I have written over two dozen books, but of these only one has drawn almost universal disdain. Not only did the publishers to whom I submitted it reject my manuscript, but the reviews were scathing. In one case, I did obtain a contract, which was shortly rescinded.
The name of the book is “Social Stupidity: The Inevitability of Folly.” Although I assumed the subject would interest many people, the usual reaction was anger. Liberals were offended by my inclusion of liberal examples of irrationality, whereas conservatives were offended by the conservative examples of irrationality.
Apparently everyone wants to believe they are rational. It is the other guy who is unreasonable — not us. And yet the fact is that most of our important decisions are not based on facts and logic. We use other bases to come to these conclusions.
I began to come to this realization when Bill Clinton was impeached. The Democrats demanded evidence to substantiate the charges. Nonetheless, when this was provided, they did not bother to go to the secure area where it was stored. They already knew what they believed; hence additional facts were irrelevant.
We saw this same attitude when congressional Democrats insisted upon seeing redacted portions of the Mueller report. Somehow, when this was made available, they failed to show up to read it. They made no excuses. Indeed, they doubled-down by accusing the Attorney General of illegally refusing to supply what they asked.
Now don’t get me wrong. Liberals do not have a monopoly on this sort of behavior. Conservatives also act this way when their political ambitions are thwarted. The goal of all these folks is winning, not being faithful to reality. You know what, this is true of you and me as well.
We as a species are addicted to non-rational modes of thinking. We have to be. There are many reasons why, but one is that we seldom have all the facts needed to make sensible choices. We therefore use shortcuts that get us reasonably close to a serviceable result.
An even more important reason is that we require non-rational means to keep our societies intact. Were we all independent operators, we would seldom be on the same page; which would make it difficult to cooperate on interpersonal activities.
As a consequence, we are biologically primed to honor authority. It is no accident that the children of Baptists usually grow up to be Baptists, whereas the children of Hindus generally become Hindus. As children and adults, we rarely question those believed to know the truth.
This, in fact, is one of our glories. It enables us humans to learn more than any one of us could on our own. Advanced civilizations could never have taken shape if we did not learn from those who preceded us. Their discoveries thus become our discoveries.
On the other hand, what if they are wrong? If the people we respect tell us things that are not so, we can easily be led astray. Because we do not examine the foundations of what they say, we can adopt opinions that are off base.
Nowadays, we see this all the time on television. Both political parties have become addicted to “talking points.” Their spokespersons repeat absurd memes because they have learned that these are the official position.
I am now going to give an example that I know most liberals will hate. President Donald Trump is routinely excoriated for being a racist. Yet on what grounds do people come to this conclusion? Have they directly witnessed Trump discriminating against a person because of race? Of course, not.
They are, however, told by their co-partisans that Trump has articulated many racist slurs. To illustrate, he is said to have praised the KKK when their members marched at Charlottesville. He allegedly claimed that they were good people.
Nonetheless, anyone who heard Trump speak on that occasion knows this was not the case. He was really saying that there were good people on both sides of the Confederate statue controversy. So why don’t those who condemn him realize this? It is because they were not taking their cue from his words, but from those who despise him.
How often do all of us do this? How many leftists have actually read Karl Marx; how many rightists have leafed through Adam Smith? You know the answers. The truth is that most of our economic beliefs derive from our party affiliations, not an independent study of the subject.
P.S. “Social Stupidity” is now available on amazon.com, at $10 for the paperback and $5 for the eBook.