[Editor’s note: The following post is by Jim Karger, TDV legal correspondent]
The short answer: Americans don't read.
Indeed, most Americans haven't read a book since they left high school. 42% of college graduates have not read another book after graduating, 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year, 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years, 57% of new books are not read to completion, and most "readers" (to use the term loosely) do not get past page 18 in the last book they purchased. So, it should not be surprising that the average American reads, and I posit, understands at an 8th grade level. Stefan Molyneux breaks down the jaw dropping statisticts on the decline of the American intellect in this video.
So, what does the average America do with their time since they don't spend it reading? Take a look at the diagram at this link and after you have stopped weeping, read on: In short, the general public works, eats, masturbates, play with their kids for 10 minutes a day, watches television 10 or 12 hours a week, and surfs the web for porn or cute one-liners to post on their Facebook pages.
But they do not read.
This is why, as a nation, Americans are ignorant. It is why as a nation we are on the train to Armageddon. Most are too uninformed to stop the train or jump off and that has led us here, to a myriad of false beliefs, a dangerous world view, and a choice that is no choice at all.
Examples? Sure. Here are just a few:
– Most young people can't find Iraq on a map, but are sure Iraqis (and the world for matter) hate Americans.
– Their parents are no better, believing in idiotic stereotypes of other countries, even though most don't have passports and have never traveled outside the US, except perhaps to Cancun to get liquored up for a week.
– The same insular nitwits are certain theirs is the "greatest nation" in history and that everywhere else is a scum-ridden shit hole.
– Most Americans will tell you straight-faced that the US is the "land of the free", even though it has more people incarcerated nominally and as a percentage of its population than any other country in the world. They will insist that America is the "land of opportunity" even as one-fourth of the work force is employed in jobs that pay less than $22,000, the poverty line for a family of four, half are on the government dole, and most of those will die virtually penniless.
These are fools. And voters.
Left and Right, Not Created Equal
Such is the big, ugly picture, but ignorance, like chunky peanut butter, never spreads evenly. It would be unfair to toss the left and the right into the same trash bin when they each so richly deserve their own.
My experience debating both sides leads me to the conclusion that more leftists than right-wingers read, meaning they read something more than the cereal box that sits silent in front of their soul-dead eyes each morning before leaving to earn a buck working at a meaningless job they hate but must keep to make the underwater house payment each month. It is not necessarily because more intellect is found on the left. It is just that in socialist circles one is expected to at least appear educated, even if most are only dilettantes.
The right, on the other hand, seems to take pride in their ignorance, their homophobia, their racism, their ethnocentrism, their belief in sky-fairies, their open despising of immigrants, their relentless hillbilly one-liners, and their Pollyanna-ish belief they will somehow win when the government comes to take their beloved guns.
There is a palpable difference between the right and the left and Doug Casey nailed it: Republicans are the party of the ignorant; Democrats are the party of evil. Neither deserves to survive the coming economic holocaust, and neither will.
Most die-hard neocon Republicans I spar with remind me of George W. Bush — mildly retarded, intellectually lazy, just smart enough to know they are unread, and need to fight back with something other than facts since they haven't taken the time to read and learn any facts. They believe debate is like advertising. Repeat a drug-addled Limbaugh rant enough times and it becomes true. Most are more interested in their bank balance than their quality of life and are genuinely shocked by their own material success, as they rightfully should be.
Most Democrats, on the other hand, are victims, or believe they are, certain that they were somehow wrongfully fucked along the way by "the man" and are pissed and want to get even. Stealing from idiot-savant Republicans who tripped over their own dicks into piles of stolen money somehow seems right to them. But most Democrats are all talk, no action, pathetic sissies who had their little titties pulled in their gym shirts in junior high school, and cried while silently vowing revenge. Now they memorize a handful of big words and because they can quote a few lines of Krugman, consider themselves economic intellects.
There are notable exceptions in both camps, of course, but for those who actually walk among us, the exceptions are too few to mention.
Bottom line: the US is an intellectual desert, a collection of technicians smart enough to build a detonator, but too stupid to ask what the power elite intend to do with it. I am shocked the US got this far before hitting the wall like Mr. Magoo playing jai-alai. But the wall is where we find ourselves and egging the General Public on toward economic or nuclear demise are Obama and Romney, one a classic Democrat and the other a prototypical Republican.
It now comes down to Obama or Romney, a hideous thought to be sure.
Obama appears intelligent, but he is a fool. He is dangerous because he believes his own bullshit, that somehow he represents the poor and disenfranchised, while he smokes expensive cigars, drinks fine cognac, laughs at his wife's million dollar vacations, all while implementing a fascist police state where secrecy is the rule, unless leaks play to his benefit. His followers are blind zealots, confused and embarrassed, but refusing to acknowledge test-retest reliability, ready to reelect a Wall Street minion on the bet he won't sell them out again. He will, and Congress will, too.
