Amerika

Paternalism

Yesterday, American politics got interesting again.

Obamacare passed, and we’ve seen the country split into rural/suburban middle classes versus the urban artisans and poor. This division of the country finally formalizes all of our post-WWII politics into one handy split.

As far as I can tell, most conservatives and liberals have no actual idea why they are politically oriented as they are. That’s because it’s a product of their traits. Our personalities, abilities and social position determine how we’re going to vote.

If you’ll notice in this country, outside of media figures we have a red state grouping of people in the 110+ region of IQ, then a blue state grouping in the 115-120 range, but then above that, people tend toward conservatism. At the lower two levels, people are heavily socialized by those around them: at the job, on the bus, at the store. At the highest level, we have actual thinkers.

When I was suffering through academia, I recognized a division into two groups as well. The really smart professors tended not to talk about their politics, ever. They would periodically express sentiments we could recognize as liberal, but in general they were realists of a hardline nature, which will always be more compatible with conservatism. Then there were all the other professors. They tended to be not as intelligent, but very good at commanding attention — and much more in need of their power and prestige to feel good about themselves.

I didn’t worry about classes from the former group. They graded hard but cut you some slack if you were attempting something beyond the convenient. I worried about the second group. These were the ones who wielded PC as a weapon, made bizarre demands to make sure your papers looked officially academic(tm), and pursued the really tangential courses of study that give people ammunition to mock academia. They tended toward groupthink because they were covering up a rather significant deficit: they wanted to be seen as smarter than they were. The first group didn’t worry about such things because they knew they would stand out for their abilities.

It’s the same way out there in the real world. Urban artisans — meaning people with glorified clerk jobs, including making web sites and designing advertising, who have artistic and social pretensions to be above that status — are the lower group. They would like to be seen as smarter and more important than they are. In fact, much of what they do in life is geared toward appearing to be important. The second group care less about whether they’re important, but are focused more on honest productivity: how will I use my abilities to stand out, and rise above the herd that way?

The blue states, for all of their bragging about how progressive they are, barely qualify as progressive. If you look at the policies in these states, they tend toward government intervention and thus bureaucracy on all fronts; since these states are heavily populated, that means lots of waiting in line. They have big entitlement programs, but as a result, they’ve even further expanded the bureaucracy and have made it harder for small business. As the number of rules and laws expands, they also become more litigious. People in blue states tend to look down on the lower echelon red staters as being hicks, morons, racists, inbreds, etc. but they also long for a way out of their cramped, squabbling, bureaucratic states.

Simpler folk in the country vote Republican because they trust what has worked in the past, and they know the city folk look down and them, and they don’t trust city values. You’ll hear this expressed a few million times in country music lyrics. We just don’t understand each other, they say, and that city while it seems to be slick on the outside is rotted inside. These country folk must know a thing or two, because Romantic literature has expressed the same theme for the past few hundred years without anyone calling it inbred.

The smallest voting population, and it’s fortunate for those who want to stay in power despite incompetence that this is so, are the intelligent and strong-willed. Many of these are rich; many more are not; the majority are middle-class, suburban or semi-rural, and they have both intelligence and a personality type that makes them conservative. For intelligence, they’re the ones who are confident in their level of brainpower; they don’t need constant affirmation of how smart they are, or a position at a university to tell them that, because they just know. In personality, they are the civilization-oriented. They are capable of leadership, but equally capable of pitching in. They make problems go away, are good listeners, and often can reconcile people. You’ll find them as business leaders, clergymen, volunteers, teachers, police, firefighters and community leaders. They may do that in addition to an unglamorous day job that isn’t the kind of power sought by artisans, media workers and the urban cutting edge.

I trust these people. They are the ones who make civilization actually continue working. They’re also capable of, like a good chess player, looking five or six moves ahead of their next move and weighing the consequences. They have always been the backbone of the right in America because to be a thoughtful conservative, you have to be thinking of the consequences that other people don’t see because they’re distracted by making you think they’re smart, or trivial city pursuits, or normal living far from the social epicenters of the cities.

Looking a few moves ahead, Obamacare is a terrible idea for the following reasons:

  • Any time you involve insurance, costs and bureaucracy go up. It’s going to make medical care far more expensive, and it’s needlessly expensive now because we’ve inserted fifteen layers of bureaucracy between doctor and patient.
  • It will introduce an adversarial relationship between doctor and patient, and further fragment any system in place that keeps doctors in local communities where they can keep mental track of their patients and local trends.
  • It will make a stronger government bureaucracy that will manage us by denying or admitting us to healthcare, and give government another way to enforce itself upon dissidents.
  • Because spending other people’s money is always easier than spending your own, it will increase unnecessary costs and procedures in healthcare.

Fundamentally however what makes Obamacare a disaster and a victory is that it splits the country between those who want paternalism, and those who do not, and illustrates the problem of paternalism.

A paternalistic government, like a benevolent father or big brother, tells you what you need to do to succeed. In the process, it becomes self-referential. Productivity is secondary to the appearance of productivity. This enhances a known weakness of civilization in which short-term appearance trumps long-term reality. People prefer to believe the illusion, because it’s easier, and they can easily convince others that they wield “truth” by getting a group of people to repeat after them that that “truth” is indeed the truth. Yep, it’s back to schoolyard dynamics, but that should surprise no one.

On the right, we have a desire to avoid a system that can be gamed. All the hullabaloo about “freedom” and “liberty” is hogwash. Civilization by its very nature means you don’t have freedom or liberty — you’re part of a team. But a successful civilization rewards its best, and then does nothing for its least productive. Wow, that’s terribly un-PC. Is this man proposing eliminating the poor, insane, obese, drug-addicted, sexually rampaging and criminal? No… but he’s suggesting that we let nature fix what nature made, which is inequality. It sounds so inhumane and terrible until we stop and think, and realize that such natural selection got us where we are. Otherwise, we’d still be as dumb as chimps.

We need a society that produces brighter, healthier and morally stronger people. Paternalism does the exact opposite, because the dark side of paternalism is that the citizens game the system and government gets stronger, and starts managing its citizens for its own purposes instead of the best interests of society. It’s like in prison: you can whore yourself out to a big boss, and you’ll be protected, but you’re also going to get raped twice a day. Hope that’s OK.

With Obamacare, we see our society fragment in two: those who want paternalism, and those who want natural selection. The natural selection types are the confident ones who want a meritocratic system of success, a community which filters out threats like pedophiles and criminals so they can safely raise kids, and to be away from the hive-mind. The paternalistic types want government to guarantee them protection on their streets populated with threats, want a safety net in case they don’t succeed, and want to be in the hive-mind so other people can affirm that they’re smart or worthy.

This split will never be reconciled. The first group, who tend toward the right, are the civilizations builders. They make successful places from nothing. The second group are the parasites and the predators who make huge profits by manipulating them, and they come after a civilization has been successful and help leech away its wealth and intelligence. It’s no different than how, in a forest, if you lie down in the open you will soon be consumed by blood-sucking parasites of all types. This is how nature exerts an equal and opposite reaction on anything that wishes to survive. In the case of our society, this equal and opposite reaction threatens to sink us.

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