Scott Adams is Still Wrong on Guns

The vilest anti-liberty bigots are those who pretend to be pro-liberty while misrepresenting liberty (or not even understanding what the word means). Anti-gun bigots who claim to be “pro-gun” are probably the worst subset of anti-liberty bigot.

Scott Adams is a case in point. He’s been advocating anti-gun “laws” a lot recently, seasoning his remarks with the phrase “I’m pro-gun“. It shows how deep his misunderstanding of the topic goes that he believes he’s making sense.

The following is a point-by-point analysis of a recent podcast where he was pretending to be pro-gun while promoting anti-gun bigotry and government-supremacy. He’s always blocking people for saying “You’re wrong” without providing reasons. Since he likes reasons so much, here are a bunch of them.

“The government should make the decisions about gun policy… The government and the people should decide what our gun laws are.”

Nope. That option has been taken off the table by the Second Amendment. And “our” gun laws? I’ve decided what mine are. No one else has any say. Collectivism is ugly.

“But we get to change the Constitution, too.”

Not without abolishing the United States of America. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were a package deal which created the feral, ummm, federal government, and without which it has no existence. Change one word of the Bill of Rights (which, being amendments, over-ride the body of the Constitution where applicable) and the deal is off. I’m actually OK with that. Are you?

“I did not say ‘take away your guns’.”

Only because you can’t be that honest. You’ve parroted the dishonest claim of almost every anti-gun bigot, that “no one is talking about taking away guns“. Maybe you aren’t proposing door-to-door gun confiscations, but if you believe government has the power to ignore the natural human right to own and to carry weapons, and the Second Amendment’s prohibition on “laws” concerning guns, then you’re advocating allowing “laws” to be written which could (and have) result in actual law enforcers taking away people’s guns, and murdering them if they resist.

“I’m very pro-gun (…) but…”

That’s what they all say. And maybe you believe it. But without a clear understanding of the issue you say things that make you look foolish and dishonest. That “but” leaves you a lot of wiggle room but completely invalidates your first statement there.

“If the citizens of the United States, collectively, with their government, decided to make some gun laws, that I personally, Scott, do not think are the greatest, I’d still be inclined to go along with it, because the system produced that output. And I would trust the system.”

As long as a system isn’t harming people I’ll trust it. Provisionally. But as soon as it starts violating people, I’m out. The slave trade was a system. No one should have trusted it because it violated natural human rights. “Gun control” is a system which violates people’s rights. In fact, government is a rights-violating system. None for me, thanks. I prefer my own system which protects everyone’s equal and identical rights.

“Some of you are saying ‘My Constitution gives me my Second Amendment rights, and the NRA is helping me defend them.’”

Anyone who believes their rights come from the Constitution/Second Amendment or any document is uninformed. The Bill of Rights was written to place natural human rights– including the right to own and to carry weapons– off-limits to government meddling. Even the NRA seems weak on their understanding of this point. That’s why real gun rights (human rights) advocates call the NRA “surrender monkeys”.

As I recently posted elsewhere in response to a similar claim: You seem to have been misinformed about what the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does. It doesn’t give anyone the right to own and to carry weapons; it makes it a crime for government to interfere in this natural human right in the slightest way. “Gun control” is a SERIOUS crime.

The right existed before the Constitution was written— before the first government was a twinkle in the eye of a lazy thief, even— and it will still exist unchanged long after the last government is forgotten in the mists of Deep Time. No law or constitution can alter that right in the smallest degree.

“You love the Constitution. So do I.”

I don’t. And neither do you. If you did you would try to understand its purpose better; particularly the Bill of Rights– which is what you’re discussing here. The ONLY thing the Bill of Rights was written to do was to limit what government could “legally” do. If you miss that point your claim to love the Constitution is patently ridiculous. It’s like if I said I love dogs, but then talk about how beautiful and soft their feathers are.

“Do you know what else is in the Constitution? Well there’s something about a representative government and presidents and Congress and all that.”

