Government-Supremacist Assumptions

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass. Government-supremacists are easy to spot by the bad assumptions they naturally make and wave around in public.

They’ve always argued over how to spend “tax” money; they won’t consider the fact that “taxation” is theft.

They’ve argued over what should be taught in government schools, but never questioned government control over (and destruction of) education.

And now they argue over whether it was the right move to issue stay-at-home orders and cripple the economy, but they never consider that no one has the right to do so.

It’s not government’s place to decide to shutter the economy to “save” lives from coronavirus or anything else. They don’t have that right and they shouldn’t be allowed to have the power.

It’s never an “adult decision” to govern other people (the political means) rather than letting them work it out for themselves (the economic means/the market). It’s the most childish thing anyone can do. No one should be allowed to make those decisions and decide for you what you will be permitted to do with your own life.

They also substitute government-supremacism for thinking in other ways.

If you are making the dishonest argument that to fail to sufficiently cripple the economy on account of the coronapocalypse is going to kill 50,000 additional people (or whatever your number might be), without taking into account those who will die because the economy is being destroyed, you aren’t contributing anything useful.

You can’t know how many the virus will kill, nor do you know how many will die from the effects of a shut-down. The number of dead from the shut-down could well vastly outnumber those who die from the virus, making the “net deaths from coronavirus” being tossed around a completely fake number. Any discussion of “net deaths from coronavirus” without taking those a shut-down will kill into account is– as of now– a lie calculated to limit the discussion to government-supremacist answers.

To pretend that someone has sufficient information to make such a decision, or the right to impose it, is to be dishonest. It’s what makes one a government-supremacist.

Government edicts and orders are the opposite of responsibility. You have the responsibility to not violate the life, liberty, or property of anyone else. Government-supremacy is explicit irresponsibility and is shameful. No matter who exhibits it or what excuse they grasp at to justify their violations. I have no respect for government-supremacists; they deserve none. They’ve worked hard to prove that.

Open This Content

Relative Tragedy

We live in strange times. Or perhaps all times are strange.

Giving something a name grants magical hypnotic power. “Coronavirus” or “Covid” are names that immediately occupy all attention and short circuit normal brain function.

I imagine newsrooms today:

Editor: “Any tragedies to report?”

Lackey: “A few sir”

Editor: “Shoot”

Lackey: “An airplane suddenly veered off course and crashed into a mountain killing all 200 people aboard”

Editor: “And…”

Lackey: “None of them tested positive for the Coronavirus”

Editor: “Meh. Not a tragedy. Run of the mill. Anything else?”

Lackey: “An elderly disabled war hero was driving home from saving his daughter’s kitten when he got stuck on the train tracks and suffered a horrible collision”

Editor: “And…”

Lackey: “His car burst into flames and he died a very terrible death as onlookers couldn’t reach him in time despite heroic efforts”

Editor: “And…”

Lackey: “He tossed a hand scrawled will out the window just before he perished, revealing a secret fortune he donated to the poor”

Editor: “And…”

Lackey: “We can’t be sure because we can’t verify he was tested, and the tests are ridiculously inaccurate, and he had no symptoms, but he may have had Coronavirus”

Editor: “MY GOD THE HUMANITY!!! Why didn’t you tell me we had a lead story!”

Open This Content

Cultural Diversity Requires Cultural Homogeneity

It is a mistake to view cultural diversity and cultural homogeneity as enemies – in fact, they need each other.

The diversity of a city like New York has historically come not from “diversity training” a bunch of diverse people, but by bringing together a bunch of very culturally-distinctive people: Italians, Irish, English, Puerto Ricans, Eastern Europeans, Jews, African-Americans, Germans, Chinese, and so on. None of the real people who created the initial conditions for cultural diversity were themselves hailing from diverse environments.

These immigrants who shaped New York as the gold standard of cultural “melting pots” all came from strongly homogenous cultures, in which people shared stories, music, history, grievances, beliefs, genetics, and traditions. They were more strictly Italian, Irish, German, etc. than any Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans can claim to be today. They were more different from each other in very real ways, because they adhered to very different cultures. And while it’s a credit to New Yorkers that they found ways to live together, diversity wasn’t always appreciated and wasn’t always easy.

In terms of their beliefs, modern Americans probably do value diversity more (and that’s a good thing). However, they also probably value (and know) their ancestors’ cultures less. The sad result of this is that there is less diversity and less diversity there to value.

