The Moron Manual

Chapter 9

During an interview in Reason magazine (May '89, p.33), Ronald Reagan's budget director, James Miller, had this to say:

F "Bear in mind... most members of Congress want to raise taxes. They want to be in the business of doling out goodies—siphoning off the common pool, and all of that. I know this for a fact in talking with members of Congress."

At one time, an expression such as "siphoning off the common pool" would have sounded like gibberish. So also with "the consumer," "consumerism," and "zero-sum game." These are examples of new concepts which are concepts of convenience.

A concept is a mental classification, formed by observing similarities. Entities are grouped mentally, regarded as a unit, and held in mind as a word. One observes a number of shapes, picks out round ones, and forms the concept circle.

A concept of convenience is formed the other way around. We choose the entities we wish to group, and then bring into existence a similarity to justify the grouping. Since intransigence is our enemy, we declare it similar to fanaticism, and form the convenience concept extremism.

This has proved to be a powerful technique for morons. An early success of this technique gave us the word isolationism. Like politics, the field of economics has been a fertile ground for this technique, so we shall illustrate it in that field. First, however, we should form a contraction.

There is little point in writing convenience concept over and over when we can easily contract the phrase into a word. Since the first letters are the same in both words, we can write it as "CONcept". We will discuss the difference between a concept and a CONcept.

A concept, depending as it does on observation of reality, is considered by morons to be crude and primitive. A CONcept, by contrast, is a sophisticated creation of human minds. The purpose of a concept is regulation on a narrow, personal scale—self-regulation of one's own actions. The purpose of a CONcept, on the other hand, is regulation on a much broader scale indeed.

In forming CONcepts, we need not be timid in our choice of words. Often, it is well to name a CONcept with the same word as a concept. For example, the word freedom originally referred to a concept that included only physical absences: the absence of force, the absence of compulsion. Now the word refers to a CONcept that includes spiritual absences: the absence of want, the absence of fear, and so on. Using the original concept of freedom, it would be absurd to argue that freedom requires controls. But, using the CONcept of freedom, it is so argued all the time, to everyone's satisfaction.

The perceptive reader will, at this point, see the wisdom of our insistence that we never refute an argument. Such an endeavor not only requires effort, but entails risk. Logic is the expulsion of contradictions. Morons have better use for contradictions than that.

MORON PERSUASION: Merging Contradictions.

If, by using CONcepts, we can reconcile contradictions as blatant as freedom and force, then refutation is wasted effort. Each year, it is proven to Congress by logic that they must cut spending. Do they refute this logic? Of course not; they know better. They agree heartily with the logic, and announce spending cuts. It is not up to them to explain that their term spending cuts refers not to the old concept, but to a new CONcept, which includes cuts in the rate of increase of spending. Thus the contradiction is neatly managed: spending is cut even as it goes up.

Advertisers are well aware that to persuade customers to spend money, they must offer to help them save money. Save actually names a new CONcept, which includes spending. In the dark past, a man unable to be self-supporting had to prove himself deserving of alms. Today, that man is spared the effort, because we have combined needing, deserving, and demanding into a CONcept called entitlement.

At one time, inventions came with the name of an individual attached. We think of Ford's mass-produced car, Edison's electric light, Bell's telephone. Now, that old concept of invention has been replaced by the new CONcept of collective effort. The transistor came from collective effort, as did television and computers. To be clear on this method, one must realize that nothing has actually changed. Edison's laboratory was no less a cooperative enterprise than the modern "R & R Lab." It is only that our tools of thought come from those who are in charge of things. While it might be a known fact that inspiration is individual, it is no longer an acknowledged fact; so we do not regard the names of individuals as relevant.

Collective production naturally leads to the common pool—a modern CONcept which includes all goods and services produced by everybody equally, regarded as the common property of everybody. Credit for this ingenious classification is usually given to Karl Marx. However, on page 10 of Das Kapital, Marx makes the fundamental error of acknowledging that there is a difference between skilled and unskilled labor. This led to years of embarrassing arguments about "units of labor" and "units of need." Any moron knows that if one's taking from the common pool is in any way made proportional to one's contribution, then the game is up.

Fortunately, this slight imperfection in the common pool CONcept has been largely forgotten, due in part to the assistance of another modern CONcept, the zero-sum. The particular cleverness of this construction is its mathematical-sounding name. It is hard to argue with math. Two plus two equals four, but two plus minus-two equals zero. This is presumed to be like adding into and taking out of the common pool. The zero-sum game is one of getting rich by making others poor.

