Blog Post: [Part 4] Critical Thinking, Human Development, and Rational Productivity

Richard Paul Archives
Mar 25, 2024 • 26d ago
[Part 4] Critical Thinking, Human Development, and Rational Productivity

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"[Missed Part 3? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"]"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"What Is Irrational Production? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"[1 of 2]"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIt is a platitude, but an important platitude to keep in mind, that the productive resources of society should be marshaled to serve public need and public good, as against the vested interests of a relative few at the expense of the public good. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Production is irrational to the extent that it fails to serve the public good, insofar as it is production wasteful of non-renewable resources, destructive of public health, or at the expense of basic human needs"},{"insert":". One valuable rule of thumb is this: any economic practice is of questionable rationality if it can be maintained only by keeping the public in ignorance as to specific nature and modes of operation. The public cannot be understood to sanction that which it does not comprehend. \n \nProduction and productivity are to be viewed as collective as well as individual decisions in a functioning democracy. For these decisions to be made in a rational fashion, the public must have been educated to think critically, for when some narrow interest group seeks to maintain some form of irrational production (either as a whole or in part), it is inevitable that public relations and lobbying efforts will be launched which function, at least in part, to obfuscate public recognition of its own interests. For instance, it was in the narrow egocentric interest of asbestos manufacturers to minimize public disclosure of the health hazards of working and building with asbestos. The asbestos industry obscured the public interest to serve its own. As a result of the industry successfully protecting its vested interest, a mode of production was maintained for decades at great expense and loss in public health.\n \nSince it is unrealistic to expect industries with narrow vested interests to abandon those interests for the public good, it becomes necessary that the public be armed with the critical, analytic, fact-finding, and reasoning abilities that critical thinking provides, that they may judge where, when, and to what degree the pursuit of a vested interest is consistent with public good.\n \nIt is easy to find innumerable historical examples in which the public good was sacrificed precisely because the public was kept in the dark about the manner in which and the extent to which private interest was secured. Adam Smith himself was well aware of the tendency of private interest to seek its own advancement at the expense of public good:\n \nPeople of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Wealth of Nations"},{"insert":", Book 1, Ch 10.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nIt is extremely difficult to maintain genuine competition that serves the public good in the face of ever-changing market structures and ever-growing concentrations of economic wealth and power. Multi-national corporations, for example, are increasingly able to function as quasi-monopolies, or, in their capacity to move their productive facilities and great concentrations of wealth from one country to another, as to function as quasi-oligopolies. For example, when a foreign dictator prevents the development of free labor unions and preserves both “political stability” and “low wages” by effective and organized instruments of social and political repression, then the “free” labor force economically competing in “democratic” countries loses effective bargaining power at home. Free labor cannot effectively compete against unorganized repressed labor. A market economy cannot function in the public good when increasing concentrations of wealth produce conditions of radically inequitable bargaining power.\n \nAgain and again, questions intrinsic to the nature and mode of production and productivity turn upon decisions and policies that can be argued from divergent points of view and in which the relation of private and public interest are in need of critical explication. The individual citizen’s capacity to penetrate the rationalizing smoke screens that can be generated to undermine the public good in service of private gain is a profound on-going problem of public life.\n \nConsider, for example, an argument in the London "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Economist"},{"insert":" of July 13, 1850, criticizing the “sanitary movement” which was urging that government support the development of a pure water supply and proper sewage disposal. The "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Economist "},{"insert":"argued that poor housing and high urban death rates,\n \nSprung from two causes, both of which will be aggravated by these new laws. The first is the poverty of the masses, which if possible, will be increased by the taxation inflicted by the new laws. The second is that the people have never been allowed to take care of themselves. They have always been treated as serfs or children and they have to a great extent become in respect to those objects which the government has undertaken to perform for them, imbeciles . . . There is a worse evil than typhus or cholera or impure water, and that is mental imbecility."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nHere the public good is defined as allowing poor water treatment and supply to continue. To correct them, say these editors, would "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"harm"},{"insert":" the poor.\n"}]}

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