Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Lights Out

Posted by Jerry on January 4, 2008

The latest post on Gus Van Horn has so many sharp insights that I wanted to excerpt his entire post on my blog! It’s that good. But I won’t do that, of course, because I want you to go to his site and read it for yourself. His post begins by quoting Objectivist Burgess Laughlin’s “astute connection” of the different forms of totalitarianism. It’s brilliant:

There are many forms of totalitarianism, including: Communism, Socialism, National Socialism, Nationalism, Monarchism, Theocracy, Fascism, and Democracy.

By the latter I mean a dictatorship by the majority. Democracy is totalitarian in a special way, a way that distinguishes it from other forms: Democracy, at least superficially, allows vacuoles of freedom of choice while controlling the broad, context-setting conditions.

I see different species of Democracy. The one we are witnessing mostly now is what I would call Parentalism. All forms of dictatorship call for and require sacrifice of some individuals for the sake of others (the poor, the race, God, the fatherland, the proletariat, and so forth).

A distinguishing characteristic of Parentalist Democracy is that it also appeals to self-interest, in the same manner that a parent would say to a child: “This is for your own good.” We tax you in order to subsidize science that will benefit you in the future.

Countering this Parentalism is very difficult for a variety of reasons. One is that it does superficially appeal to supposed self-interest. After all, every family has to make rules to keep the family functional, doesn’t it? [bold added]

Launching off of this metaphor of paternalism as one form of democracy, Gus analyzes the recent success of the environmentalist campaign in the United States to ban the incandescent light bulb — or, as Paul Hsieh rightly said, “the long-time symbol of reason and thought.”

The modern Dark Ages may well begin in the country that gave the world its first light bulb.

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