Sunday, April 15, 2012

In the land of the looney...

In the ya gotta love "conservatives" category: Conservatives did away with the fairness doctrine instituted by the FCC during the "Reagan Revolution" claiming that it wasn't needed because the market would create diversities of opinion and representation. Despite this rhetoric, however, they continue to whinge and whine about the "liberal" media. I guess, in other words, they want to have their cake and eat it to. I guess what they really want is for every one and every thing to, in robot like fashion, spew out the same political and economic ideologies they hold to be holy and wholly true. And this is why for all their talk about the joys of market diversity and freedom they oppose diversity and they oppose freedom. Their conception of freedom is really one of conformity in a religious like fashion to ideologies and rhetoric they hold to be sacred. And this is why they are, by and large, in my opinion at least, utter hypocrites.

I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on such hypocrisies. Humans, after all, have never been and are not "rational" in that unitary sense held sacred by so many intellectuals and academics particularly those in departments of economics and economic think tanks across the Western world. How can you argue, even those of you devoted to freakonomics, that the belief of many in the US that they pay a 50% federal tax rate is rational in that transcendental sense when it is really around 15%? How can you argue that the blanket belief that everything the federal government touches, save for spending related to the military, is evil, particularly when the federal government has built interstate highways that have given Americans greater opportunity for travel, built dams across the nation that have brought water to millions with little, and contributed to the excellence of American higher education is rational in that unitary sense?

You can't. And though many intellectuals and academics still don't realise it the old notion that humans are "rational" in that universal sense is dead and has been so for at least a hundred years. RIP. The only way, of course, you can save a notion of rationality is by arguing that culture creates reality, that culture creates rationalities, and that there are many examples of rationality present in the world we all live in. In other words, we have to accept the fact that the reason Westboro Baptist Church members act the way that they do is because of the "reality" their culture has created. Westboro members believe that their Calvinist God is punishing the US for its decadent behaviours and that they have been called by their Calvinist God to witness to "fag enabling" Americans that it is their Calvinist God who is bringing death and decline to America as a result of their decadent behaviours. Needless to say, they are drawing this culture in large part from their reading of the prophets of the Taanakh.

When we understand that rationality is cultural and not universal we can, for instance, understand that those conservatives who oppose abortion but favour the death penalty are not, as some of their opponents sometimes claim, inconsistent, hypocritical, irrational. In fact, this ideological position is fully "rational" within the context of their manufactured mental worlds. Babies, in their ideological system, are "innocent". Those who commit murder no longer are. Ergo, their support of the death penalty.

Though I realise that rationality is cultural, ideological, and relative, I sometimes wonder how notions that dominate much contemporary economic theory is "rational" even in this cultural sense? How can one believe, for example, that human behaviour, even human economic behaviour is rational, when so much of the behaviour of those who operate within unregulated markets is purely speculative? I suppose one could argue that this free market rhetoric justifies and legitimises base manufactured human greed. But don't these speculators realise that manufactured bubbles, whether the speculative Tulip boom of the 17th century, the speculative real estate boom of the 18th, the speculative stock market boom of the 1920s, or the speculative real estate and derivative booms of the 1990s and 2000s always lead to busts? How then is such speculative behaviour rational in either the long term or short term? Isn't what is really going on, even amongst those who fancy that they engage in the ultimate in rational behaviour, here simply yet another example of orgiastic and bacchic social and cultural psychology? Can't one, in other words, understand this type of behaviour as driven by the cultural belief that the be all or end all of human existence is basically making lots of money, making lots of money regardless of who it hurts and the consequences of such behaviour? And doesn't such behaviour risk alienating those hurt by busts in the short and long term? I think so.

But haven't I forgotten something here? Haven't I forgotten that the economically powerful manipulate the masses through mass propaganda and the mass media? And hasn't such rhetorical manipulation, such demagoguery, allowed the powerful to manipulate most of the masses into believing that it is the government, and not the elites, Wall Street, the real people who really control the government to their their advantage, and the real villains of our tale, who are responsible for the economic inequalities and economic busts confronting us today, despite facts to the contrary? Again, I think so.

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