TRUST BUT VERIFY.
‘Trust!’ Say, isn’t this the cement that makes for a more or less stable society?
… Isn’t it ‘trust’ that underlies many of our daily transactions – conditional actions like communicating a confidence, arranging a get-together with a friend, participating in some kind of contract?
… Do we not collect a network of people around us that we trust – kin, some or them, a neighborhood out-reach, workmates we prefer to work with?
… And are we not, as biologist Matt Ridley describes in ‘The Origin of Virtue,’ ‘very good at detecting cheating?’ (Chapter 7.) Heck, even some animals seem to choose predator partners that are consistently good co-operators. Who’d have thought that sticklebacks could recognize each other and remember which fish can be trusted?
Could be there’s another instinct to be added to the big four, a co-operation ‘n trust instinct. Any wonder that humans’ cultural artistic baggage is crammed with dramatic creative renderings of trust and betrayal, particularly the latter. Literature from ‘The Odyssey,’ ‘Media,’ King Lear, ‘Macbeth,’ to ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ Puccini’s operas, Hitchcock’s movies, are full of it. Where would popular music and TV mid-day movies be without deception? ‘He (she) left and not even a good-bye note!’
Life without trust.
‘Life without trust.’ said Thomas Hobbes, ‘is nasty, brutish and likely short.’ A case study; the Yanomamo ‘fierce people’ of Venezuela. Anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, who lived among the Yanomamo for extended periods from 1964 to 1991, described their way of life as almost continual inter-village warfare, raiding and the abduction of women. At least one fourth of adult males died violent deaths.
Chronic violence, wife beating and feuding were also a way of life within each tribal village. Most of this internal fighting stemmed from sexual affairs, a failure to deliver a promised woman or a seizure of a married woman by some other man. This could lead to such internal conflicts that villages split up, each group becoming a new village and often enemies to each other.
So highly was aggression valued in the culture, observed Chagnon, that of six feast ceremonies intended to build war alliances, two of the six ended in fighting between guests and hosts.
How much trust, that is the question.
Not enough trust – bad. So is it possible to have too much trust? Well yes. Philosopher Karl Popper describes this situation in his important study of ancient and modern enemies of democracy, ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies,’ Popper analyses, in Volume 1 of its two volumes, ‘The Spell of Plato,’ Plato’s blueprint for the return to a closed and static ‘ideal state,’ a republic based on Sparta’s rigid tribal society.
Popper attributes Plato’s attempt to create an unchanging society to his personal experience as an Athenian living through the strain of an unsettled period of historical change, the disastrous war with Sparta and Athens’ subsequent civil war. The political system Plato designed to achieve a static society necessitated his ‘noble lie’ of the metals in men, enabling a hierarchical society where the gold should lead and inferior metals have their ordained, unquestioned roles.
Plato viewed the fundamental problem of politics as a question of ‘who shall rule the state?’ Whether the response was ‘the wise’ or ‘the good,’ or even ‘the general will’ or ‘the master race’ shall rule,’ the question skipped over the fundamental problem of limits to power, the problem of unchecked sovereignty. ( P. Ch.7.‘Leadership.’) Popper proposed a better question: ‘How can we so organize political institutions so that bad or incompetent leaders be prevented from doing too much damage?’
For Plato, the only institution required in response to his question of who should rule was a state-controlled education system designed to control the succession of leadership, socially engineering selected students from the leader class in preparation for the role. This system would produce the ‘wise’ leader, a god-like philosopher king, proud possessor of received knowledge not accessible to those he ruled. How different is this ‘wisdom’ from Socrates curiosity and intellectual modesty. This,’ says Popper, ‘is what Plato made of Socrates demand that a responsible politician should be a lover of truth and wisdom rather than an expert, and that he was ‘wise’ only if he knew his limitations.’ (Ch. 7.)
Life in the cave.
