Rigorous Red or Bogus Blue? Part I


By Mike Cronin

In the 1999 movie “The Matrix,” the future is presented as a dystopia where the vast majority of human beings are caged in pods that capture their body heat to energize a vast, governing machine intelligence.  In order to keep people in such a state, the machines created a virtual reality and plugged the brains of the human “batteries” directly into it – this constructed reality is the eponymous Matrix.

There are a few human rebels who escaped the machines, fighting an almost hopeless battle against them. These rebels are able to plug themselves back into the Matrix with full awareness of its virtual nature, and work to free the rare human “battery” who has begun to suspect the Matrix is not reality.  In the process of freeing such a mind, the leader of the extraction team confronts the skeptical person within the Matrix, hints at the truth, then offers the candidate two pills, one red, the other blue.  If the candidate takes the blue pill, he will remain trapped in the Matrix.  If he takes the red, he will be unplugged, rescued from his pod, and shown the true nature of reality.

There are some people today who believe we are living in a Matrix.  I don’t subscribe to that at all, but I do believe nearly all of our society’s ills can be attributed to a conflict between two philosophical meta-traditions, with schools of thought that promote collectivism & altruism on one side; and the philosophies of  individualism & reason on the other.  The traditions of collectivism & altruism have some Matrix-like qualities.

“Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.” ― John Dewy, hero of progressive education.

Like the machines in the Matrix, the elite of these traditions would prefer their subjects remain ignorant of the true nature of things, i.e. to take the metaphorical blue pill.  Creating critical thinkers is not a goal for the education of the masses in systems dependent on these models; nor is it a priority for the media to expose truths that contradict the narratives of the anointed elite.  But unlike the “batteries” of the Matrix, We the People are not trapped in energy-sucking pods. Metaphorical red pills can be found.

“We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” ― Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States

Promoters and adherents of philosophies of individualism and reason are, like the rebels in the Matrix movies, very much a minority who see things much closer to the way they truly are. A thinking, reasoning mind is valued among such rebels, skeptics, and extremists, but represents a threat to the purveyors of the blue pill.

“To fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence… Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States… and that is its aim everywhere else.” – H.L. Mencken, journalist and author

The conflict between “blue” and “red” thinking has been with us since humans first started using tools to make tools – probably as far back as the invention of the wheel.  Blue thinking started with superstitions and pagan religions.  It has always had the advantage of being easier to sell and easier to believe in, so it has always flourished in some form or fashion, while red thinking has always required intellectual rigor, which meant it was not preferred by people looking for the path of least resistance. In fact, ours was the first nation to be founded on the principles of individual liberty and capitalism – i.e. The United States of America is the original red state!

10 Thoughts for 2016

By Mike Cronin

Instead of resolutions, I suggest these 10 thoughts for the New Year:

Regardless of your party preference or which side of the political spectrum you align with, remember that even the politicians you like are more concerned about getting elected (or re-elected) than they are about representing you or your interests. (props to Thomas Sowell)

Similarly, the mass media news outlets exist make profit.  They do so primarily by selling advertising air time. Keeping you hooked is the goal of their programming tactics: dramatic music, constant movement, urgent tones, “alerts,” scrolling updates, etc. None are necessary to impart information; they are hooks. Keeping you informed is less important than keeping you watching.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes popularized the idea that the Constitution is a “living document.” This notion suggests the founders meant for us to interpret their words in the context of our time, not their own.  In fact, the founders did recognize that times change and the Constitution must be adaptable to those changes.  They meant for us to be able to make those changes by the formal process of amending the Constitution.  Getting an amendment passed and ratified is very difficult – on purpose. But it is possible – that’s why there are currently 27 amendments.  It’s a good bet that any party, pressure group, or court that attempts to re-interpret the meaning of the founders words knows it could never see its agenda come to fruition though the amendment process. The Constitution is not a living document, but it is an amendable one!

Confiscatory taxation: When your neighbors and co-workers use the coercive power of government to steal money from you to pay for laws and programs you don’t want.

When you hear about waste in government spending, you are told about “pork” (e.g. ridiculous projects to study cow flatulence, install “modern art” to “beautify” some government facility, build arenas and bridges, or make payments to farmers not to grow food, etc.). Pork barrel spending is certainly wasteful, but I submit that when a politician says we need to cut waste, then offers pork projects as examples, he is attempting to distract us from the most egregious form of government waste: spending money we don’t have on entire government departments, agencies, bureaus, etc. that do not protect anyone’s rights (the only proper function of government) and thus have no legitimate reason to exist.

You cannot reason with a person who does not value logic. (Props to Sam Harris)

Now that women are allowed in every specialty in the armed forces, there have been calls to require women to register for the draft – in the name of equal rights and equal opportunity.  How about we discuss ending all draft registration and disbanding the Selective Service System instead?  The draft is a form of indentured servitude if not outright slavery. If equal rights are the motivation driving changes in military gender composition, then men should have the same right women currently enjoy: to not register for the draft and to not serve against their will!

One definition of a “license:” When the government takes away a bit of your freedom, then allows you to buy permission to do the thing you were once at liberty to do.

Presidential candidates will make all kinds of assertions and promises about what they will do for the economy or crime control or the environment – but, short of invasion or natural disaster, all he or she can legally do in those areas is make proposals, sign bills into law, and direct the executive branch. The president’s real power lies in foreign relations, not domestic ones.  This is why the Secretaries of State and Defense are more prominent than the Secretary of the Interior, for example.

Some people judge Congress by the number of laws it passes. This is absurd.  The more laws there are, the harder it becomes to be law-abiding, and the easier it becomes to inadvertently break the law.  Supposedly, ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break it – but no one can know all of the laws, because there are too many!