Sunday, May 7, 2017

IDEOLOGY!

Here is something the media does not much cover and as usual the reason is that if it DID cover it, many people would be offended and reject that media outlet.  In the age of the Internet, there are so many media alternatives that the turn off rate would be very painful for any media outlet to endure.  As a media outlet, you can't offend your customer and then expect to thrive.

What am I talking about?  The problem that is "ideology."  I use this term to encompass all belief systems from religions to secular ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, communism, socialism, fascism, anarchism, capitalism and much more.  Here is the key feature of an ideology: it's beliefs are accepted beyond question by the adherent.  Adherents often have their own set of facts to justify their ideology.  All can be explained, adherents believe, by their belief system.  No matter the miserable results of their ideology, adherents will remain faithful to their ideology!

One easily see how religions fall into this category and there is almost no need to explain the problem of religious ideology to a rational person (I know you're out there somewhere!) but secular belief systems can likewise fall into this same trap.  If a free enterprise economy leads to general and widespread prosperity, a Marxist will raise the very theoretical problem of the "alienation" of workers.  If a free market system leads to incredible income disparity and misery that begs for regulation or solution, libertarians will call the regulations or solutions "tyranny."

It is interesting that no ideologue can actually point to the actual existence of an ideal economic or political system in practice - they've never existed and the reason is simple; we humans are not ideal.  We are not reasonable so everything we do will be screwed up in some way by human nature.  A free market will be ruined by greed; socialism ruined by sloth.  Free speech is ruined by lies; government controlled speech is ruined by lust for power.  If humans were perfectly reasonable, an ideal system would arise organically - reasonable solutions would present themselves and reasonable humans wold adopt those solutions.  But since we are not always (or often) reasonable, and we don't adopt reasonable solutions, but instead cling to ideological solutions, all economic and political systems will scream out for limits, rules and patches to address the weak points that human nature will exploit in these ideological systems.

Even total freedom is a frightening prospect; anarchists seems to ignore the danger of the sociopaths and psychopaths among us; how does one enforce anarchy anyway, aside from "might makes right?" And of course, we need to look no further than North Korea to see the opposite system where the government tries to control everyone's very thoughts.

Think about the current debate over health care; one side objects to the "tyranny" of a government regulated system that steals money from the rich and sends it to the poor in the form of subsidies for health care insurance.  There are those on the other side, however, that simply hate "big pharma," insurance companies, hospital systems and so on, ideologically because they are part of the capitalistic system that we use in the U.S.  They would prefer a socialistic system where the government controls it all, from hospital, pharmaceutical companies and doctors.

A non-ideological approach would be to observe the facts around the world and ask "what works?"  The answer increasingly looks like a "Medicare for All" system actually delivers more health care to more people for less cost.  Those who live in those countries actually live longer while spending less on healthcare.  These observations are verifiable.

If one attempts to be reasonable and non-ideological, one can see the merit in this kind of approach.  As an example, George Will, generally a conservative commentator, pointed out this week that the American Public has started to see heath care as something similar to a "right."  In this country, we all are entitled to police protection, protection against invading enemies and so on.  These protections are somewhat similar to "rights" in that we have agreed, in this country, to provide them to everyone.  No one is clamoring for police protection as if it were the latest iPhone.  We need police protetion and defense for the country but we would like to be safe for as little cost as possible.  Now, it's not as if we are clamoring to be treated for being ill; we NEED to be treated when we are sick - this is not a market decision.  We just want our health if needed for as little cost as possible.  We need to treat health care the way we treat police protection and national defense, and this is without regard to the free market aside from encouraging some efficiencies.  We all need it, but want only what is necessary and for as little cost as possible. Medicare for All may accomplish this.  Imagine if we all individually had to pay for police protection or national defense and if we did not were excluded somehow?

Why shouldn't we all, from innocent children, to the elderly, to the disabled, to the poor and everyone else be protected from sickness and injury?  Indeed, why not?  The only argument against this is the selfish argument, the "tyranny" argument - the wealthy being resentful of some of their wealth being used to assist others by democratically and constitutionally enacted law.  For some reason they believe their minority position should trump the position of the majority on this subject.  It's as if those who support that position really believe humans are islands - it's as if we are all really on our own.  All the evidence, however, points to the fact that humans need each other - that is one of the feature of being a human.  That's why democracy seems to be a necessary component of a thriving society.

Ultimately it seems reasonable to take the approach that no "pure" system will ever work as long as humans are selfish, greedy, lazy and irrational.  When we become perfect, no system will be necessary.  That is why ideology is to be avoided like the plague it is.

But here is the irony: in the way that "faith" which is the rejection of reason in favor of a comforting though unjustified (by the actual evidence or logic) belief, is thought to be a virtue, being "ideological" is also thought to be virtuous in public discourse.  It is not; accepting the overwhelming evidence that humans are not perfect and that ideologically based systems to guide our lives are sure to be ruined by imperfect human nature is imperative.  We are far from reaching that imperative.

The only systems worth having are those tested by their results, with the knowledge that the tests are ongoing and the results never assumed to be permanent. Change and adaptation is to be expected and even welcomed as we think of better ways to do things.  We need to turn "ideology" into a dirty word.
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