Plato claims in ‘The Republic’ that those whom we call philosophers are ‘those who love truth.’ But then he goes on to argue that a philosopher king must be determined to administer a great many lies and deceptions for the benefit of the city, predominantly the deception of a god-given social hierarchy based on a myth that must be believed. Thus Plato demands in ‘The Laws,’ the severest punishment, even for most honourable people, if their opinions concerning the gods deviate from those held by the state. Plato hopes that even the leaders themselves, over generations, will come to believe the great propaganda lie, so strengthening the rule of the state. ( Ch 8.‘The Philosopher King’.)
Inherent in Plato’s program is a process of utopian engineering which Popper describes as consciously and consistently pursuing an aim and determining the ends which lead to this aim, to the ‘Ideal State.’ The Utopian attempt to realize an ideal state, using a blue print of society as a whole, demands the strong centralized rule of the few, the ‘wise’ possessors of truth, philosopher kings educated in dogma that allows no criticism.
Popper contrasts Plato’s blue-print approach with piecemeal reform, a trial and error way of adapting to specific social problems that is able to take a step back if an approach doesn’t work, whereas utopian engineering, involving powerful interests linked to up with its success, is inflexible, disallowing criticism or other feedbacks.
And of course, with reconstruction of a whole society, sweeping changes have practical consequences that are hard to calculate. Let us not forget, as Philip Tetlock’s studies show, we are not all that good at predicting, what with human confirmation bias and those black swan events we can’t foresee.
( P.Tet;ock,‘Expert Political Judgement. How Good Is It?’)
Trust and precious little verification; governance Plato – style.
Despite human weakness at predicting, the Plato model has attracted philosopher king imitations throughout history, right up to those centralist, myth-based states of the twentieth century and moves into the twenty-first century, to transfer power from nation states to unaccountable supra-national authorities, – trust and precious little verification.
In that supra-sovereign state of the European Union, all the Platonist processes apply:
* Blueprint to Utopia incorporating a facilitating myth, centralizing of power by stealth.
* ‘Wise’ leadership by philosopher kings and an elite bureaucracy – regulation by fiat.
* Deterrence of criticism via limits on free speech.
* Focus on state education, government control as a means of social engineering.
Blue print to Utopia and the stealthy approach:
A little history of the EU. The European project began as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 with six founding members, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, In 1957, by the Treaty of Rome, the ECSC became the European Economic Community with the aim of fostering regional peace and cooperation. The Treaty of Brussels in 1965 established Europe’s centralized governing body. Britain entered the EEC in 1973 assured that this would have no implications for UK national sovereignty. In 1992, With the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union was created and ever closer union of its nation states and the fantasy that the national state was not only dangerous but archaic.
At the time of the Brussels Treaty, the Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, in this case a better predictor than most, foresaw the usurpation of the powers of national parliaments, the large transfer of power to Brussels and an unelected, permanent civil service. ( Menzies’ Memoirs, ‘The Measure of the Years. 1970.)
‘Wise’ leadership by philosopher kings?
Wise leadership? Well no. Europe has developed many problems as a result of leadership fiat decision making. Beset by out-of-control immigration from eastern countries and acts of terrorism by ISIS terrorists in Brussels as an outcome of EU open borders’ policies, the European Union is dogged by high levels of unemployment, the growth of minority political parties in EU countries, Britain’s decision to exit the EU, all of which do not indicate wisdom by its unelected leaders. Nor do fiat decisions with regard to bailing out nations with huge financial deficits arising from philosopher king top-down currency decisions.
Europe’s vampire currency, it’s ‘A machine from Hell,’ writes Andrew Stuttaford, in Quadrant Magazine, (July – August, 2015,) describing what the euro has wrought on European nations’ economies.
Creating a shared currency, the view that one size fits all was the brain child of Brussels’ technocrats who believed that fluctuating economies were untidy expressions of market mechanisms that needed to be fixed by government experts. Although the votes for shared currency were not there, the machinery of integration ground on. The technocrats had a plan that only those countries that had ‘converged’ could sign up for the single currency. Convergence would be proved by ‘tests,’ the ‘Maestricht Criteria,’ demonstrating that these countries’ economies were sufficiently in sync regarding low inflation and exchange rate stability, to share a currency without the safety net that political (or at least fiscal) union would have provided.. (Stuttaford p 39.)
