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In Defense of Clear Thinking

January 17, 2011
Butler Shaffer

How To Think Clearly – About the Criminal State

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. ~ Herbert Spencer


My academic life in college was largely spent studying what were then referred to as the “liberal arts.” History, geography, economics, philosophy, art, literature, music, psychology, and the genuine sciences, were among the various subject areas we considered essential to becoming mature, self-directed, learned individuals. We also studied one or more foreign languages, not simply to help us navigate our trips to other lands, but to provide us with the perspective that there are other people on the planet who think, live, and speak differently from us.

This approach to learning helped to provide us with the means of thinking clearly, rationally, and logically; to help us understand causal relationships in analyzing the interconnected and unpredictable complexities of our world; to distinguish fact from fantasy, and transcendent truths from fashionable opinion; all for the purpose of living as responsible individuals pursuing our respective self-interests with others.

I won’t dwell, here, on how most colleges have long since abandoned such purposes in favor of curricula that [1] focus on career skills, and/or [2] serve the ideological policies of groups with social/political agendas, whose members have largely taken over the so-called “social sciences.” One of the numerous adverse consequences of this transformation has been to produce many college graduates who are unable to bring the art of critical thinking to an analysis of events. An example is found in the incapacity of so many persons to identify causal connections between actions undertaken by political systems and the consequences thereof. When government officials intervene in economic decision-making [e.g., mandating minimum wage laws] that produces adverse consequences [e.g., increased unemployment], even seemingly well-educated men and women fail to see the relationship. Indeed, economic ignorance tends to feed upon itself, a fact addressed in Murray Rothbard’s comment that “[i]t is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

Another example of the disordered thinking produced by the failure to develop causal explanations of events began occurring right after the recent shootings in Tucson. How easily have people fallen for the statist lines that these killings were “caused” by private gun ownership, talk radio, the Internet, hostile rhetoric, or some mushy sense of a “failure to get along.” I am surprised that the statists have not tried to exploit the shootings as another symptom of global warming! The comments made by politicians, government officials, and media flaks, have all acknowledged the presence of an atmosphere of anger in America, but none have addressed the cause of such widespread resentment.

And now… the rest of the story. …..

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