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Meritocracy and the left

The idea of meritocracy, that is, a system where people succeed based upon their merits is invariably incompatible with the left’s ideals of equality and fairness. This discussion might quickly digress in a semantics rat hole but overall, I think this is a very clear point. Only people who don’t think through the consequences of these lefty ideals fail to see this clear conflict.

For one thing, I believe there are very few people who would challenge the idea that all people are by nature different. Physically and psychologically, each one of us ha strengths and weaknesses that ultimately give us unique talents and potential. We are also unique in what we appreciate and therefore in what we as a society reward. Therefore, in a free society you will have certain people who follow certain careers and at the same time, you have certain professions or occupations that are more highly regarded than others.

All of this means that, at the end of the day, it is simply impossible to have a free society that is ‘equal’.

Second point is about fairness. You see, the left’s response to the natural inequality of our society is that we are not ‘playing in a leveled play field’. What that really means is that they think people’s starting point, i.e. the wealth of your family, your race, country you are born, etc., are factors that override personal qualities in determining one’s success or failure. In simpler words, people on the left believe that ‘luck’ is the most determinant factor in life. Therefore, the left justifies equalization policies (always based on force, as all government policies are) as an effort to help people with bad luck so they can compete more equally with the more fortunate.

The fact that luck plays a role in life is undeniable. A poor kid in Ethiopia has very little chance of succeeding at anything. Someone born with mental disability might never be able to take care of himself no matter what. The problem is when this valid concept is expanded in a way to include all our natural differences. The current ideology in our left believes that almost all inequality in the world is caused by factors beyond one’s control. When you follow that logic, you end up tracing someone’s success to something that was ‘given’ to that person and on the other hand anyone’s failure to something that was inflicted on them.

This ideology is by definition in conflict with meritocracy. If people don’t control their actions or their outcomes, there is no way to organize a society around personal achievement.

What I believe (and most of what is called ‘conservatives’ believe) is that, in a stable society where healthy individuals are free of war, famine and political persecution, most of our outcomes are a consequence of our acts. Yes, rich people do have an easier starting point but that advantage can be easily wasted if that person doesn’t make the right choices. Yes, racism exists and certain people will have a harder life because of it but that doesn’t mean these people cannot succeed and be incredibly wealthy. We have examples that prove these ideas true all around us. This is not theory, this is reality.

Most importantly, I believe that ‘success’ goes beyond money. We live in a society where people are free to work very little if they accept a lower economic situation. It might sound weird to think of people choosing to be poorer but I think this is a profoundly misleading fallacy. Actually, much of the left’s intelligentsia is comprised of people who chose the academic life which is by no means a great way to be making a lot of money. The problem is, of course, that these people sometimes don’t understand (or accept) such trade-offs.

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Oh irony, you ruthless bitch

“Pelado por um mundo mais ‘descente'”. You got it baby.

Causation or correlation?

Sources: Unemployment, election.

Do you think the word ‘endure’ was not chosen intentionally?

The article itself does not use the same language.

Woke up to the news that Andrew Breitbart has died. He was 43 years old and died of ‘natural causes’. How can such an unexpected death at such young age be natural I don’t know.

Anyway, goes to show you how fragile this whole experiment is. Go out there and enjoy it while you can…

Self-destruction

I cringe every time I hear the ubiquitous ‘be yourself’ or ‘do what makes you happy’. What are we really talking about here? We all want to be happy… Is there any situation where this would be good advice or is this just a sort of wildcard rationalization that validates stupid decisions?

Even worse, there is no way for you not to be yourself. When people tell you that you should be yourself, what they are actually saying is that you should do something you know other people would not do. So the real question to be asked here is ‘why?’. Why are you trying to do something that other people won’t? Is it because you think other people are wrong? Or is it because you are simply trying to ignore the consequences of your acts?

So if I am about to spend money I don’t have in a car I don’t need, I can tell you that I am doing this because ‘it will make me happy’. Which of course is true. But then again, if a true friend tells you that you should not do that is because he understands that ultimately that car will make you miserable.

