Tuesday, June 3, 2008

God save us from over-educated morons

A front page story in yesterday’s ‘Post’ covered the musings of Professor William Gorton in a paper entitled "Too Much of a Good Thing: Freedom, Individualism, Autonomy and the Decline of Happiness in Liberal Democracies" to be presented at this week’s Vancouver annual Congress of the Humanities. Among Gorton’s musings:

"There's the assumption that human beings make the best choices for how to lead a happy life,"

... while Western countries continue to get healthier and wealthier, happiness levels are stagnating.

"An abundance of choice may actually make people unhappy," choice, he said, comes weighted with responsibility and the potential for regret.

"political participation doesn't have this effect of making people feel they have more control over their lives --it makes people angry."

What to do, what to do?

...he does suggest one possible approach to the dilemma -- something he calls "soft paternalism."

"Soft paternalism says individuals still have choices, but we're going to try to tip the balance, in subtle ways, towards the decision that's more likely to make the person better off," he said.

I wonder who "we" is. Thankfully, Peter Foster has a much saner idea: "If you’re the sort of person who worries about too much choice in the cereal aisle, as professor Gorton apparently is, do something that I do: eat oatmeal."
Some more snippets:
When capitalism wound up making people happier and richer, the egghead
busybodies either ignored the evidence or shifted the goalposts, e.g. capitalism might not bring misery after all, but what was it all for? Were we truly happy?

Professor Gorton has come to the conclusion, no doubt after surveying the academic "literature," (garbage in/ garbage out) that Western capitalist liberal democracy might not be making us happy.

I thought for sure that Mr. Gorton must be some kind of re-tread sixties hippy, but I Googled him and he’s just a young buck, barely out of his post-doctoral diapers.

The fact that he is recycling the same kind of anti-materialist crap that has been peddled for at least a couple of hundred years confirms the depressing fact that Academe is ever being re-populated with bright young people who have elaborate educations and little or no wisdom ...

... but the urge to run others’ lives just won’t go away. After all, they are just so much brighter than the average Joe.

Even more depressing, I discovered that Professor Gorton is meant to be some kind of expert on Karl Popper, a philosopher primarily concerned with saving us from the likes of Professor Gorton.

... what people treasure above all is the joy of screwing up for themselves. If you want to see really unhappy people, look at those whose lives are screwed up for them.

With all due respect to Professor Gorton, I would suggest that while he may derive happiness from formulating plans for the rest of mankind, his ideas should stay on campus.

Amen. Perhaps the real problem is that too many people like Professor Gorton are paid too much money to dream up idiotic theories and speculate about a world, the real world, which they don’t inhabit. Our universities, at least the humanities faculties, will be the death of us. And it’s a little ironic that the Professor gets to spew his "soft paternalism" junk during the same week that a weird BC "Human Rights" Tribunal considers censoring free speech and the free press.


Roy Eappen said...

I read this article yesterday and thought to myself these people have too much time on their hands.

Halfwise said...

I am waiting for the good professor to offer me the power over his choices so that he can be happier.

I would like his bicycle and he can have one from the back of my garage. I think my daughter last rode it in 1999.

JR said...

Exactly, Roy. No doubt it's all part of the academic system of incentives to get stuff published and presented, no matter how loopy the ideas. It leads to ever more ridiculously high pay, prestige, travel, tenure.

Halfwise, Good point. It hadn't occurred to me that the professor might be happier doing something useful. It would certainly make me happier if he were.