You can’t get there from here

By Mike Cronin

I recently read an article that chronicled the lamentation of employers that college graduates today are not well versed in critical thinking skills. On the other hand, the graduates themselves thought they had a good understanding of critical thinking.  If employers and graduates disagree on graduates’ thinking skills, who is correct?  Turns out it depends on your definition of critical thinking.

The employers relied on the classical understanding of critical thinking: Objectivity, evidence, logic, reason.  The grads’ understanding of critical thinking tended towards “… opposition to the existing ‘system,’ encompassing political, economic, and social orders, deemed to privilege some and penalize others. In essence, critical thinking is equated with political, economic, and social critique.” Huh. Critical thinking has become “critique-al” thinking. That explains how an ever-growing segment of our population seems to fall for every “feel-good” con for giving up freedom and liberty in the name of “social justice” or “diversity” or “environmentalism” or “wealth redistribution” or any other socialist trap.

For the record:

You cannot cure poverty by taking wealth from others, because poverty is not only a financial condition, it is also often a mindset.  Consider that most millionaires in this country are entrepreneurs. Most business start-ups fail, and many of the successful entrepreneurs have been “poor” at some point.  They earned, then lost, a fortune and became “poor,” only to earn and keep a bigger fortune by applying what they learned from their original mistakes.  On the flip side, many “poor” people would, given sudden wealth, blow it all on luxuries and trappings, then fall back into poverty when the wealth dried up.

You cannot cure hunger in other parts of the world by decrying food excess here.  Wasted food here cannot change the conditions causing starvation elsewhere.  If you want to cure world hunger, you must first rid humanity of power lust and superstition and territoriality.

You cannot eliminate racism and bigotry and hatred by hating and being racist and bigoted. You cannot end “discrimination” by changing which group is “discriminated” against. You cannot avenge long-dead victims of a crime by punishing the descendants of the long-dead criminals. Change the words “crime” and “criminals” to “oppression” and “oppressors,” and the same truth obtains. (The old adage “fight fire with fire” works…in very few contexts. Fighting injustice with more injustice isn’t one of them.)

You cannot change reality by smuggling new meaning into old worlds. “Unemployment” comes to mind.  The most widely used unemployment figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been around 5% for some months (4.7% as of February 2017).  But that number uses a very narrow definition of “unemployed” and a very generous definition of “employed.”  If you are out of work and haven’t been looking for four weeks, you are no longer counted as “unemployed;” you are counted as “out of the labor market.” On the other hand, if you are out of work but exchanged at least one hour of labor for at least $20.00, you are counted as “employed.”  The real unemployment rate, i.e. the number of working-age adults that are not working and earning regular paychecks, is more like 40%!

You cannot build a Utopian health care system that relies on doctors (and other providers) whom you dis-incentivize.  Doctors have spent a lot of time and money to earn their degrees, and they expect to be able to run their practices and make good money.  Take that away from them, and all of a sudden there will be less doctors working and less people going to medical school. The doctors that do stay will be of lower caliber, and the quality of care will diminish greatly.

Likewise, you cannot produce a well-educated populace with a public school system purposely designed to prevent critical thinking by producing critique-al thinkers!

The Power of “So?”

By Mike Cronin

The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest

So?  That headline is meant to make us hate the rich and want to see them taxed into submission.  It is meant to create envy and division.  Did those 85 people steal that wealth from the “bottom half,” or did they produce it? If they produced it, it’s theirs.  If they stole it, then prosecute them.  If you want to help the “bottom half” improve their lives, then help them. Appeal to the wealthy for donations all you want, but don’t believe that you can cure poverty by ostensibly playing Robin Hood. He didn’t steal from “the rich” and give to “the poor,” he stole from the government and gave back to the taxpayers!

The Israelis are doing__ against the Palestinians again!

So?  There is a meme circulating that states:  “If the Israelis wanted war, the Palestinians would be wiped out.  If the Palestinians wanted peace, there would be peace.”  It’s not 100% perfectly factual, but there is a high degree of “truthiness” in that statement.

___member of the Trump Administration had contact with Russian diplomats while serving in Congress (or some other governmental or international corporate position) before the election.

