A Society Without Paradox Dies

Humans are the most paradoxical species.

We love to stay still and we love to move. We love order and we love change. We love Self and we love the Other. We love the familiar and we love what’s foreign. We love unity and we love diversity.

It’s why we’re the most beautiful species.

When we’re balanced in the ever-generative golden mean between the two paradoxical extremes. As a species we need each, but there are then going to be particular individuals who prefer one over the other.

When one group or the other becomes dominant in a society, the society becomes unbalanced, unstable, and either falls apart or has to undergo a massive change, emerging into a new level of complexity, where new balances between new paradoxical pairs emerge. Insofar as imbalance can result in collapse, imbalance is bad. Rootedness is bad because it’s an extreme (like the extreme of cowardice in Aristotle’s identification of courage as being between cowardice and rashness). In an individual or in a family, it might be good, providing a stabilizing feature for a society, but it’s bad as a way of being for an entire people.

In order to have a healthy society, we need people who are creative and people who don’t seem to have a creative bone in their body. We need leaders and followers. Thinkers-outside-the-box and thinkers well within the box.  Each has his or her role (include masculine and feminine). And there are going to be people along each of these spectra, including neurodiversity. We need autistics and neurotypicals, bipolars and schizophrenics. We need conservatives and liberals, left and right versions of each, conservatives like (the grossly misnamed) progressives, socialists, and Religious Right, liberals like libertarians, left-liberals, and neoliberals. Yes, we need them all (even when they’re mostly wrong about human nature, science, society, economics, etc.).

The enemy of thought, the enemy of creativity, the enemy of freedom is the lack of enemies.

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Three Strikes Against This Blog (and why I don’t care)

Admittedly, I’m just getting started, but reading an article in The Atlantic about the chief propagandist of the alt.right makes me realize the limits of my reach with my approach.

For one, I’m not the kind of extremist that would be attracted to the radical extremes of Right, Left, or even Libertarianism. I find conspiracy theories downright embarrassing, a residue of our most primitive thinking. The simplistic thinking underlying extremist thinking is precisely what I reject, and since I reject it, you won’t find much of it here. You’ll find, rather, a great deal of complexity thinking. That means to read the blog, you’ll have to actually think beyond mere superficial ideology (all ideology is superficial).

Of course, who wants to read a blog that’s full of complex thoughts? Strike one against me.

You will also always find everything I say to be true–I don’t misrepresent reality just to support my world view. I reject ideology as such, and thus do what I can, to the extent and human being can, to always be true to the facts. Strike two against me.

I won’t troll or bait–I don’t hold the extreme views necessary to drive me to do that. I won’t foster hate against the rich or the poor; whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or any other racial/ethnic group whose identities are almost entirely socially constructed; homosexuals or heterosexuals; men or women. Envy is a vice; misanthropy of any sort, directed at groups or all humankind, is the purest kind of evil. I won’t deal in those things or anything otherwise rooted in resentment. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t problems in the world, but those problems are rooted in bad ideas, destructive ideas, not in people per se, and certainly not in groups of people. Strike three against me.

The malady of the age is that we are undergoing a significant shift in our social orders, including (especially) at the global level. Some seek to stop it, whether through the primitive racism of the alt.right or the primitive economics of the far left and the religious fervor of both the alt.right and antifa (who are mirror images of each other, holding the same fundamental world view and using the same tactics). Others, like myself, are seeking rather to help us move into the next level of social complexity.

Helping guide people into the next level of complexity, though, means one cannot offer simplistic solutions, ideology, or superficialities of any sort. One guides by showing the way through the forest, not by retreating to the already-known. And that means understanding the world first as it really is, in all its complexity, and understanding where we’re going, in all it’s increased complexity. If what you read here doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because you’re in the unknown territory of the future. That may cause this blog to strike out–at least in the near future–but I hope it will provide a blaze for those who wish to follow into the future.

Libertarianism and Communitarianism

The argument over the moral underpinnings of libertarianism basically boils down to the fact that there is necessarily a communitarian element to ethics. If we accept that libertarianism means radical individualism, then libertarian ethics appears to be an oxymoron. And for those libertarians who do believe in the Cartesian form of individualism as the basis of libertarianism, it likely is an oxymoron. I’m not sure a libertarianism whose philosophical underpinnings are the same as those that gave us the French Revolution (especially the Terror), Nazism, and Communism is the kind of libertarianism we really want.

But there is another option: the option of the Scottish philosophers, and the communitarian individualism they espoused. In the Cartesian version, the person is a radical individual who defines himself, preferably apart from society. In the Scottish version, the person is an individual embedded in a nested hierarchy of communities, including nuclear and extended families, churches, workplaces, schools, neighborhood and communities, towns and cities, counties, states, and nations (in a power law relation among them). We are defined in various ways by each of these things, and we are different people in each of these different situations. Thus is our individuality defined within our social situation. Recent studies in anthropology, ethology, and primatology have shown that the Scottish philosophical tradition is much more accurate than is the Cartesian tradition.

At different levels within the hierarchy, we should expect different levels of communitarianism. Those levels wherein we can have the most information about the members within the level can and should be the most communitarian – and should therefore have the strongest moral rules. The family is a good example of this. No one in their right mind would want to run their household according to libertarian principles – this would be a recipe for disaster in raising children. As Walter Williams once said in a talk I saw him give: Marxism works, it’s how one should run one’s household. You should expect more from your spouse, and give more to your children. At this level, it is easy, as it is easy to keep up with the names. But when you cannot keep up with the names, when you can no longer recognize what is best for each individual (which you cannot do for someone whose name you do not know, and is hard enough for people you do know, as any decent parent understands), then you have to ease the communitarian principles.

Churches, workplaces, and schools –- and, to some extent, neighborhoods, communities, and towns –- are places we voluntarily become members of. By joining these groups, we agree to their set of rules. Here we have a level of voluntary communitarianism -– and if you are not a child, all communitarianism should be voluntary. That is why all communitarianism should also be highly local –- if we do not like the rules of the group we have joined, and we feel like our voices aren’t being heard, we can always vote with our feet. The problem with having communitarian states and nations is precisely that when we are talking about the size of a state or a nation, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to vote with one’s feet. Also, at these levels, it becomes increasingly difficult for the leaders to know the names of those they rule –- and as such, they become increasingly ignorant of what is actually best for the citizens.

As the system becomes larger, as more and more people are included in the social system, as we have in a state or nation –- or even in a large city –- the ignorance of the leaders increases, and the only ethical form of governance is  libertarianism. It is here where individualism should be taken into consideration, as it is the individual who is most affected by the laws passed at this level, even though they are farthest away from the leaders. At this level, one cannot make ethical choices for others, as you do not know the people well enough to know everything about them, to understand their overall circumstances. This is not to say that we should not have any ethical laws: what else are laws against the use of force or fraud, which are basically the only laws libertarians think governments should have? But these are laws that make sense to apply to everyone, across the board, regardless of race, religion, economic situation, etc. These are laws that are laws in every society, throughout human history and pre-history. But those ethical issues for which there is any debate should be avoided by states and nations. Those are values that can and should be taken into consideration closer to home. They are the communitarian values.And communities differ.