Romney, on the other hand, is a fool and acts like one. He has no idea who he is or what he believes in, except that making a lot of money by boning the working man and hiding it away like a squirrel is okay, even good in his case because he accomplished it at the direction of his imaginary friend in the sky. His believers buy the proposition that an expensive suit who specialized in destroying jobs over a lifetime has the capacity and desire to create 12 million of them over the next four years. His followers likewise seem mathematically disabled. Romney has promised not to cut Social Security or Medicare, raise defense spending and keep the Bush tax cuts. That spells massive deficits, no matter whose calculator you use, or how many silly sports metaphors he uses. Behind that painted on smile lies a pathological cheater who was behind, or at least on board, with silencing Ron Paul.
In the end, the US is screwed, and has scheduled November 6 for the hosing of a lifetime. Either of these Statists will hump Joe Lunchbucket like a red-headed step mule, insuring America's journey toward total unmitigated disaster is completed in the next four years. It has been hypothesized that the unread, disinterested, intellectually bankrupt general public is simply too ignorant to support a functional democracy. Sounds right to me.
As I watch the endgame, I continue to debate both left and right, a sad exercise that always ends with some inane non-sequitur, most often the accusatory, "But Jim, you left America," as if that is relevant to anything, as if that decision disqualifies me from the discussion.
Yes, I did leave America, just as I would leave any other burning building even as the debate between dumb and evil rages on.
Jim Karger is a lawyer who has represented American businesses against incursions by government and labor unions for 30 years. He has been the subject of many feature articles, including, "Outlandish Labor Lawyer Gets No Objections From Staid Clients," published in The Wall Street Journal, and most recently was featured in an article entitled, "You Can Get There From Here," published by the American Bar Association. In 2001, he left Dallas, and moved to San Miguel de Allende in the high desert of central Mexico where he sought and found a freer and simpler life for he and his wife, Kelly, and their 10 dogs.
Today, Jim takes a handful of assignments each year, and speaks regularly to industry associations and employers on issues involving government regulation, over-criminalization, and privacy. His website is www.crediblyconnect.com
Simply reading more would be a good start for most Americans who simply absorb what MSNBC or FOX News spews at them. I like to think that plenty of reading leads eventually to more enlightened opinions even if you start out with the state-approved nonsense the government forces you to read for 12-20 years. If all you have to read is plenty of shoddy theory (Hobbes, Keynes, et al), then you'll end up with a head full of rubbish. As the great anarchist writer Robert Heinlein wrote, "How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?"
That's why the Internet is so exciting. It doesn't just make a staggering amount of information available to each user. It makes a staggering amount of alternative information availabe. I've met plenty of people who are actually bothered by that. "There's a lot of crap on the Internet," they point out. More's the joy, I always retort. You can read what you want and figure it all out for yourself. What's more free market than that? You can direct your own continuing education. When you can get as many sides of the story as you want, then it doesn't matter if there's a lot of garbage out there.
What you never, ever want is a monolothic stranglehold on which opinions are available. You want the unpopular and crank opinions to be aired. Unpopular opinions ocassionally make the world better, after all. The ideas that are laughed at one day (disease is caused by microscopic agents, not bad air…the world is round and it's not the center of the universe…you shouldn't spank or intimidate your children if you want a peaceful world to come about) sometimes end up making the world a better place. Just like with all things, free exchange and competition will sort it out.
So it's refreshing for me to know that online I can find every unpopular opinion getting a showing: Holocaust denial, 9/11 Truth, white supremacy, black supremacy, climate change skepticism, creationism, or evolution for that matter, homophobia, and voluntaryism. Let it all hang out. The best ideas will eventually win. Even if the not so good ideas continue to linger in small pockets, the ideas that give us the best results will be the ones we adopt as our truths.
The statists I've known have a government-induced fear of this kind of openess of information. They feel that "dangerous" ideas (which usually just mean unpopular ideas or ideas that governments consider dangerous to their own survival) should be controlled. Without admitting it, these statists crave at least some form of censorship. I'd remind them of this other quote from Heinlein:
"When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him."
Am I willing to take the chance that truth and my own vision of human freedom simply will not win if allowed to compete with falsehoods and force in a free market? No. And anyway, in keeping with my principles I want liberty and prosperity to flourish because the truth works better, not because I suppressed at gunpoint things I didn't agree with.
Now that I've defended the availability of all sorts of opinions and theories, let me get back to an earlier point. There really are a lot of bad ideas floating around out there and they're actively pushed by the government in its public indoctrination camps (schools) and by its lapdogs in the media. That's why we are so passionate about our mission here at TDV. Someone has to remove the delusions. There is also plenty of great material for free at sites like mises.org.
Here's a very bad notion that I'd like to clear up with every investor in the US: that the most common method of stock ownership is safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of otherwise savvy people are going to find this out the hard way when their mining stocks shoot up during the coming utter financial system collapse.
But it doesn't have to be that way. There are very simple steps they can take to bulletproof their shares. After all, what good is it to have your gold and silver stocks shoot up 500% or 1000% if the broker-dealer system collapses and leaves your funds in limbo forever?
That's it til next time, vigilantes. I'd just like to add a note of thanks to TDV member Mike Zentz who happened to be posting those Heinlein quotes on the TDV Facebook page as I was composing this piece. We commend him on his erudition and his timing.
The Dollar Vigilante