A World Gone Mad
With markets in disarray and the financial future of the civilized world at stake, it is natural to ask for the reason – to ask why it is happening. Perhaps it would be better to inquire into the madness of it all. For madness seems to be a major factor in modern life. Nobody really understands the global economy, yet policies are made on the basis of assumed understandings. Is this not madness? Going beyond what each of us knows from direct personal experience, relying on a false kind of thinking, men can and do behave as lunatics. One only has to consider the assertions of the Flat Earth Society, or the U.S. Federal Reserve’s attempt to calm market jitters by suggesting another round of quantitative easing
There is a principle at work in the world, which may be stated as follows: Everyone believes something that someone else thinks is madness. When we observe a situation at firsthand we reason well, and generally know what we are talking about. When we judge things at a distance, without direct knowledge, we are liable to gross error. And when we cling to error, we prove ourselves to be madmen. The market is difficult to judge because the individual can directly know only a small part of it. Therefore confidence in the market, as well as panic, is based on shared impressions which constantly shift. These impressions may be based on the combined direct knowledge of thousands of people, or upon a contagious fear.
Ideas are often accepted even though direct experience suggests they are nonsense. Take for example the statement that “all men are created equal.” Direct experience suggests that men are not created equal: differences in strength, intellect, character and skill are notable between man and man. It is well known that the market system rewards economic actors unequally (which signifies, in egalitarian thinking, an argument against market capitalism). In the practical business of life, we are constantly evaluating others as they evaluate us. Some inequality is due to environmental factors, of course, but much is due to heredity (from birth). The ancient Greeks suggested that character is formed at birth. Modern genetic science seems ready to affirm the same proposition. Therefore, it is unlikely that men are literally created equal. Men are only “created equal” in a metaphysical sense, in terms of their natural rights (which would be the true sense of the intended meaning of the Declaration of Independence). Yet most people who talk about “equality” today do not believe in metaphysics or natural rights. Instead, they believe in redistributive justice, they believe in a progressive income tax and a welfare state. They believe that property rights are not absolute; that property should be taken from some people and given to others (by the state). This is their sense of “all men are created equal.”
In terms of practical life and direct experience, who actually treats everyone with equal regard? What lunatic would give away a large percentage of his income so that a stranger would have an equal income? Other than the criterion of need, how else could redistribution proceed? On what principle shall we rob from Peter to pay Paul? A few weeks ago I found a sign in the bushes: “NEED MONEY FOR FOOD. PLEASE HELP.” Next to the discarded sign I found an empty vodka bottle. Imagine if the sign had read: “NEED MONEY FOR VODKA. PLEASE HELP.” Would anyone have given the money?
Direct experience and direct knowledge is everything. But a government mechanism that takes money from one set of persons and gives to another cannot have any meaningful knowledge of the individuals in question, or what use they will put their money. Taking money from those who will invest wisely, and giving it to spendthrifts, is not sane policy. Here we find that a person far away, in Washington D.C., cannot be wise about the redistribution of wealth. More likely, he takes money away from those who will create more jobs.
It is the distance between man and reality that makes for insanity. And when we are talking about social reality, we are also discussing the distance between man and man. It was Carl Jung, in The Undiscovered Self, who wrote that in today’s democracies “the distance between man and man is much greater than is conducive to public welfare, let alone beneficial to our psychic needs.” The distance is also widening between the inner man and the outer man. The most toxic element of madness may be found in a kind of self-dishonesty and self-misrepresentation. The egalitarian idealism of today appears to worry about the welfare of mankind. Yet, says Jung, “respectability and apparent morality is there, cloaking in deceptive colors a very different inner world of darkness.”
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, “Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it. The existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism….” Being disconnected from ourselves, lacking closeness with others, and adopting erroneous theories about life, modern man is floundering, threatened with collective insanity. According to Frankl, the teaching that man is the puppet of biology and social conditioning leads to a “neurotic fatalism” which destroys all sense of responsibility. “Nothing has a more divisive and alienating effect upon society than this moral complacency and lack of responsibility,” wrote Jung. “The mass State has no intention of promoting mutual understanding and the relationship of man to man; it strives, rather, for atomization, for the psychic isolation of the individual.” In isolation from reality, we know less and less as we pretend to know more and more.
It is dehumanizing to place an equal sign between man and man. Everyone is not the same, and it is madness to say so.
About JR Nyquist
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