So?  That’s what the Russian diplomats are here for!  That’s why we send American diplomats to Russia! It is far better that our leaders have contact with their diplomats than that we stop talking to each other and start rekindling the Cold War in earnest, isn’t it? We’ve already had Vietnam and Korea, and we’ve been stuck in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years.  Syria could easily become the next quagmire if it isn’t already.  Do we really need to increase the likelihood of that happening by not having any dialogue with the Russians?

Sports stars get paid more than military troops and teachers!

So?  Stop paying them! If you think star athletes get paid too much, don’t go to the games, don’t buy the fan merchandise, and don’t pay for sports packages on satellite or cable.  If you think teachers and troops deserve more, write your school board and your congressional delegation and tell them you want to donate more money on top of your paid taxes so they can get a raise. Better yet, gift some money to a teacher or troop of your choice (but less than $10,000, please.  We don’t want to make them pay higher taxes for getting your gift!)

Somebody offended me!

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So? Call the whaaambulance and wait for it in your safe space, ya simpering snowflake!  You have a right to free speech AND you have a right not to listen to the free speech of others. You don’t have right to not be offended.

They gave the Best Picture Oscar to the wrong movie.

So? Does that have any bearing at all on your life?  It’s mildly interesting to watch the antics of celebrities, but we only fuel the worst aspects of their personalities by obsessing over their affairs and faux-pas.  Maybe we need that spectacle to distract us from the real issues, which would be fine if that’s all Hollywood did (i.e. produce distractions). But that’s not all is it?

(Pick any Hollywood celebrity) said (something pontificating or pious about national or international issues)

So? How does a career as a professional pretender confer to anyone the bona-fides to provide a value-added perspective on …anything that matters?

Conventional Wisdom?

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By Mike Cronin

A million people can’t be wrong.  Oh, yes they can.  Look no farther than religion. There are dozens, if not hundreds in existence now, and there have been thousands throughout history.  Each believes that all the others are wrong.  They certainly can’t all be right. Don’t go there?  OK, how about: Environmentalists vs. global warming “deniers,” the medical community vs “anti-vaxers,”or “the moon landings were fake” crowd vs NASA?”   Would you believe there are still people who think the earth is flat?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  As an adage for leaving things alone that are working well enough and focusing on genuine problems, this is not bad advice.  However, when it morphs into an attitude it becomes counter-productive.  If humans all held this attitude, we’d still be sleeping in caves, picking lice off our neighbors, and dying of old age or tooth decay in our twenties and thirties.

It’s a free country.  Not as free as it’s supposed to be.  Want to open or run a business?  Get a license, or two, or ten.  Comply with state and local compensation and workmen’s comp laws. Pay estimated taxes every quarter. Want to drill a well or build an addition on your own property?  Do you have the water and mineral rights?  Got a permit? Have you thought about homeschooling your kids?  Again: do you have the right permits?  Are you following the prescribed curriculum? On and on: permits, regulations, licenses, red tape.

The police will protect me.  They don’t have to.  They have to protect society as a whole, not you as an individual. If the police had to protect all of us individually, each of us individuals would have to be a police officer.

Teachers deserve more money. The good ones do. The mediocre ones don’t.  The bad ones should be fired.  Regardless, school districts have no economically compelling reason to pay more.  It’s a simple case of supply and demand.  The overall supply of trained teachers and freshly-minted teaching candidates is roughly double the demand.

Pro athletes don’t deserve million-dollar salaries.  Then stop paying them. Once again, supply and demand is at work.  Professional-caliber athletes are exceedingly rare and highly sought-after, so they command dream-come-true salaries.  If you refuse to buy sports packages on cable, stop buying fan gear, and stop going to games, the teams will lose money and athlete salaries will drop.

We’re fighting a war on __(drugs, poverty, terrorism, obesity, etc…) No, we are not.  Wars are fought against enemies, not chemicals, circumstances, tactics, or conditions.  Generating a “war-fighting” mindset is a tactic used by people who want you to give up some of your freedom in exchange for a little more security – which they can’t really provide.

Not wanting to pay your fair share of taxes is greedy.  1. How much is a “fair share?”  Who gets to decide? 2.  If I am “greedy” solely for wanting to keep what I earn, what word applies to those who think they have even more right to take my money than I have to keep it?