Yep. And that makes placing natural human rights out of their reach that much more important. Because you never know what those people might decide to do. Or what the majority of v*ters might decide to do. Placing natural human rights outside the business of government is necessary if you’re going to allow government to exist.

“It gives the control of our decision making to our elected representatives.”

Not all of it. Some things were wisely taken off the table (by the Bill of Rights) before the game began. Including guns.

(About the NRA) “If it crosses that line into taking the job that the Constitution gives to the government…”

Again, the government can’t have the “job” to make up “laws” about guns. That is one of the things government is specifically and explicitly not permitted to do.

“The first thing I would note is that it’s already infringed.”

Agreed. That means all those various infringements are illegitimate and need to go away. It doesn’t justify more infringements. You couldn’t have justified expanding the slave trade with the observation that there was already a slave trade. The slave trade needed to be abolished. Gun “laws” need to be abolished… or ignored into irrelevance.

“Can you own a tank; a flamethrower?”

Ignorance? Yes, you can.

About “Second Amendment rights” [sic]: “98% of it’s gone and you didn’t even notice.”

Rights can’t “go away”. That the government– or other bad guys– violate rights doesn’t make them go away. It just violates them. Understand the difference.

And, I notice the violations. So do other people. Just because you don’t notice doesn’t mean others are that complacent and ignorant.

“Do you think that the Second Amendment, when it says ‘arms’, was just trying to limit it to muskets? I mean, that’s all they could imagine at the time…”

No. The Second Amendment was saying “You shall not pass!” with regard to making up “laws” to violate the natural human right to own and to carry weapons.

And they could “imagine” more than muskets because more than muskets already existed. Some of the authors of the Constitution were inventors. Does Scott really believe they couldn’t have imagined anything other than what already existed at the time? Of course, they could. That’s what inventors do. They knew how guns had evolved from massive unwieldy things requiring more than one person to set up and use to tools easily owned, carried, and accurately fired by one average individual. They were perfectly aware of how gun development could progress from its current state– they were already witnessing it.

And it doesn’t matter. They placed guns on a high shelf, out of reach of government “laws”.

“I see all the gun rights people bristling, but so far I haven’t said anything you disagree with.”

Seriously? See all the above if you actually believe you haven’t said anything an informed gun rights person would disagree with so far.

And, I didn’t bristle. I took it upon myself to educate and correct.

“… the key parts are ‘militia’ and ‘necessary to the security of a free state’… “

The militia is EVERYONE capable of using a weapon in defense– this was made clear by those who wrote and supported the Second Amendment. Using their weapons against whoever needed to be defended against. You display gross historical ignorance here.

Then you go off on a screed about “giving you the right to own guns...”, missing the purpose and intent of the Bill of Rights yet again. Government-supremacists seem to love this train of thought, which I derailed above.

Now, I happen to understand what a “state” is, so I also understand “free state” is internally contradictory. I’ll forgive you for your ignorance on this one.

“… a created right; a manufactured right…”

You can’t create or manufacture rights. Every human who has ever existed has/had equal and identical rights. Rights don’t come from governments. Governments can either respect rights or violate them. Those are the only two options. That governments– states– always choose to violate rights to some degree says nothing about the nature of rights and everything you need to know about the nature of government.

“Even the experts disagree about what the Constitution said or meant or how it should be interpreted.”

Only willfully. If you go back and read the related writings and discussions between those who were writing it, there is no confusion. “Smart people” often find ways to avoid understanding things which would invalidate what they want. That’s the most common thing in the world. It doesn’t give weight to your anti-gun position.

“My take is the government can do whatever it wants, with guns, as long as it makes sense. As long as the people are with it.”

It probably can. But it would be wrong and the US government would be immediately illegitimized by passing even one gun “law”. Oops. I guess that bridge has already been crossed and burned. But, again, this is the unethical government-supremacist position.

