Delusions And Stability

     Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth. — Robert A. Heinlein

     I’m still on the mend, but a little better, thanks for asking. Maybe I’ll be able to speak audibly by New Year’s Day. It’s ambitious, I know, but one must have a goal to strive toward.

     The following graphic was shamelessly stolen from the indefatigable Mike Miles:

     That’s a pretty accurate summary of the resentment many people feel toward Elon Musk. Removing a man’s protective delusions does bad things to his mood. Sometimes it results in bad things being done on a wide scale. Really bad things.

     A lot of common delusions that have proved structurally essential to The Way Things Are have been endangered by recent events. I’m sure you have your favorites, Gentle Reader. Here are a few of mine:

  1. Government keeps secrets for the greater good of the nation.
  2. Most public servants genuinely want to serve the public.
  3. The job of the police is to protect the citizens.
  4. We can all get along if we just try.

     I could go on; the list is a lot longer than you might think. But those will do for starters.

     Those beliefs, which for many years were very widely shared – not quite unanimous, but sufficiently near to it that persons who differed were regarded as cranks – kept the American sociopolitical order from undergoing any convulsive changes. And, as I wrote yesterday, convulsive changes always mean that someone will suffer. Possibly many someones.

     I’ve reached an age at which the avoidance of suffering, to the greatest extent possible consistent with justice, is a major priority. Given recent events, it’s getting mighty difficult. Our delusions are being revealed as such too baldly for most Americans to maintain them.

     When a high enough percentage of Americans have shed those delusions, things will get very spicy. How high is “high enough?” We might soon find out.


     No matter how often it’s been said, it bears repeating:

Peace and prosperity are exceptional conditions.

     The extreme prosperity of these United States is unique in human history. Americans are largely unaware of how extreme it is. It came home to me – not as a revelation, but as a much appreciated reminder – just yesterday. At mid-morning, the C.S.O. announced that she “had to” go shopping, and as S.O.s will do after such a declaration, she…went shopping. She came home with, among other things, a five-pound sack of Idaho Russet potatoes.

     I was mildly puzzled. We already had potatoes in-house. Quite a lot of them, in fact. So I did what husbands will do: I asked her why.

     She looked at me as if I’d sprouted a second head. “For the latkes, of course.”

     Well, it is Chanukkah, and she does make latkes on Chanukkah. But my curiosity remained unsatisfied. “Don’t we have potatoes in quantity?” I said.

     (It was a rhetorical question. I’ve been shuffling that sack of Red Bliss potatoes from here to there for at least a week. The C.S.O. knew, and knew that I knew.)

     “Wrong kind,” she said. “Only Russet potatoes for latkes.

     Well, one does live and learn. I, being of Irish descent, have always thought that a potato is a potato. But apparently, when you reach a particular degree of culinary erudition, the choice of potato for a given application becomes critical. As I like the C.S.O.’s cooking, I decided not to pursue the matter any further.

     Still… consider the train of events that put those potatoes in her hands:

  • Someone in Idaho had to grow them, of course.
  • He had to reach a marketing agreement with a large-lot shipper.
  • The shipper had to purchase those potatoes and others like them for shipment.
  • He had to contract with a cross-continent shipping service to ship them to Long Island.
  • The supermarket had to choose a price for those potatoes and display them in its Produce section.
  • The C.S.O. had to navigate her 4000-pound vehicle through the hazards of Long Island’s roads to the supermarket.
  • She had to select those potatoes, pay for them, and bring them to the Fortress of Crankitude, where they would be multifariously tortured to become her justly famous latkes.

     That process wearies me out just from thinking about it. But the Ace kicker is this: That five-pound sack of potatoes cost her less than $6.50.

     A lot of people would say that the price was extortionate. For my part, I marvel that it could happen at any price. But it did. And does. And probably will go on doing so…for a while, at least.

     Then I started thinking about the commercial infrastructure that made all those steps from an Idaho farm to here possible. After that, I contemplated the sociopolitical conditions that make possible the commercial infrastructure. After that, I started shaking.

     Given the way things are trending, how much longer can it last?


     We are unbelievably rich. There’s nothing to compare with our prosperity anywhere on Earth. There never has been. But it’s not a metaphysically given condition of existence. It’s the consequence of two and a half centuries of peace and sociopolitical stability.

     Too many Americans never think about that indispensable foundation. It’s time to do so, especially as it’s coming apart around us.

     Our foremost delusion, as a people, is that things will always be this way. We think so because our lives are short and we tend to dismiss or discount the reminiscences of our elders. (“You young folks don’t know how lucky you are” — ? Yeah, yeah. Go back to sleep, Grandpa.) But things have only been this way here, and for a relatively brief historical interval at that. What if the foundation is ripped out from under it all, as is threatening to happen today?

     Perhaps we can maintain it all. But the delusion is as important to its maintenance as any of the other components of the foundation. And the delusion is increasingly endangered. Americans are awakening to an unpleasant set of trends.

     Should Thomas Hobbes’s “war of each against all” erupt among us, the C.S.O. won’t be able to sally forth at whim to purchase five pounds of Idaho Russet potatoes. Certainly not for a paltry $6.50.

     Feeling a mite uneasy, Gentle Reader?


    • Drumwaster on December 8, 2023 at 12:09 PM

    The biggest arguments I have seen involve claims that ordinary folks don’t need guns, because the police are there to protect the public.
    Not true, not even a little bit. Beginning with the 1981 ruling of Warren v District of Columbia (where police were repeatedly notified of an ongoing crime and failed to intercede — ), the 1989 Supreme Court case of DeShaney v Winnebago County Department of Social Services (police failed to protect a child under the care of Social Services — ), wrapped up most recently in 2005’s Castle Rock v Gonzales (father defied judicial restraining order and abducted and killed his three children — ). The ONLY instance where police have a specific duty to protect is those persons actually in custody. The criminals and suspected criminals get protection, but not the general public, even if the police are aware of violent crime(s) happening.

  1. Should Thomas Hobbes’s “war of each against all” erupt among us

    The pattern of our ruling sociopaths gleaning ideas from learned men continues. Just as 1984 was meant to be a warning and not a cookbook, so too can Hobbes’ unpleasant vision be fomented with well tailored propaganda.

    Social engineering is a really effective occupation. Too bad it’s fallen into misanthropic hands.

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