I have a Constitutional right to__.  Nope.  The Constitution protects our rights by establishing a limited government; it does not grant rights.  It seems like a subtle distinction, but it is the thing that made the fledgling United States of America unique in the history of the world:  the first nation established based on the principle of limited, rights-protecting government established in the service of a free people.

Electric cars don’t emit carbon dioxide.  Not directly, but indirectly, the power plant that produced the electricity to charge the car’s batteries most likely did (unless it was nuclear)…and the industrial activity used to mine the ores and smelt the metals to make the batteries themselves sure did.

Recycling is good for the environment. Really? How much energy is saved when you have to produce double the number of plastic bins and operate twice the number of fuel-guzzling, traffic-congesting big trucks to service them? What about the recycling plant itself?

Everyone hates Congress. Then why do Congress members have such high re-election rates over time?  Apparently, we love our own Senators and Representatives and only hate the rest of Congress.

Government = Force

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.  - George Washington

By Mike Cronin

To commemorate President’s Day, let’s use the above quote, allegedly from George Washington, as the genesis of a thought experiment. What if we replace the word “government” with the word “force” and ask what it is properly used for?

Is force a moral way to protect yourself from violence initiated by others?  I say yes.  Therefore, by extension, using government to deter violent attack, or to retaliate for the same, is proper.  The policing, defense, and intelligence functions of government are legitimate for this reason.

Is it moral to enforce contractual agreements and hold fraudsters accountable?  Again, I say yes, and again, I say the criminal justice functions of government are legitimate for this purpose.

Is it moral to use force to entertain people?  I say no.  Government funding for the arts is immoral in this context, not to mention absurd.

Is it proper to use force to educate people?  Once again: it is the wrong tool for the job.

Is it moral to use force to prevent you neighbor from viewing material you believe to be objectionable?  I say no. By extension, it is improper to rely on government to tell us what we can and cannot view (unless that material is produced by violating the rights of others, as in the case of child pornography).

How about using force to provide people a retirement check, health insurance, unemployment compensation, or other “entitlements?”

Or using force to provide subsidies, corporate bailouts, tax “credits,” and to manipulate the economy?

I could go on, but I think you see where I am going with this. If it is wrong for an individual to initiate the use of force against his or her neighbor directly, then it is just as wrong to employ the coercive power of government to commit the same crime by proxy.

Force is not only immoral to use outside of the context of protection from violence, fraud, or other violations of our rights, it is also manifestly the wrong tool for most jobs.  Using force to educate, or entertain, or to invent and deliver entitlements, is like using a sledgehammer to wash windows. The most likely outcome will be glass shards on the floor.  Yet even if you manage to avoid  shattering the glass, you still won’t get the windows clean.

That is the reason the Founders wrote the Constitution: to restrict the forcefulness of government to only those very few functions where force is the proper response, and to prevent its absurdly destructive employment against us in every other facet of life.

When Everything is a Crisis, Nothing is a Crisis

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By Mike Cronin

Dear politicians, intellectuals, pressure-group leaders, and media mouths,

All day every day you bombard us with crisis after crisis. Drugs. Guns. War. Climate. Celebrity drama. International tensions. Rape culture. Income inequality. Racism. Sexism. Immigration. Political correctness. The list goes on ad-nauseam. Most are real issues that need reasoned efforts to solve or mitigate, but you spin them into crises, then you anoint yourselves as experts and saviors that can save us – if only we turn over our rights, our money, or our reason (or all three!) to you.

We understand that at some level you have to market and advertise your issue, your ideals, your narrative.  On the other hand, you need to understand that at some point we will succumb to crisis fatigue and stop caring about your cherry-picked and manicured emergencies.  We will become apathetic.  Most of you don’t want that; you want your pet cause to be solved or cured. But some of you do want an apathetic populace.  An apathetic populace is ripe for manipulation by a charismatic tyrant.

If you are one of the public figures I opened this letter to, and you genuinely want your problem solved, dial down the urgency settings on your rhetoric or you will defeat yourself!

If you are a tyrant in waiting:  know that your tactic is exposed.  You are not fooling anyone.

That is all.