Is Capitalism Making Us Stupid?

Joseph Heath’s Enlightenment 2.0 is one of the best books I have read in years. I offer an extensive review at the New Rambler. Here’s the opening:

Heath-Enlightenment-2Joseph Heath is a Canadian philosopher who is unusually conversant with economics and also unusually capable of writing sparkling prose for a popular audience. His earlier book Economics Without Illusions was split into 6 right-wing fallacies and 6 left-wing fallacies, and he did a commendable job on both sides. Heath has his own left-liberal point of view: the subtitle of Economics Without Illusions was Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism and in the original Canadian version, the book was subtitled Economics For People Who Hate Capitalism. However, I like capitalism and I still enjoyed it! Enlightenment 2.0 is Heath’s foray into political philosophy. Drawing on psychology, economics and political science, Enlightenment 2.0 is a brilliant defense of reason, an important call for a more rational politics, and a great read.

Heath is worried that the foundations of liberal society are being eroded by the cultural denigration of reason combined with ruthlessly competitive economic and political forces that exploit the biases and hooks of our unreasoning mind.

Although I admire Enlightenment 2.0, I answer the question of the post differently than does Heath and my review contains plenty of critical commentary. Ayn Rand, Idiocracy, mind viruses and other interesting characters make an appearance. Read the whole thing.


In general, capitalism allows us to be less clever, which is a good thing. Half of all Americans are below average in intelligence, and they don't have to be all that cunning to avoid being ripped off, most of the time. I go to Costco and I assume that the price they've put on each product is pretty reasonable, so I toss it in the shopping cart without worrying too much.

However, on big purchases, like mortgages, the evidence from the previous decade suggests it's mostly the stupid leading the stupid.

At the high end I've seen a lot of what I call "marketing major postmodernism," especially among Republicans: it's the idea picked up in college that some egghead over in France or Germany proved there's no such thing as Truth, so feel free to spin away.

At the high end I’ve seen a lot of what I call “marketing major postmodernism,”

Best of all is the "tech evangelist". Engineers are mostly terrible at "spinning", but the ones who can do it can make tons of $ by convincing customers to choose products based on often insignificant criteria.

Steeve mentions something interesting. I still don't understand how people can send a shirt to the outlet where it will be sold in $10 because it lacks a button..........and pay full price for a home in a flood, landslide, wildfire hazard area. Why all the judgement to dismiss a car with a faulty transmission and sign without worries into a shark loan? I don't understand all the cognitive effort put in deciding which is the best pizza, best TV show, best's not that the people lacks raw intelligence or raw cognitive capacity, they just use it for something else.

Yup. the beauty of capitalism - or more accurately, markets - is that it works well without any need for anyone to have a deep understanding of everything that goes on. Socialism will always fail - it requires a dictatorial group to understand everything about the present and the future. Imposs.

Yes, as long as you have social trust. (Is this blithe stupidity -- or happy ignorance -- the foundation of social trust?)

And laws and minimal corruption.

Define "fail".

1. Require a lot a people to die in order to continue.

2. Require border guards to keep people IN.

Steve Sailer April 16, 2015 at 7:50 am

Half of all Americans are below average in intelligence, and they don’t have to be all that cunning to avoid being ripped off, most of the time.

Actually it is worse than that. Because the credo of modern capitalism is that the customer is always right. Except he isn't. Half the time he is below average in intelligence. A lot of the time he has dome something really stupid. But the shop assistant is not allowed to say that. She is only allowed to take the blame and move Heaven and Earth to make the customer feel better. It allows people to behave in even more stupid ways because no one will ever tell them they are being stupid and they will never have to pay a penalty for it.

Luckily, we have the internet now, where everybody calls everybody stupid all the time.

You know, I never thought of flaming as a social service. But now you put it like that ....

I think of myself as being pretty libertarian but I think it would be OK for our courts to say some contracts are to complicated to be legal binding at least with state enforcement. Also the Government could do a much better job of prosecuting fraud. (They could also do a much better job of suppressing crime Alex did and interesting posting that showed more police on the streets reduces crime. Police are expensive but so are crime and punishment.)