And “makes sense” to who? Everything makes sense to someone. Theft makes sense to people who want to justify stealing. Rape makes sense to rapists. Serial murderers always believe their acts somehow make sense. Violating your rights can’t make sense to me. No matter my feelings, or my wishes. If I feel your rights “need” to be violated on my behalf, then I need to man up and defend myself– by exercising my rights– from you. Begging government to do that on my behalf is a loser move.

“If 99% of the people said ‘Hey, government, take our guns away’…”

So, mob rule, then. The belief that rights hinge on the opinions of the majority. The wishes of all the people but one can’t excuse violating the rights of the one. Not if you call that violation “slavery” or if you call it “gun control”. If someone doesn’t want a gun in their house there is nothing to prevent them from getting rid of it. I’m completely in favor of allowing them to do so. If, however, they don’t want guns in their own home this gives them no right to force everyone else to get rid of their own guns, or else. Not by “law” or anything else.

This is the same loserthink behind rich people who say “Raise my taxes– I don’t mind. I want to support government more.” If they want to give the government more of their money, they can. No new “law” is necessary. Just do it. To wait until a “law” is imposed forcing others to do the same is evil.

“…a vague statement in the Constitution hundreds of years ago…”

It’s only vague if you try really hard to not understand it. “Shall not be infringed” can’t be more clear.

“We can do what we want as long as there’s a system we all respect.”

Too bad for you, then. Or, do you not really mean “all”, but just all government-supremacists and anti-liberty bigots? Because, as I’ve already pointed out, I don’t respect systems which violate natural human rights.

“…’it’s in the Constitution!’ True, but does it matter?”

Only if you want to keep your government. If not, that’s OK with me. I don’t need your government and don’t feel like supporting it. I can’t afford it and don’t want or need it. So I’m not going to argue with you on that one. That’s just a case of you arguing against yourself.

“To all of you who thought you were disagreeing with me, and were wrong, I say: your opinion I care about… If you disagree with me on guns, I care about your opinion. I might disagree, but I want to hear it… You and I are on the same page.”

OK. I’ll send this blog post to you, then. I hope other people also forward it to you (@ScottAdamsSays) any time you talk about guns.

But, no, we are not on the same page. Not even close.

I’ll close with one final admission on your part:

“I know one topic I don’t understand: any topic on gun control”

Yeah, that much is painfully obvious.

So, no Scott, I’m not interested in any system which makes it easier to violate the natural human rights of my fellow humans (or myself) and therefore makes it more likely those rights violations will occur. Just not interested at all. When you’re right, you’re right. But when you’re wrong, you’re probably advocating government-supremacy.

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Anti-Gun Laws Always Wrong Path

In the wake of the recent mass shootings and the hype surrounding them, people are asking “why?”

Simpletons parrot the popular answer: “guns.”

Sensible people know there’s no single reason.

Thankfully, mass shootings are rare. The way they are publicized makes them seem common, and copycat crimes often follow on the heels of well-publicized shootings. If it were up to me, the shooter’s face would never be shown and his name would be replaced by the words “some loser.”

Mass shootings — almost without exception — happen in places where guns are prohibited. This makes sense. People who plan to shoot random people don’t want their intended victims to shoot back.

A “gun-free zone” — be it a mall or other business, a school or other government facility, or an outdoor event — gives them exactly what they want.

Some people blame poor “mental health care,” suggesting it’s government’s responsibility to run a giant socialist program for identifying mentally unstable people and rounding them up or forcibly medicating them.

I don’t trust people who believe governing others is OK to make reasonable assessments of other people’s mental health.

The “worthlessness” these shooters express in the months and years leading up to their evil deeds must play a part. If you don’t have any meaning in your life it is easier to decide nothing has meaning so you might as well act on your hopelessness, nihilism, and anger.

These guys need meaningful relationships. They need meaningful work. Both are getting harder to find for the average person. This isn’t something government can fix, but perhaps society will find solutions.

I suspect the lack of an attainable frontier may contribute to the problem, and believe if one doesn’t open up soon, things will get worse.

