Friday, March 23, 2007

The Problem In Miniature

The man who does maintenance of the condominiums where I live -- let’s call him Ed -- is mildly retarded. Ed is "a little slow." He’s a nice fellow and he works his butt off, so I enjoy talking to him, although I can’t understand half of what he says because he mumbles and does not articulate his words.

Today he came up to me and said, “It’s time to nationalize the oil companies.”

“Really?” I asked. “Why?”

“Because gas is $3.22.”

“So you want the government to steal private property at the point of a gun?”

Ed was stunned. He had expected me to say something like, "Yeah, those greedy bastards are gouging us! How is the little guy supposed to make ends meet when gas is $3.22?"

Ed stammered, “But…but what else can we do?”

“Let the free market work. What you want is communism.”

Again he was stunned. “Communism doesn’t work,” he said, among some other stuff I couldn't make out. (If Ed knows that much, it must be generally accepted knowledge now that communism does not work.)

“Well, nationalizing the oil companies is communism.”

I’m sure I could have done a better job explaining how the free market works if I had the patience. Teaching is not my strong point.

There is no way Ed could read Ludwig von Mises or George Reisman and understand their arguments. Hell, I have to work to understand them. But even a mildly retarded man can advocate nationalizing the oil companies. Ed is an exaggerated example of the stupidity we are up against in today’s culture. Understanding capitalism requires an ability to think in higher abstractions and principles. With progressive education teaching people to think in the opposite manner, in isolated concretes that never integrate into principles, we're in big trouble. Stupidity and freedom do not mix.

UPDATE: Thanks to Two-Four for linking. My hits are way up. That Billy Beck has some throw.

4 comments:

Inspector said...

So, did he leave convinced that there was something wrong with his previous understanding? What were his concluding statements on the matter?

"Understanding capitalism requires an ability to think in higher abstractions and principles. With progressive education teaching people to think in the opposite manner, in isolated concretes that never integrate into principles, we're in big trouble."

I'm actually quite stunned by how your mildly retarded maintenance man illustrated the importance of principles. He had to understand the matter in principles. ("Communism doesn't work") He had no choice; he doesn't have the capacity to attempt it by the incorrect method.

Also, his lack of cynicism on the initiation of force was also amazing. Most people dismiss that argument, having convinced themselves that nationalization doesn't "really" mean force (it does).

Myrhaf said...

I don't think he had the slightest idea what he was saying. He was probably repeating what he heard on TV or radio or from somebody else. I don't think he understands principles, either. He probably heard someone say communism doesnt' work, so he says it. He obviously does not understand that what did not work is nationalizing industry, precisely what he was advocating.

I didn't stick around to make sure I persuaded him.

Inspector said...

Well of course, they are floating abstractions for him. I guess I was overly optimistic about the matter.

I guess my point is that, floating or not, he had no choice but to use concepts.

EdMcGon said...

Inspector,
A dangerous concept in the mind of the stupid is like a loaded gun in the hands of a 5 year old.