Finding solutions to the many serious challenges confronting our nation requires clear objective thinking, honest leadership and selfless cooperation.
But that is a tall order for today’s America embroiled in an ideological civil war in which each side edits information, invents facts and zealously embraces the faulty reasoning attendant with devotion to doctrine.
Throw in the corruption and venality that eventually infects any political system and the chances of effectively resolving problems and promoting the general welfare become even less likely.
Because reason is the first casualty of unquestioning belief we witness increasing stupidity from both sides of the ideological divide.
You can sell barrels of snake oil to true-believers — especially when life’s setbacks render them vulnerable.
President Donald Trump sold a barrel or two to beleaguered working-class Americans whose employment opportunities have increasingly diminished. He blames globalization and over-regulation for job losses. However, most job losses are attributable to automation and will never return regardless of trade barriers or deregulation.
Nevertheless, Trump will roll back environmental regulations ostensibly to preserve the jobs of coal industry workers, of which there are fewer than 180,000. Meanwhile, all 320 million Americans want and need clean air and water.
Risking the degradation of the common environment to placate a relatively small number of workers in an anachronistic industry is profoundly stupid. Anyone who lived in smoggy Los Angeles 40 years ago or in Rust Belt towns where the rivers never froze in winter and caught fire in summer knows the full cost of fossil fuels and inadequate regulation.
Adam Smith, who founded free-market economic theory, recognized that insufficient regulation exposes society to depredations and dangers, and, rather than promote competition, fosters monopolies and entrenched hoggery.
Republicans are champions of free-market capitalism, correctly noting that it benefits society through individual enterprise, creativity and productivity. The forces of greed, however, only love free-market capitalism until it threatens their particular financial interests.
When Thomas Edison began marketing the electric light bulb, John Rockefeller was not pleased. Rockefeller, who had essentially monopolized the oil business, sold kerosene for lamps and did anything he could to hinder the advance of electricity.
Today clean energy is advancing as the market preference over fossil fuels. The wind and solar energy industries already employ more people than does coal extraction in spite of these industries being actively thwarted by the fossil fuel interests, with assistance from their purchased allies in government.
If Trump wants to help workers left behind by the vagaries of free-market capitalism, he should focus on skills training, affordable higher education and universal health care. What are the chances that the conservative true-believers in Congress — a near wholly owned subsidiary of corporate interests — would support any of that?
The left side of the ideological divide is also far from free of stupidity. One glaring example of that is their position on illegal immigration. Liberals prefer the euphemism “undocumented” rather than “illegal” when discussing this issue. Would they use a euphemism like “surprise houseguests” to discuss burglars?
The notion that compliance with immigration laws is optional, and can be blatantly flouted by jurisdictions, i.e. “sanctuary cities,” is defended with a cascade of emotional sophistries that inundates logic — typically these are illegal immigrants just want a better life and to support their families. They are mostly hard-working, law-abiding folks doing jobs Americans won’t do. Deporting illegal immigrants is cruel because it breaks up families.
Let’s run the stupid-check app over each of these arguments.
There are at least 2 billion people on earth who want a better life. No nation can absorb them all. That is why we have a legal process to limit and screen immigrants.
Having children that you cannot adequately support is selfishly irresponsible?
Illegal immigrants break the law the instant they enter the United States, and they must continue breaking more laws to remain here. That is not law-abiding.
If there are labor shortages is it because wages are too low, or because Americans won’t do the work? If it is the latter, then there is a legal process to procure foreign workers. If it is the former, then the problem is greed.
Mandatory E-Verify would soon determine which it is and throttle illegal immigration. However, both Republicans and Democrats have selfish, indefensible motives not to support that.
Breaking up families is often a consequence of criminal behavior. Robbers and embezzlers don’t avoid prison because it breaks up their families. Cruel? Consider that unlike other law-breakers, deported illegal immigrants are free to take their families with them.
Right now the future of America, and maybe the world, is shrouded by the fog of ideological idiocy where partisan stupidity rather than reason rules. We live in a time when science, logic and learning are seen by many as less important than the certainty of unchallengeable beliefs and less desirable than the comfort of delusional doctrines.
As author Margaret Atwood observed. “Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge the results.”
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at email@example.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.