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Can They Make Glasses for This? Myoptic Visions and Human Limitation

myopic-lasikMyopic visions of reality are a basic human trait. The mind is incapable of tracking enough information for a person to see everything, to know everything, to anticipate the effects of everything on other things. Thus, people tend to fixate on a few things and track those, to use those few things as a lens for discerning the nature of everything else. They can’t help it.

When my grandmother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, she struggled to keep track of the goings on in the house, the dusting, the vacuuming, the laundry, and a hundred other tasks that made for comfortable and sanitary living. She was an amazing cook her whole life, but when the disease set in, the preparation of a single meal had too many aspects to it to track. Even a simple shower had too many steps, and, so, she pulled back from any task that she could not get her head around. She came to measure her entire success in life by two things that she felt confident in accomplishing.

She sated her anxiety about the overly complex world around her by convincing herself that absolute control over a couple things would hold the rest of the world at bay. These were:

  1. Having a large supply of clean towels on hand
  2. Having an immaculate kitchen sink.

If she came across a towel, she took it and hid it in her room. Since there were 8 of us in the house at the time, this left the rest of us also having to hide towels, or, Lord forbid, required that we steal them back… tipping her sense of anxious free living out of kilter.

If she noticed a spot on the kitchen sink she buffed it out… all day… for hours at a time. If anyone used the sink to get a drink of water or to wash a dish, she went into a flurry of activity, setting her world to rights again.

If that sink was clean and she had plenty of towels everything in her world was okay, even if she’d spilled sugar all over the floor, left the unlit gas on the stove going, and forgotten to take her dog out to do his business for a week. (I’m not making fun; this was a horrible experience for everyone involved. A torture to watch such an intelligent and capable woman degenerate steadily over a decade until she simply forgot how to breath.)

This is a radical example to be sure, but it is not out of character for humans as a whole.

In the world of environmentalism, one will find reference to “a long tailpipe.” People imagine that electric cars are the solution to auto caused pollution, but these increase electricity use (some of which is coal created, some nuclear… other less than wonderful substances) and increases the amount of acid batteries that will need to be disposed of, promotes lithium mining which is devastating. In the end, electric and hybrid cars have a rather minimal impact on life long carbon output. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17xh_VRrnMU)

As a metaphor, “a long tail pipe” means that a person or group acts with what they deem to be environmental, social, political, or economic responsibility, feeling morally superior to others, priding themselves on their sensitivity to nature and community, while failing to discover or simply ignoring the far worse long-term consequences of their actions.

This usually goes along with SOLUTION thinking as opposed to TRADE-OFF thinking.

We are all subject to the limitations of our ability to anticipate all the consequences of our actions, but those who think in terms of trade-off tend to pay more attention to consequences and long-term costs because they are looking for them.

Those who think in terms of solutions tend to imagine themselves in such fairy tale hero and heroine roles as to leave them not only wholly unaware of long-term consequences, but wholly unconcerned with them.

Solution thinkers focus on the intentions of their decisions, while trade-off thinkers tend to anticipate the incentives that their choices create in society, and to be careful about measuring actual results. One must always ask, “When I do this, what will others do next? What will happen next in nature? and then? and then? and then? and then?” The devastating results of even the best intentioned actions are often shocking.

Green peace activists go into the woods on the opening day of hunting season, jangling bells, blowing horns, screaming and thrashing about so that the deer know people are in the woods, know that danger is about. The deer get spooked, run helter skelter though the woods rather than moving about with their typical woodland stealth. Woodland creatures are shot in record numbers.

We get rid of incandescent light bulbs because they use more electricity, but replace them with mercury laden florescent lights, which will, no matter what anyone hopes to prevent, end up in landfills, leaching down into our water supply.

Statistics suggest that the best lifesaving reality is general prosperity in society. Yet people imagine that is good for the general health of the nation if we have a constant increase of government interference in the market, heavier and heavier regulation of every sector of economics, increasing taxation, and forced healthcare initiatives that strain the finances of businesses, driving many into bankruptcy and preventing many more from emerging, causing increased unemployment, and a slowdown in general prosperity.

Do entitlement programs really help the poor?

That depends what one hopes to accomplish with the poor, doesn’t it?

If what one hopes to accomplish is an enslavement of the poor to public welfare, then entitlement programs are a smashing success. They stave off starvation and exposure while rewarding ignorance and indolence, and punishing industry and independence.

If, however, one hopes to help the poor escape poverty, then no, entitlement programs don’t help the poor. They remove the incentives to work harder and smarter by giving unearned monies and services that quickly become in the mind one’s right… one’s due. The step between getting money for nothing and working full time to get just a little bit more, or even a little bit less, is just too hard to make.

The myopic do-gooder often thrives on a sense of moral superiority to those who question the effectiveness of their activities, imagining that their pet projects are so important, and that their solutions so obvious that any challenge is moral failure on the part of the challenger. For example: If you question government intervention on behalf of the poor, then you don’t care about poor people.

Of course, one may care even more deeply for the poor than those supporting entitlement programs, causing them to demand actions against poverty that actually work, rather than being self-satisfied with good intentions.

Those who are ignorant of their own myopic nature, tend to bluster about with confidence in their own ability to solve their pet-problems, if only they are given a free hand to manipulate laws and culture as they please to achieve results. Principles get in the way of dealing with situations.

Those who are aware of their own myopic nature tend to trust society into the hands of even handed processes in which people are free to respond to incentives in working out their own issues over decades and centuries. Situations are too complex to confront without basic guiding principles… like the preservation of natural rights… life, liberty and property.

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