At least fraud by capitalists is educational, Government is full of fraud but little of it is educational. Even most very low IQ folks learn that check cashing places and buy here pay here car lots charge a lot (judging from my friends and acquaintances) but even some very intelligent people do not know about matching FICA or who consumes less if Warren Buffet is taxed more or who pays taxes on rental property etc.

Right, what's that quote about civilization advancing by taking more knowledge OFF the table? There's a tendency for those who make a living from noticing big social trends to knock Joe Blow, who doesn't.

What a good review! I do want to read the book.

Well, I haven't read the book but from your review I fail to see the conservatism in Heath's ideas. The part about "mind-virus resistance" implies that some people have learned to deal (to a certain degree) with advertising tricks while others are still virgins to mass media and advertising. This idea is quite positivistic. Yes, it will take a lot of education, reason development and lots of time. No revolution, no immediate results, but advertising tricks for purchases and politics can be vanquished.

The part where you compare rationality use incentives for the market and politics is neat, is it on the book?

This is the year 2015. Are people still seriously worried about the effects of advertising, of all things, on the public? That's a concern that seems like it should have faded away (at the latest) with the invention of the remote control and everyone started just flipping channels when the commercials came on.

"When it comes to food, for example, consumers with limited reserves of willpower face corporate titans with massive advertising budgets and research departments."
-If Alex was stupid (which he isn't), I'd immediately say "It's the economies of scale, stupid!". Advertising only has an effect on the long run when there's not enough of it.

"everyone started just flipping channels when the commercials came on"

I dunno, that seems like an awful lot of work.

>the market, representative democracy, and human rights

WWI and WWII were as much a product of the enlightenment as liberal democracy.

Um, no.
The ideologies the drove Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy are about as far from Enlightenment thought as you can get. Nationalism, racial superiority, military expansionism, collectivism, obedience to authority, suppression of dissent ... where do you find these ideas in the Enlightenment?

Didn't a "cult of reason" emerge in Paris, France, in November 1793? The direct outcome of Enlightenment ratiocination, by many accounts.

The "cult of reason" lead to the American Revolution too.

Sure, you can peg the French Revolution on elements of Enlightenment thinking... but Anon was bringing in the two world wars.

But as I imply, the French Revolution was hardly the sole summation of Enlightenment thought: the legacies of both endured from one end of the 19th century to the other and inspired many well into the 20th century.
As you also cited: the French revolutionaries launched the Great Terror to suppress political dissent and to enforce obedience to revolutionary authority; collectivism enjoys undying admiration in sections of Paris to this day; the Committee of Public Safety oversaw military ambitions both to defend the Revolution internally and to export it across Europe; the appeals to revolutionary patriotism may not have risen to the level of "nationalism" that we understand by the term today, but a lot of national pride was at stake, to read histories of the period. (Racial superiority may not have an explicit claim of Enlightenment thought, but the privileging of reason as understood by the philosophes and encyclopedists could reasonably be construed as a vaunting of Western superiority.)

A power vacuum leads to vicious competition and brutality by some against others. You don't need 18th century political ideas to get that outcome, humans have acted this way for ages.
Lots of monarchs were good at suppressing dissent, killing potential opponents, demanding loyalty, and embarking on military adventures. They didn't need no philosophes to teach them.

You are assuming the negative parts of the French Revolution outweighed the positive impact. I bet the world is now better off because of the French Revolution even though the immediate consequences may not have all that positive.

louis April 16, 2015 at 10:51 am

You don’t need 18th century political ideas to get that outcome

You simply cannot say that. As the violence unleashed by the French Revolution was different in scale and scope from any previous regime going, perhaps, all the way back to the Thirty Years War. Probably not even then. You did, actually, need 18th century political ideas to make mass murder so popular.

spencer April 16, 2015 at 4:47 pm

I bet the world is now better off because of the French Revolution even though the immediate consequences may not have all that positive.

120 million victims of Communism might well disagree with you. The nicest parts of the world are usually constitutional monarchies - that is, people who specifically rejected the French Revolution.

The very idea of a Constituion is enlightmenment thinking. Who needs a document listing rights when we have the divine right of kings?

