Friday, August 10, 2007

Close-Minded Fanatics Win Over Theorists

Throughout history the close-minded have always ruled over the open-minded -- in large part because the close-minded can easily act. They have their minds made up and they know what the right policy is. Their assurance is reassuring to the masses, and the masses themselves are foolishly confident in their close-minded opinions.

Today I was reading about the French Revolution, an event which ended in a pivotal disaster and set back human progress immeasurably. The Girondists, which included high-minded intellectual theorists such as Marqis de Condorcet, who came up with the lamentably unknown Condorcet Method, and a host of other intellectuals such as Thomas Paine. Condorcet, like many other Girondists, were driven to death by suspicious circumstances (as is the case of Condorcet, who was found dead in his cell) or by outright execution by the ruling Montagnards and their leader Robespierre.

If the Girondists had kept power throughout the French Revolution, Napoleon would never have come to power. Instead we might have seen a prefential voting system in France, and a meritocratic, well-ruled government.

In the US we were more lucky in our beginning, but intellectuals haven't had real power in Washington since the Founding Fathers, although we've had a very small handful of genuinely smart Presidents (Teddy Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland).

No comments: