23 February 2011

Pandora's Box

In my previous post, I described what I thought was the best way to reverse the cultural decline, and I noted that the attempt to restore American culture may be for naught:

First, we may be dealing with a Pandora’s Box situation.  It may be that it is impossible to reverse the cultural decline.  I hope that this isn’t the case, but we must be prepared for this outcome.

The problem with anyone’s attempt to fix the culture, as it were, is that there is no way to account for all the variables that have led to problem.  Ex post analysis is insufficient for this task and the same is even truer for ex ante analysis.  What this means is that there is no way anyone, myself included, can devise a plan that will completely solve all the problems facing this country, for every one of us lacks perfect knowledge.

Thus, fixing the problem should be presented in terms of probability.  There is a greater chance of x if we do y.  This is certainly the case for my proposal, and for EW’s proposal.  They are worth a shot, but there is no guarantee of success.

However, there are some other considerations that must be made before committing to anyone’s proposal on fixing the culture.  First, what is the probability of success?  No one can know for sure, but relative estimates can be made based on how the weighting and relevance of the variables changed.  Anyone who thinks a totalitarian government is the solution has no knowledge of history, which means that any plan involving more government has a very low probability of success.

Second, what sort of things can go wrong?  In my plan, the biggest thing that can go wrong is the government.  Even though I specifically called for limiting government in very extreme ways, it is possible that the government will refuse to give up its power when the time comes.  Given the tendencies of the state, and the nature of politicians, this seems like a very likely scenario.

One can understand, then, why I favor a free market approach:  I believe the probabilities of success are very small, and the risk of totalitarianism, if my solution is attempted, is very high. To be sure, the free market approach won’t necessarily fix the culture, but it will stop making things worse, and it does not have a very high probability of lapsing into totalitarianism.


  1. The problem is not so much the organisation or arrangement of society as much it is the composition of it.

    Let me illustrate what I mean. If you could suddenly get the Bangladeshi people to adopt Swiss laws, Bangladesh would still be a corrupt shithole and it would in no way resemble Switzerland.

    While our laws are to a degree responsible for the decline in society, you must remember that that these laws are the product of that same society. In other words, these laws a reflection of that same society.

    Our society has lost its character and the people are corrupt. The salt has lost its saltiness.

  2. @Social Pathologist- well said. The reason why "fixing" the government is rather pointless is due to the simple fact that the issue is with people's hearts and minds. If you can change other people's hearts and minds, everything will take care of itself.