Anon is right of course, but on a much more abstract level. The Enlightenment made unthinkable ideas thinkable. Liberal democracy as much collectivism.
The ideas that drove the totalitarian regimes you named (and others) are grandchildren of the Enlightenment for sure. The very idea that men can reshape the order of things and create a new world order or even a new men would have been sacrilegious before - but now using scientific methods, empiricism and rationality progressive thinkers set out to build a better world.
Today we know that many of their progressive ways turned out to be pure evil. But hindsight is 20/20. Back then racism and eugenics for example were considered by many progressives to be state-of-the-art approaches for the advanced of humanity.
They taught that stuff at universities and argued for it in parliaments. And not only in the three countries you named.

We can play the blame game all we want.
Some Traditionalist Catholics blame the Reform (and the end of Western Chistianity unity) for Communism and Nazism. Without it, they assure, we all would be buying indulgencies, as good little Catholics do, happily plowing our master's lands and thanking God for the Plague. But those dastardly Protestants with ideas of individual interpretation of the Bible (translated into the vernacular, doesn't human wickness know any bounds?) and non-submission to Rome took us down the dark road leading to Kolima and Auschwitz. Others blame the Renaissance (the late Brazilian Catholic lay leader, Plínio Correa de Oliveira, for instance) And, of course, if you ask some Protestants what is wrong with the world, the answer will be, "Rome".
Much of this is post hoc ergo propter hoc.

louis April 16, 2015 at 8:19 am

Um, no. The ideologies the drove Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy are about as far from Enlightenment thought as you can get. Nationalism, racial superiority, military expansionism, collectivism, obedience to authority, suppression of dissent … where do you find these ideas in the Enlightenment?

Nationalism is a textbook product of the Enlightenment. The Ancient Regime was not asking the soldiers of Austria to fight for the Motherland. The French Revolution was. Racial superiority is also a product of the Enlightenment. It is not a Christian concept. Europeans studied why they were so much more advanced than anyone else and Darwin gave them the simplest explanation. The French Revolution was immediately expansionist from the start. With military force. In that they drew directly on Enlightenment thinkers who had argued for a powerful France under the Ancient Regime. Collectivism in a political sense was a part of the Enlightenment too - that is half the painting of David. Obedience is more interesting. The French also went directly to executing people they did not agree with. Perfectly in line with the Enlightenment once the philosophers who supported the Enlightenment came to power and were the executers and not the executees.

I notice you do not comment on Communism which is even more a direct product of the Enlightenment.

Either way, allowing intellectuals to think whatever they liked lead them directly to the Gulag and Auschwitz.

Sorry, racial superiority is not a product of the enlightenment; it came from Catholic Spain and Portugal in their dealings with the new world, when they asked the Church to bless enslavement and inhuman work conditions, and the Church obliged (for quite a bit of gold and silver).
Later, some of those educated by the enlightenment applied their knowledge to defending the powerful and creating other justifications for racial superiority, but it all started back in 1492.
Also, the enlightenment philosophers were people like Voltaire and Diderot. They did not take political power in the French revolution. Robespierre was a lawyer not a philosopher - and in fact espoused very mild doctrines and ideas (opposing foreign wars or the spread of the revolution by force) until late 1792, when he became an advocate for the execution of the King (and then a bit later of the terror).
The enlightenment is Montesquieu - a separation of the powers and a balanced government of many interests.

Agra Brum April 16, 2015 at 6:26 pm

I disagree. The Spanish and Portuguese may have been (and are) color conscious but they were not racists and their relationships with the Church did not encourage or bless racism. The Church was consistent from the start that the natives, and African slaves, were fully human beings.

Racism did not come until Calvinists started meeting native peoples - and then it was blessed by Science. The Enlightenment intellectuals looked at racial differences and applied their new Natural Sciences to them.

Voltaire and Diderot did not take power but their students did. However Voltaire had few problems with autocracy when it liked it - in Russia and Prussia for instance. Their carping about oppression was just because they did not get to do the oppressing.

