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December 25, 2009

A Cargo Cult Christmas [moviegique]

(Hello, mellow forons—I normally do movies but I thought I'd take this rare opportunity to flog a hobby horse of mine.]

The great visionary Alan Kay once compared the dot-Com goldrush (while it was still going on) to a cargo cult. This was one of those big "a-ha" moments in this moron's life. I'd heard of cargo cults but had just thought of it as an amusing story. If you follow that Wikipedia link, you can see a sort of apologetic tone about how "an isolated society's first contact with the outside world...can be a shock".

But what the dot-Com mania showed was that there's nothing about the mentality that's exclusive to primitive societies. The fundamental issue is a lack of understanding of relationship between cause and effect.

Once my eyes were opened to this parallel, I began seeing cargo cults everywhere. Because they are everywhere. And we're probably all guilty of cause-effect confusion to some degree, in some areas of our lives.

You can probably see where I'm headed with this.

We have before us this Christmas the most astounding example of a cargo cult I can recall in my lifetime: We have a government that doesn't even understand their own flawed philosophy, mimicking the destructive actions (which had observably bad ends) without even grasping the flawed logic behind them.

For example, the current administration has reduced Keynesian theory (which Keynes himself didn't fully accept) to "throw money all over the place (especially to our friends) and good things will happen."

Same with health care: "Pass some laws—any laws—and health care will be 'solved'." The very passage of the laws themselves seems to have been backwards "Let's talk about how we've won and celebrate the passing of these laws, then we'll work on getting them passed. " (Consider the number of times Harry Reid proclaimed he had reached a consensus.)

Even the compromises emerged not from the idea of giving-and-taking on substance so that ultimately everyone could vote for something that was good enough, but by cajoling the "yeas" through any means necessary, no matter how bad a bill was created.

There's no grasp of cause-and-effect.

The frosting on this Christmas cookie being the philosophies that are being aped were never very successful either. FDR's "stimulus" may have been relatively benign, but the regulatory atmosphere—the atmosphere of wild experimentation, was demonstrably harmful. And even as real job creators today say they're reluctant to hire in such an unpredictable environment, it's not enough for the administration to spread money around, it can't resist demonstrating a willingness to stick its fingers everywhere.

At some point, one has to wonder if the actual cause-and-effect of freedom and stability leading to prosperity isn't very well understood by a lot of those working to undermine it.

At least that's what I'm wondering as I sit under my Christmas tree, singing carols, waiting for presents to appear.


[The director's cut of this post with extra bloviation and digression appears on my blog, the bitmaelstrom.]

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posted by xgenghisx at 02:44 AM

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