Hey, grandiose delusion, maintaining that a collection of very different economies converge on the basis of a series of snapshots. Germany is Greece?
The technocrats maintained that in the Maestricht they had set out strict criteria; no Eurozone member or the EU to be responsible for the debts of any other. No bail-outs to feckless nations. All good to go.
Hubris was followed by nemesis:
‘Interest rates across the currency union moved down to German levels … In the early 1990’s ten-year Greek government bonds carried a coupon at least fifteen percentage points above their German equivalent. Ten years later the spread was close to zero. Germany was Greece.’ (AS. p40.)
These low interest rates should have been used by the Eurozone’s weaker countries to reduce excessive borrowing and help develop their economies achieve international competitiveness. Instead they spent like there was no tomorrow, the European crisis was on.
Greek interest rates splurged. EU leaders recognized that if Greece tumbled, there were plenty more dominoes to fall. Let the bail-outs begin. After Greece, a Portugal bail-out, then a second Greek bail-out followed by a partial Spanish bail-out and a Cypriot banking collapse complete with bail-out. Says Christine Lagarde, ‘We violated all the rules because we wanted to close ranks and really rescue the Eurozone.’ ( A.S.p 41.)
‘Regardless of what the continent’s repeatedly snubbed voters might actually want,’ says Andrew Stuttaford, ‘the EU’s ruling class will push integration forward. As ever the process will be step by step. The pain in much of the Eurozone’s periphery will persist, sometimes acute, sometimes merely chronic. One size will not fit all. The vampire currency will linger on, draining democracy and prosperity as it does so, but no one will put a stake through it.’ ( AS p 42.)
Deterrence of criticism, those limits on free speech.
Remember Plato, in ‘The Laws,’ demanding severe punishment for even the most honourable of people if their opinions concerning the gods deviated from those held by the state? Your top-down authority can no-way abide free-speech.
Regarding top-down control on free speech, go no further than that supra-behemoth, the United Nations. With its General Assembly, International Court of Justice, Security Council and seventeen specialized agencies employing tens of thousand of highly paid civil servants housed in its palatial buildings in NewYork, Geneva,Vienna, The Hague, etcetera, its annual budget into the billions, not sure how much, it’s never been audited, the UN has acquired control over nation states by a kind of creeping governance.
Treaties, sometimes called Conventions, and Customary Law are two sources of international law that the UN uses to by-pass democratic parliamentary constraints on centralized authority. And these laws are created by the fifteen justices on the International Court of Law, up to half of whom come from non-democracies and are selected by a method that could only be described as opaque. James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland, in an essay, ‘The Problem of Creeping International Legal Rule,’ describes this process of out-reach.. https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2016/09/problem-creeping-international-legal-rule/
The first source of back-door control over domestic law is via rights’ related treaties like the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, which are written in sufficiently vague and amorphous terms that they allow future interpreters to add detail and specifics at the point of application. The second source of control is customary international law. Customary international law has never been agreed to by any democratically elected and accountable legislators, its content cannot be found in any treaty, whether ratified or not: ‘If treaties and conventions are democratically deficient in comparison with the statutes passed by parliament,’ says James Allan, ‘ then customary law comes close to not having a democratic bone in its body.’ (JA P47.)
And who identifies and decides customary law? The answer is that ‘publicists,’ those legal academics or law professors deemed ‘sound’ by a progressive in-group, make the judgments. And no one outside the in-group gets to vote for these publicists. ‘They have no democratic warrant at all. As a group they may well have political and moral views that diverge from those of most of the general public.’ ( JA. P 47. ).
James Allan cites four cases in the UK in the last five years that show how the role of rights-related international law is being ratcheted up. In these four cases, relating to immigrant extradition and benefit payment issues, some in which the government prevailed and others where it lost, several judges in making their judgements gave international law preference over domestic law.
‘Stealth and nibbling away. ’ That is how Allan describes the way international law side-steps democratic, debatable social policy. Views imposed from a bureaucrat echo- chamber disconnected from what the wider public may think or wish to say.
There’s another supra – national organization on the block.