What the French mean by the separation of powers is not what the Americans mean. Don't confuse the two. The bottom line remains - once the Enlightenment intellectuals got a little power themselves, they threw everything they claimed to believe about liberty and freedom out the window to create a vastly more repressive police state. Which killed a lot more people. Their earlier views were simply empty posturing.

"Um, no. The ideologies the drove Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy are about as far from Enlightenment thought as you can get. Nationalism, racial superiority, military expansionism, collectivism, obedience to authority, suppression of dissent … where do you find these ideas in the Enlightenment?"

I am afraid you are quite wrong. In fact, Nazism, Fascism, Communism would all be literally unthinkable without the "Enlightenment." These are not failures of "rational" political thought the are culminations of such thoughts. Freed from the constraints of morality, religion, and adherence to existing social-political forms the post-elightenment social thinkers like Marx and his followers were able to imagine new social arrangements and identify barriers to their implementation. If you accept the their underlying premises Pol Pot, Hitler, Mao, and Stalin were all rational. In Stalin's case, the Kulaks must be liquidated to build socialism because their continued existence is a barrier to equality and collectivism. You can't make an omlet without killing a few Kulaks.

Of course, in detail, differences in the underlying assumptions produce different results. Stalin killed Kulaks (and others) while Hitler thought the main problem was Jews. We kill unborn babies in very large numbers. If you asked Stalin about Kulaks or Hitler about Jews or Health about abortions they will give you very logical reasons why equality and freedom require the sacrifice of these not-really-human-anyway-entities.

And, if, tomorrow, some great social-political-scientific thinker was able to prove conclusively that everyone now living in the State of Iowa should be killed and the entire State turned into a huge soyabean field as the only way to save the world from global warming Health (and for that matter Tyler and Alex as well) would have to go along with the program unless they were able to find a logical flaw in the analysis. If such a flaw were found then Iowa is saved, if not, Iowans go off the death camps. It's too bad but the only thing that matters is reason.

Nonsense. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also comes from enlightenment thinking. The enligthenment is about process, not "truths" dictated by a priesthood or Iron Agre books. The scientific method sometimes produces false beliefs, but is self correcting over the long term.

"Nonsense. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also comes from enlightenment thinking. The enligthenment is about process, not “truths” dictated by a priesthood or Iron Agre books. The scientific method sometimes produces false beliefs, but is self correcting over the long term."

The comments above are a collection on non-sequiturs. First, a universal delcaration of human rights is all very nice but actual respect for human rights in the real world requires something beyond declarations. It requires a moral obligation to others which is capable of acting as a check on human behaviour. Where is that obligation to come from now that we rely entirely on reason to guide our conduct? I note that prior to World War II the Sykes-Picot pact outlawed war. How many wars were prevented by the Sykes-Picot? How many actual human rights were established or protected by the declaration? I would estimate the number as roughly nil in both instances.

I partially agree with your assertion that the "enligthenment is about process" but where does that leave us? So far, the application of pure reason to social and political advancement seems to have produced a "process" which resulted in large numbers of dead people. Although we have the comfort of knowing that these particular deaths were not "dictated by a priesthood or Iron Agre books" the number of dead seems too large to justify a declaration that the "process" has been improved very much. Your commisars and modern books seem to produce at least as many, if not more, misery than the others.

Finally, it is probably a mistake to confuse science and "the enlightenment" as applied to political and social issues. It is certainly true that bad ideas or wrong ideas may be produced by either process. As to the physical sciences the errors produced by "cargo cult" science are identifiable because "the planes don't land" or, to take a specific instance, because global temperature stop going up for 15 to 18 years while CO2 emissions continue to rise. For the most part, no such process is available in the case of political or social "science." If reason is the only value you recognize, how can you say that killing everyone in Iowa is "wrong" if it is nevertheless logical?

Steal this book! You wouldn't want to be made stupid by capitalism, would you?

We may never fully agree on values but if we are to live together we must come to some agreement, and we can best do that by democratic voting. But once we decide on values, let us then bet on beliefs.

People agree progressively less and less on values, and thus there is less and less common ground for democratic debate.