The modern Americans who have descended from the early immigrants of New York (and other parts of the country) now have few cultural distinctives from each other. They probably don’t speak Italian, or German, or English with an Irish brogue. They probably don’t know the old stories or songs or places. And in the common educational narrative about diversity (a multicultural one), this isn’t actually a bad thing. When all cultures are treated as equal and all cultures exposed equally (i.e. not very much) to children, there’s not likely going to be any particular attachment to any cultural distinctives in particular.

I really think we could make America – and the world – a more interesting and more diverse place for everybody to enjoy a little more. But we each have to be OK with spending part of our lives deeply immersed in one or two *particular* cultures. And to do that, we have to be attached to that one culture in a way that isn’t culturally chauvinistic, but isn’t multicultural-egalitarian either.

For example, I’m better able to both appreciate and contribute to the diversity of the city I moved to because I was born and raised among people of roughly the same ethnicity (Anglo), religion (Protestant), political preference (conservative), dialect (Southern), and environment (rural) etc. People who are different from me are interesting precisely because I never met Buddhists, Russian-Americans, or urban planners in my early life. Now because I was raised that way, I’ll probably always value rural life more than I like the city. But that particularism also means I can bring the gifts of my upbringing and culture to people who don’t have them, and receive their gifts in return.

It is possible to love one’s own culture and to love the cultures of others. But the end of cultural diversity in fact requires cultural homogeneity – at least in early life. There’s a balance to be struck, but the common answer of generic multiculturalism seems to be more oriented toward breeding a stale homogeneity in the end.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

Open This Content

COVID-19: Resist Much, Obey Little, and Never Forget

The COVID-19 outbreak isn’t over yet, but we’ve reached a turning point: American politicians and bureaucrats are beginning the tricky process of trying to simultaneously walk back their predictions of catastrophe, while awarding themselves the credit for those predictions not coming true, and avoiding the blame they deserve for inciting headlong irrational panic.

I’m no more immune than others to seeing confirmation of my views in outcomes on the ground. I might just as easily have titled this column “Confirming My Priors” or “That Rug Really Tied the Room Together.” But I’m gonna roll with temptation. I think this episode HAS confirmed my priors.

For nearly three decades, I’ve been pointing out to my readers that politicians are expensive serial killers who pose unacceptable risks to our lives and liberties.

We can usually “afford” their depredations.  The US government only openly steals about one out of every five dollars you earn, and its Food and Drug Administration (as an example) only murders about as many Americans each month as were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

But every once in a while their antics boil over into a Holodomor or a Holocaust or a Great Leap Forward. And that should keep you lying awake nights trying to think of a better way.

For those same three decades, I’ve been pointing out that you don’t actually need the politicians, that they don’t serve any useful productive purpose — and that they will go to any length to keep you from NOTICING that they’re useless and that you don’t need them.

I’d like to believe that COVID-19 will make these points so obvious that I can retire.

For example, it seems to me that people should just naturally notice that countries (like South Korea) and US states (like Florida) that are maintaining relative freedom of movement, assembly, commerce, etc., are coming through this thing in much better shape than countries (like Italy) and states (like New York and New Jersey) that went into full-on fascist “lockdown” mode.

And I’d like to think that having noticed, Americans will do the right thing:

Rise up.

Get back to living.

Ignore the politicians.

I’m not saying don’t be careful. I’m saying that you know better than any politician what being careful entails for you, and what risks are acceptable to you.

And if the politicians send uniformed thugs to enforce their dictates? Leave a few of their bodies lying in the streets, or hanging from lamp-posts, as a warning to the wise.

Yes, you just read what you thought you just read.

Resist much. Obey little. Never forget that the politicians tried to exploit this pandemic to reduce you under absolute despotism. And stop giving them such opportunities.

Open This Content

Are Kids Learning More at Home During COVID-19?

More than one billion students around the world are currently missing school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several US states have already canceled school for the remainder of the academic year, turning to online learning when possible, and other states are likely to extend their school closures soon. Some educationists panic about learning loss while children are at home with their families, and headlines abound about how “homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children.”

Learning Outside of a Classroom

Rather than focusing on the alarmist narrative of what is lost during this time away from school, it is worth emphasizing what is gained. There is so much learning that can happen this spring, within families and outside of a conventional classroom.

In many school districts across the country, any assigned coursework has been deemed optional, compulsory attendance laws have been relaxed, and annual testing mandates have been removed. This regulatory respite can provide an opportunity for parents to regain control of their children’s education and expand knowledge using the abundant online learning resources now at our fingertips. Free from state and federal curriculum and testing directives, parents can nurture their children’s education and development, helping them to explore new interests, dive into self-directed projects, and reveal passions and talents.

