Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence

29 Mar

Napoleon is rumored to have uttered a phrase like our title. I prefer the comfort of imagining our elite to be malicious, out to destroy all that is good in civilization; it suggests at least the operation of some sort of intelligence. Of course, the problem with the elite is not lack of intelligence, but a sort of learned blindness. Like the adults in The Emperor’s New Clothes, they literally cannot see that the emperor is naked because their training directs them otherwise.

Novaseeker wrote an excellent comment on the source of the marriage/family/social collapse that discusses this blindness. He starts with a simple observation that is the source of the blindness: “The equalitarian worldview strongly suggests that men and women will respond the same way to the same economic incentives… A more accurate worldview understands that men and women have different priorities and will respond differently to various incentives.”

I don’t know the logical inversion of “well begun is half done,” but it applies in this case. Having given themselves this pernicious blindness, the elite now has to proceed down an erroneous path. Nova talks next about these people (my emphasis added):

There are always people who are naturally ambitious and driven personally. There are both men and women who are like this. Some of the women who are like this no doubt are not personally motivated by self-provisioning, but simply by ambition. And similarly the men are not personally motivated by sex access but simply by a personal drive for power, money, status and so on in and of themselves. These people have always existed, and they still exist today. However, these characteristics are not evenly distributed in the population, but are really only possessed by a small minority of the population. This is a primary reason why our social policies are currently dysfunctional (more below).

The relationship of this to the observed differences in marriage rates and durability as between the elite educated class of dual professional earners and the rest of everyone else is that the former have more people who are very ambitious. Perhaps not in ways that are completely selfish and narcissistic, but ambitious in a more broad way in terms of wanting the absolute best for everything they do, including having a family. These people are very selective and assortative in mate choice (our society has become relentlessly assortative in mate selection on the basis of education/career ‘merit’ in the past few decades) and choose how they do because they want stable families that perpetuate the economic advantage they have built for themselves. In short, they are about creating a new elite class.

The problem as this relates to social policy, or even social worldview, is that it gives rise to the idea that “people just need to be more like us, then everything would be okay”. In other words, everyone needs to have the same goals and ambition and control and future time orientation and intelligence and discipline and social network and so on as we do — and the fact that they don’t is what is holding them back, creating these problems, and so on — so that’s what we need to fix. The problem is that these differences between people aren’t really fixable. These character elements are not evenly distributed, nor will they ever be. A social system needs to be functional for the average, not just for the very above average. A system designed around the characteristics of the very above average — which is what our system is both economically and sexually — is a system that will create massive dysfunction for the average. And for the very above average — who dominate the media and the cultural institutions in general — to turn around and lament the fact that the average are not like the very much above average is frankly beyond stupidity and entering into the realm of the truly absurd.

But that is our cultural moment, unfortunately. Don’t expect people like Frum to change their minds. They’ve bought into the idea that everyone needs to just be like them, and it will all be alright. For all of their supposed empathy they don’t have a clue about what things look like in life for the bog standard average. They can’t be bothered.

Wotan famously gave up an eye to drink at the spring which gave him knowledge: this is a metaphor for learning. As surely as school and study teaches us more, it blinds us to other things. As we become more book-knowledgeable, we lose sight of the natural, of God, and the reasons for God’s laws. The rich and powerful have less need for morality as they can buy their way out of trouble. The poor and less intelligent have no such luxury, and the destruction of Christian sexual morality has led them to utter devastation. That it was incompetence, rather than malice, that did this is hardly a matter of great interest to them.


Later in the same comment thread, Dalrock mentions my point, exactly:

(E)xceptions would be tiny groups like the Amish. While the family courts are of course perfectly happy to convert an Amish man’s marriage into a child support arrangement should his wife desire this, socially this would result in the baby mama being ostracised. Only if she is willing to leave the Amish community would she be willing to do this. So in some very minor exceptions there exists a legal structure of child support but a social structure of marriage.


Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence

  1. Will S.

    March 29, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    So, we should imitate the Amish, then, and as far as possible, live our Christian lives free of the State? I like it! Though I have to admit, I never expected the day would come when we’d look to the Anabaptists for inspiration. O tempora; o mores!

  2. Chris

    March 30, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Will, the Amish have fallen into the anabaptist rabbit hole. They are trying to make a perfect society: one that will not exist in this world.

    We have the harder balance. to be in the world but not of it. Just because people expect us to live SWPL, we don;t have to.

  3. Will S.

    March 30, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Agreed, Chris, yet maybe their chosen strategy of isolation, which does protect them from the ills of the wider world to some extent (however imperfectly), is worthy of reexamination and consideration, at this time…

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