Apologetical Weapons: the Gedanken Policy Test

Social engineering consists of two phases:

  1. What could possibly go wrong?
  2. How were we supposed to know?  

 – Mike Flynn

For every case in which question number two is asked, it is because question number one was never asked with sufficient rigor. For most of the social disasters that now afflict us, that rigor would have been trivially easy to achieve. A quick gedanken experiment – a thought experiment – would have sufficed to warn us off. For most policy proposals, such tests usually take about a minute.

Here’s the experimental set up. Take two experimental subjects. They are two nations, or two peoples, that are exactly similar in every way – same population, same genetic inheritance, same natural resources, same climate, same customs and traditions, same system of political economy, same religion, same technical and industrial capacities, same wealth, same everything. Assume no natural disasters or benisons that afflict or benefit either group differently. Both are faced with exactly the same set of environmental factors.

Having taken this step, you have controlled for all the factors of social success and failure, other than the policy you are interested to test. So, now, you are ready to test your proposed policy. Apply it to one group, but not to the other. Which is more likely to prosper: the group that adopts the proposed policy, or the group that does not?

Notice that we are not asking which group will be nicer or more fair or more just. Justice, fairness and niceness are optional only for societies that have managed to prevail and survive in the competition with their neighbours. We are only asking which group will be wealthier, more powerful, larger and more capable; and which group will have greater morale, commitment, ingenuity, all the moral, emotional and intellectual factors of demographic success. So, it’s purely a question of natural selection; like asking which is likely to do better, as between a pig and a pig with opposable thumbs.

NB that this does *not* meant that the test is amoral (this should be our first clue that natural selection in general, however natural it may be, is not amoral – ergo, not strictly ateleological). Existence is the first moral good, the sine qua non, upon which all other goods supervene. Existence, then – sheer survival, as against all its competitors – is the de minimis moral goodness that a society must necessarily achieve, in order to achieve any other additional good.

Most of the policies proposed by the left fail this gedanken experiment instantly. Gay “marriage”? Children raised by strangers, versus their mothers? Irreligion? Cosmopolitanism? PC? Women in combat units? Subsidizing sloth? Insulating the vicious from the vicious consequences of their wickedness? Pfft! With everything else held equal, a society that did not indulge such fantasies would crush a society that did.

Many policies advocated by right liberals also fail pretty quickly: e.g., the universal franchise, popular Senatorial elections, laws against discrimination in the workplace, and so forth.

But it gets interesting when one begins to consider the proposals of various parties on the illiberal right. Selectively high tariffs to effect industrial policy, or flat tariffs across the board? Interest: ok or not? Establishment of religion, or not? Popular election or not? If so, then what are the criteria for electors? In respect to such questions, we may expect the gedanken experiment to get much, much tougher to perform – and meatier, more interesting, more informative.

Would that our predicament was such that we needed to make real decisions among such options, in order to determine the order of a basically sensible society! In the meantime, the gedanken policy test can be used to excise absurd proposals from your discourse with your interlocutors, quickly, cleanly, and decisively – and with no hard feelings. They’ll do it themselves, if you set up the experiment properly.

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20 thoughts on “Apologetical Weapons: the Gedanken Policy Test

  1. I am afraid your idea is not going to convince liberals since liberalism is not rational in the first place.

    It is psychological and spiritual phenomena as described by Dostoevsky in The Demons. A character says “Starting from perfect freedom, I conclude in perfect despotism’. Another anticipates the entire history of 20C by stating that nine tenths of the humans should be eliminated.

    You have no points in common with them, so argument is impossible. You say ‘measure wealth’. They will say ‘measure inequality’.

    You say “Existence is the first moral good” but they want right to suicide and the right to kill ‘life unworthy of life’.

    • Vishal, I know how you feel! But, I find I can’t agree that liberals are simply mad. Not all of them, anyway. I used to be a liberal. I abandoned it because of intellectual arguments, and in spite of the fact that there was a good risk I would lose my family in the process.

      The same is true for many on the right today. Orthospherean Daniel was once a liberal. Lawrence Auster was once a liberal.

      There is no doubt you are right that many of the liberals who will be passionate enough to engage with us in disputation are simply not open to new ideas. They are extremely intolerant! And, many of them are not thoughtful, precisely because they are passionate.

      But, these interlocutors are not the real target of our discourse. The real targets are the quiet ones who sit on the sidelines and witness the argument. Their passions are not as aroused, and they tend to be a more thoughtful population. I know from personal correspondence that my exchanges with passionate liberals have converted some observers.

      Because our appeal is primarily, although not ostensibly, aimed at the quiet audience, it is therefore crucial that we maintain at all times a calm, cool, thoughtful, cheerful demeanor, and that when skewering our interlocutor becomes rhetorically needful, we run him through regretfully, and charitably – as if to put him out of his misery, blessing him the while. I mean that literally: “Bless you, X, but carried to its logical conclusion, your policy would result in the extermination of all people such as yourself.”

  2. I would tend to go with VM on this one.

    Indeed, rather than honing debating skills, my sense is that Reactionary Christians need to learn to *avoid* debate in the current climate. Learn to remain silent – which can be, of course, itself a form of communication.

    There is quite a lot of entrapment of reactionaries and Christians going on these days – rather on the lines of Mao’s ‘let a thousand flowers’ bloom – which (you may recall) was a tactic for getting opponents to speak-out, unmask and condemn themselves.

    For example, a British doctor was caught in this fashion, according to the media, and stood on trial by the professional organization.

    This applies even to Christian witness – apparent invitations to evangelise may not be all they seem, since Christian evangelism is a hate crime.

