Sunday, August 23, 2009

Power and Rationality

Decentralization enforces pragmatism. In a competitive economy markets test firms. Decentralization creates competition and so the possibility of failure. Without failure there is no pragmatism, for experiments fail more often than they succeed.

Centralization presupposes the ability of the rational mind to solve problems. It denigrates or neglects experimentation, even as it uses the rhetoric of science as its rationale. Without trial and error there is no science and no reason. There is no such thing as a priori expertise. Progressivism claims to be a movement of experts, but its claims are self contradictory. Progressivism forestalls experimentation by centralizing decisions. Progressivism is (a) ideological and (b) aims to facilitate the operation of special interests. It uses the rhetoric of "conscience" rooted in Christianity to justify special interest brokerage.

The use of centralization to facilitate special interests goes back to the Romans. The institution of free bread to the proletarians began with the Republic, and Septimius Severus increased the welfare benefits as well as special benefits to the military two centuries later. Septimius's escalation of welfare in Rome preceded Rome's fall by over a century. The Romans justified centralization of power in part in terms of welfare benefits to Roman citizens, but the biggest beneficiaries were businesses that catered to the Roman state, the military industrial complex.

Like the ancient Romans, Progressivism re-distributes wealth using claims of social welfare. However, its project is complicated by technological and scientific discovery that evolved out of Hellenic and barbaric decentralization. In order to coopt the source of progress, Progressivism needs to claim that it offers a superior method of scientific advance. It develops this claim through the ritualization and control of knowledge in universities. It also develops methodologies of allocating the "right" to think through IQ and other standardized tests that have validity. Such validity is partially related to the ability to invent or to create economic value, but to a greater degree to the ability to accomplish tasks within parameters, e.g., to perform a job well. IQ tests have been validated with respect to job performance but NOT with respect to entrepreneurship. Studies of millionaires do NOT find that they have extraordinarily high IQs, merely above average. Rather, they have moral, time preference and interpersonal skill characteristics that facilitate acquisition of wealth.

Development of methods of wealth creation is at part dependent upon the characteristics that IQ measures, but far from exclusively so. Progressivism limits access to universities based on IQ, then claims that universities are the chief source of wealth creation. National wealth is allocated to university-approved projects, specifically finance, legal and banking interests whose ranks are dominated by university graduates. Central planners come up with failed ideas, but ones with good rationales. IQ facilitates the spinning of manipulative explanations but without decentralization, experimentation and failure characteristic of markets IQ is not capable of innovation.

The result is a society that fixates on allocation of human resources through standardized tests and then subsidizes those with the highest IQs through government. Elements of risk are included. The economy becomes a casino, entry to which is made possible through admission to an elite university. Power rather than market and rituals associated with rationality rather than reason determine allocation of wealth. The system is self perpetuating and susceptible to manipulation. It is a system characteristic of decline.


bvw said...

Wow. Very insightful.

I cross posted at Free Republic.

I add the following: The popularity and popular access to colleges developed in early Progressive era for example with Land Grant Colleges under Hatch Act of 1887 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. At the same time in the Ivy League modern educational theorists began using grades rather than connections as criteria for entry. That directly resulted in a strong anti-Jew backlash in the twenties, and a return to "legacy" admission policies that lasted until just after the end of WWII. That's when the second and stronger phase of "standard" based college admissions began, based on standardized testing that included "IQ" -- all from experiences in testing, training and allocating recruits during WWII.

In general remarkable social trends of the fifties and sixties are nearly always found to have precedents in the early 1900's -- for example: suburbia, popular enrollment in colleges, shopping centers and others.

Mitchell Langbert said...