The International Panel on Climate Change, founded by the United Nations, is another organization with expanding top-down influence, this time in climate- science. Skeptical criticism of its theory of dangerous, anthropologically-caused global warming from CO2, of its modeling projections that don’t match observations, and opaque temperature record adjustments bringing the record into line with CO2 emissions, are just two of the problems to be brushed aside.
A problem raised at Dr Judith Curry’s blog, Climate Etc, h/t the poster known as ‘Science or Fiction’ is the politicization of the IPCC, and of ‘how heavily biased the IPCC was from its beginning.’ ( SoF. 22/11/2016. Post: ‘The real War on Science.’ )
Science or Fiction argues that the Principles governing IPCC work are more or less free from sound scientific principles or scrutiny and that ‘the United Nations allowed the IPCC to be governed by :
-the unscientific principle of a mission to support an established view,
-the unscientific principle of consensus.’
For a graphic view of the merry-go-round internal review of the IPCC writing and review see below …for some reason I am unable to reproduce the charts.
That which may not be said …
‘Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth … and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.’ John Stuart Mill.
Controls on free speech – that which may not be said may not be thought – John Stuart Mill and George Orwell are very good on this. It’s happening throughout all western democracies. Here in Australia, home to a large number of immigrants of different race and nationality, our government has embraced a multi-cultural policy with the aim of restricting an array of opinions that might offend people from ethnic or religious minorities, and so in1975, the government enacted a Racial Discrimination Law.
Behind it all was the United Nations and its agencies claiming globally escalating racism and offering jurists throughout the world new opportunities for normative legislation, (and new scope to further their careers.) The result of this was an increase in limitations to free speech that included the 1995 Declaration of Principles of Tolerance and UNESCO 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.
The Australian Government led by Prime Minister Keating dutifully took up the diversity banner by passing a contentious 18C amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act which states: ‘(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise in private if (2) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and (3) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.’
When he introduced 18C, the Minister for Immigration, Senator Nick Bolkus, oblivious to the Orwellian resonances of his rhetoric, told the Parliament that it was designed to eliminate ‘speech crimes.’
This insidious tactic to limit public discourse has a more dangerous effect, as the advocates of political correctness have grasped. As Winston Smith discovered in Orwell’s ‘1984,’ there is a close connection between language and thought and that by limiting what may be said, we limit what may be thought, an attack upon intellectual freedom itself.
Here in Oz, since amendment 18C became law, there have been a number of prosecutions of members of the press as a consequence of someone claiming to be ‘offended’ by journalists’ statements deemed racist, though the statements, in one case a cartoon, are able to be substantiated in fact. If such debate had been disallowed in the famous Dreyfus Case in France at the beginning of the 21st century, when Zola ran his public ‘J’accuse’ campaign against institutional corruption, Dreyfus would have likely ended his days on Devil’s Island.
A second move to government non-accountability, the Finkelstein Enquiry, involved an attempt to impose censorship on the press, by establishing an Orwellian Ministry of Truth, a News Media Council, funded by government and with decisions enforceable in the same way as the decisions of government agencies. Even the left wing press did not come at this, and it was not passed.
Less fortunate, Great Britain, enjoying an uncensored press from1695 to 2013, but now does not. Making use of a relic of medieval powers, the Royal Charter, the government has established a dystopian system of press regulation mediated by government, the very thing, as one of democracy’s checks and balances on power, the press was never meant to be.
Focus on ‘Educating ‘as a means of social engineering.
Not going to attempt a philosophical discussion of ‘what education is,’ but can say something pertaining to what it is not. ‘Education’ is not ‘training,’ though training maybe a useful adjunct, and it is not indoctrination, moulding ‘learners ‘ to fit some vision of your ideal state. Contrast Plato’s process of producing philosopher kings as rigid possessors of received knowledge, with Socrates’, non-dogmatic, critical of his own errors , engaging in open discussion with the young, even with slaves. And then there’s the skeptical Michel de Montaigne saying, ‘Nothing so firmly believed as what we least know,’ and setting himself a task of critical self-observation in his essays on experience, friendship and virtue.