    On the other hand, although I wouldn’t try to convert people – unless I know and trust them and/or they ask and ask, I wear a Celtic-style cross which is not *necessarily* Christian, as a quiet signal.

    Wearing a Christian cross if your are indeed a Christian is, of course, itself regarded as aggressive and offensive act by many; and – as of the past few weeks – is not a right in the UK – but that is where I take a stand.

    • I’ve considered for awhile getting a small cross tattooed onto my right wrist, much like the Coptic Christians of Egypt. At least, if persecution increases to UK levels.

      For the Copts, the permanent cross is a sign for them that they will *never* convert or renounce Christ. A silent symbol of resistance. In some situations, the sight of that tattoo is enough to bring about death at the hands of Muslims.

    • For example, a British doctor was caught in this fashion, according to the media, and stood on trial by the professional organization.

      Stood on trial for what?

      This applies even to Christian witness – apparent invitations to evangelise may not be all they seem, since Christian evangelism is a hate crime.

      Holey moley, you guys are a little out to lunch on this (although maybe it really is that bad in Britain, but I doubt it). I have open conversations about faith all the time, even – gasp! – about the fact that I think some sexual behaviour is immoral.

      On the other hand, although I wouldn’t try to convert people

      I would, and do, in the sense that I share my faith and hope they see Christ through that.

  3. Your Gedanken Policy Test is what appears to have been employed by virtually every wise leader throughout history; in one form or another. The main goal of a nation had always been survival, those with the ability to do so tend to include justice into their policies, but justice came second to survival – being excluded should it have a negative impact.

    The Liberals do not seem to fully understand survival/natural selection, although they are the first to attack us for allegedly not believing it. They are utopians/idealists, more than willing to tear down civilization than allow for any ‘injustice’ or ‘unfairness’ to exist. Mere survival takes a back seat to liberty, equality, and fraternity. We may argue with them using this test but one must understand; Liberals do not place survival above fairness.

    A rather strange thing occurred to me whilst reading this post. Once a civilization reaches high standards of living and civility, they often fall straight into Liberalism. This is not a new occurrence, I explained at my blog about Mazdak who was the leader of a proto-communist, social revolutionary movement in the highly civilized Sassanid Empire during the 5-6th century. The ideas put forth by him are shockingly similar to that of our Modernists/Leftists/Molochists.

    Ruskin,
    http://occidentaltraditionalist.blogspot.com/

  4. Vishal Mera and Bruce are right. My experience is that rational debate with these guys is impossible. They can deny the fact that the sky is blue if it’s against their ideology. They will use any kind of fallacy, denial, shaming language, emotional outburst. Anything but accepting reality.

    They won’t concede any point, no matter how obvious it is. It is not worth to discuss things with them.

  5. People 1 invites the Red Chinese in to exterminate them all and replace them with a more numerous and high-IQ Chinese population. After that, People 1 is wealthier, more powerful, more numerous and more capable of competing with success against societies like the one that People 1 used to constitute. Why is this not a perfect policy proposal?

    Imagine a fantasy state, let’s call it “Fiji”. The natives are likeable souls but not astute in business or especially industrious. The state will be wealthier etc. if it imports more and more people of another fantasy race, let’s call them “Indians”. And if it hands over more and more power to this faster-breeding and more astute race, till the natives lose their majority and power over their future. The resulting society, with a dwindling number of natives that are increasingly displaced and an irrelevant is weathier etc. than old “Fiji” was or likely would ever have become. Why is mass “Indian” importation not an ideal policy for native “Fiji” to get started on?

    My point is, there is no measure of success unless we first agree on who “we” are.

    If you think “we” are the oppressed of the world (your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free), then “we” can be more successful by flooding into the United States of America and joining up with our oppressed Brown and Black brothers and sisters to overthrow whitey and take what’s ours. And “we” can work with those of “us” who aren’t yet documented Americans to bring that about.

    If you think of the people who would be overthrown in that case as “us” then that idea isn’t as attractive.

    There is practically no agreement between the right and the left on who “we” are.

    There is little agreement between tendencies of the right on who “we” are, and less and less as traditionally White and Christian societies become more multi-racial, more multicultural and more incoherent.

    • True enough. But in asking our interlocutors to engage with us in a gedanken test, we must therefore ask them to abstract themselves from the particularities of history, so that they are able to see the two experimental subjects as tokens for real societies. Thus, it would help, for example, to suggest to your adversary that he picture the experiment as running in a computer simulation, a digital contest between populations. In effect, then, you are saying to your adversary, “stipulate two instances of any “we” you like, that are identical: innovate on one, but not the other, and see what happens.”

      Take your Fiji example. The way to run it would be to posit two Fijis, both identical, both subsisting in the memory registers of a computer. All the algorithms that generate the behavior of the two Fijis are identical. Now, test the policy of open borders. Which population of Fijians will do better, the one that opens its borders, or the one that does not? Run the experiment all the way out to the bitter end. Which of the two populations of Fijians is eventually exterminated by the Indians? There: you have your result. Open borders are a catastrophic idea.

  6. VM,

    Thank you for referring to Dostoevsky’s Demons/The Possessed/The Devils, which is another book, like Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, that should be in Orthospherical libraries and re-read often. (Also The Brothers Karamazov.)

    The “demons” (besy) of that novel are ideas that possess people, that eat people. We do not want to be devoured by right ideology any more than we want others to be devoured by left ideology.

    The “possessed” of our time may often be regarded as victims of the ideas that have possessed them. Without denying their personal responsibility, still we should remember that these people are our neighbors and we are to love them. Sometimes that love will mean confronting their ideas and exposing their falseness (Ephesians 5:7ff.).

    Because so many hard-won Christian protections are being dismantled in our time, we may expect also that literal demon activity will become more common as time passes.

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