This seems all related to the one of the ill consequences of the 60s social revolution: the idea that society builds rules based on illogical assumptions and therefore all social mores should be disregarded. This seems to be in part a backlash against religion but I think it is also a consequence of our material wealth. It is very similar to all the idiot theories liberals have on economics: the fact that we are already ‘rich enough’ and that we could just stop worrying and enjoy our gains. People in the past might have needed things like marriage, hard work and saving for a rainy day… but now we are done with that. Dye your hair blue and let’s smoke some weed!

This is not a theoretical post. I am not thinking of this as some thought experiment or criticizing strangers who I see through my car window. I am close to my forties and I have seen friends and family who were either destroyed or badly wounded by these ideas. People who you always thought ‘had it together’ deciding from out of nowhere to do stupid things based on these popular rationalizations, just to realize later on that they had inflicted permanent damage to their lives (and to loved ones as well).

There are very good reasons why our society created the concept of family. There are incredibly important reasons why we are monogamous (and no, the fact that people have always cheated is not an argument against that – it is an argument in favor of it! Humans still kill each other even though we continue to strive for a society without murder). There are very important reasons why we have one male and one female parent, way beyond biological imperatives.

Before breaking a rule we should understand why we had that rule in the first place. Society is nothing but the accumulation of experiences from people who lived before you. These people from the past might look poor and stupid to you but I can guarantee you, they had a much smaller margin of error than we do. We should be grateful for the knowledge we inherited and use it well.

A bit more on the headless world

So here is the deal: if no nation leads the world, many nations will lead the world. There is no ‘natural order’ of things. There is always a force behind anything that happens. It reminds me what a friend told me some time ago: I have no qualms in brainwashing my children. If I don’t do it, someone else will.

What we are seeing in Syria (and in most of all the other ‘Arab Spring’ nations) is the takeover of populist movements over old dictatorial establishment. That establishment was rotten (as all dictatorships are) but they were for the most part stable (within the region’s parameters of course).

Actually, one of the big ironies of this situation is that these populist revolts had more success in countries which were doing reasonably well (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria) and very little to no success in countries which were in some kind of crisis (Algeria, Iraq, other African countries).

What the US under Obama and all Europe are doing here is very dangerous: we are washing our hands. The one place where we did something (Libya) turned out to be a huge mess; we probably saved some rebel lives but condemned many others to torture and death (Gadhafi would tell you about it if he could). Places where we did nothing are doing even worse (Egypt and specially Syria). No one in their right mind would be able to predict what will happen in these countries. Estimates from Syria say that the death toll is approaching 8,000, with 60,000 detained and 20,000 missing. Don’t forget that this is a relatively small country (22 million people). 86 thousand Syrians are the equivalent of 110 thousand in Iraq’s population. Now do you remember the infamous Iraq’s 100k death toll story a few years ago? Guess what: 100 thousand people might have died in Libya as well and that is a country of only 5.6 million people!

But unfortunately that is not even the worst part in this whole mess: we don’t even know who these ‘rebels’ are or what they are about. For all the mayhem and blood of Iraq, we knew who was in power: us. But look at Egypt. Is it better now than it was under Mubarak? How about Libya? Could any of you name even one important figure on either government? I know I can’t.

This could be the Iranian Revolution multiplied by 10. Now, just imagine all the issues we have had with Iran since 1979 and multiply that by any factor. We can’t even decide how to deal with Iran now, so imagine how crazy it would be to deal with a collection of crazies in the same region some time in the future.

You also have to ask yourself why Russia and China are standing by al-Assad. Is it really just a business matter? Are they afraid of what these rebels would do if they gained power? Should we be?

At the same time, I keep thinking of all the stupidity that we heard during the Iraq war. All the pseudo-humanitarian concerns, all the talk about the ills of nation building… Are we really saving money and lives here by not intervening? Or is this a bill that will accrue interests big time and come back to bite us in the future? I don’t know the answers and I don’t think Obama does. His pathetic attempt to use diplomacy to solve these issues tells me that he is as clueless as Carter was in 1979. He is not alone thought – not even liberal pundits can tell you what needs to be done here. Check this one out as an example.

We will have to learn our lessons someday. Hope our kids do a better job when their turn comes up.