Thursday, November 10, 2011

Idiocy worn on the sleeve.

For a long time, many people in the atheist community, myself included, have been denouncing many members of the Republican party, and especially of the extremist Tea Party nutjobs as being anti-intellectual.  It isn't exactly rare to hear them lie about science and particularly evolution.  It isn't rare to have them support the teaching of creationism in a science class.  It isn't rare for them to rewrite history to claim that Reagan brought income taxes to their lowest level ever or that the "Hoot-Smalley" tariff was created by liberals.  So often, they get on the backs of some of us for being too "elitist"...  as if that's a bad thing.  Is it necessarily wrong for people to want the best of the best that the country has to offer...  the most eminently competent individuals to be the ones in the seats of power?  If I'm to elect a person who is to represent the needs of the greater good, wouldn't it be a decent idea to actually have someone there who is better equipped than Joe Six-pack to do the job?  I don't particularly care if the guy is such an asshole that I'd not dare make small talk with him over beers.  Elitism isn't just not bad; it's in every way the correct attitude to have when it comes to picking your leader.  Oh wait... that's an elitist thing to say, isn't it?  Big fat hairy deal.  Roll over and die if you think the laws of the land need to be decided upon by someone with no greater brain-power than the average person.

So, there have been a number of  Republican debates already, all of which showcased various brands of insane stupidity...  and a few pro-stupidity.  Then Rick Perry dropped this gem.

Hmmm...  so he can't remember the third of 3 government departments which he is so adamant about eliminating.  Yeah, you can tell he put a lot of thought into it to have taken it so seriously that he puts it down as something so specifically in need of elimination...  that he can't remember what it is.

Well, Ron Paul next to him tried to steer it jokingly to the EPA, which I figure is one of his own personal pet peeves.  I have my own problems with the EPA as well, though not the idea of their very existence or the problems they're intended to solve so much as the particular mandates and implementations they've put forth to address those problems (e.g. smog standards, CAFE laws, protected species).  Ron Paul being Ron Paul probably wants them eliminated for those very reasons ...  well, the man is consistent if nothing else.

Apparently, the Department of Energy was his third one.  Okay, the elimination of commerce is part of the whole Tea Party line -- let's make sure every industry is completely deregulated and ensure oblivion.  Well, the Austrian argument is that the natural flow of capitalism is always cycles of booming success and tragic oblivion, and that's the way it should be.  Problem is that Austrian economics only works when you can guarantee that all the foundational ground rules are upheld to an absolute degree -- which is something that even the most "socialist" of liberals agree would be nice if there was even a slight chance of it ever being achievable...  especially not when commerce markets are left to their own devices.

All right...  Dept of Energy...  I don't know if it's just more of the same weird issues like Michele Bachmann's nonsensical rant about consumer choice in light bulbs or if its something to do with his "shrinking government" mantra or something related to his outright dismissal of man-made climate change which leads to the conclusion that any form of energy policy is a waste of time.  Perhaps if he's one of those dominionists, he thinks that accelerating the "end of the world" will bring forth Jesus' return that much sooner.  I don't know, but whatever it is, he seems to have a problem with energy policy coming from government in any sense.  Either he thinks it's government being too big, or he doesn't even believe it serves any useful function and/or is an outright waste of time and money.  Given that it's Rick Perry, I find it a little easier to believe the latter.

The interesting one, though...  is that he wants to entirely scrap the Dept of Education.  Really?  He thinks that education is not a valid point on which to spend money?  If it was Ron Paul, I could sort of see an argument about letting any and all education be privatized as if that's actually a good thing.  While I agree that a completely privatized system means that everybody has choice, but the problem with that argument is that even partial privatization means that people have choice.  Education is intrinsically expensive, and if you can put the money forth out of your own pocket, anybody has the option of private school should they so choose.  The whole point of public school is that people (going all the way back to the founding fathers) felt that education is something too important for people not to have.  It is extremely rare that someone is able to create an advancement that betters society by sheer chance, and with the level we are at today, that chance has gotten many thousand times slimmer than it was maybe 200 years ago.  Everyone likes to say that America is a land of opportunity -- but opportunity only opens up when you know what you're doing.  If he feels that education made available to all is a bad thing, then one has to admit that he makes a great spokesman for people who make it big on account of their lack of knowledge.  His lunacy is too big to fail, I guess.

Had I been a lunatic creationist, I too might have seen some value in eliminating public education funding.  Basically, if the government no longer is putting dollars into education, the facilities are in a position to insert religion any way they please without violating separation of church and state.  However, Rick Perry is a conservative Tea Party batshit loco nutjob, which means he is 1) not that clever, and 2) not someone who accepts that the 1st amendment does build a wall between church and state.  But at the very least, he probably recognizes the existence of that contention, so it would at least remove that argument from consideration.  That said, I still don't think he's clever enough to do something like that.  My guess is he's against public education because he just doesn't believe it's worth anything.  That and evangelicals like him view the public education system as a serious threat to the perpetuation of their religious beliefs.  The trends do show that those more educated are less likely to belief the more they know.

But even as a staunch anti-theist who would like nothing more than the natural eradication of religion, my reason for public education support is because we're not in an age where education should be considered a luxury, but a necessity.  It is not that you can't succeed without a college degree, but that you have no chance of success without at least that level of sophistication in your field.  All a college degree shows is a sort of concrete guarantee that you have achieved that, which is valuable to employers for sure, but it is by no means the only path open to you.  People who have made success while still being dropouts (e.g. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg) were also otherwise intelligent and had massive ability in their fields which far outstripped the level of a mere Bachelor's degree.  Even I was publishing work in my field when I was 13, and strangely enough, I only published 2 papers while I was actually a college student.  The difference is not that I somehow magically created everything and solved problems in my head starting from nothing...  it's that I had access to material off of which to build new ideas.  It's one of the advantages of growing up in a house of engineers.  But this is how all progress occurs.  You don't just come up with knowledge -- you have attain the old knowledge first in order.  One's ideas, one's impressions, one's assessments of everything comes from their particular understanding of a base framework.  Just as knowledge is power, one without knowledge is utterly powerless.  Making knowledge available to everybody means everybody has some power.

Perhaps that's exactly the thing Tea Partiers fear most.  Powerful individuals who have enough of an idea of what they're talking about to give you a piece of their mind and still have plenty left over.  Then they might not approve of people like Rick Perry, Herman Cain, or Michele Bachmann.

No wonder these people feel that education has to go the way of the dodo.  We can't have people be anything other than slack-jawed lollygagging Bible-thumpers whose mean literacy rate into adulthood falls behind that of third-world countries.  Otherwise, they might actually do stuff and form a nation that's actually worth valuing.