But it sounds like Heath is one of those people who thinks that reason determines values (that coincidentally are identical to his own).

Not surprisingly, Alex, being libertarian, actually shares Heath's views that reason mostly should determine values. He just disagrees about the role of individual liberty. But libertarians like most liberals are committed to secular values and imposing them coercively on those who disagree. Where libertarians are different is in their lack of support for collective feeling -- including nationalism, shared family values, religion, and commitment to Burkean notions of social norms. They think reason and some sort of enlightened democracy can function just as well. Conservatives lose because the commanding cultural heights are dominated by liberals of the left and libertarian versions, especially at elite institutions.

Like it or not, many of the trends that Alex would probably decry (or not) including feminism, radical egalitarianism, multi culturalism, social liberalism, cosmopolitanism, the welfare state, tolerance for diversity even when it leads to a breakdown in order, loss of authority in child rearing, policing, and education stem from this.

Libertarians are unusual in often being quite conservative in their daily lives but not understanding how their focus on individual liberty and reason ignores the important role that collective identity and its maintenance depend on a number of non-rational mechanisms, including ethnic solidarity and social pressure. Hence, Alex's support for open borders or disdain for religion without understanding that both those trends undermine the life he likes to live. But I suppose this is consistent with the Caplanian selfishness that says as long as he and his ilk can escape to their enclaves, all is well. And who cares if the policies they espouse harm others who are less wealthy.

Well, i guess someone is off his meds.

Though not the person responsible for making sure this comment section remains respectable - it took them about ten minutes to remove the first jibe at the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center.

That this comment has remained beyond a quarter hour is likely making Benny Lava green with envy.


Best Troll! I love it!

No, he just has a permanent running grudge after being fired for cause ... a generation ago.

Such an intersting fantasy by Art Deco - maybe I should post the recommendation of a GMU center director that actually earned money for GMU, instead of relying on money from the GMU Foundation, as the Mercatus Center does (according to IRS records found at

Particularly in light of the fact that truth is an absolute defense concerning defamation, it is interesting to consider whether a HUK COBRUGg Rechtsschutzversicherung would cover the cost of pursuing such a clearly false statement over national boundaries - nothing like having an insurance company pay the costs, after all.

Of course, Art Deco, you could reduce everyone's costs by actually providing any facts that support your statement. Or an address.

A small-minded detractor makes for a pretty good advocate, I'd say.

'A small-minded detractor makes for a pretty good advocate, I’d say.'

Certainly, but since the idea of Rechtsschutzversicherung is another one of those German socialist hellhole concepts, it would be fascinating to see how far the idea of defamation goes when dealing with an insurance policy. (Though really, who careas about art deco?)

After all, the idea of the free market providing an opportunity to deal with small mind liars is the sort of thing that a libertarian web site is likely to celebrate, right?

'thinks he is making interesting points'

Or is wondering how long this link will last, considering past experience - normally, Prof. Tabarrok seems quite shy at any links connected to the sponsor of his proudly proclaimed chair. In the past, even a half hour is remarkable.

Maybe the idea of GMU PR dept. ridicule is providing moderate amount of restraint this time - who knows?


Actually, Bartley J. Madden, Heartland Institute -

This is like Bizarro Dunning-Kruger: the most boring and tedious poster thinks he is making interesting points

"But libertarians like most liberals are committed to secular values and imposing them coercively on those who disagree."
Conservatives' crocodile tears regarding coercion and imposition, brought to their eyes by the yearning for the good days of religious piety (and established churches, barring non-believers from public office, state-sanctioned religious teachings and other holy non-coercive mechanisms, which have existed in perfect harmony with slavery, racial and religious persecutions without undermining them the way individual "disdain for religion" is supposed to undermine the good life) never fail to bring a smile to my face. All that posturing, self-pitying and noble lie-peddling are the telltales of a movement that is both intellectually exhausted and morally bankrupted. A "wise man" taught that those living by the sword would die by the sword, and a better summation of the religious right in its dealings with state can't be found. As the good book says, "mene, mene, tekel, upharsin". Amen.
"Hence, Alex’s support for open borders or disdain for religion without understanding that both those trends undermine the life he likes to live."
The latter one probably undermines (or makes downright impossible) the life thugs claiming to speak in name of God, and seeking special treatment for that, would want to live and that their Muslim counterparts still do.
But since we need non-rational mechanisms (i.e. "It is a lie, but it makes me feel so well"), can we choose one or have we already got the only true (in a non-rational way, I mean) faith(es)? If we can't rationally judge their worth, how can we judge their effects? If we accept their stated goal of enforcing submission to Allah (or at least to His representatives), Arab countries are doing pretty well and everything else pales by comparison. What about Daoism and Spiritism?
Do we use reason to choose the non-rational mechanisms we should keep around or (true to the non-rational motif) cast lots to decide?

