully, the main points in my argument will not suffer from the omission of a handful of assumptions, some of which might even be true. Nevertheless, the reader should be on guard for what is assumed but not stated. He (or she) must then assess the impact of the truth or falsehood of the uncovered premise on the relevant conclusions. I believe that no one should have access to the world of free and democratic discourse without meeting certain obligations to new ideas, but I am not prepared to engage in intellectual terrorism, e.g., interfering with television broadcasts. Respect for truth requires that scholars give the ideas of others a fair trial, which certainly entails the examination of a great deal of falsehood. But falsehood must be proved false.
Lately, profound changes are being felt in Eastern Europe. Economies supposedly based on Marxism are being rejected in favor of market economies. People are saying that communism is dead and the West is crowing about the triumph of capitalism, for which the United States and her chief allies have been struggling since the end of World War II. Marxism is based on the theory that people will voluntarily produce material wealth for the common good to the best of their ability, provided only that they are supplied with a sufficient portion from the common pool of wealth to supply their needs and to satisfy their desires. In practice, Marxist leaders, like leaders of every stripe, do not rely on volition, but resort to coercion just as the feudal capitalists they overthrew had done. No one knows whether the theoretical premise of Marxism is true or false, as it has never been tested. Actually, saying that Marxism, or any aspect of Marxism, e.g., economic planning, has been proved invalid is like saying that failure of cold nuclear fusion proves that all nuclear fusion is impossible, which would mean, of course, that the sun isn’t shining.
The detractors of Marxism claim that “human nature” inherits certain congenital defects that prevent mankind from satisfying the Marxist ideal. They claim that the theoretical requirements of Marxism are in conflict with man’s essential nature. Most of the detractors of Marxism are believers in capitalism and so-called free enterprise whether it is in their best interests to believe in such things or not. Therefore, not only are they satisfied with a system that relies on self-interest to motivate individuals; but, in addition, they claim that such a system can be predicated upon the existence of metaphysical forces upon which we may rely to preserve our species. Thus, the “invisible hand of the marketplace” is supposed to regulate the affairs of man satisfactorily without human intervention. This belief is nothing less than a religious tenet. [Note in proof (1-12-98). The religious aspects of Marxism are noted elsewhere.]
Clearly, despite what many people believe and say, nothing has occurred that rectifies the overwhelming difficulties of capitalism, pointed out by Marx. Why, for example, should a person devoted to diverting wealth and power from the hands of others into his own hands or the hands of his employer, without producing anything of value, be able to acquire so much wealth that he can dictate the policies of the state through officeholders whose campaigns he has financed or through expensive lobbyists, while a person who produces genuine wealth that benefits all of humanity lives so close to the subsistence level that a minor illness can cast him into the streets, robbing him of home and family? How can a system that demands constant economic growth, consuming more and more energy and nonrenewable resources, be compatible with permanence in a finite world? Why should we tolerate the replacement of genius, talent, and diligence by salesmanship and hype in even our youngest enterprises – or, what is even more tragic, the turning of scientific geniuses into businessmen, the reverse of the alchemist’s dream?
It has been argued by political conservatives, notably George Bush, that private charity can somehow ameliorate the inevitable poverty concomitant with capitalism. The hope for this is no longer tenable because charity itself has succumbed to the methods of capitalism; and, when one contributes to an organized charity, one is merely supporting a non-profit institution the leadership of which earns more money in a year than the poorest people earn in a lifetime. Even the private beggar may turn out to be a confidence man whose income far exceeds that of the unwary donor. Thus, charity not only begins but also ends – at home. I am sure all of us can arrange to become acquainted personally with someone whose need is genuine, even if his troubles were caused by himself, but we are best advised to really get to know the person whom we wish to benefit. This getting-to-know is, indeed, part of the charity. Nor, is it advisable to support scientific research through charitable institutions, as I have demonstrated in the essay “On Honor in Science” in Vol. II of my collected papers .
Despite the fact that capitalism has been able to seduce millions of people with its promises of material wealth that have only a slight chance (or no chance) of being fulfilled, despite the fact that even those whose expectations are not unreasonable are willing to do anything to achieve the levels of consumerism attained in the capitalist countries, which represent little more than crumbs from the tables of the rich – despite all that, capitalism has not triumphed and remains a badly flawed system with little chance for permanence. Nothing has been done to prevent (i) abject poverty, (ii) catastrophic economic cycles, (iii) long working hours that subvert family life, (iv) crime and class war, (v) autocratic and arbitrary business and government leaders, (vi) a corrupt legal system, (vii) ignorance, (viii) cultural crudity, (ix) illiteracy, (x) intolerance, (xi) bigotry, (xii) immorality, (xiii) the disappearance of independent thought, and (xiv) continued destruction of the environment because of the need for economic growth in the face of competition from abroad, to mention only a few of the worst, seemingly unsolvable, problems of capitalism. What we are concerned with in this essay is the persistence of so many people in an obvious delusion from which we cannot discover a simple way to disabuse them.
