Taking up a theme from Prague where the big hitters of Catallaxy have been cavorting on the world scene, not to mention the table tops of the discos and the wine bars, What is to be done? as Lenin said before he got to work in Russia.
Who poisoned the wells of thought so the ideas of socialism, big government and nanny statism have become the default option? How come they are the orthodoxy that has to be constantly challenged rather than a collection of theories like Ptolemy’s astronomy and Freudian psychoanalysis that are recognised as ideas that were important in their time but are now part of the history of false trails?
As you would expect, the rot starts at the top, like Australian journalism.
Actually I was going to do a post on Aggressive Hedging which is a topic on the garden show at the moment but I realised that the Cat readership, coming back from church or the other devotional practices that we follow on Sunday morning to keep our minds pure and focussed on the higher things in life would not want to be distracted by trivial issues. In fact the matter became less trivial in Britain where the courts became clogged with cases of neighbours suing each other for damage and other kinds of disadvantage resulting from some particularly nasty trees that had become popular for hedges. Eventually when a murder and a suicide occurred the Government moved to legislate to control nasty hedges, as the NSW Government did for the same purpose a few years ago.
Fortunately that digression on tree planting has brought us back to the central issue. Trees have become sacred, and the natural order has been reversed, the natural order being a situation where you can eliminate or trim any tree on your property that you don’t want. Just to avoid the issue of native vegetation in the country I am talking about closely settled places. The building codes have over-regulated to the extent that you can hardly drive a stake into the ground without the possibility of the local authority taking exception, but if you want to take down any tree that you or a previous occupant have planted, then you need permission from the local green snoops to do it. It can be argued the Green councillors in rural Victoria have blood on their hands where they refused to allow people to trim trees that were fire hazzards to their properties. Tree worship gone mad.
Getting back to the wells of thought, a finger of suspicion points at the philosophers. Philosophy was always supposed to be the queen of the sciences, everything started with philosophy, which developed into science (natural philosophy) and in another direction into moral philosophy (economics and political science). There are two aspects to this (1) what do we find in the Great Philosophers, above all in Plato, given that the history of western philosophy has been described as footnotes to Plato (and Aristotle)? And (2) what do you learn if you do Philosophy at uni or go into your local public library and read the Philosophy books (which are likely to be filed adjacent to Religion, so be careful).
This post will soon be too long for busy Cats who have to finish the chores in time for the Bolt Report, so I will finish with the comment that in the works of Plato we find some very nasty mines or booby traps for classical liberals. Like hatred of democracy and distrust of the common people “they fill their bellies like the beasts”, we find the leader principle elevated to the first order of political business (who shall rule?), we find a mode of thought that focusses too much on the “essential meaning of terms” instead of problem-solving and we find the principle of collectivist justice which is the driver of socialism and the nanny state. The antidote is to read and promulgate the ideas of the best liberal critics of those ideas, Lord Acton, J S Mill, Jacques Barzun, Ludwig von Mises, Hayek, Isiah Berlin, R. G Collingwood, Michael Oakeshott, Karl Popper. But how many academics do you know who even have copies of their books on their shelves? Or know what they look like. Thank god for Hayek.