I just recently started diving into the world of credit card points and strategic card uses and whatnot. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll wind up losing rather than saving money.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "saving" money. To get the most value you'll use the points for business or first to Europe or Asia. So, you'll convert what would have been $4k in cash back in to $16k in airfare. So, you're "saving" 16k but then if you go on a trip to Europe you wouldn't have ordinarily gone on then you'll be out hotel, train, rental car, meals, etc.

That's what I'm still trying to figure out. Can I really turn 1 point into 4 cents' worth of airfare? That seems too good to be true, but I'll have to play around with it a bit.

If the incentives loosen your aversion to spending by just a hair, you'll lose. I use my shittiest credit card now, just to verify that I actually need the thing being purchased.

Yeah that's my concern. I guess I'll see how it works out.

Using credit cards to "game" the system is a lot like the "poor" financial advise to slow pay your mortgage and use the funds (and tax savings) to invest. Yes, technically the math might work in your favor, but very few people have the discipline to make it work.

In the case of credit cards, the CC companies know that the average person will spend enough additional money to make it worth their while to offer the bonus.

That's my fear. Though if I find myself getting out-behavioral-econned, I can just cancel it.

I have also heard stories of people who strategically open, churn, close, wait, and repeat, with different cards to get a pretty good amount of money, but that doesn't interest me.

If you have $4K in expenses over a few months but have no problem paying that off when your paychecks come in, it is worth it to get a card that will give you 50,000 miles if you spend $4k in three months. That's $500.
Or to use the card when it gives you 3 points for each dollar spent.
And if you don't want to travel, there are cards that give you 1 to 2 points per dollar spent and they can redeemed for cash. So just put everything you can on the card, always pay it off, and then convert the points to cash every few months.

Well, a professor at GMU in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences has postulated that capitalism is the best way to foster culture, titled 'In Praise of Commercial Culture.' Assuming that one accepts the proposition that culture is a reflection of a society's collective intelligence, then this book would seem to be a solid refutation of your post.

Maybe you should read that colleague's book? I believe a link to purchase it at Amazon is readily found at this very web site, actually.

you forgot to say Mercatus

When talking about GMU, why would I mention something that has nothing to do with it?

You forgot to day Koch brothers

"It’s also worth noting that of the three political groupings in America today—conservatives, liberals and libertarians—it’s the libertarians who are the most rational."

I hate to be rational, but libertaians are not a political grouping.

One could argue that liberals and and conservaties aren't either -- we have these things call democratics and repbulcians, which isn't quite the same thing -- but with enough culture wars we can turn the D&R into L&C. I guess we just want to be British.

"I hate to be rational, but libertaians are not a political grouping."

Well, they kinda are, but I think about 50% of their popularity has been helped along almost entirely by libertarians in media/academia/think tanks.

And that they have no role in government. there are no Libertarians passing (or more likely repealing) laws. They exist as an abstraction, so their ideas are just flights of fancy. Since they are not in power, they are not controlling anything, and they make no decisions that anger the voters.

Really - are you that embarrassed at being the director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, which is an actual part of GMU?

It is reasonable to assume that behind your back, the GMU PR department is laughing uncontrollably.


As noted above, GMU is thoroughly distinct from the Mercatus Center, regardless of how much effort is expended in conflating the two.

