California’s Siskiyou County is the latest jurisdiction in the land to voice its opposition to the growing de facto condition of regulation and taxation without representation. Their stated desire to secede from California is but another cri de coeur in the growing national chorus that laments growing statism. The success of such movements is unlikely, but the clarity of the delivered messages should not be dismissed.
As Charles Murray has pointed out in Coming Apart (reported here), it is an established part of human nature that people like to live with people who are more than less like themselves. One of the prime reasons of that is that living with people whose behaviors you can predict more or less reliably is both efficient and gives comfort. This strong tendency has given rise to distinct cultures, and contributed to the richness and diversity of our world. It is such a valuable part of human life that wars have been and continue to be fought over the preservation of cultures – in short, people with cultures worth preserving are often willing to sacrifice all in such preservation.
These ideas are foreign or invisible to those of the Left who see the salvation of Mankind in the homogenizing of the world’s cultural differences (witness the great social experiments in cultural homogenization in the USSR, China, Yugoslavia, …). In these pages I have yet to see a liberal reader who understands the Great Divide. They all seem to restrict their thinking to hip level reasoning as they start spouting the usual slogans about racism, etc.
Nobelist Daniel Kahneman (along with the late Amos Tversky) devoted their careers to the study of human rationality. Their findings demonstrated that humans are not reliably rational critters, that the ‘economic man’ was more of an academic fiction than a mathematically predictable agent. Kahneman and other behavioral economists “call people reasonable if it is possible to reason with them, if their beliefs are generally in tune with reality, and if their preferences are in line with their interests and their values.”
However being a rational person does not necessarily mean that he is reasonable. The test of rationality involves assessing “whether a person’s beliefs are internally consistent”, in short do they reliably conform to a system of logic. As Kahneman points out, “a rational person can believe in ghosts so long as all her other beliefs are consistent with the existence of ghosts”, in short “rationality is logical coherence – reasonable or not.”
This conforms to the ideas of utility and multiple logics which I have attempted to illustrate over the last years. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman describes numerous experiments and instances in which humans behave irrationally. In this development he appears to be a supporter of ‘libertarian paternalism’ of the brand that Cass Sunstein, co-author of Nudge, advocates. Libertarian paternalism is a means of delivering public policy “in which the state and other institutions are allowed to nudge people to make decisions that serve their own long-term interests.” (And it is, of course, some set of elites who determine our ‘long-term interests’.)
Perhaps nowhere have we seen such a massive demonstration of human irrationality as in the constituencies that voted for Barack Obama. Here we are talking about women, the young, blacks, Hispanics, etc, all of whom have suffered under the Obama years as their financial fortunes declined after measurable gains and progress over the preceding 25+ years. And given the evidence in their everyday lives and pocketbooks, they returned the man to office in 2012. Stephen Moore in ‘Obama’s Economy Hits His Voters Hardest’ in the 4sep13 WSJ goes into the relevant numbers.
It is all of a piece when we consider the Great Divide in the context of our polarized nation.
[update] Talk about reason and logic going beserk. Today we attended Congressman LaMalfa’s frogs and toads public hearing at Nevada County’s Rood Center. There are some yellow bellied, double suckered, single crested frogs or something similar that the US Fish & Wildlife Service tells us is threatened, and it needs a critical habitat and recovery area set aside for it that covers a good swath of the Sierra. The hearing’s purpose was to inform the public on the progress of this newest endangered species initiative, and allow people to ask questions. I’m sure that The Union and Yubanet will cover the details, so I won’t bother you with them here.
The public received assurances that the FWS isn’t going to do anything to restrict property rights or hurt the region’s economy. It doesn’t have the power to do that, so all such damage will be done by other agencies that will subsequently cite the FWS ruling that the multi-toed, yellow-beaked, one-eyed toads need such and such acres for the critters’ recovery, and that will then require another list of things that we can’t do on the affected public lands and private properties.
The supes chambers were filled with people mostly very agitated about the feds continuing to turn the screws on us. Public trust of the federal government doing anything productive in protecting species and the environment is pretty much gone. Much of the testimony included citations of the decades’ long mismanagement of the nation’s forests – which now contain fuel densities that create Dresden type firestorms (that some idiots conveniently blame on AGW) – and protection of species (look up the miserable history of the spotted owl).
That progressives are dangerous to your pocket book and health is also highlighted by the Pacific Legal Foundation which has called our attention to (seatbelts please) the feds intent to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This is beyond cynical, and again exposes the overall Agenda21 underbelly of progressive public policy initiatives. The already protected polar bears are among the healthiest species in the world, now populating their ancestral habitats in numbers that are fivefold of what they were fifty years ago.
But the gratuitous listing of them as ‘threatened’ under the ESA will allow another tranche of land and water use regulations to kick in that will ratchet down more of the wilderness areas that are available for recreation and commercial use. The broad spectrum stack & pack initiatives are visible under every bureaucratic rock that you care to turn over. Meanwhile, the Left denies that any of this has been happening, but assures us that more of it needs to happen.
One of the more comedic moments at the Rood Center was when a member of the public held up maps that compared the contemplated frog and toad recovery habitats to the notorious A21 wildlands map that has been much debated for the last 20+ years. The FWS folks had never seen or heard of it. Again we saw Exhibit A that government is the employer of last resort.