Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Fine Print

A Tiny Revolution, which is a must read, reproduces an essay on economics by H. L. Mencken. The essay directly addresses a problem that has grown exponentially greater as the years have passed as the establishment, the 1%, has created an industry called the mass media to propagandize for itself. The 1% pay the elite to follow orders and the elite pay the mass media to quiet or encourage dissent, whichever is needed at the time. Many are led by gentle direction and implicit punishment, as Mencken describes below:.

But all the time a troubling question keeps afloat in the air, and that is briefly this: What would happen to the learned professors if they took the other side? In other words, to what extent is political economy, as professors expound and practice it, a free science, in the sense that mathematics and physiology are free sciences? At what place, if any, is speculation pulled up by a rule that beyond lies treason, anarchy and disaster? These questions, I hope I need not add, are not inspired by any heterodoxy in my own black heart. I am, in many fields, a flouter of the accepted revelation and hence immoral, but the field of economics is not one of them. Here, indeed, I know of no man who is more orthodox than I am. I believe that the present organization of society, as bad as it is, is better than any other that has ever been proposed. I reject all the sure cures in current agitation, from government ownership to the single tax. I am in favor of free competition in all human enterprises, and to the utmost limit. I admire successful scoundrels, and shrink from Socialists as I shrink from Methodists. But all the same, the afore said doubt pursues me when I plow through the solemn disproofs and expositions of the learned professors of economics, and that doubt will not down. It is not logical or evidential, but purely psycho logical.

And what it is grounded on is an unshakable belief that no man's opinion is worth a hoot, however well supported and maintained, so long as he is not absolutely free, if the spirit moves him, to support and maintain the exactly contrary opinion. In brief, human reason is a weak and paltry thing so long as it is not wholly free reason. The fact lies in its very nature, and is revealed by its entire history. A man may be perfectly honest in a contention, and he may be astute and persuasive in maintaining it, but the moment the slightest compulsion to maintain it is laid upon him, the moment the slightest external re ward goes with his partisanship or the slightest penalty with its abandonment, then' there appears a defect in his ratiocination that is more deep-seated than any error in fact and more destructive than any conscious and deliberate bias. He may seek the truth and the truth only, and bring up his highest talents and diligence to the business, but always there is a specter behind his chair, a warning in his ear. Always it is safer and more hygienic for him to think one way than to think another way, and in that bald fact there is excuse enough to hold his whole chain of syllogisms in suspicion. He may be earnest, he may be honest, but he is not free, and if he is not free, he is not anything.

Some bloggers eagerly and voluntarily propagandize for their masters, out of desire to become part of the elite. It just feels good to them, to fancy themselves superior to the rest of the country. Parents' slights and schoolmates' insults fade away, and the warm glow of knowing the power and popularity of the elite approve of and support the propagandist makes up (almost) for the emptiness inside. And this is something Obama supporters must remember after the election as well. The rich are not your friends. Look at the policies you agree with just as carefully as you look at the policies you hate.

No comments: