The Autocracy ​​of ReASoN and WESTERN CIVILIZATION

The U.S. Constitution was the result of the European Enlightenment.  Capitalism, as understood by Smith, also resulted from the Enlightenment. At the center of political and economic liberalism lies Reason, without it, neither capitalism nor democracy will work—at least not according to how it was supposed to work.  Reason, as understood by Enlightenment thinkers is gone, but its institutions remain.  The American Empire is the result of political and economic practices that have outlived their guiding principal—Reaso

According to philosopher Jürgen Habermas, writing several decades ago, we are still participating in the Enlightenment Project e.g. modernity, which began in the eighteenth century by thinkers who wanted to “to develop objective science, universal morality and law, and autonomous art according to their inner logic.”  Working together, Enlightenment thinkers would use science and reason to “accumulate knowledge…for the pursuit of human emancipation and the enrichment of daily life.” Scientific thought and reason would allow people to be free from scarcity, free from dogmas, free from tyranny, superstition, and other factors that impinge human liberation.  Peter Hamilton, writing in the Formations of Modernity (1992) defines Reason as “a faculty which allows the person to make informed decisions between good/ bad or right/ wrong.”

With the use of Reason, there is only one outcome or one True answer to a problem. The right answer is usually the answer dictated by Europeans who allegedly used REASON to obtain their conclusion.  And the right answer will always prove itself—someway, somehow.  This is why democracy and free-market capitalism rely on Reason because the True will reveal itself and silence any dissent, because dissent would be based on false reasoning.  Alexander Hamilton, a federalist, like his peers, distrusted democracy because they knew that the public often believed in false news, rumors, hysteria, etc.  If the public were allowed to vote, which they were not, it could lead to utter ruin. Therefore, Hamilton suggested that the founders create an Electoral College to oversee democracy in case the public gets it wrong.  As we know in the U.S. electors’ votes trump the popular vote.

Electors were to be men of education, men with the capability of using Reason instead of giving into emotions or hysteria. It was not the job of electors to represent the populace; it was their job to be white, male, property owners, who were smarter than the public.  

To use Reason appropriately, a person needs information—accurate information—without which a person would be unable to make an informed decision guided by the light of Reason.  Imagine the quality of the previous presidential debates.  Political figures work hard NOT to answer questions. Moderators ask questions that cannot be answered in a fifteen second window of time.  And if they do—we probably shouldn’t vote for them.

The role of accurate information is also important in capitalism.  In the same way that a person makes the Right decision for president given the facts at their disposal, they do likewise when purchasing goods.  According to the self-interest modal, the individual know what is best for her. People, using Reason, will buy only what they need or want.  Producers will note the people’s demand, shift their production to meet demand, compete with each other, and produce a superior product that people want—all the time Reason is the driving force behind the decisions consumers and producers make.           

But imagine a world, where producers create demand.  Imagine a world where Reason doesn’t exist, where the ‘best’ possible choice of products is determined by an aura of hyper-reality.  This is capitalism today.  We could even go so far as to say that producers have hegemony over demand. 

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