A good rule that no one anywhere follows, is to contemplate the consequences of being wrong before doing something. For example, if legislatures had to post a wrongness analysis for every bill before they could be voted on, at least some of the terrible ideas would get stopped before becoming law. Of course, that is probably why such a thing can never happen, at least in a democracy. New ideas are about hope and nothing is worse than dashing the reformer’s hope for the future.
Even so, thinking about wrongness has its utility. For example, many people on the Right still cling to the idea that government cannot keep borrowing money. Going back to the 1980’s, perhaps even further, conservatives have been predicting that there is some limit to government debt. Ronald Reagan ran on this idea in 1980, when the Federal debt stood at $900 billion. Forty years later and the debt is $23 trillion, a number so large no one can imagine it.
Maybe there is no limit to debt. Maybe what conservatives think they know about public debt is wrong and disaster is not around the corner. If this were anything else, that’s how you would bet. If the weather had been sunny for forty years, despite daily forecasts calling for showers, you would have stopped listening to the weatherman a long time ago. Sure, he may be right eventually, but forty years of being wrong still counts for a lot. Maybe conservatives are just wrong about debt too.
Similarly, what if the growth of the state is not going to lead to a citizen revolt against a tyrannical government. This is another chestnut from the so-called conservatives that dates back to the age of Reagan. He ran on the argument that the government was the problem, not the solution. The per capita spending of government, in constant dollars, is close to double what it was in the Reagan years. That’s with the U.S. population growing by more than half in that same period.
Now, in fairness, there has been a negative result to this massive expansion of the state over the last forty years. It’s not that people are angry that it does too much, but that it does too little. This is true all over the West. The populist revolts are fueled by demands that the government do more to address the concerns of the people. It turns out that everyone was wrong about the size of government. The bigger it gets, the worse it gets at doing the basics and that’s what gets people angry.
How about multiculturalism? An axiom in dissident politics is that diversity plus proximity equals conflict. Many of the same people saying that were wrong about the deficits and the growth of government. Maybe they are wrong about this too. Maybe they are wrong in entirely different ways. What we know so far is the importation of fifty million barbarians has not caused the empire to collapse. It’s made society more fragile, for sure, but collapse is not in the cards, at least so far.
How about something closer to home? Many people on this side of the great divide, especially the former alt-right, are sure Trump is going down to defeat in the 2020 election. They argue that his pandering to civic nationalists, non-whites and Baby Boomers is alienating his real base. Further, they argue that he won in 2016 by getting racially aware whites out to vote. It is a gratuitous assertion, for sure, but it is a common argument on this side of the great divide. What if it is wrong?
Trump, despite his many faults, has proven to be a natural political athlete, one we have not seen in a long time. This is a guy who does everything wrong, according to political convention, yet comes out smelling like a rose. Remember when everyone said WW3 was upon us when he droned the Iranian general? How about those predictions about impeachment? He begged the Democrats to follow through with impeachment and here he is more popular than ever. Maybe he knows something.
It is very possible that Trump does know what he is doing with all the pandering to blacks, Hispanics, one-legged lesbian Elvis impersonators and so on. Further, maybe the votes of the alt-right, white nationalists, racially aware whites and so forth really don’t count for a whole lot in elections. It may be an uncomfortable thought, but in a wrongness analysis, it has to be a possibility. The evidence is pointing in that direction, so maybe all of these folks are wrong about Trump.
Inaction is largely based on the belief of some inevitability that no one dares question, because it is comforting. Generations of conservative white people voted Republican, based on their assumptions about debt and the size of government. That vote was not action, but inaction. They comforted themselves in the belief that inevitability would be the ultimate cure. It turns out that nothing is inevitable in the affairs of man. Things happen because men make them happen.
The other side of this, the people trying to harness the forces of society, never stop to wonder if they are wrong. As they work to gain control of events, they are so certain in their righteousness they resemble fanatics. They never wonder if they are wrong. They know they are on the right side of history. As Bertrand Russel put it, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
That is the place to start for all dissidents. What if we’re wrong? What if all of the critiques of and arguments for cosmopolitan globalism are wrong? What then? That’s start of the journey in search of an alternative to the prevailing orthodoxy. It is not only the questioning of conventional wisdom, but the questioning of the critics of the conventional wisdom. Maybe the reason for the current crisis is that everyone was wrong about the new world order that emerged after the Cold War.
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