part 1 of 7
His book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, is essentially a rant outlining his hatred of forced public education. It’s compelling and resonates with many of my personal experiences, for example read Are Universities Destroying the Economy. Even if you disagree with the conspiracy element of his hypothesis (public schools were not institutions created with the intent to educate, but to condition people to become obedient consumers and workers) you must take his opinions seriously, because they have the ring of truth. Watch his 1991 documentary, Classrooms of the Heart.
The documentary is from the John Birch society. It’s a bit extreme on some fronts, but an interesting perspective.
This video looks to be a few decades old, I have no idea who this guy is.
The power of self-selection
The reason people enjoy moneyless events like Burning Man is likely because those who attend are those most likely to find meaning in its message. Obviously, people are attracted to things they like and pursue positive re-enforcement of ideas they already hold. It’s called the confirmation bias, and its the same reason actors uproot their lives for a chance at glory in Los Angeles, or high-tech entrepreneurs network in San Jose, or retirees gather in Florida. People with means are willing to re-locate (temporarily or permanently) to areas more suitable to the lifestyles they wish to live and values they hold dear. It’s usually counter-productive trying to convert an actor into an engineer, or convince a committed socialist to accept libertarian principles, or force a square peg through a round hole, let people discover and explore, let them be.
Continuing the discussion, how long do these social norms last? Even Dan, I’m sure, is aware there are limits to this phenomenon. People may help move a couch for free, but they won’t move 100 couches for free, no matter how loyal. He describes a pleasant experience at Burning Man, where money is prohibited and people exchange goods and services in a barter-like economy — all he demonstrated is that without money people still expect some form of compensation. While acknowledging he probably couldn’t live at Burning Man forever, he did leave with a new respect for moneyless societies; however, that in itself is an irrational conclusion. The admission that he couldn’t survive in that environment permanently is a damning indictment of its failure as an ideology in theory and practice.
Continuing the previous discussion, in another chapter Dan Ariely describes the distinction between “social norms” and “market norms”. When people are asked to perform a task without monetary compensation a certain part of the brain is stimulated in forming the response; however, if even a single penny is introduced the brain switches modes to stimulate an entirely different part of the brain. Not surprisingly, the end result is quite counter-intuitive.
I’m reading an interesting book called “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely that fascinates me on several levels. He describes many noble attempts to understand human irrationality, but unfortunately, continuously injects his own flawed commentary. I often take issue with his conclusions.
Today, a friend sent me an article that attempts to ridicule those opposed to excessive regulation. The blogger discusses the need to regulate food production in order to prevent companies from lying about the contents of their processed food and putting moldy tomatoes in ketchup. However, in the end he presents an interesting example of big business abusing government regulation as a weapon to establish an unnatural monopoly.