|Issue #65 • September/October, 2000|
There are a lot of taboos, that is, things we’re not supposed to talk about, in modern society. If we do talk about them we are labeled a racist or worse. One of those things is the topic of stupid people. But the topic can no longer be ignored, because for the first time in history stupid people have more political power than anyone else, and the consequence of allowing them all that power now looms like the shadow of doom over America.
To explain, a brief review of economic and political history is necessary: In the old days, and by old I mean from about the mid-17th century back, most people lived a bare subsistence existence. They spent their lives toiling to feed themselves and their families, then died young. All political and economic power was in the hands of an elite, usually a combination of clergy and aristocracy who were often the same people. Only this ruling elite was educated, and their power was typically inherited, entailing the power of life and death over poor people, who comprised 90% or more of the population. Poor people, for the most part, acquiesced in this situation, accepting that aristocrats and clergy somehow belonged in their elevated positions and that it was the poor’s lot to be miserable, especially since the ruling elite assured them that heavenly reward awaited them in the afterlife. It was a great con game played by the aristocracy and clergy for hundreds of years, and it was enforced with the torture and execution of anyone who didn’t go along.
But beginning in the early 17th century, advances in knowledge, in particular scientific knowledge, began a renaissance of thought, at first among a few enlightened clergy and aristocrats, that said one didn’t have to live a subsistence living, that one could better one’s life through the application of this new technology, that one could grow more food, heal the sick, and in general understand and harness the natural world so that everyone, not just an elite, could enjoy life.
Gradually this revolutionary idea took hold and technological advance turned into economic and political advance, and by the middle of the 18th century a significant portion of the world’s civilized population, at least in western Europe, thought that every person had the right to a better life on this earth. Much of the aristocracy and most of the clergy fought bitterly against this idea, since it meant the loss of their power over poor people. But it won out anyway, with a few isolated pockets of aristocrats and clergy maintaining power over the very poorest places.
In historical hindsight we refer to this time that ushered in a better life for everyone as the Age of Enlightenment. It spanned just about all of the 17th and 18th centuries and, in the latter half of the 18th century, led directly to America’s founding with its wonderfully enlightened Constitution that guaranteed the average person the right to seek happiness on this earth, in this life. This is important, because a lot of stupid people think America sprang into existence suddenly, out of a few people’s heads. It did not. It was the result of a long process of people gradually becoming aware that this life was worth enjoying and pursuing happiness in. Early Americans like Jefferson were the product of this process and they wrote the best of it into America’s Constitution.
It is also important to understand that most of the ideas that came out of the Age of Enlightenment were the product of the minds of a small portion of the population, namely some thinkers who were weary of seeing the majority of mankind living in misery. The new philosophy of that era had one goal: to make life better for the greatest number of people. Only gradually did these ideas take hold among the majority of people.
America’s founders were God-fearing men, and it was generally accepted that the idea of being happy in this life, rather than waiting for the next, was in accordance with God’s laws. In a nutshell, earthly misery was out, earthly happiness in, God approved of it, and so America was born.
The 19th and 20th century thus became the proving ground of how best to implement this new philosophy of pursuing earthly happiness. Two implementation systems emerged, as we all know: the welfare state of socialism, whose premise is that all wealth should be divided up among everyone evenly, and capitalism, whose premise is that individuals should be given maximum freedom to pursue their own happiness. The new country of America turned out to be the major proving ground for the latter, and history teaches us that the failed experiments of communism and socialism in various countries in the 20th century, coupled with the enormous success of America’s capitalism, showed that America’s capitalism, though not perfect, worked best.
That brings us to the present time, and you’d think we’d all be basking in the glow of the success of the Enlightenment. But enter the modern politician, a knave with a smooth voice who sees profit and political power in pitting the poor and stupid against those who have found a bit of success in the American capitalist system, and enter the appeal to the stupid that all they have to do is vote goodies for themselves and they will be delivered by the knave politician. And you have the unraveling of the America capitalist system just as the world has achieved it.
How unfortunate. The stupid have no idea how humanity got this far, how we went from a subsistence economy to America’s system of bounty and relative happiness for nearly everyone. They only see the knave politician soliciting their greed and laziness. They can’t understand the great struggle that produced America, but they readily grasp the concept of voting themselves unearned goodies.
And they now read this commentary and ask themselves, “What the hell is he talking about?”