I would be tempted to blame violent video games, except the evidence seems clear that this isn’t the case. If you desensitize people to committing violent acts it seems they’d be more accepting of aggression in real life. Yet the data points to the opposite effect. The violent games apparently serve as a sort of pressure release.

The same goes for violent movies.

I didn’t want to believe it, but I must accept the evidence unless more evidence comes to light. I can’t help but wonder why accepting evidence is such a difficult thing for humans to do.

The evidence is clear: there are many causes, but making things worse — with additional anti-gun laws — is always the wrong path.

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Creating Impeccable Structure for Your Life

There’s a strange contradiction in most of our lives:

We deeply feel the messiness of our lives. We feel it in all areas of our lives, which stresses us out and causes us to shut down, feel overwhelmed, run to distraction and comforts. It creates tremendous uncertainty for us.

But …

We resist sticking to structure and routine. We want to have a great order to our lives, but when it comes to actually following it, we struggle. It feels too rigid, too constricting. So we immediately toss the plan aside and start free-forming it, answering messages and going to distractions and reading or watching things online. This creates even more uncertainty, not being able to stick to structure.

This contradiction might not be universal, but it’s present for a lot of people. I would guess that a majority of people reading this feel a struggle between these two things.

Now, I don’t think you can get control and order over everything in your life — life is inherently messy and uncertain, and all attempts to make it ordered and certain are fundamentally futile. It’s often more helpful to practice mindfully with the uncertainty rather than try to control it.

That said, this is not an all-or-nothing choice. We can create structure and practice with uncertainty. We can even create structure for our uncertainty practice. And we can learn to be unattached to the structure, so that if we have to do a day or week without it, we can be perfectly OK.

Two Reasons to Create Structure

There are two major (interrelated) effects that we feel from this struggle with structure and messiness:

  1. The messiness of our lives causes us to be messy. When we have a huge mess around us, it’s hard to be impeccable. It’s hard to be focused. It’s hard to really put our best effort into our meaningful work. We are greatly affected by everything around us, and by any kind of messiness in our lives. That doesn’t mean we should strive for perfection, but instead that we should recognize the effects of this messiness on us.
  2. Lack of structure creates a lack of trustability. When our lives are completely unstructured and messy, it’s hard for others to trust us. If you were to go into business with someone whose office and life were a huge mess, vs. someone whose office and life seemed to be in impeccable order … all other things being equal, who would you choose? This messiness is felt by our spouses or partners, felt by friends and other loved ones, felt by our colleagues and bosses, felt by our clients, even if they can’t completely see it. And we feel it ourselves, and it erodes our trust in ourselves.

None of this is reason to freak out or beat yourself up. It’s just bringing awareness to the effects of lack of structure. And maybe resolving to create more impeccable structure with time.

Creating Impeccable Structure

Once we’ve resolved to create structure in our lives, it’s important to recognize that this is a process, not a destination. You never do it and then are done with it — it’s an ongoing process.

What does that process look like? Here’s what I do:

  1. Recognize when a part of my life is messy and could use more structure. I list some of those areas below, but the important thing is to notice the feeling of messiness in an area, and resolve to try to create better structure.
  2. Contemplate a structure that would give you a feeling of trust. For example, if you are not staying on top of your emails, you could create a structure as simple as, “Check email at 10am, 1pm and 5pm only, and process each email out of the inbox to empty, or as close to empty as possible in 20 minutes.” If this would make you feel a sense of trust that emails would be taken care of, it’s a good structure. You may need to test it out (see below). Take a little time, disconnected and in solitude, to contemplate this structure.
  3. Write out the structure, then put it somewhere you’ll see it. Once you’ve give it some contemplation, actually write it down — either on paper or in a text document. Make sure it’s somewhere you’ll see it when you need it. If you write it down and then forget it, it’s of no use.
  4. Put it into action, as a practice. This is the key step — actually test out the structure by using it. See if it works. See if it makes you feel a sense of trust. See where the flaws are, and adjust as needed. Do this structure not as a chore, but as a practice, seeing if you can relax into it, surrender to it.
  5. Revisit and revise on a regular basis. Even if the structure is good, you’re not done. It’s like a machine, humming along — eventually it will break. It needs maintenance. You need to adjust as your life changes and you change. You’ll need to make it more impeccable when your life demands it. Every month or two, revisit and revise. At the very least, revisit every 6 months (set reminders in your calendar).