The old “big lie” was “the international communist conspiracy” – like a “boogie man” (a myth with racist connotations) waiting in the dark to rob you of your freedom and your sumptuous American lifestyle. We have seen what has become of the international communist conspiracy. In actual fact, no government on earth was interested to establish communism within its borders or anywhere else for that matter, least of all the Soviet Union, which was busy repressing communist and socialist tendencies everywhere within its “sphere of influence”. (This has been all but proved by Chomsky .) But, in point of fact, totalitarian American communism wouldn’t have been much different from (totalitarian) American quasi-free-market socialism. In either case, we are not free.
The myth of the international communist conspiracy was used as a scare tactic to keep workers at their jobs, to destroy unions, and to prevent them from achieving the gains working people everywhere should have achieved. It was used to discredit those of us who wished to end racism and get a handle on the military-industrial complex and other manifest social evils. If you were a liberal, you were “soft on communism”, which was defined to be the antonym of democracy. Democracy, meanwhile, was doing no better. Nowadays, I am critical of anyone who is “soft on capitalism”, i.e., opposes it but with insufficient zeal.
The international communist conspiracy is gone (never was – except in the wildest dreams of a few schoolboys), but industrialists, bureaucrats, and plutocrats still need a “boogie man” to induce American workers to behave in ways that are not in their own best interests. “We can’t raise your salaries now. We wouldn’t be globally competitive.” “We can’t enact tougher environmental standards without destroying the global competitiveness of our industry.” And so the lies go. Global competition is the new “big lie”. Has it occurred to anyone that we don’t have to compete with the rest of the world? The world is finite and, for all practical purposes, isolated. Somehow we muddle by in an isolated world. What if the world were somewhat smaller – the size of the United States, say. Would we perish? One knows better than that. Robinson Crusoe, whether fact or fiction, could survive on a deserted island in the ocean, as could the most resourceful among us if we put our minds to it. The area of the United States is practically a universe. I shall be prepared to answer in the sequel all objections to this notion that I haven’t answered already.
Trade with Japan? I’m not sure we should trade with Oklahoma. As for the Third World, why should American workers compete with people who live in grass huts. For that matter, why should people who live in grass huts make shirts for Americans! I have said a great deal to denigrate trade and I shall have much more to say. It’s unfair, impractical, ugly, and far too costly – in terms of real wealth (emergy). I believe, however, that a weak world federalism should redistribute some natural resources to make up for the bad luck of ancient peoples who pitched their tents in unfortuitous spots. Redistribution, but redistribution with no strings attached, i.e., with no payments of any kind, is a noble and moral policy. Even Americans might accept charitable donations such as gift packages of plant seeds that could be made to grow in America under special conditions; but, perhaps, indigenous plants are best.
Note (9-30-2007). I speak of the old big lie and the new big lie in this chapter. Since it was written, the newest big lie is terrorism, which is not discussed very much in the book except to predict its advent. However, the Islamic terrorism we are supposed to give up our civil rights to prevent may not be the terrorism predicted by me. That is not to say that some terrorism from that quarter should not be expected. It is impossible to know with certainty who was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001.
First of all, we are not free; so, there is nothing to defend. Of course, it could be worse, but it is the expectations of the American people that keep it from getting worse, not the armed forces. Moreover, it is getting worse. The War on Drugs is nothing but an attack on the Bill of Rights. Who are the armed forces defending us from? Canada? Mexico? Cuba? In the movie A Few Good Men, the colonel, played by Jack Nicholson, claimed that American marines are in danger from Cuban attacks. I find that ludicrous. The Cubans must be terrified that we are getting ready for a little more military adventurism of the can’t-lose variety as in Grenada, Panama, and Iraq, except that, this time, it will be Cuba. Why not? Short supply lines. The last of the communist “menace”. A nation too tiny and too weak to put up much of a struggle. And a host of Cuban expatriates ready to go back to exploitation as usual.
We live on an isolated continent. Technology has not advanced to the point where we can be attacked effectively by any nation at any great distance from us. Terrorism and selective assassinations are much more effective anyway, and the armed forces are useless in such cases, unless they arbitrarily punish the innocent for the deeds of the courageous few. This has been one of the most cowardly acts of national policy one can imagine. Rather we might stop doing things that make people want to kill us. I refer to our imperialistic foreign policy and our exploitation of the natural and human resources of weaker nations. That is what the armed forces are in place to protect: not our liberty but just the opposite: our ability to deprive others of their liberty.
