"Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time," observed Winston Churchill in a speech to the House of Commons back in 1947.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I feel the same way about free market capitalism.
So, reading in today's NYTimes book review of Predictably Irrational that author Dan Ariely prefers "life with fewer market norms and more social norms," I shuddered. What kind of norms are we talking about here?
Does the MIT-trained economist mean those that emerge freely and democratically from the unenlightened masses? Such norms, of course, are the very worst kind there are.
Except for those other kinds "that have been tried from time to time:" norms handed down from on high by those who've managed to convince themselves that they know better than the rest of us do what constitutes decent social behavior.
I'm thinking, of course, of the education establishment.
Consider what its norms have done to our public school report cards. Children today are rated not just for academic achievement and classroom behavior, but for things like "socially appropriate behavior," "working cooperatively," and "participating in large groups." Check out these two grade 3 report cards from Michigan and New York, links to which were passed on to me by concernedCTparent.
These sorts of ratings end up penalizing certain children--the shy or otherwise unsocial, the child on the autistic spectrum, the child with Asperger's Syndrome--for core aspects of their personalities over which they, their parents, and their teachers have scant control.
Today's right-brained classrooms aside, sociability isn't an academic qualification and has no place in report cards. Many of our most accomplished left-brainers--mathematicians, scientists, engineers, computer programmers--don't work cooperatively, participate in large groups, or display what others would consider "socially appropriate behavior."
True, unsociability does disqualify people from certain jobs: most obviously, those that involve dictating social norms from on high. But I'm guessing that most unsocial people have little desire to make that kind of contribution to society.