David Hines
Disempowering ideas
By David Hines
June 23, 2010

Who knows how long I'll get away with writing this stuff? I may be reduced to such hard-hitting exposes as recipes for pine nuts and how to make dandelion wine. And I know virtually nothing about such pursuits. Though I may not be directly enjoined, the venues for expression may be subjected to so many constraints that it might be too problematic for editors to publish material that doesn't have the government imprimatur.

President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court doesn't bode well for free speech. Kagan has expressed the opinion that social concerns take precedence over frank expression. She's not alone, even among Supreme Court Justices. Even some of the conservative members have at times expressed a less-than-absolute view of the First Amendment.

President Obama said that you are too stupid and gullible to resist corporate advertising. Liberal pundits and members of Congress confuse cause and effect, believing that radio talk show hosts create rather than reflect the listeners' attitudes. The demise of Air America didn't demonstrate to them the fallacy of such a viewpoint. The Internet has democratized information, so there are moves to de-democratize it by imposing restrictions on content.

To be sure, most of us will at times think the general public too clueless for their own good. Just look at the way they vote. Consider some of the less edifying aspects of popular culture. Most people at one time or another would like to dictate the way people think.

Yet how many of us would be happy about sacrificing our individuality in making everyone else exactly as we are? Most of us realize that we have blind spots and areas in which we are less than competent — those of us who aren't politicians and bureaucrats, that is.

The political bunch believe that their fantasies and misperceptions can be effectuated, if only they can prevent you from being exposed to alternative ideas. Hence the concerted attack on free speech. In this they resemble notorious religious cult leaders.

When you disagree, they say you must be "educated." They believe that you and I are too ignorant to form our own opinions; our disagreement only proves to them that we are know-nothings. I've always found such an attitude arrogant and insulting. It's one thing to suggest that a person has not considered all relevant information and quite another to say that all educated people would necessarily agree with the speaker's conclusions.

Even articles about pine nuts and dandelion may be off-limits. The FDA wants to regulate and eliminate herbal supplements. Herbs take profit away from Big Pharma and subsidized food producers, and are thus inimical to the command economy.

The would-be thought controllers have grasped one fact: Ideas have power. That's why they want to dictate the ideas to which you may be exposed.

Keynesianism was a powerful and seductive idea; it still is. What a nice fantasy — that you can create prosperity merely by printing money! It appeals to the political class especially; they gain and retain power by promising to spend. Of course, it goes against economic reality and lessons from the history of money. So non-Keynesian ideas must be suppressed. As long as the engravers can create fake prosperity, benefiting the rich and powerful at the expense of the masses, why rock the boat with thoughts of the real world? Fantasyland is so much tidier and nicer.

Our politicians view us as too stupid to make up our own minds and to decide for ourselves what ideas and opinions we find edifying. Though they haven't said it, the corollary is that we are too stupid to decide which politicians truly represent us. Voting is already largely a charade, with the parties restricting third-party ballot access and conspiring to gerrymander districts, making most seats safe from challenge.

In outright admitting that they have such a low opinion of us, the hoi polloi, politicians who support the likes of Kagan are declaring themselves nobility — and the rest of us peasants in their demesnes. Are the voters too dumbed-down to realize it?

© David Hines


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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)


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