In an earlier post — before the rise of populism became a matter of concern for western democracies — I had considered how democratic societies might safeguard liberal values from being overturned by majority vote.
This is an archived blog post from The Acorn on Medium.
Democracy empowers everyone alike — the liberal and the bigot, the enlightened and the ignorant, the reasoner and the dogmatist. Ignorant majorities can democratically decide to expunge Reason. In the absence of an educated population, democracy ends up as the tyranny of the ignorant. See this post on dogma, reason and democracy.
For democratic societies to become enlightened the pace of education (E) must be higher than the rate of population growth (P). If E > P long enough for a majority of the population to be educated, then enlightenment is likely to prevail in a democratic society. If E < P, then that society is likely to ultimately reject enlightenment. It becomes impossible to endogenously and democratically reform the education system (in the broadest sense of the term) once it crosses a point of no return. The existence of countries like this in the contemporary world should serve as a signal warning against complacence on the E/P ratio. [The Acorn]
On further reflection, it seems to me that “E”, the pace of Education, must be qualified as the net pace of Education (where Education is defined as “Education is the ability to acquire and use knowledge and most importantly, employ reason in decision-making”).
It’s not easy for E be positive, even in highly literate societies.
That’s because while reasoning can be taught, it cannot — by definition — be imposed. You can’t force people into reason. You can’t punish them for not employing reason. On the other hand, people are forced into, and to stay in, unreason. They are punished for straying from unreason. The history of humanity is replete with the oppression and punishment of those who disbelieve, of those who challenge or repudiate faith. In the modern nation-state, one goal of politics is to capture the education system and use it to perpetrate the chosen dogma (ideology, religion, race, ethnicity and so on), that in turn perpetrates the particular narratives of power. If E is not positive, it can’t be greater than P, when P is positive. Duh.
If this looks gloomy for those on the side of Reason, that’s because it is. Perhaps the one lesson we can draw is that when Reason enjoys primacy and “E” is positive, it is important to spread the values aggressively.
At other times? It looks bad.
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