But, when all is said and done, the one single most important reason for the existence of our giant military-industrial complex is its own interests – not ours. The military will contrive every imaginable excuse to continue its existence far out of proportion to our real needs, e.g., to protect our borders, which are wide open anyway. As far as the manufacturers of military equipment are concerned, we know all about them and we shall document some of their dishonesty with stories from the establishment press later on in this chapter. It is worth mentioning that modern weapons, paradoxically, kill fewer people per unit cost than did Civil War muskets. While the weapons have increased destructive ability, they can be employed from a guarded position of relative safety; therefore, their operators are less likely to be killed than were the long lines of exposed infantrymen advancing upon battlements in plain view of the defenders. Just compare the casualty lists at Bull Run with a day of battle in Bosnia. Thus, to kill a given number of people, the weapons customer must spend more money (adjusted for inflation) per unit kill. This works to the advantage of the military-industrial complex. Perhaps, it is the result of careful planning. I don’t insist, but who knows?
Many religionists assume that the will of God is known and is given to man in books such as the Bible. Occasionally they claim to have had the will of God revealed to themselves directly. These people usually wants to regulate every aspect of our lives to conform with what they imagine to be discovered truths. The harm done by religious moralists is legend. Examples abound: the Inquisition, the Massachusetts witch hunts, the “pro-life” movement in the United States [see the relevant essays in Vol. II of my collected papers ], the war against drugs [see Vol. I of my collected papers ], and so on. Since Christian fundamentalists are in the vanguard of religious totalitarianism, i.e., the attempt to impose personal morals upon all of society, I have taken the trouble to discredit these dangerous people in an essay originally entitled On the Separation of the State from the Christian Church [6,7], a version of which is reprinted in Vol. II of my collected papers . As the reader may have noticed, I am not fond of organized religion or its clergy. Sometime in the future, though, I must write an apologia for religion. In Chapter 1, I distinguished improper religions from proper religions. (Normally, only personal religions are proper.) I know of no organized proper religions. One may declare the system of morals and philosophical assumptions proposed in this essay a proper religion, provided people make it part of their personal religions voluntarily as discussed in Chapter 1, presumably by what psychologists term identification as discussed elsewhere. See “A Litany of American Myths”  for more comments on commonly held false beliefs (or beliefs that are avidly promulgated – even if no one actually believes them).
In Chapter 9, I prove that whenever we have materialism we have grand (ordinary) falsity. Also, we have justifiable falsity, the case where we lie to authority from whom we are obliged to withhold the truth, which implies tyranny and, in turn, materialism. (Justifiable falsity has been defined in such a way that it can’t exist unless materialism is present in the background to provide the justification. Thus, the reverse arrow (FJM) is proved without effort.) Since, by definition, whenever we have business, commerce, the profit motive, and all such like barbarisms, we have materialism; and, whenever we have materialism, we have falsity – certainly we have competitionistic falsity, a subset of ordinary falsity, which shall be proved as well as such things are ever proved; however, again, if not, competitionistic falsity doesn’t exist. No serious person entertains the slightest doubt on that score. However, many people will argue that falsity is simply part of “human nature” and, therefore, not important. If it’s inevitable, then it’s one of those things they have the wisdom to recognize cannot be changed. (Spare me that “prayer” in which “God” gives us that “wisdom” ad nauseum.) In my view, this is an intolerable outrage against decency. Certainly, no person who thinks otherwise can be considered religious in any reasonable sense of the word.
Nevertheless, as in Chapters 6 and 7, I shall list a few concrete instances of the general principle – again taken from the Houston Post, an establishment newspaper that would have no reason to exaggerate. On the contrary, this newspaper has every reason to “play ball” with business, which, after all, provides most of its income through print advertising. Although a general principle cannot be proved by listing individual cases however numerous, it is satisfying to know that such concrete instances of the general principle are actually found in the real world. Bentham  teaches us that it is a fallacy to say that something is theoretically the case but is not true in practice. Obviously, if it were not true in practice, the theory would be wrong. Indeed, materialism implies falsity in practice. I shall report convictions only – not indictments.
On 8-13-91, Bill Henzel, Jr., of the Houston Post writes, “A jury has awarded $3.6 million to an 18-year-old Houston youth for the actions of a residential substance abuse clinic ...
“The jury in state District Judge Lamar McCorkle’s court found that Westbranch Residential Treatment Center used deceptive trade practices and breached its contract with ...”
My indictment of the drug treatment business appears in Vol. I of my collected papers  (in more than one essay); thus, I am not disappointed to see my a priori suspicions corroborated. After all, these enterprises have an enormous profit incentive to ensure that such problems as arise due to the illegality of drugs are never solved. They are big-time drug profiteers. The child’s parents spent $55,000, according to the Post to treat an imaginary illness, according to my theory.
