Thursday, May 04, 2006

Political Axioms

I liked geometry in high school. It was perhaps my favorite subject, bringing together logical reasoning and mathematics. I liked the beauty of building from a set of universal truths to prove hypotheses. Parallel lines never intersect. The sum of the angles of a triangle equals 180 degrees. It was very satisfying to use those axioms to create more complex understanding of two-dimensional space. Because of the universality of the axioms, the application of logic guaranteed the truth of a geometric proof.

I was reminded of geometry yesterday when politics came up during lunch with my co-workers. My new supervisor, whose politics were unknown to me, started discussing the upcoming elections. I knew other co-worker's political positions and I pretty much pass on political discussions with them but I was interested in hearing where the supervisor's thinking would fall given that our work is analytical and financial. What surprised me was an immediate dismissal of Bush as a lightweight avenging his father or furthering the interests of big oil. To him, these were axioms – universal truths- upon which he could prove his hypotheses. To me, they were Democrat talking points - assertions with little or no credible evidence. And he threw them out forcefully and smoothly moved on to ridicule the war, the Bush administration and Republican hopes for elections as if his assertions proved the hypothesis.

At lunch today, I was at my desk getting ready for a meeting when another co-worker fussing about the price of gasoline, complained that Bush had not done anything to keep the price down. I asked her what he could do, curious to hear her solution. Well, she didn't have one. "Someone should survey the population to find out," she said. Then as as afterthought, "He could change the CAFE standards." Another woman added, "It's all over for Bush." These are women who understand the economics of electric utilities but cannot understand that gasoline prices are driven by forces not controllable by the President.

Fellow Western Alliance Blogger Fetching Jen quotes Thomas Sowell in a recent post
"In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees."
Well, that is what I see in my co-workers. I see no evidence that Socrates was involved in their learning experiences. They have learned their political axioms from Democrat talking points presented endlessly by the liberal media and it never occurs to them to question these 'truths'.

So back to geometry. In geometry, you take certain truths (axioms) and from them your build a world where you an predict and define new circumstances based upon these truths. But the critical issue is that axioms are really true. They have been tested over millenia and they still work. So when you use them to prove hypotheses, the proof stands.
What I saw with my co-workers were were intelligent fools. They accept assertions about the President or world conditions without demanding proof and use them as axioms to support otherwise untenable conclusions.

There is no proof that Bush was committed to War in Iraq but if you want to believe he was then you will accept assertions as truth because you either don't or can't reason for yourself. And it is impossible to argue or discuss with these people because they won't challenge their axioms. Whether the cause of this mental disability is the state of higher education (or lower education for that matter) or the result of lock-step media outlets that spout these assertions as unquestioned truths, I can't say. It wasn't the way I learned to think.

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