So what’s the state of modern education in the West, will it enable the development of your Socrates or Montaigne? Here’s John Stuart Mill again:
A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch , a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.
Well, a case can be argued for government ‘funding’ of schools. Without funding there’d be children denied education because parents are unable, or unwilling, to pay for their children’s education. And of course, society benefits from the literate and numerate citizenry state education produces. Problem is that the regulators of this standard of literacy and numeracy, the politicians and bureaucrats, are also its provider, a conflict here in how well the regulators assess students’ literacy and numeracy progress year by year. Who guards the guardians?
And then there’s that ‘moulding’ problem of state education. Take a look at what’s happening here in Oz right now since the federal government introduced a K-12 Core Curriculum. Sounds okay, a means of ensuring nation-wide standards of literacy and numeracy. Can’t argue with non-negotiable basic standards in important skills as an important part of students’ journey to something of autonomy. But K-12 has a mixed agenda, it is mainly about enforcinging ‘values education,’ not some by-the-way emphasis on honesty and respect for self and others, but a concerted program from Prep to Year 12 to instill in students certain values that the now progressive state holds sacred, values of respect for racial minorities and concern for environmental sustainability. Take a look at the Australian Government document, ‘Values Education and the Australian Curriculum,’
In its Curriculum Introduction the document defines good practice:
‘Whole school approaches sustain values education .’
’Use pedagogies that are values-focused and student-centered within all curriculums.’
‘Use values education to consciously foster intercultural understanding, social cohesion and social inclusion.’
In all K-12 curriculum areas units are designed to help teachers assist students to integrate values teaching and learning within all the areas of the curriculum. Focus at all levels is on Cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders and on Environmental Sustainability. A couple of examples: ‘Eating Green’ /critical and creative thinking / food, technology, geography. ‘Celebration Ceremonies’/critical and creative thinking/ changing values, changing nation/inter-cultural understanding.
Nearly 500 schools are using the Safe Schools program and the State of Victoria has ordered all schools to sign on by 2019. The teaching guide has students as young as 11 role playing, imagining they are 16 and going out with someone they are really into,’ half the students pretending they are with a partner of the same sex. More on transgender ‘education’ here:
Similar values education is taking place in the United States, with a K-12 core curriculum designed to make-over students via internalized learning. A blog called ‘Serf’s Invisible Collar,’ run by Attorney Robin Eubanks, examines K-12 aims and programs and the policies and statements that are its basis. ‘I figure things out.’ says Robin. ‘I started off in Big Law doing corporate work and then helped start a legal department for a small healthcare company that grew to be a New York stock-exchange traded company. Healthcare turned into an excellent background for my current work in education as government regulation and special privileges drive the everyday dynamics of what raises money and creates costs. A background in Law is also excellent preparation for determining precisely what the terms commonly used actually mean especially in an industry that is consciously using language to hide the actual intended goals.’
In several posts from September to December 2016, Robin Eubanks analyses the factual stories and false narratives behind K-12 policy formulation and practices in US schools over recent decades.
Exemplifying Gramsci’s ‘long march through the institutions, centres of education policy like Princeton and Harvard promote a behavioral science approach to education to align motivations of students with socio-political goals and involving actual cognitive changes in students at an internalized level… a cognitive make-over that Robin Eubanks calls ‘mind arson.’
Robin Eubanks identifies obfuscation of language in the common-core’s reference to ‘higher order thinking skills,’ a euphemism for what the new federal legislation ‘Every Student Succeeds Act ‘requires every school in every state to assess, those ‘values and concepts government wishes students to internalize.’ And by this regulatory Act, another false narrative is exposed, the myth of school choice in education. Behind phrases like school choice, by whatever private system or via home schooling, is the concealed monopoly of regulated outcomes-based education, designed to achieve desired transformational learning.
Well, dear reader, if you’ve managed yr way through this labyrinth of those philosopher-king, visionary-types’ attempts to control what the rest of us think, say and do, I hope you might agree with me that while a little ‘trust’ in the day-to-day is required, don’t fergit to ‘verify.’