On 7-23-92, we read, “General Electric Co. pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay $69 million in fines Wednesday in a bribery and fraud scandal involving the sale of military jet engines to Israel. Prosecutors said $40 million was diverted in the largest case of fraud ever under a U.S. government program to finance sales of military equipment by American companies to foreign governments.”
On 12-19-92, we read, “National Health Laboratories Inc. of San Diego agreed Friday to pay $111 million to settle charges that it duped doctors into ordering ‘free’ unnecessary blood tests that actually cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The giant medical testing company paid the highest civil settlement of a Medicare fraud case in U.S. history in a fraudulent billing scheme that it said was similar to others used in the industry.” This answers partially a question I have entertained concerning medical testing: Why does medical testing, which is highly automated, cost more now than it did when it had to be done by tedious labor-intensive methods? Automation is supposed to reduce costs.
On 7-29-93, the Houston Post reports that a federal jury convicted a Huntsville couple and Shadylane Farms Inc. in a $26 million bankruptcy and fraud scheme involving several Texas banks. One of those convicted was a real estate developer.
On 8-3-93, in connection with overbilling allegations, “Grumman has already returned $2.3 million”, which one assumes is an admission of guilt. The investigation continues, however.
On 10-15-93, we read that Raytheon Company ... has agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle claims it had overcharged the army for Patriot missile systems used in the Gulf War.
On 11-1-93, we read that Continental Airlines was fined $20,000 for deceptive advertising involving non-existent low fares. The Department of Transportation fined U.S. Air $5,000 earlier.
On 11-23-93, we read, “A jury Monday awarded Rubicon Corp. of Houston, an independent oil company, $417 million in a suit against Amoco Production Co. The jury ... found Amoco had committed fraud and breach of contract ...” Hey, so the big ones do it to the little ones.
On 3-3-94, Pete Wittenberg wrote in the Houston Post, “A partner in a consulting firm headed by former NASA administrator James Beggs pleaded guilty in Houston Wednesday in a sting operation aimed at inside bid information on a Defense Department subcontract.”
James A. Robertson pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and admitted that he used interstate telephone facilities to accept the bid information which helped him prepare the proposal submitted to Texas Research Institute of Austin. ... He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
On 3-8-94, Marty Graham reports such conclusive evidence revealed during the trial of Sysco Inc. for bid rigging that I feel justified in breaking my rule about reporting convictions only. White Swan Inc. and Glazier Foods Inc. are also implicated. Sysco and White Swan have been convicted previously in these schemes to bilk public school districts. The conviction on these new charges is reported below.
On 3-15-94, we read, “ Exxon Chemical Co. on Monday paid $3.8 million in fines and reimbursement, as it agreed when it admitted in federal court that its former engine testing lab falsified reports to the U.S. army. ... Workers at the Paratell Laboratory in Linden recorded false temperature readings and fabricated missing data for tests on how different oils protected engines ...” Of course, we know from the conflicting claims in their television ads that not all oil companies are forthright with respect to the performance of their motor oils! The plain fact is that the consumer has no way to evaluate engine oils unless he makes his own carefully controlled scientific tests. I have no idea what Consumer Reports says, and I can’t be certain that it matters.
On 5-3-94, Gardner Selby writes that Allstate Insurance has paid the heaviest state fine ever for discriminating against customers even though they admitted no wrong doing. It is my experience that large companies do not settle unless they know they cannot be found innocent, but let’s leave it at that. Incidentally, the fine was $850,000.
On 5-20-94, we read, “The bidding manager for Glazier Foods Inc. was sentenced to four months in prison Thursday for his role in a bid-rigging scheme involving food suppliers to more than 30 area school districts and hospitals. John E. Johnson was convicted of mail fraud and bid-rigging by a federal jury in March. According to testimony at the trial, Sysco Inc.’s bidding manager directed Johnson and White Swan Inc.’s bidding manager to submit high bids, then divided up the business among the three companies in about $18.7 million worth of contracts with 30 school districts between 1987 and 1990”. It’s a good thing they didn’t steal a loaf of bread or they would have had to serve some real time!
My sole reason for reporting criminality in the business community is to show that real-life examples can be found of the corruption that is a necessary adjunct of materialism. Some readers will want to know that the events predicted by my theory actually occur.
Revised June 10, 1996
Revised October 29, 1996
1. Wayburn, Thomas L., Collected Papers of Thomas Wayburn, Vol. II and Vol. III, American Policy Inst. (Work in progress 1997).
2. Bentham, Jeremy, Bentham's Handbook of Political Fallacies, Ed. Harold A. Larrabee, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore (1952).
