Thursday, July 02, 2009

Comment on The Belmont Club
"Still I look to find a reason to believe"


Consider Hitler. He was a dangerous psychopath and he was a man capable of penetrating analysis. Just because he said something does not make it right or wrong. His idea of the wise Leader manipulating the childlike masses for their own good has roots that go back to Plato. So where is the flaw in his theory? There are two fatal impediments to the hitlerian model that are present in the current efforts of the Left.

1) There is the Agency problem. When traditional checks and balances are overridden by elite message manipulation it becomes to easy for a dedicated but unqualified individual to hijack the system and rise to power. That is revealed by the ascendance of Obama or Hitler himself. Neither of them would have succeeded in a normal republican system in which peers evaluate your performance over time before entrusting you with greater authority. They both climbed over their competitors as revolutionary outsiders who did an end run around the system.

2) There is another problem that I would call the Cognitive Trap. Even Hitler was not truly a man from Mars. Therefor even if he had been sane and desired to act in what he determined to be in the people's interest, after analyzing problems with the dispassionate logic that he believes the masses are incapable of using themselves, he cannot. The Leader is immersed in the same information environment as everyone else. His advisors are not a pure priesthood, they are drawn from the same pool as the masses they have contempt for. Eventual Goebbels comes to believe the stuff he is peddling. In fact of course people become a Goebbels because they believe all the irrational stuff first and then they acquire the tools of reason and professionalism that they use to construct a facade.

This is a variation on Machiavelli's paradox. To be effective you must be deceitful but you can only be effectively deceitful with practice so you must be deceitful all the time. Once you have sacrificed your virtue so that you can hold onto power then how can you achieve the good for your people that you sincerely desired when seeking power in the first place?

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