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More PC contradictions

Bruce Charlton notes one oddity of PC, its denial of culture as well as genes as a serious influence on human behavior. Everybody’s inevitably the same as everybody else, as a little effort would make clear. Or such is the dogma.

The dogma, of course, is batty, and people insist on it only because it makes problems go away. But why do our rulers take wishful thinking to such an extreme? It might be nice if we didn’t have to deal with differences, but life isn’t like that.

My own theory is that—oddly enough—it’s due to scientific materialism. There aren’t any essences and there isn’t any natural order. There are just objects in space with properties that can be determined and manipulated to make them do what “we” (meaning the ruling class) want them to do.

For that reason no limits can be assigned to the progress of technology, whether applied to human behavior or anything else. Genes don’t matter, and culture can’t be allowed to matter either. Anything can be turned into anything. To assign limits on the possibility of Change would mean the end of all hope for a better less oppressive world. What kind of person would want that?

A more detailed version of the theory is as follows:

  • What exists is atoms and the void, plus human desires and purposes.
  • Desires and purposes are equally desires and purposes, so they all have equal validity and they’re all we have to go by.
  • The rational purpose of morality and social life, therefore, is turning the world into a sort of big machine to produce maximum equal satisfaction of whatever people want.
  • In order to make the machine work you’ve got to tell people what to do while convincing them that it’s all in their individual best interest to comply. If it weren’t, they’d have no reason to go along, since individual desire is the rational basis of individual action.
  • So everybody has to believe that the managerial liberal state can be counted on to act in his own personal best interests.
  • One consequence is that people have to be pretty much identical at bottom. Otherwise there would be fundamental conflicts of interest due to different fundamental goals, or other differences that make impossible an efficient machine that treats everyone favorably.
  • Such conflicts could be resolved only by the mere domination of some by others: desires are ultimate so conflicts of desires are also ultimate and irreconcilable.
  • It follows that the seeming differences can’t possibly be real. To say they’re real would point to a social order based on the mere domination of some by others. Only a Nazi would want that.
  • One might add that academics, lawyers, bureaucrats, etc. find the image of a social order run as a big machine rather appealing. They have all the power, nobody else has any say at all, and everybody’s required to say it’s wonderful and scoffers are monsters who must be shut up. What’s not to like?

To fill out the picture further, bureaucracy and democracy have to be thrown in. Bureaucracy is a consequence of the factors just listed. It’s an attempt to turn thought and action into a comprehensive industrial process based on objective publicly-verifiable observations and reasoning. So it’s a natural expression of scientific materialism, part of the process of turning the social world into a big machine.

Democracy is closely related, although there are special factors involved:

  • Its role in elite thought has declined in recent decades with the development of social management and human rights law, and with the disappearance of explicitly non-democratic (fascist, aristocratic or monarchical) principles.
  • The 60s, when the Left decided the working class was reactionary, was a turning point. When I was in law school in the late 70s a common explanation of why courts were justified in making up constitutional rights to trump democratic decisionmaking was that “we don’t like it when the government does X.” That explanation passed without comment.
  • Majority rule nonetheless continues to serve several functions, some of them substantive. Voting by the public determines the relative weight of preferences on basically secondary points where experts (like planners and human rights scholars) can’t determine a definite answer at the present state of knowledge. Voting on e.g. bureaucratic committees is part of determining the expert consensus, so it’s the way rule by scientific knowledge becomes actual.
  • More importantly, though, “democracy” stands for the principle that “what people want” is the highest standard, which is a consequences of the “atoms, the void, and subjective desire” theory of reality. So voting is part of persuading the people that the liberal managerial state exists simply to further their desires, so what it does is what they want it to do. It’s needed for legitimacy.
  • That’s why voting still sometimes relates to basic points. People have to believe those points are what they themselves have decided. When the people give the wrong answer—EU expansion provides some obvious examples—it doesn’t change what’s intended. It just shows where extra work has to be done to secure consent so popular legitimacy can be maintained.

Today everyone who counts believes we’ve got the perfect system. No other system is imaginable given how people today understand the world. Even our means of informing ourselves points toward the managerial liberal order. Electronic communications media fragment all experience and dissolve all settled connections, so that every fragment is equal to every other fragment. We reassemble our world based on taste and desire with full recognition of the arbitrariness and interchangeability of all contexts and connections. In other words, we look at the world from the standpoint of liberal technocracy, which treats it as a human construction for human purposes.

The fact the system is perfect and rationally unavoidable doesn’t mean people don’t hate it. All this “no essences and no natural order” stuff is absolutely alienating even though it seems absolutely demanded by rationality. So people today are stuck hating what they cannot reject, and they mostly just want to bail out or pursue their hobbies or whatever.

Can this go on?