3. Wayburn, Thomas L., Collected Papers of Thomas Wayburn, Vol I, American Policy Inst., Houston (1996).
4. Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon, New York (1988).
5. Nisbet, Robert T., The Present Age, Harper and Row, New York (1988).
6. Wayburn, Thomas L., “The Separation of the State from the Christian Church: Parts 1, 2, and 3”, The Truth Seeker, 117, Nos. 2, 4, 6 (1990).
7. Wayburn, Thomas L., “The Separation of the State from the Christian Church and the Case Against Christianity,” in Humanists of Houston 1995 Yearbook, Marian Hillar and Frank Prahl, Eds., Humanists of Houston Chapter of the American Humanist Association, Houston (1995)
8. Gatto, John Taylor, “The 7-Lesson Schoolteacher”, The Truth Seeker, 118, No.4 (1991).
9. Durrell, Lawrence, The Avignon Quintet, Five novels in five volumes, Penguin, New York (1984 - 1985).
10. Dalton, C.W., The Right Brain and Religion, Big Blue Books, Lakeside, CA (1990).
11. Chomsky, Noam, World Orders: Old and New, Columbia University Press, New York (1995).
Now, I do not accept the philosophical validity of differences in wealth and power and, of course, access to the media or the podium comes under differences in power. But, even if one does reject equality philosophically, he or she is left with merit as the only remaining valid criterion for the choice of one person over another. Therefore, may I suggest that, if we are not to be equal, the criterion for difference must be competition in a proper game; i.e., a fair test. This test must be administered blindly and must be designed so as not to favor any characteristic other than the characteristic for which the candidate is being tested. This means of determining merit must be expanded to include every conceivable post or position – baker, judge, foreign minister, orchestra conductor, shortstop, public speaker. And, of course, even in a society that maintains equality of wealth and power, it should be used to determine who is permitted to perform brain surgery or drive a locomotive. Public speaking, however, must be open to everyone.
When we were children in school, our success was based mostly on merit. It is true that some teachers had their favorites, but correct answers on exams could prevent even the most biased teacher from discriminating against us unduly. Most teachers call them as they see them. They don’t pay too much attention to the name on the examination paper. As a teacher, it was the last thing I looked at. Basically, good grades on exams will ensure success in school regardless of whether one is black or white, short or tall, male or female, old or young, etc.
But, things change drastically once we graduate and enter the “real world”. In the real world, it is always what someone else thinks of us that determines success. I am reminded of William Burroughs’ passage in The Naked Lunch where a judge is imagined to be giving advice to a protégé. “Be fair,” he says, “but, if you can’t be fair, be arbitrary.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez portrays the general in The Autumn of the Patriarch reaching the height of arbitrariness as he chooses officers for his army. (I quote approximately.) “You to colonel, you to captain, you to major, you to sergeant, etc.” That’s how it’s done in American society. If someone likes your “style”, you are promoted, or chosen to speak, or asked to run for public office, or given the contract, or lent the money, or whatever. In particular, in corporate America, promotions come from above.
The purpose of politics is to achieve happiness and permanence for human society. I do not mean happiness exclusively in the sense of pleasure, but the ordinary day-to-day happiness of a person who enjoys good health and enough material substance to live on and who is isolated from the more gruesome effects of a bad social system – excessive toil or tedium, cruel and inhumane bosses, poverty, loneliness, alienation, armed combat, etc. This is the happiness spoken of by Aristotle and Russell and nearly all of the philosophers in-between. [Note in proof. Deci and Ryans’  definition of happiness was given in Chapters 1 and 3 and elsewhere.] By a “permanent” society I do not mean a society that would not end when the sun burned out, but merely a society that would not end due to its own defects. I hope that human society does terminate properly when the sun burns out and does not survive by having “infected” some other part of the universe. I have expressed strong opinions about this in my (incomplete) essay “On Space Travel and Research” planned for Vol. II or Vol. III of my collected papers .
It is easy to show that happiness depends on freedom. By freedom, I do not mean “free enterprise”, i.e., the freedom to exploit one’s neighbor, nor do I mean freedom to have as many children as one desires, which imposes upon one’s neighbor’s children. I mean the freedom to do as one wishes so long as the freedom of one’s neighbor is not imposed upon. (The following note was written here and inserted in Chapter 3, nevertheless it is treated as a repetition here.)
[Note in proof (1-12-98). Perhaps the word autonomy would have been a better choice for this essay. Clearly autonomy is a necessary condition for freedom. The dictionary assigns many more meanings to the word freedom than it does to the word autonomy even though the two words are synonymous! I feel the word freedom is somewhat more compelling, though; and I am willing to take the trouble to disqualify freedoms that impose upon the freedom or autonomy of others.]
