Unexamined Assumptions

Even the best logic in the world can result in terrible outcomes if the basic premises or the assumptions behind those premises are incorrect or not factually accurate.

The biggest flaws behind “libertarian” ideals lie in certain underlying assumptions. The first is that we all have equal power. The second assumption is that those with power and ability earned it. The third assumption is that, even if we don’t have power, we have no right to band together to stop the abuse of power by others through government because it restricts the freedom of those with more power and/or ability. The fourth unspoken assumption is that life is unfair, but that all those without power and resources are personally responsible for their situation, and that it is entirely up to them to improve their situation. The fifth assumption is that society bears no or limited responsibility for providing opportunities for those with less power or ability.

But Libertarians aren’t the only ones with unexamined assumptions. Liberals have more than a few as well. There’s the assumption that more government funding will solve every problem. The assumption that more regulation is better, when it’s clear, just by examining California, that there’s a definite limit to what regulation can do, and that overregulation creates more problems than it solves. There’s also the assumption that government mandates can create economic processes. Or that you can change economics and government by forcing cultural mores on people, when all historical evidence suggests that economics drive culture, rather than the other way around.

Conservatives generally assume that a largely unregulated marketplace provides the best economic outcomes, even though history has consistently shown this is not so, but conservatives still tend to persist in making that assumption.

A huge percentage of Americans from all groups are making the assumption that a college education is an automatic passport to economic success because it has been in the past, but they ignore the facts that a diploma no longer necessarily equals an education and that we’re already creating more college graduates than there are jobs for them.

The states of the U.S. west and southwest made the assumption that the water flows of western rivers, especially the Colorado River, would remain as they were in the early years of the twentieth century, and planned on that basis – except geological and ecologic studies have shown that the water flows during that period were the highest in the last several thousand years. Now, western cities and states are facing drought and crisis because that assumption wasn’t questioned early enough or rigorously enough.

History is littered with assumptions that should have been examined… and weren’t, and we’re continuing to make that mistake.

5 thoughts on “Unexamined Assumptions”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    Who is in a better position than the person who is unhappy with their lot than that person themselves? That might not be true of they were caged or literally trapped, but that’s not the case, however unequal obstacles or advantages might be. For all that might claim otherwise, there is a steady trickle of stories of those who either came here with nothing or grew up here with almost nothing, but built themselves a good life in a law abiding manner.

    Society can provide public schools, but they cannot compel people to learn; it can provide reasonable laws, but until those laws are violated, cannot compel compliance. And public education seems to have become unwilling or incapable to uphold constructive values; even if it did, for best effect, those need to come from parents in the earliest years, even before public school.

    So no, not zero regulation, but err on the side of liberty, even if that offers no guarantees and may not provide the greatest good for the greatest number. And remind people that liberty and responsibility (for their own acts first, and voluntarily but recommended aid others as they would wish to be aided) cannot long be separated.

  2. Postagoras says:

    I very much appreciate your viewpoint, and I understand what you’re saying here, but this post verges on the dishonest.

    I don’t think you can talk about liberal and conservative assumptions without talking about how they’re used and manipulated by professional politicians.

    The Republican politicians don’t believe these assumptions, they merely use them to do nothing (except to feather the beds of the rich).

    At least the Democratic politicians are trying to do something. Would regulation be so extreme if the Republicans would work toward a legislative policy agenda?

    1. I beg to differ. People choose which beliefs to follow. Yes, politicians and theocrats do their best to manipulate those beliefs, but people have a choice about what to believe. They may not have a choice about their parents or the circumstances into which they’re born, but they can look at the world and decide their beliefs and how to conduct their life.

      1. Postagoras says:

        Agreed.
        A recurring motif on your books is just that, holding a population accountable for the actions of their leaders.
        But it usually comes at an apocalyptic moment- when your protagonist is faced with leaders that Must Be Stopped.
        Is your writing a way for you to “represent”, to demonstrate a way to make that personal choice?

  3. Tom says:

    Unexamined assumptions might be due to Reciprocal determinism. These can be manipulated by types of and content from various communications: political and other beliefs.

    Reciprocal determinism is the theory which states that a person’s behavior both influences and is influenced by personal factors and the social environment. The theory accepts the possibility that an individual’s behavior may be conditioned through the use of consequences (eg the US Senate composition and the results). At the same time it asserts that a person’s behavior (and personal factors, such as cognitive skills or attitudes) can impact the environment.

    It does seem that at this times the world is full of societies where individuals really do not examine their assumptions from rational or logical aspects. Blaming the environment for one’s inadequacies is the norm, but, on occasions, that may also be accurate.

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