Whether it’s taking a virtual tour of one of 2,500 museums around the world, listening to a live concert, learning in-demand technology and coding skills for free, engaging in livestream story or art time with renowned authors and artists, or just enjoying special, slower moments together as a family, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to disconnect from standard schooling and discover how much learning can really happen.

Some worry about children’s learning slipping away during this time at home. Writing recently for The Washington Post, former Tennessee education commissioner Kevin Huffman notes the alleged “summer slide” phenomenon when students purportedly lose during summertime much of what they learned during the academic year. He suggests several strategies for combating the learning loss that he says will occur during the pandemic, including adding “more instructional days next year and beyond,” and “opening schools in the middle of the summer, lengthening the school day and the school year, or potentially eliminating summer vacation for the next couple of years.”

Does Learning Loss Occur?

But as I’ve written previously for NPR, we should be skeptical about the overall idea of “summer slide,” or learning loss when children are away from school. If learning is so easily lost when a child’s school routine is disrupted, did they ever really learn at all? They may have been effectively schooled—that is, trained and tested on certain material—but they likely never learned.

Now, children and their parents have an unprecedented opportunity to learn without school. While this is a stressful time for all of us, as our routines are altered and we are mostly stuck inside, distanced from our larger community, it can also be a time to use the enormous, and mostly free, digital resources that are sprouting daily to support learning and discovery. It can be a time to nurture and rekindle our children’s natural curiosity and creativity, qualities that are so often dulled within a mass compulsory schooling system focused on compliance and conformity. It can be a time to get to know our children in ways that might have been difficult during our previously packed, always-on-the-go days.

Most parents will eagerly send their children back to school when this is all over, but some parents will be surprised by what they discover during this break from ordinary life. They may see how much calmer their children are and how school-related ailments such as ADHD are less problematic at home. They may see that their children’s mental health has improved, particularly for teenagers who report the most unhappiness at school.

Parents may see their children’s love of reading and writing reappear, when they are allowed to read books and write stories that are meaningful to them and not tied to an arbitrary school assignment or grammar lesson. They may see a strong interest in science and technology emerge, as their children want to know more about how viruses work and what inventions are being created to help fight the pandemic. Parents may see real learning happen and decide not to send their children back to school.

Fortunately, there are now so many more ways to facilitate education without schooling, including hybrid homeschooling models, virtual learning, microschools, self-directed learning centers, and co-learning spaces. With more demand from parents for innovative, out-of-school learning options, more entrepreneurs will build experimental K-12 education models that will expand choices for parents and learners. Opting out of conventional schooling has never been easier or more worthwhile.

Rather than dwelling on the schoolwork that isn’t getting done this spring, let’s celebrate the immense learning that is occurring, in our homes and with our families, as we experience this historic event together. Let’s focus on what we gain, not on what we lost.

Open This Content

Sociopaths, Clueless, Losers

I first came across this Hugh MacLeod illustration in a booked called, The Gervais Principle, by Venkatesh Rao.

Rao’s book is one of my all-time favorites and it’s packed with cunning. It’s a breakdown of workplace and social politics using this pyramid applied to the show The Office.

Sociopaths know the game is all made up and rules are for suckers. They also know they must perpetuate the illusion of rules of the game. They need the Clueless to believe fully in the rules and carry them out as they manage the Losers. Losers are cynical and streetwise enough to know the game is bullshit, but lack the motivation (or perhaps have the scruples) to try to change it by becoming Sociopaths.

This pyramid applies to political reality as well as corporate.

The Sociopaths aren’t often in the limelight and can be hard to identify. The Clueless encompass nearly every politician, pundit, protester, or activist. They rally and debate endlessly about details of the political and legal process, sincerely believing it’s not all just made up. They believe in the Myth of the Rule of Law, and treat justificatory pieces of paper as if they are truly binding on anyone. The Losers are the great mass of people who know politics is bullshit, role their eyes at the Clueless, but lack the ambition (or have the scruples) to try to become a Sociopath.

Losers may be cynical, sometimes nihilistic. But they aren’t being played for fools. They have the ability to carve out some scope of a day to day life that puts up with the game, sometimes bending or breaking the rules. Sociopaths may do things that harm or benefit others, but their main drive is winning. Clueless are used and made fools of by both Sociopaths and Losers. Losers put up with them because they would rather not have the terrible jobs that the Clueless take such pride in. HOA board? Township Supervisor? Losers laugh. Clueless treat them as solemn duties and take pride in acting out what they fail to see as a farce.

I can’t tell you what it’s best to be. None of these options sound very appealing to me, so I try to imagine somehow being outside the game entirely, whether or not it’s possible. But the framework is useful and entertaining. Once you get it, you can’t unsee the world this way.

Open This Content