I hope no one thinks that a rich and powerful person does not impose upon the freedom of a poor person. Thus, freedom depends on equality, particularly equality of wealth and political power. Even marginally excess wealth or power imposes upon those who do not share it. For example, persons who can afford lawyers may commit torts upon those who cannot. A person who can afford theater tickets displaces at the theater a person only slightly worse off. Those with the tiniest amount of excess political power may make statements to the press that displace comments by others who do not share that power. In addition, of course, tiny amounts of political power often lead to greater amounts of political power and, as nature runs its course, power corrupts. To whom does the phrase “power corrupts” apply? It applies to everyone, but it applies especially to those who think it does not apply to them. The most well-intentioned reformer may become the vicious autocrat who makes us very unhappy indeed. Russell claims that the primary causes of personal unhappiness are egotism, narcissism, and megalomania. It is easy to see how excess wealth and power are both the cause and the result of these defects. However, this is not Russell’s essay.
Nowadays, many oppressed or formerly oppressed people who have typically cried out for equality are asking, instead, for equal rights to oppress others. For example, women who only a few decades ago were banned from the workplace altogether complain that they are not represented in equal proportions among business executives. Arguably, it is the function of business executives to wield power over persons engaged in the enterprise of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. Thus, these women want an equal right to exploit. Instead of advocating the abandonment of “management” and “business” as institutions, they wish only to be a hammer rather than a nail. A similar statement could be made about poor blacks who wish only to be rich blacks. They fail to recognize that their riches would be just as responsible for the poverty of others as the riches of whites have been responsible for the poverty of themselves. It may be hypocritical for a white man who has benefited from the accumulation of wealth by other white men to deplore the accumulation of wealth by non-whites, just as it may be hypocritical for Americans to deplore the industrialization of India, but we must tell the truth whatever people may choose to think about it. After all, we may plead with others not to make the same mistakes we have made, but we do not compel.
But, happiness – by way of autonomy – and permanence depend on equality. The alternative to equality (of wealth and power) is competition for wealth and power, which, again, is both the cause and effect of inequality. Competitors for wealth despoil the environment and consume excess quantities of high-grade available energy. (What I really mean is that they increase the entropy of the biosphere faster than we can harvest the reduction in entropy given to us by the sun.) Also, competition for wealth and power leads to war. I have gone to a lot of trouble to explain that, unless human society abandons competition for wealth and power (and fame, too, if it is used to acquire wealth and power), the world is doomed. Of course I am not against competition in a proper game where the rules are stated in advance, known to each participant, and not changed during the course of play, and, further, the score is tied at the beginning of the game, among other generalized rules of fair play, as in baseball or gin rummy. Competition for wealth and power is never a proper game. But, even if it were, it would be unfair to people who wish to play a different game, because scoring in this game provides the necessities of life, which can be obtained in (practically) no other way.
Now most types of inequality are all of a piece. The validation of one form of inequality essentially validates all forms. To be as specific as I can be, the choosing of some people to speak at a forum and the denying of other people equal time (or, for that matter, inviting some speakers and only permitting others) belongs to the same class of activities as spending millions of dollars to keep some people alive while denying any medical treatment whatever to others. The difference is in degree only. Once the principle has been validated in the minor case, it can be extended without philosophical difficulty to every case. It is extremely important to be correct philosophically – or, rather, to approach correctness as closely as possible. The tiny grassroots organization that treats people differently according to their fame (or anything they may have accomplished in the past) may as well have bombed Iraq! The ghastly bombing follows inexorably from the minor inequity. Evil must start somewhere. Either we treat people the same or we don’t. We should not be blind to the consequences of tolerating the philosophy that people can be treated differently. Those consequences can lead so quickly from a little light-weight elitism to death camps for “undesirables” that a nation will not even notice the change in its collective consciousness. This we have seen in, for example, Nazi Germany.
To many readers it may seem unreasonable that a very small deviation from an ideal can have such catastrophic effects. One senses a discrepancy of scale. Perhaps a little unfairness will have only a tiny effect and the “good one does” will overwhelm the tiny bit of harm. I believe that all of the great catastrophes of the human spirit have begun with small deviations from ideals. Deviation from ideals feeds upon itself. It is like a nuclear chain reaction. Each deviation makes additional deviations easier and, perhaps, less noticeable. To deny access to the podium to one speaker may end in a situation where only Big Brother himself (or one of his surrogates) may speak. We are upset that the newspapers and television do not allow us to make our complete case against foreign military adventurism, but we are guilty of the same practices ourselves when we preselect our speakers.
