INTELLECTUAL STUPIDITY vs. THE HUMAN ONE
Armando Ribas, mayo de 2014.
I am going to try again to understand the world we live in, which in my view is full of philosophical and historical misconceptions. As long as we do not understand the actual reasons why we reached this state of society, as it was explained by William Bernstein in his The Birth of Plenty, many countries will be unable to develop, and others will lose their wealth. Everyday I am more convinced of the fallacy implied in the so called Western Civilization. As Peter Drucker wisely said: “As diffussed and fallacious as the belief that the Enlightment created liberty in the XIX century, is the belief that the American Revolution was based on the same principles that the French Revolution. The pending question then is which was the cause which determined the progress, as well as the historical world backwardness.
I do think that there are three different worlds in our universal history. The first one is that one which overcame human stupidity by acknoledging its existence, by recognizing human nature: The United States. The world where, not being aware of human nature, reigns stupidity and its consequence is underdevelopment: Latinamerica, with the exception of historical Argentina. And the third one is that where it prevailed intelectual stupidity, and so developed totalitarianism, and put the world at the edge of the Apocalipsis in the XX century. And I would say that some of those ideas still prevail in the socialist pretention of economic equality.
But in order to know what I am talking about let me define stupidity in accordance with the Webster dictionary: “Lacking inteligence or reason; incapable of feeling or sensation” According to the Spanish dictionary: “Clumsiness to understand the things”. And in my view “it is not the lack in inteligence, but the difference between the inteligence that we have and the one we believe we have”. I insist then that the world that started progress was the one that recognized human nature as it is and not as it should be. The European history shows that for a long time, the Christian principles that they were supposed to represent were violated. Those principles are: Separation of the State and religion; human falibility; private responsability and the respect for private property and contract. And later it came what I have called the obscurantism of reason, which is the intelectual stupidity, which created totalitarianism, to substitute the divine right of monarchs.
Well in this process I will allow myself to give a step backward in the history of the Enlightment, starting with the history of philosophy in Hellas, where we find Plato, who I do think gave the first step in the process of totalitarianism. So he said: “The dominant class has the virtue and the right to weapons. It should not participate in economic activities, it has the right to censure, and the country should be autarchical, because if not, the government would be dependent on the traders, or would be traders themselves”.
What I have called intectual stupidity, which started in Hellas continued with the Enlightment starting with Jean Jack Rousseau, who following Plato said in his “Social Contract”: “Just as nature gives each man absolute power over the parts of his body, the social pact gives the body politic absolute power over his members, and it is this same power which under the direction of the general will, bears the name of sovereignty”. Then, he explained what the general will as the expression of the common good was and hence, it was necessary to create a new man, and the individual will be part of the society. In his “Discourse of Inequality” he concluded that private property was the cause of inequality. Hence, he determined that: “The fruits of the earth pertains to everybody, and the earth to nobody”. Then, in searching for the new man it arose the French Revolution, and Robespierre with the Jacobins tried to put it into practice, what cost him his own head.
Some years later came the sublime figure of Enmanuel Kant, who considered Rousseau as the Newton of moral sciences. I am going to refer to ethical and political exegesis, which following Rousseau became the basis of the rationalist morality that was the foundation of the totalitarianism. In the first place, Kant decided that reason is developed in the specie and not in the individual, which is the basis of historicism and collectivism. And in his Metaphysics of Morals he says: “ The sovereign of a state has only rights in relation to his subjects, and not coercive duties”. And he continues: “Indeed even the actual constitution cannot contain any article which might make it possible for some power within the State to resist or hold in check the supreme executive in cases where he violates the constitutional laws”.
Needless to say that the categorical imperatives implied the creation of a new man, and was the foundation of the rationalist morality. In that sense let’s take into account what Ayn Rand says in respect of Kant’morality: “What Kant propounded was full, total abject selflessness: He holds that an action is moral only if you performe it out of a sense of duty and receive no benefit from it of any kind”. Hence Kant considers that the pursuance of happiness is not moral. And this is a violation of the fundamental principle of liberty, as it was exposed by John Locke. Then Ayn Rand continues saying: “ The ultimate monument to Kant and to the whole altruist morality is Soviet Russia”. And last but not least Kant considers that commerce is not moral, because it is done for the sake of interest.
Coming back to Kant’s philosophy of history in his “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” he states: “The means that nature employs to bring about the development of innate capacities is that of antagonism within society” and then he continues: “ Man wishes concord, but nature knowing better what is good for its species wishes discord”.