I’m constantly revisiting my structures, and revising them, especially when I feel it’s needed.

Examples of Structure

Some areas of your life that might be messy and in need of structure:

  • Daily structure. How do you want to structure your day? It doesn’t have to be super planned out and rigid, but you might have something simple … for example: a simple morning routine, then a block for important tasks in the morning, email, important tasks, admin tasks, email, work closing routine, exercise, meditation, evening routine. For others, a more detailed structure might be important. For others, an even looser structure might be better. Or one that is different on different days.
  • Financial structure. How do you stay on top of your finances? Create a system so that you are tracking your spending on a regular basis, and have a plan for how to spend it.
  • Communication. How are you handling email and messages? You might carve out time in your regular schedule so that you’re on top of email and messages, without being overwhelmed by it or doing it all day long.
  • Relationship(s). How are you working on your relationship? Do you have regular dates or time you spend each day together? Do you have counseling or getaways to focus on you as a couple? Maybe you’re not in a relationship — how do you stay in touch with your closest friends and family? How do you make sure you stay close to them, or go even deeper?
  • Health. How will you stay active? What will you eat to give yourself a thriving healthy life? How will you stay on top of both of these areas?
  • Household & personal maintenance. How does the laundry get done? Groceries and menu? Cleaning the house? Taking care of yourself (grooming, etc.)?
  • Physical surroundings. How messy is your house, your office? Is it cluttered? How does all of this affect your mental state?

These are some important examples, but you might have other areas in your life that feel messy. Wherever you’d like to feel more trust and order, that’s a place to contemplate & write out some structure.

Practicing with Uncertainty Within and Without the Structure

Once we’ve created the structure, there are two ways to practice with it:

  1. Working with the uncertainty & resistance of having structure. If you feel yourself rebelling against having structure, you can practice with the uncertainty of that.
  2. Working with the uncertainty when we’re not in the structure. You won’t always be able to stay within your structure — some days will go sideways, other things will come up. In those times, you can practice with the uncertainty of not being in your structure.

Let’s first talk about working with resistance to having structure.

Resistance to having structure: When you set up a structure for yourself, it might sound nice … but then when it comes time to actually doing it, you might feel constricted. You might feel uncertainty about whether you can do it or if it’s the right structure. Or if you should be doing something else instead. This is uncertainty & resistance of having the structure itself.

This is actually perfect! The structure, instead of eliminating uncertainty from your life, gives you a space to practice with the uncertainty. Instead of letting yourself flop all over the place (without structure), you’re asking yourself to courageously confront your discomfort and uncertainty.

The practice is to stay in the discomfort of having structure, and play with it. Feel the resistance, but don’t run. Let yourself open up to the feeling, be immersed in it, be mindful of it in your body. And find a way to appreciate this space, be curious about it, grateful and even joyful in the middle of it. Then play with whatever you have set for yourself to do! Instead of running from the structure, relax into it. It’s an amazing practice.

Uncertainty when we’re not in the structure: If you are used to having structure, what happens when you can’t use it? For example, maybe visitors come over and you can’t do your regular routine? Or you travel, have a crisis at work, have a crisis at home, or have social functions to go to that disrupt your regular schedule and structure?

This is also perfect! It’s an opportunity to practice letting go of the need for structure, and be present in the moment, deciding what’s needed next.

For example, you might be traveling, and your structure is out the window  … but you wake up and decide you still want to meditate, so you meditate for a few minutes in your hotel room. Then you decide you need to do a little work, and you do that before you head out for the day. You find a window at lunch time to catch up on messages. Before you go to bed, you find a window to do some writing. You are flowing, but not just letting everything go, you’re finding focus and purpose in the middle of chaos.