The usefulness of the common pool idea is obvious to anyone who wishes to "take out" without the effort of "putting in." The usefulness of the zero-sum is not so obvious. One might ask: how is such a vague grouping used in an actual argument? The answer is: it is not so used. We do not argue. We do not refute.

We may designate the two CONcepts under discussion as exclusionary CONcepts. They are not used to confront arguments, but to exclude them. They are used to take charge of the facts.

Reasoning in the old conceptual terms, we would have to say that John D. Rockefeller was one of the greatest benefactors of mankind. He wanted to get rich, so he figured out how to make kerosene cheap enough so that common people could buy it. Ruthlessly overcoming all obstacles, he made it possible for everyone to have warmth and light in abundance without the smell or expense of whale oil. If we tried to counter an argument such as this, we would have to admit that Rockefeller not only earned his own wealth, but brought into existence for millions wealth that had not previously existed.

No moron should attempt to counter such an argument. The proper response is polite attention, followed by a return to thinking in our modern terms, by which, as we know, Rockefeller got rich by taking from the common pool and making other people poor in the zero-sum game. He was a producer—which in our modern CONcept means that he took things and exploited people. He had no knowledge of, and certainly no use for, the consumer.

If there is a single CONcept more useful to morons than any other, surely it must be the consumer. It is, in every way, an extraordinary invention.

In order to fully reveal the beauty of this CONcept, we must beg the reader's indulgence. What we say may sound exaggerated—even sarcastic. In no other way, however, can we show the immense difficulties to be overcome, and the elegant way this CONcept overcomes them.

If we could ask one of John D. Rockefeller's customers whether he was a producer or a consumer, he would be puzzled. In his day, a "consumer" consumed fuel. "You want to know if I'm a furnace?" he might say. If we explained our question, he would turn indignant. He would equate producing with working. "How could I not be a producer?" he might ask. "You think I steal the money to buy kerosene?"

In fact, we would find that it was impossible to explain the question. He would think of it as similar to: "Are you a man or an adult?" He might well embarrass us by demanding, "Why would you want to ask such a question?"

We do not want to ask such a question. We do want people to ask it of themselves. We want them to choose sides.

Rockefeller's customer did not think of himself as Rockefeller's enemy. He thought of himself as on the same side, but not as successful. He would refuse point blank to help us harvest away Rockefeller's wealth—it might someday be his. In fact, historically, he did refuse. Morons were not in charge of things.

There was, however, in economic theory, a pair of concepts which came to our rescue: producer goods and consumer goods. Their actual meanings were: "goods used for production," and "goods to be consumed." They were classifications of things. First morons, and then everyone, came to think of them as classifications of persons. Since a new CONcept was being formed to be called producer, a contrasted CONcept was formed called consumer. It was Adam's rib revisited. Where had stood one man who produced and consumed, now stood two men—one producing, one consuming. These two men could then be turned one against the other.

To show the exquisite subtlety with which this consumer CONcept has worked over the years, we may point out that not only do consumers regularly vote against themselves as producers, they form organizations and vigilante groups to protect themselves as consumers from themselves as producers. With considerable benefit, we need not add, to the intervening advocates.

As these modest lines are being written, a political campaign is taking place. All candidates are promising to provide jobs. They speak of jobs as consumer items. It is, for morons, a happy fact of life that consumers need jobs just as they need hair spray and toothpaste—and that we are taking a remunerative part in their provision.

This amazing and gratifying success of the consumer CONcept has given morons a pattern for managing all worldly affairs. In order to take charge of the marketplace, we form the CONcept consumerism, which allows us to explain that the market is run for the benefit of consumers, rather than for those who wish to trade. In order to favor domestic morons over foreign traders, we form the CONcept fairness. In order to control the bounty of others, we form the CONcept liberalism—and when the potential of that CONcept is exhausted, we form the CONcept environmentalism.

If we find it useful to control free speech, we form the CONcept commercial speech, which lacks the privileges of other kinds of speech. In general, however, we do not fear free speech—as long as people make use of the new CONcepts instead of the old concepts.

"Mind control" has been a moron ideal for many centuries. With the perfection of CONcepts, this ideal has become attainable. Control of the terms with which thinking is done makes feasible control of that thinking. Since our CONcepts are always presented as the latest "in" thing, they are promulgated by the press to all who pay attention. The "leading edge" dictates the "party line," as it were.

With the triumph of CONcepts, we reach the high point of our moron methodology. It will be our grim duty to end this manual with dire warnings. If the approaching dangers are to be averted, every method described herein must be kept in mind and understood to the fullest. Being in charge of things brings not only privileges, but also problems.

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