The original trend of Kant’s thinking was undoubtly the predominant foundation of the political theories of Wilhelm Hegel. It was primarily expressed in the historicism, converted into what I have denominated logo-teism. So, following Kant thought respecting reason in history Hegel stated that: “The State is the devine idea as it exists on earth”. That is the confusion between reason and deity. And consequently, he comes to the conclusion that “The individual has objectivity, truth and ethics only as member of the State”. Then, he followed with the absolutism of political power, represented by the State and consequently the virtue of war against the concupiscense of commerce. Hence, he ethically disqualified private interests, what means the ignorance of the right to the pursuance of happiness and cosnsequently individual rights.
Undoubtly, Hegel philosophy was determinant of the assumed ethics of absolute political power in the name of the State. It is obvious then, that according to that philosophy, it is eliminated the right to liberty. And following Kant, he also determines the inmorality of commerce, and so he says:”If the State is confused with civil society and its determination is placed in the securirity and protection of property and personal liberty, and individual interests are made the end in which they are unified, in that case to be member of the State falls into the individual caprice”. We should already know that when private interests are considered contrary to general interests, the actual result is the recognition of the private interests of the governors who form the State.
Following with the logo-teism as the determinant of the historicism, Hegel concludes also, that war is the ethical moment of the States. And in that respect he says:”The ethical health of the people is kept in equilibrium facing the strengthening of the finite determinations as the movement of the wind preserves the sea from the putrefaction without which it would be reduced by a durable and perpetual quietness”.Then according to this view it arises the need for war between States. Hence, according to the Kantian and Hegelian ethics and political philosophy came Hitler and the national socialism (nazism) which determined the hollocaust and the Second World War.
Then, came Karl Marx who, in the first place transformed the war among the States, into the war of classes. In the Communist Manifesto he recognizes that “ The bourgeoisie during his rule of scarse one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all the preceding generations together”. Not withstanding that he may have been the first one in recognizing that historical fact, he had ethically disqualified them saying: “It has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self interest, than callous cash payment”.Then he discribes the system and said: “A society that has conjured such gigantic means of production and of exchange , is like a sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the power of the nether world whom he has called by his spell”. I dare say that the one who never understood the reason of the world that had been created, was him, and so he created the illusion of the nirvana of the world of “From anyone according to his abilities, to anyone according to his needs” through the proletarian dictatorship, and the ellimination of private property. History shows that from that illusion it came the utopia, that as Karl Popper foresaw produced the violence of the communist totalitarianism and the Gulags. Then, it came Lenin and Stalin, and that violence came to Cuba through Fidel Castro, and developed the subversion in Latinamerica.
The fall of the Berlin Wall showed the failure of the communist system, but already in 1899 Eduard Bernstein in his preconditions of Socialism, predicted that it was possible to reach socialism democratically. Unfortunatelly, he was right, because as it has been perceived from Aristoteles demagoguery would prevail. So he said: “In our time, there is an unconditional guarantee that the majority in a democratic will make no law that does lasting injury to personal freedom....Since there can be no question of a universal, instantaneous, and violent expropiation but only of a piecemeal settlement by means of organization and legislation, it would certainly not interrup the development of democracfy”. That is the European Social Democracy and the Wellfare State. The resut is the European crisis. And in Latinamerica that proposition is the prevalent populism now represented by the Socialism of the XXI Century. And I do believe that when government expenditures reach close to 50% of GDP or even higher, that actually means a violation of private property.
We may see how the intellectual “brilliance” decided that sad historical course, which is somehow affecting even the United States, as Mr Obama is forgetting and ignoring the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. And that intellectual harm of the intellectuals is politically prevailing in the pretention of economic equality, and the confusion of ignoring, as it was ignored by Marx that the capitalist system is not economic but ethical and political. The economy is the result of the Rule of Law, where the majorities do not have the right to violate the rights of the minorities. That is the system that acknowledged the human nature as it was orginally stated by John Locke and Davis Hume explained as: “It is impossible toto change or correct any thing material in our nature, the utmost we can do is to change the circunstanjces, and render the the observance of the laws of justice our nearest interest”.
As Thomas Sowell said “The obvious failures of socialism can be ignored only by the intelectuals” So now Marx is back in the new book of Thomas Piketty: “Capital in the Twenty First Century”, where the author sosteins that capitalism generates economic disequality, because the rate of return of capital is higher than the rate of growth of the GDP. It seems apparent that the book which was already translated into English is being very successful. It ignores that if there are no profits, there is no investment, and if there is no investment there is no growth. But obviously the cry for the poors is the way to political power because as Aristotles said, “Be careful because the poors will always be more than the rich”. Hence we may see that the demagoguery is endorsed by the intelectual stupidity, which is the rationalization of compassion, which we may call political romanticism. But as Hannah Arendt said: “When individual rights are violated in the name of compassion, liberty and justice disappear”.