Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Meaning of Phyllis Schlafly

Was Phyllis Schafly, who died over the Labor Day weekend at the age of 92, a brilliant conservative mastermind, as Ann Coulter suggests? Or was she a privileged wife of a wealthy lawyer, as the New York Times obituary suggests?

I didn't become aware of her until her activism to stop the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and of course at the time, having been carefully taught as all middle-class children are, I thought she was bat-shit crazy.

And now? Today I reason backwards from the fact that women in first-world countries aren't having enough babies to achieve population replacement. I'd say that is a real problem. It is the first problem. If women aren't having enough babies then you are in a world of hurt.

Today I reason that all the world's problems stem from the mechanical Newtonian model of reality that imagines all the things in the world as billiard balls. It works, as far as it goes, in a lot of things having to do with mechanics: building bridges and stuff.

But the world has moved on. Today our fundamental understanding of life, the universe, and everything is the quantum mechanical state function. Everything is a cloud of uncertainty until something happens. And even then you can't be too certain about anything until a lot of things happen.

Notice that although we like to think of markets using mechanical and hydraulic metaphors like the push and pull of supply and demand, it is also possible to think of them in a quantum mechanical way. There is no such thing as a price until an actual exchange transaction takes place. And there is no such thing as a market until a bunch of transactions take place. So really, prices and markets are the most modern and sophisticated things around.

Today, physicists say that the basic principle of life, the universe, and everything is asymmetry.

Yet our culture and our politics is driven by the totalitarian mechanical mindset and the rage for symmetry and sameness. Everything must be determined by government force. Everything must be equal. Everyone must be shamed into the correct opinion.

I don't know what Phyllis Schafly knew or what she thought. She was such a controversial character that everything written about her had the taint of partisan apology.

But I think that, when the modern era -- with its big government, its totalitarian politics, and its heaven-on-earth theology -- grinds into dust, the new thing that replaces it will look a lot more like Schafly's notion than the Newtonian mechanical force machine of liberal/progressive/cultural Marxism and the top-down rule of the experts.

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