The same could apply if you are in a crisis, have visitors, etc.

This doesn’t mean it’s better to have no structure — for most people, a default structure is going to be helpful, but it’s not helpful to only be able to work and function when you have structure.

Adjusting & Learning with Structure

All of the above is great, but setting up structure once isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of deal. You are going to work with this structure on an ongoing basis.

You will learn as you work with the structure whether it works for you, whether you have needs that aren’t met by the structure, whether you forgot to include things.

For example:

  • A client created a schedule for himself but then discovered that he was very tired, because his structure didn’t include enough time for rest. So he could adjust it so that he has a sign-off time to ensure he gets enough sleep. Or he could build an afternoon nap period into the structure.
  • Another client discovered that she was overloaded with too much on her task list. So she learned that it’s better to pare down her expectations of how much she can get done.
  • I personally have found that the landscape of my day is constantly changing, not always very consistent. So I have a structure for when I have a wide-open day with only one or two meetings, but otherwise I create a structure at the beginning of the day depending on what I have going on that day … or I figure things out on the fly if my day is shifting during the day.
  • You might find that you need to move something to the morning to give it more focus. Or move exercise to the afternoon to conserve energy. Or have a different structure for different days.

The point is, you learn and adjust. It’s an ongoing refinement. You can make it better and better, and more and more impeccable, with some care and attention.

Structure is worth the effort, because you can learn to relax into the structure. The people around you can trust you more, and relax into your structure as well. And the structure becomes a way to practice with the uncertainty, resistance and discomfort that inevitably arises in your life.

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Dominance: Material vs. Rhetorical

Do the rich dominate our society?

In one sense, they obviously do.  Rich people run most of the business world, own most of the wealth, and are vastly more likely to be powerful politicians.

In another sense, however, the rich aren’t dominant at all.  If you get in public and loudly say, “Rich people are great.  We owe them everything.  They deserve every penny they’ve got – and more.  People who criticize the rich are just jealous failures,” almost everyone will recoil in horror.

Do males dominate our society?

In one sense, they obviously do.  Males run most of the business world, hold most of the top political offices, hold a supermajority of the most prestigious jobs, and make a lot more money on average.

In another sense, however, males aren’t dominant at all.  If you get in public and loudly say, “Males are the superior sex.  We owe them everything.  We need to protect males from women’s emotional abuse and financial exploitation, and show them the great deference they deserve,” almost everyone will recoil in horror.

Do whites dominate our society?

In one sense, they obviously do.  Whites run most of the business world, hold most of the top political offices, hold a clear majority of the most prestigious jobs, and earn above-average incomes.

In another sense, however, whites aren’t dominant at all.  If you get in public and loudly say, “Whites have built Western civilization, the glory of the modern world.  Almost everything good in the modern world builds on white Europeans’ efforts.  The people of the world need to acknowledge how much they owe to the white race, and apologize for their many insults fueled by their own sense of inferiority,” almost everyone will recoil in horror.

My point: There are two very distinct kinds of dominance.*  There is material dominance – control of economic wealth and political power.  And there is rhetorical dominance – control of words and ideas.  Intuitively, you would expect the two to correlate highly.  At least in the modern world, however, they don’t.  Indeed, the correlation is plausibly negative: The groups with high material dominance now tend to have low rhetorical dominance.

Isn’t material dominance clearly more enviable than mere rhetorical dominance?  On balance, I suspect so.  Still, many people who could have won material dominance invest their lives in acquiring rhetorical dominance instead: intellectuals, activists, and religious leaders are all prime examples.  Why do they bother?  Because man does not live by bread alone.  Material dominance gives you luxuries, but rhetorical dominance makes you feel like you’re on top of the world: “I can loudly praise what I like and blame what I dislike – and expect the people who demur to meekly keep their objections to themselves.  Or even feign agreement!”

