Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A new culture of idiots

A very long article that details the many ways in which serious thought can be derailed by bad behavior. It's all worth reading (although it should be taken with some tongue-in-cheek, as its choice of language makes clear). I just want to pull out the serious nuggets:
Bar Patron 1 seems moved not by facts but by a certain idea of a capitalist society, the idea that, in a free market, people get what they deserve.

Even on philosophical grounds, however, this view is exceedingly hard to defend. That is true according to none other than the archconservative twentieth-century apologist for capitalism, F. A. Hayek. He writes:
There is little a man can do to alter the fact that his special talents are very common or exceedingly rare. A good mind or a fine voice, a beautiful face or a skilful hand, a ready wit or an attractive personality are in a large measure as independent of a person’s efforts as the opportunities or the experiences he has had. In all these instances the value which a person’s capacities or services have for us and for which he is recompensed has little relation to anything that we can call moral merit or “deserts.”
The billionaire investor and oracular philosopher Warren Buffett echoes the point:
My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.
In other words, ideas of deserts just don’t justify the going rate of rewards. Bar Patron 1 cannot infer his IQ or his deservingness from his paycheck.
 How Fox News created a new culture of idiots
 As an ironic example of the decay of modern discourse, note how the piece consistently misspells "desserts." It's even wrong in the Hayek quote, which leads me to conclude that Slate has replaced its editors with interns and/or Microsoft Word.

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