July 6th, 2004

Thought Experiment

At one point in tonight's debate over whether Objectivists should describe themselves as a kind of libertarian, David Kelley proposed a thought experiment. Picture 2 societies, he said. (Warning, going from memory here!)

In Society One, the government is strictly limited to its proper functions, but the culture is made up of fundamentalists and New Age enthusiasts, and all the children go to progressive schools.

In Society Two, the government is ALMOST as limited, but there is a teeny tiny social safety net. If you go broke, the government provides temporary meals and dorm rooms. But the people are achievement oriented and favor reason as a means of knowing reality, and all the children go to Montessori schools.

I could feel the palpable tension in the room. But I was wearing a Council Oak Montessori shirt at the time, so you can guess which I would choose.

The interesting thing about the dilemma, is that the future directions of the two societies will be quite different. If Society Two is so rational, it will (I think) work to get rid of that unneeded safety net. If Society One is so irrational, it will eventually give up on the liberty thing.

So I think the safer bet is Society Two, the rational one. In a choice between good epistemology and good politics, which is a horrible choice, I place my money on good epistemology.

Rhyme of the day:

Here's the end of the story:
Go with Montessori.