Conflation of material and rhetorical dominance helps explain why liberals and conservatives so often talk past each.  Liberals feel like conservatives dominate the world, because conservatives run the government half the time, and conservative-leaning groups – the rich, males, whites – have disproportionate influence over the economy.  Conservatives feel like liberals dominate the world, because liberals run the media, schools, and human resources departments.  In a sense, both groups are right.  Conservatives have the lion’s share of material dominance; liberals have more than the lion’s share of rhetorical dominance.  In another sense, though, both groups are wrong.  In the contest for overall dominance, both groups are roughly tied.  Both groups feel like underdogs because both yearn from the kind of dominance they lack.

Due to the endowment effect, moreover, both sides get angry when the other intrudes on “their” territory.  Thus, even though leftists have a near-stranglehold over research universities, the rare academic center that promotes free markets or social conservatism blinds them with rage.  99% rhetorical dominance?  We’re supposed to have 100% rhetorical dominance!  Conservatives have a similar, though less hyperbolic, reaction when business adopts liberal causes.  “Sensitivity training?!  Give me a break.”

The dream of both movements, naturally, is to hold all the dominances.  The conservative dream is a world where they consolidate their lead in the world of business and take over the whole culture.  The liberal dream is a world where they purge the last vestiges of conservative culture and bring business and the rich to their knees.  (The latter rarely means outright expropriation; I think even America’s far left would be satisfied if they could sharply increase regulation and regulation – and hear business and the rich repeatedly shout, “Thank you, may I have another?”)

When you put it this way, of course, both dreams sound like nightmares.  Neither liberals nor conservatives even dimly internalize Spiderman’s principle that “With great power comes great responsibility.” Both are epistemically vicious to the core, so habitually drunk with emotion they don’t even know what sober rationality looks like.  Frankly, I’d like to see both of these secular religions fade away like Norse mythology.  Since that’s unlikely to happen, however, I’m grateful to live in a world with an uneasy balance of power.  Or to be more precise, an uneasy balance of dominance.

* I suspect Robin Hanson will say that I’m conflating dominance and prestige.  Maybe a little, but when I picture “rhetorical dominance,” I’m picturing words and ideas that intimidate more than they inspire.  General point: You can have material prestige and rhetorical prestige as well as material dominance and rhetorical dominance.

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Understand What You Ridicule

I’m beginning to wonder if the person more dangerous than the overt anti-liberty bigot is the person who doesn’t even understand what liberty or natural human rights are to begin with. Ignorance may be even more dangerous than openly advocating evil. Of course, ignorance can lead one to openly advocate evil, too.

I saw a lot of ignorance after the evil losers’ recent shootings.

Scott Adams is a prime example.

He advocated (while denying he was advocating anything) a lot of anti-liberty ideas founded on his utter lack of understanding of liberty and rights, and of guns and human nature (which surprised me*)– and on his rejection of the concept of ethical principles. Of course, he claimed anyone who stood firm for human rights is “dumb” and hinted they are not part of “the adult conversation”– his go-to for shutting down people who disagree on principle because they actually have principles. (Although many of his listeners seem to be as unprincipled and ignorant as he is, judging by the comments he mentions.)

He’s dead wrong again.

He’s not the only one.

If you don’t understand brain surgery, should you be making fun of the opinions about brain surgery held by those who do understand it? Only if you are arrogant and foolish.

Well, if you don’t understand what liberty is and why it matters you have no business preaching at others against it. If you don’t understand guns or the natural human right to own and to carry them, your opinions on the topic are invalid. Of course, this probably won’t matter to you if you laugh at the notion of ethical principles, and only want to have things your way.

Principles are scary to those without them. Principles take some options off the table. You can’t excuse slavery and democide without ignoring principles or making up fake “principles” which leave room for such things. They don’t even know how to talk about things and events without relying on utilitarianism and pragmatism. So they try to trivialize or ridicule principles.

Adults have principles.

