It seems to me, we live in a world of competing ideas, America is an idea, justice is an idea, socialism is an idea, Islamism is an idea, gender fluidity is an idea, limited government is an idea, etc… these ideas compete for the minds of people. As in any competition it is not the best who wins but the most zealous. If the adherents of an idea are willing to do whatever it takes to forward their idea, then that idea will become widespread, if the adherents of an idea are wishy washy, that idea will loose ground. The battleground for these competing ideas is the media, schools, universities, cafes, bars and any other forum in which people communicate. The goal line is the zeitgeist. The ideas that permeate the zeitgeist best become widespread and either visit evil or good on humanity. It is important to note, the goodness or badness of an idea has little or no merit in the strength or weakness of that idea, the strength of an idea comes from the intensity of belief of that idea, in the minds of those who take it to be truth. If we seek goodness, then we must grab those ideas that are good and let go of those that are bad, in this we have history and common sense as guides, yet the power of many bad ideas is such that they cannot be easily let go of. As self interested rational maximizers however, it is our ability to reason that has allowed any good ideas at all to survive, against the magnetic pull of evil.
Bad ideas, or ideas that result in human suffering, have an innate pull. They always promise power wealth and prestige for those who hold fast to them. Think about the pull of socialism for a moment. It promises wealth to everyone, it claims to be a form of fairness and it pretends to be about love, (applying to emotion) but most of all, socialism gives unlimited power to those who will run the socialist state, (applying to self interest). To anyone who favors socialism, it is that unlimited power that is the magnet that provides the attraction. Every socialist wants to be the one who runs the socialist state. That is why whenever the dismal history of socialism and Marxism is brought up, the socialist will claim true socialism has never been tried, else that the “wrong” people were in charge then, the obvious connotation is that if they were in charge things would have gone much differently. Bad ideas have an innate pull to people who lust after power.
When someone is so certain of the idea they espouse they are willing to do violence to force others to believe and to stop others from abandoning that idea. The NAZI party was all too willing to visit evil on anyone who didn’t hold their ideas. They waged war against every other political faction in Germany at the time until all the rest were subjugated. Then the NAZIS went on to wage a bloody war of conquest across Europe and north Africa to further their idea of national socialism. The NAZIS are not alone in their willingness to do violence to forward their idea. The willingness to do violence in the name of an idea is a strong indication that idea is bad. If an idea requires the evil of violence to spread, that idea is evil. Evil ideas must be withstood at all costs else evil will become widespread.
Good ideas however don’t promise power, wealth or prestige for a faction, person or group, they offers good to everyone, and in that way good ideas have less power over the minds of those who take them to be truth. Limited government offers no incentive to someone who seek power over others, and so those who believe in limited government don’t have personal gain in believing in limited government, so limited government is an idea that while good, has little pull on the minds of people. The idea of America, the land of opportunity and of the free, has a strong pull to those who live in poverty or oppression, but once a person gets to America, other ideas become more attractive. Preferential treatment by political force is much easier than hard work, and so it often replaces the idea of “America,” once an immigrant comes here. The result is that people move to a place for freedom and opportunity then try mightily to turn it into a place of no opportunity and oppression.
It is in talking that we promote or denigrate ideas. Any form of communication is how ideas are spread and how they are destroyed. Hitler wrote Mien Kampf, Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, the Founding Fathers wrote the Federalist papers and the anti Federalist papers, nightly news programs promote progressivism, and it is in our cafes, bars, and internet forums, that ideas are passed from person to person. The battleground for the spread of ideas is anyplace people congregate and talk.
When we watch people debating an idea we usually gravitate to the idea whose adherents are the most zealous. Often a zealous arguer is more convincing than one who uses logic and reason, because she uses emotion, and emotion is a stronger motivator of men than reason, especially those who claim to be “reasonable.” Logic, reason, emotion and self interest, are some of the weapons people use to promote their ideas. Emotion is like a nuclear weapon since it has such power, self interest is like strategic bombing and logic is like a sword, cutting absurdity from truth. Only where the battleground is intolerant of emotion can the nuclear weapon be banned. This is why bad ideas that are based on self interest and emotion are so powerful and have such sway over the minds of people.
We live in a world of ideas, whether evil or good, those ideas determine the quality of life of all humanity. It has been said, the human mind is like a rider on an elephant, the rider is reason and it is the elephant that does the work. Clearly, the rider has only limited control of the elephant, and must ride where the elephant goes, that is why emotion is such a good motivator. We are all self interested, seeking our own good over the good of others, applying to our immediate self interest then is another powerful way to promote an idea, bad ideas are good at this tactic while good ideas are bad at it. It is this siren call of evil ideas, that is why human history has so few examples of good ideas becoming widespread, and why evil ideas have been the norm. Good ideas apply to logic and reason while bad ideas apply to emotion and self interest. Good ideas recoil from violence while evil ideas embrace it. In the end however, the good ideas… limited government, America, and justice for all, actually are in our long term self interest, if not in our immediate self interest. Let us pray then, that humanity will use logic and reason to decide what ideas we will follow, abandoning emotion and lust, thus improving the lot of mankind.