Principle #2 - People Are Flawed

People are amazing - and absolutely precious (See Principle #0).

But, we all have flaws. Here are the Big Two:

a. We make mistakes. Of all kinds. Even in our areas of expertise. No one knows everything. “Wow, this blog is a worthless pile of obvious!” Maybe - but, bear with me.

b. We are selfish. Some of us more than others, but we all have a tendency to put ourselves first - even when it comes at the expense of others. Tempering that drive inside us is what civilization is about.

Here’s the issue: we frequently act like one or both of these things is not true.

Ever run into someone who thinks they know everything? Most of us quickly discern not only that they don’t know what they are talking about, but that they likely have below average intelligence. If you ever listen to a true expert in a field, they tend to be very cautious about jumping to conclusions and very circumspect in their opinions. Ignorant people aren't. Know-it-alls who know-next-to-nothing are a problem. And there are lots of them running around. And voting.

But, they are the lesser problem. Most of us realize we don’t know everything about a given subject. So, we rely on people we believe to be experts. Makes sense. They are a valuable resource.

But, these people are just that: people. And they can make mistakes, and they can be wrong. We need to have some skepticism and we need to verify what they are telling us. Btw, that used to be an important part of good journalism - to help us with that verification. Currently, we are morphing subject-matter experts (especially those in science) into all-knowing, infallible priests. They are not. Even inside their specific area of research, but particularly when they step outside it.

There are people who think they know so much that they should be in charge of everything, including our lives. This is a real thing. Woodrow Wilson, the know-it-all who started the “Progressive Movement” was one of those people. Putting a few flawed people in charge of everything is a bad model. It is very analogous to putting all your life savings in one investment. Dumb. Catastrophically dumb.

Let’s shift to Principle 2b - people are selfish. In fact, some people are evil. That some find that controversial is itself frightening.

In addition to simple screwing up, some people intentionally use power they have to their advantage, frequently to the harm of others. And those who crave such things are drawn to government, because it gives them that power, often without much accountability.

Yes, we need government (primarily because people can be evil). But, remember that some flawed person has to fill each role in that government. That is precisely why government should be limited. And defused.

Unfortunately, that is not the trend. When Americans see something that is not perfect, we insist government should step in and fix it (see Principle #1). We treat government as some mystical, infallible force above human imperfection. But, it is not the All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Infallible Wizard of Oz - it is the frail old guy behind the curtain.

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