This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Irrationality and majority rule

 “The combined ignorance of ten millions is not the equivalent of one man’s wisdom.”

~ Hippolyte Taine[1]

Some errors are ‘so simple that the mind is repelled’,[2] as if they were so obvious as to be impossible to perceive. This is the only explanation for the persistent belief in the justness of majority rule. Those who adhere to it seem to reason thusly: if I know half a truth, and my neighbor knows half a truth, then our combined opinions will amount to the whole truth. Obviously this is not a reasonable expectation, and the outcome will most likely be hodge-podge of incongruous half-truths combined in such a way that we’ll either be no better off or else worse off than when we started.

For example, if we imagined the problem as an algebraic equation requiring a number of operations, properly ordered, to reach the correct solution, what is most likely is that my friend and I, if we even have half the solution, which is unlikely, will inevitably have the first half only, for if either of us had the last half then we’d have the first half too, and we’d be in full possession of the solution without needing to combine forces. Thus, two such men, each with half the truth, will never combine to achieve the whole truth.

H.L. Mencken put it in similar terms, saying: “If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x × y is less than y.”

Even the sciences, as we now have them, will tell us the same thing—that the average opinion of a collective is not, in fact, even on par with the average intelligence of that mass, but is a measure of the floor. In the words of Rene Guénon:

This now leads us to elucidate more precisely the error of the idea that the majority should make the law…the opinion of the majority cannot be anything but an expression of incompetence, whether this be due to lack of intelligence or to ignorance pure and simple; certain observations of ‘mass psychology’ might be quoted here, in particular the widely known fact that the aggregate of mental reactions aroused among the component individuals of a crowd crystallizes into a sort of general psychosis whose level is not merely not that of the average, but actually that of the lowest elements present.[3]

And as Guénon was speaking of this problem as it relates to legislation, we are led to our next point.

[1] Hippolyte Taine, Origins of Contemporary France, v. 1.

[2] We are borrowing the phrasing of John Kenneth Galbraith who famously said that “the process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.”

[3] Rene Guénon, Crisis of the Modern World, 75.

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