I'm continuing my reporting on the next installment from Conservative Estimate, the recently founded website that is devoted to demolishing Conservatism. Today, Alfred George finishes his attack on the conservative Myth of Scarcity, showing that fear of other people is a deeply negative emotion that leads to profound disfunction in society.
If you would be so kind as to follow me across the symmetrical orange swirl . . .
Yesterday, Alfred George completed his attack on the fear of shortages, showing that there is no need to fear scarcity of energy or money. (Earlier, he showed that there is no need to fear scarcity of food, water, or land either.)
Today, he uncovers the dark view of human nature that underlies the second part of the Myth of Scarcity, the part that tells us we need to fear that our fellow humans will revert to savagery in the face of scarcity. He shows that fearing others is not necessary. Rather, it is a choice that we can either indulge or reject.
Why do we not need to fear a reversion to savagery? Because
[t]he Hobbesian story that man is a brute unless controlled by force is no longer applicable to modern society. Of course, there is a certain plausibility to this story. . . . But by and large the world has moved on, and such people are no longer the representatives of most human beings.And why is brutish selfishness not inherent in human nature? Because
This is because there is another story that can compete with Hobbes’s story. Americans, for instance, live in a political system founded on the insights of John Locke, among others. Locke, unlike Hobbes, did not view human beings as fundamentally amoral near-animals who need to be constrained by fear of punishment. . . . [He thought that] we are creatures who can resist our fearful instincts, side with our better angels, and use our minds to overcome adversity. . . .
If you accept Hobbes’s story, your opinion of your fellow creatures has to be overwhelmingly negative, and you learn to act toward them suspiciously. If you accept Locke’s story, your opinion of your fellow creatures may be much more charitable, even overwhelmingly positive if you like, and you can learn to act toward them with forbearance and cooperativeness.
[h]istory shows us plenty of examples in which people instead reach down into themselves and become better than usual under conditions of stress. The way in which they do this is to use their intelligence to reinforce their positive impulses when dealing with difficulties, rather than responding impulsively to their fears. . . .So George concludes that the entire Myth of Scarcity is spectacularly wrong: not only is there no need to fear shortages, but there is no need to fear what other people will do in the face of shortages.
It is always our choice whether to behave one way or the other. It is never an automatic response, and so it does not show anything determinate one way or the other about our human nature. We always have the freedom to choose whether to act like beasts or like angels.
The conclusion of all these reflections should be clear. The Myth of Scarcity is based on faulty evidence, poor thinking, instinctive fears, and pessimistic assumptions about our fellow human beings.You can read today's whole post here.
We have the necessary external goods and the necessary internal goodness to make the world as good as it can be. We have only to choose to do it.
Tomorrow, Mr. George will begin to demolish a new conservative Myth. The Myth of Scarcity leads to an even more sinister Myth, a belief that makes people behave badly in society, and motivates wide-spread antisocial sentiment in the hearts and minds of Conservatives. This is the Myth of Self-interest.
I'll be reporting back each day as a new installment appears.