Philosophical consistency is our friend and falsehood is our enemy. Please let us not get into an argument about the “political correctness” debate or into the details of epistemology. I have discussed these problems elsewhere. It is not difficult to keep one’s head above water and one’s eye on the ball if one is willing to look at things simply and without presupposition. The people stirring up the mud in these debates have agendas of their own that have nothing to do with simple truths that are absolutely apparent to the average six-year-old. Whether philosophical correctness (truth) can be achieved through the medium of free discourse or not, without free discourse falsehood is guaranteed to triumph. That is, even if free discourse is not a sufficient condition for the triumph of truth, it is a necessary condition.
When one is critical of others, e.g., the establishment media, one ought to be above reproach oneself. (I am referring to (absence of) systematic institutional error rather than inadvertent personal error, of course. Otherwise, I would join everyone else who thinks I'm a hypocrite. After all, I intend to criticize nearly everything. (The reader may be amazed to learn that I approve of the distance of ninety feet between the bases in the American pastime.)) But many activist organizations repress free discourse. They are friends of falsehood and enemies of truth. (We recognize that we get closer and closer to the truth but never arrive at the final absolute truth.) Leaders choose who is to speak and who is to be represented. They try to do this in a way that is guaranteed to perpetuate their own viewpoints. Thus, if there is anything wrong with their viewpoints, it is likely to be perpetuated. (Occasionally spontaneous mutations of the standard “party line” do occur. Sometimes the leaders make a mistake about the content of what one of their chosen speakers is going to say. They misjudge their “man”.) Organizations that determine policy from the top down are bastions of falsehood. I cannot think of a single activist organization with which I am acquainted that does not fall into this class. There’s not much difference between Common Cause and General Motors in this respect. As a result, activist organizations rarely, if ever, understand the factors that affect the “cause” with which they are concerned. To fall back on a contemporary cliché, they fail to think from a systems viewpoint, therefore they see their own “cause” in isolation. People against war don’t recognize the relation of war to animal rights or to capital punishment (in this case they may recognize it) or to air pollution or to free and open discourse or to the evils of capitalism, commerce, and trade. Perhaps there is something intrinsically wrong about organizations.
Sometimes an organization will hold a conference in which everyone is invited to speak; however, the agenda is set by the leadership. This is a much more subtle method for repressing dissent. You can speak, but you can’t talk about anything that is relevant as the subjects suitable for discussion have excluded all but what the leadership wishes to emphasize. In particular, whatever might upset the local “establishment’s” apple cart is “off-topic” and, therefore, “out of order”. Yes, minority, alternative, progressive activist organizations have establishments – just like the bigger world whose establishment they detest. Thus, liberals are conservatives who have yet to acquire the power they seek. (Whereas, “conservatives are liberals who haven’t been arrested”.)
Some organizations try to choose the most entertaining speakers either because they enjoy being entertained or because they wish to raise money or increase attendance. I do not believe this can be justified under the emergent circumstances in the world today. This is not show business. We have a world at stake. Hopefully it is not true that organizations choose famous speakers because they are worshippers of fame. The cult of fame is one of the most harmful institutions in the world. Just look what it has done to music. I have covered this subject in some detail in “On Awards”, an essay that has been moved from Vol. I  to Vol. II  of my collected papers. Finally, the organizers who preselect speakers may genuinely believe that they are arranging matters so that the maximum quantity of information will be imparted. I do not believe that this can be justified. What we need today is more reasoning about the information we already have rather than more information – macrofacts, as opposed to microfacts, ought to provide an adequate basis for valid reasoning. Activists may find it satisfying to hear about one more outrage perpetrated by the purveyors of American or British foreign policy, but I can’t imagine that anything really new can be learned in that way. Also, by concentrating on “facts”, one runs the risk of spreading falsehood. It might be more useful to make more deductions from fewer facts. We need to get a better handle on just what it is that we are trying to accomplish so that we do not indulge in useless or harmful activities. The harm done by the well-meaning do-gooder is proverbial.
Some people may not wish to open our forums to everyone because they are afraid that an extremely charismatic sophist will lead us astray. This fear is unfounded. In fact, we should welcome the opportunity to refute the fallacies of sophists in a public forum where they cannot hide behind a “commercial break” or a strict programming schedule. Bad ideas are guaranteed to be embarrassed in an open forum. Lately I have seen two apologists for differences in wealth shot down so badly in public that I began to feel sorry for them personally. We should welcome with open arms holders of ideas of which we do not approve.
In contrast to the author, most speakers at activist/reformist forums and rallies have absolutely nothing new to say. In a scientific forum, they would be open to ridicule for trying to palm off last year’s research as this year’s. Most of what they say isn’t even defensible logically. But I am not the one who is controlling the media and the podiums to prevent them from speaking. Let them be heard, but let me be heard too. Nevertheless, if the podium is not open to everyone or if some speakers are treated preferentially, I shall not appear – despite my desire to further truth and understanding. I do not expect much good to come from evil practices. Of any pervasive institutionalized evil, elitism, the notion that some people are entitled to preferential treatment because they belong to a class of superior persons, is, perhaps, closest to the root of all evil. (My personal choice, however, is money – not the love of money but money itself.)
