Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sam Harris: A New Year of Magical Thinking

But I can't imagine that anyone seriously believes that the current level of wealth inequality in the United States is good and worth maintaining, or that our government's first priority should be to spare a privileged person like myself the slightest hardship as this once great nation falls into ruin.

This is a woefully wonderful encapsulation of the faulty logic and bad premises expressed throughout this piece of political, rather than principled, writing. The fact that it comes from a thinker I have truly admired makes it all the more disappointing. In it, Mr. Harris wrongly assumes that it is the proper role of government to grant rights and spare people hardships, rather than to protect individual rights (even those of rich people). He allows his political ideology to trump his thinking.
I can’t imagine that anyone seriously believes that someone is working to maintain wealth inequality!  People are striving to make and enjoy a certain lifestyle for themselves and their families through their own means and in accordance with their own values. Difference in wealth is not a matter of inequity or mere luck; to ignore the role of people’s actions as contributing to their own fortunes is to deny the existence of free will. This is something I am shocked to find supported by Mr. Harris. 
Throughout the article, he exposes his acceptance of magical thinking and original sin in inferring that those who have money are somehow guilty of trying to keep it.  By rightfully indicting wasteful government spending and failing public schools, but then suggesting that it is the duty of those with money to throw more of it into these systems for the children, Mr. Harris falls on the sword of altruism (living for others).  In true altruist fashion, he later impugns those same future children for consigning us all to oblivion if they don’t come up with new technologies, medical cures, and global industries. He suggests free college for all, so that they, too, may learn to rely on the largesse of government, feel the guilt of success, and sacrifice their values to others under the guidance of those whose better thinking can define the greater good for them rather than having to go through the bothersome process of deciding how to live best for themselves.
Finally, to equate one's appreciation for making his own decisions about his own life, i.e. the love of liberty, with a religious creed, the blind acceptance of something for which there is no evidence, is an abomination to this atheist.

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