What is this irrational fixation of otherwise smart people with food other people eat? Food is cheap and plentiful in market economies, with outrageous selection that seems to confuse the small rational minds of philosophers. As people get more prosperous as a result of the free market an irrationality arises, they start eating healthier as the market produces high quality food.

The year he was born, if he had driven 12 hours from where he works, he would find people short and unhealthy due to the lack of nutritious food. Their children, who I went to school with were taller due to the irrationality of the parents buying good food.

Don't worry you Canadian members of the rational left. Justin Trudeau, the school teacher son lucky to be born with a golden name and has the ability to toss his hair giving women voters a frisson will lead Canada into political rationality. Or something.

Incidentally, I liked Iggy, whose academic work and whose somewhat popular work are really quite smart.

Never understood why i) he wasn't more successful -- lack of charisma? -- and ii) why people didn't vote for him at least on the basis of his sensible moderate positions (very Canadian). But I'm a middle aged historian who leans conservatarian, so no wonder I liked him...

Hmmm. I read The Rebel Sell when it came out and was like, "this is really compelling". Then I read Tom Frank's "The Conquest of Cool" and was like, "oh somebody already wrote that book like ten years ago except way better and with a much more profound and much better supported thesis". So Heath kind of has that working against him in my book.

Interesting. I really loved The Rebel Sell (the sequel, The Authenticity Hoax, by Heath's co-author Andrew Potter, was weaker), will definitely check out The Conquest of Cool.

For an irrational set of voters, I think they have done just fine even if the philosophers gnash their teeth. An ugly war and financial crash gave a supermajority to one party (a very rational club across the forehead of the Republicans) but two years later the voters divided government, strengthening the divisions each election since then leading to the two parties being tied in knots, both more fearful of their own supporters than their purported opponents.

There are real serious differences of opinion and conflicting interests where if one side had the ascendancy it would be at the cost of the other in real terms. Canada is similar, three of the four parties campaigned on various levels of shutting down the Alberta oil patch vs the Conservatives who supported it. Same dynamic in the US. Canada has had divided government for decades; the provinces are typically the opposite party of the Federal government keeping a lid on the more vigorous impulses of both. What a philosopher sees as enlightenment and ideas, everyone else sees as the raw exercise and restraint on power. Free market economies are bad for my business, and democracy is bad for politicians. They both have the tendency of putting you out of.

I wonder if he ever considered "Is capitalism making me stupid" as a subtitle.

Me not going stupid. Me smart. Me write book good.

Listening to Maxine Waters and Elizabeth Warren makes you stupid.

Regarding intuition, I recall Mencken describing so called "feminine intuition": The mark of that so-called intuition is simply a sharp and accurate perception of reality, an habitual immunity to emotional enchantment, a relentless capacity for distinguishing clearly between the appearance and the substance.

I think of intuition as clearly seeing reality, not as some pre-rational state.

Cognitive load is like physical load. You can exercise it, but if it's constantly being taxed you can't use it when and where you like.

Capitalism has let me ignore all sorts of things and concentrate on my comparative advantage. But I also could have let it rot my brain.

Capitalism makes a person a capitalist, or a wage labourer or a consumer.

And there are lots of a situations, in which such people are bereft of anything useful to say, or even to know the right place to start.

But what's the alternative to being any of the above three, for most people?

The problem is that its impossible for any book with "2.0" in the title to actually be good.

Capitalism makes us stupid only in the sense that it corrects excesses and imbalances. But being stupid, we don't allow capitalism to correct excesses and imbalances. What are the excesses and imbalances today, and how do we not allow capitalism to correct them? And why?

Or maybe it's being destroyed by welfare and high taxes.

"120 million victims of Communism might well disagree with you. The nicest parts of the world are usually constitutional monarchies – that is, people who specifically rejected the French Revolution."
So Communism because Enlightment (via French Revolution), but Enlighment had nothing to do with constitutional democracies/monarchies. One wonders what made them so rare back in the day...

Constitutional monarchies are common among people who rejected and fought the French Revolution. Places the Enlightenment did not happen, or at least did not happen to any great degree. Nor were they rare back in the day. The places that had them then tend to have them now.

Of course it is hard to factor out causation, but it seems a reasonable inference.

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