Most political theorists (or utopianists) imagine themselves at the center of social change. This, of course, is a fallacy. Indeed, my remarks may be construed as egotistical or even megalomaniacal. However, this theory is designed to make it impossible for the theorist to become a leader or to acquire more power than other people. He would refuse it even if it were offered. Of course, nothing can separate him from the intrinsic enjoyment of having been effective, but that is normal and not at all harmful. No one but the writer need be aware of it. Probably, though, death will intervene before he need concern himself with accepting or refusing the rewards of recognition.
It has often been objected that strict egalitarianism will lead to universal mediocrity. Strangely, exactly the opposite seems to be the case. The only excuse for elitism would be to further excellence, but, instead, elitism exalts mediocrity and drives out creativity and genius. Peter Senge [The Fifth Discipline ] suggests that a committee composed of people of 130 IQs, say, behaves like an individual with an IQ of about 60. I do not mean to validate the concept of IQ or endorse the ideas of Senge, but merely to point out that the elitist institution embodies mediocrity. “Talent recognizes genius instantly; mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself.”
June 10, 1991
1. Deci, Edward L. and Richard M. Ryan, Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior, Plenum Press, New York (1985).
2. Wayburn, Thomas L., Collected Papers of Thomas Wayburn, Vol. II and Vol. III, American Policy Inst., Houston (Work in progress 1998).
3. Wayburn, Thomas L., Collected Papers of Thomas Wayburn, Vol. I, American Policy Inst., Houston (1996).
4. Senge, Peter M., The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday, New York (1990).
The announced purpose of the Alliance was to permit people to regain control of government, but the reason that the people do not have control of the government is that government is in the hands of “important” people, whether those people achieved importance by virtue of wealth, power, or fame. But, the procedures employed by the alliance replicate in the small the procedures employed by the establishment to ensure that “important” people retain power. ¼ Important people spoke and important people decided who was going to speak. In this way, my freedom of speech was imposed upon by the exercise of power. That’s exactly the problem we are trying to solve.
What happened at the meeting is that those who are important enhanced their importance. Those who are content to follow basked in the starlight radiating from the “natural leaders”. And anyone who wished to express an opinion distinct from the received wisdom was hooted down. It is completely irrelevant whether they were right or wrong. By repressing dissent, you save yourself from wasting a lot of time listening to crackpots, but you absolutely guarantee that you will not get any closer to the truth than you had been previously. The breakthroughs always come from lone dissenters.
Actually, the received wisdom is what I call conservatism, which, among other things, retains the obsolete notions that (i) a permanent and just society can be achieved within a market economy, (ii) government can solve the problems of the people and is qualified to determine what is good for them and what is bad for them (one person asked that we adopt an anti-drug policy in our mission statement), and (iii) leadership does not impose upon the freedom of non-leaders. The people who are content to be followers will have to arouse themselves and begin to do their own thinking unless they wish to perpetuate the evils we have witnessed. This can happen only after a suitable education is imparted. Thus, we need educators rather than leaders, but the educational institutions, at least in America, have driven educators out of the picture, in higher education by insisting on quantities of funding and publication, in primary and secondary education by suffocating creativity and integrity with oppressive bureaucracies.
Propaganda and the perpetuation of biases are not education. [The remainder of this discussion is omitted as the topic is covered adequately elsewhere.]
People, in their little grassroots organizations based upon incorrect theories or no theories at all, may make a few changes that I am perfectly aware are matters of life and death for the few people whose lives are enhanced or even saved by them, but the world gets worse and worse; and there is absolutely no guarantee that, in the long run, the efforts of these groups will not contribute to making the situation worse.
Do-gooders had damn well understand what they are doing and, again in my opinion, which I didn’t get to express, it is too early in the debate over theory to try to make more than the simplest efforts to feed the hungry and heal the sick. Attempts by the populist movement at passing legislation are not warranted at its present level of understanding.
[Some comments about the leaders of the Texas Populist Alliance have been excised here to protect the innocent or to avoid litigation, whichever is the case.]
Now, you can dismiss all of this as the ravings of a crackpot if you wish; but, you must realize that in so doing you run the risk of persisting in serious error. If no one tells you that you have fallen into error and you do not realize it spontaneously, no one can blame you, since we cannot control what ideas occur to us; but, if someone tells you that you are wrong and explains why, your responsibility rises dramatically.
September 11, 1990