Charles Hugh Smith, who I exchange email with once in a while and have high regard for as an insightful and knowledgeable commentator and whose productivity I am in awe of, is not someone I often disagree with.*
But this is wrong, America’s disease isn’t any special sense of entitlement. That is a symptom of the deeper problem, that we allow ourselves to be dishonest when it is to our benefit. That is the chink in the nation’s workings that allows the most amoral and least sane to control the rest of us.
All of the institutions in our political-social-economic system have gone through cycles of corruption and reform leading on to more corruption. We are now at the point where the system is very very corrupt again, in every aspect. There is no social institution that ordinary people can have any confidence in. The Salvation Army was in a scandal earlier in the year. It didn’t surprise a woman I knew, who told me about how one of their executives had used a friend, lied about being married, etc.
Every market has been rigged, the banksters skim everything, executives in those skimming operations have made $1B per year. On and on, with no punishment, no changes in law. These stories percolate through society, and now only 8% of us are tied to Congressmen or the institution closely enough to have to speak approvingly of them.**
The root is us allowing it, allowing ourselves to be bought off or intimidated.
Without people ‘going along to get along’, this insanely corrupt status quo could not continue one step into the future.
Part of our dishonesty is labeling things. Everyone is stuck with a label, Communist, Democrat, Muslim, … and people act as if those labels attach properties to the labeled entities and thus dictate actions for everyone.
It isn’t the labels, it isn’t the quotes, it isn’t even the ideology, it is the fundamental attitude and belief of “I know enough to force you for your own good“. As soon as someone’s ends justify their means, they start hurting people. That is the common element that makes people in the grip of ideologies dangerous.
Before the point of hurting people, they are just believers. People believing without evidence should be resolutely ignored, as that is the root of all of the evil things people do to each other and opposing them amplifies their memes. Do not ask me to believe anything, I know belief without evidence cannot benefit me, it is one of the standard mistakes people make, mistakes that FUBAR their societies for generations.
I do not have to believe facts and theories and wisdom, those may all be understood. One of the wisdoms is how dangerous it is to fall in love with your special understandings, and how easy it is to assume you should step beyond moral suasion in advocating for them.***
It is not who is doing it, it isn’t their reasons, it is what they are doing that counts. Nothing else counts except reality, facts and verifiable facts.****
You cannot excuse yourself, especially when it would benefit you. If you allow yourself to do that, you are not free to speak up when you see others doing it. You must be very honest to oppose dishonesty.
This is not theory or morality. It is the way people work.
No rational individual would voluntarily participate in negative sum games, another thing that dishonesty allows. The thing about negative sum games is, you can lose.
Nobody expects you to go join a revolutionary group or to tell all like Snowden. But in your own interest, you should start being more honest in your own long-term interests, to exit short-term interests that require you to be dishonest. Those are negative sum games, and are unlikely to be in your favor unless you constructed them and are enforcing the rules. All the rules. Yourself.
Your children and grandchildren need working systems of great complexity. Working systems of great complexity cannot exist without honest people running them. The ones we have are failing because of dishonesty.
If patriots wish to win in their contest with the wider culture, they need to have a superior culture, one that works better for the group by producing better results, on average, for individuals. This country once did that, we were honest, a man’s word was his bond. I suggest we adopt OK-BOB.
Open Kimono, Bend Over Backwards Standard of Honesty
The OK-BOB standard of honesty is giving the other sides of any exchange of value all of the information they need to make a good decision for them in their system of values, doing so in ways that those people can understand, and checking that they did in fact understand. No fine print. Your burden of responsibility is proportional to the importance of the effect in their life. You have to do a lot of explaining for a one cent piece of gum if it contains carcinogens, otherwise not so much.
This is not idealism. The best people in every area of life are the most honest. For example, one of the very top people in Silicon Valley’s angel investor community. Physicians that are honest with patients rarely get sued. Honest people rarely have to sue honest people.
This is the ‘fiduciary interest’ standard extended to all exchanges of value. You are not acting on their behalf like a fiduciary does, but you provide information that allows the other person to act in their own interest.
Being honest lowers everyone’s cost of doing business, profits are higher, wealth is greater, and all you have to do is be disciplined in being honest playing the positive-sum game of life. Our piece of the civilization used to do that, and we were big winners when we did.
*In fact, our relative statures as bloggers makes this the most blatant name dropping. As usual, you should distrust such evidence of humility, assume it is trying to get inside your mental defenses and infect you with horrible ideas that will end your civilization if adopted. Some are, you know? Don’t let things into your mind without full N-dimensional context, wisdoms from all points of view.
** Or non compos mentis.
***Evidence suggests beginning applying that understanding very early with your own children is best for civilization.
****Mens Rea, the necessity of a guilty mind to be guilty of a crime, is a legal standard. This is real-world, and nobody in government can be allowed to claim their intentions absolve them of blame. They are using power, they are responsible for ALL of the effects of the use that power, and we judge if the balance satisfies us. That is what it means to be conservative. And it can only work if people are honest.