The childish person just excuses whatever they feel like doing by finding ways to justify it after they’ve decided to do it. If you can’t grasp the fundamentals of the topic of conversation– be it brain surgery, liberty, or guns– this is even easier for you to do.


*He suggested that in a hypothetical world where all AR15s are pink, losers wouldn’t feel “cool” using them to murder people. He’s wrong about that. In a world where all AR15s are pink, pink guns are “cool”. Just like black guns are “cool” in our world. It’s not the color which makes the gun “cool”, it’s the gun that makes the color “cool”. I’m almost shocked someone who claims to understand human nature so well could miss that so badly.

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Questioning the Back-To-School Default

Back-to-school time is upon us. My Instagram feed is starting to fill with first-day photos as a new school year begins this week in some parts of the country. For those of us who homeschool, we often get asked, “So, why did you decide to homeschool?” We respond with various personal and educational reasons, including the top motivator for homeschoolers on national surveys: “concern about the school environment.” What always strikes me, though, is that parents who send their kids to school never get asked this question. When was the last time someone asked a parent, “So, why did you decide to send your child to school?”

Societal Expectations and Defaults

Schooling is the default. It’s the societally expected thing to do. It’s also mandated of parents under a legal threat of force, so they may not think much of it. The trouble is that schooling is beginning to take on a much larger role in a child’s life, disconnecting children from family at much earlier ages and for longer portions of a child’s day and year. Even compulsory schooling laws are expanding in many states, to begin at age five and extend to age 18.

I wrote an op-ed about this trend in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, arguing that there are benefits to delaying early schooling for most children and potential harms with sending children to school early, such as increased ADHD diagnosis rates. It can be worthwhile to question the default.

In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant writes that a hallmark of originals and change-makers is their tendency to question, and often reject, societal defaults. Grant writes:

Justifying the default system serves a soothing function. It’s an emotional painkiller: If the world is supposed to be this way, we don’t need to be dissatisfied with it. But acquiescence also robs us of the moral outrage to stand against injustice and the creative will to consider alternative ways that the world could work. The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists. (p. 7)

Better options than compulsory mass schooling do exist, and many more would be created if more parents challenged the default. We should be outraged that schooling has seized so much of childhood and adolescence, particularly when the results of all this schooling are lackluster at best and concerning at worst. We should be outraged that government schools increasingly look like prisons and that students are being schooled for jobs that no longer exist. We should question whether a system in which only one-quarter of high school seniors are proficient in math, and only a bit over one-third of them are proficient readers, should be given greater influence and authority over young people’s lives. We should really wonder if it makes sense to place our children in this swelling system, whether they are toddlers or teens. Surely, we should “consider alternative ways that the world could work.”

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Alternative Options

What are these alternative ways? Jessica Koehler has a great article this month at Psychology Today where she lists some of these alternatives and also explains her own journey of shifting from schooling to homeschooling for her children. In addition to homeschooling/unschooling, parents can delay preschool and kindergarten, explore various co-ops and learning centers, take advantage of one of the many micro-schools that are sprouting nationwide, and explore alternative programs for teens, like community college enrollment, travel, or apprenticeships. Or they can build their own alternative to school with other like-minded parents. Other options are virtual learning programs, including public ones, and nearby public charter schools or private schools that can sometimes offer flexible learning and attendance options.

Questioning the schooling default, and acting upon that doubt, can be difficult. It is much easier to put a child on a school bus and be just like everyone else. It is easier to go along. But it may not be better—for you, your child, or the world you could help to create. As Adam Grant says, it’s the non-conformists who move the world. These originals are the ones who question the status quo, refuse to tolerate discontent, and imagine new possibilities. Grant writes:

Ultimately, the people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward….They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. (p. 28)

We all care deeply about educating children to be literate, competent, inventive, compassionate, and thoughtful. It’s time we question if compulsory mass schooling really has the ability to facilitate these outcomes, for our children and others, or whether alternatives to school might do the job better. It’s time to challenge defaults.

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