Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beware of Ideology.

I'm reading a book--doing research on a book I am trying to write--about Prohibition and its effects on New York City.

The Drys saw a modern-day Utopia rising in New York, if only we would ban demon rum. 

Immigrants, who made up more than 50% of New York's population (counting first-generation as well) would become more "American." They wouldn't have ethnic saloons in which to propagate their native culture.

Crime, drunkenness and immigrant laziness would all decrease. 

Hard-work, patriotism and godliness would all increase.

We could spend less money on cops.

Our economy would boom.

Hospitals would empty.



Of course, exactly the opposite happened. Lawlessness and corruption skyrocketed. Police forces and the Judicial system were overwhelmed. Hospitals filled with young men sickened by drinking wood alcohol.

Ideologues and their ideologies have done well in our industry. They always do. "If you do this," they say, "a million flowers will bloom, sales will skyrocket, your best customers will stay loyal and buy more and you'll attract new customers in droves."

Life isn't ideology.

Things never go as planned.

And "reform" like anything else takes time, hard-work and, most of all, luck.

The fact is, there are no magic bullets. No panaceas. No inextricable causality that brings an if-then proposition to success.

I close with this quotation. 

One of my favorites.

In "The Captive Mind", Czeslaw Milosz's memoir/essay/study about artists and intellectuals living under Communism in the early 1950s, he attributed the epigram below to an ancient Jew from Galacia. 

"When someone is honestly 55% right, that's very good and there's no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it's wonderful, it's great luck, and let him thank God. But what's to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he's 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal."

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