Many dystopian novels have, as part of their premise, a tyrannical government that hides from public view information and opinions that could embarrass the authorities. In Fahrenheit 451 an elite squad of “firemen” go around burning down any house down which is discovered to contain books. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the newspaper archives are altered retrospectively to ensure the state’s narrative is maintained. Some say that in the information age such restrictions could never be enforced.
In reality, the government does not need to go to any effort to hide the truth or subversive texts. All it has to do it ensure that sufficient numbers of people are not interested in the world around them. Make sure enough people get a shit education so that they grow up lacking curiosity in the way things work, make sure enough people are comfortable with their mundane existences, make sure that mass entertainment is sufficiently banal to stop people from opening their eyes and engaging their brains. As long as the number of people who can be bothered to keep themselves informed and are experienced enough to be able to form their own opinion is kept small enough, who cares what those people think?
If you want “power” in this country, you don’t need to have the best thought-out policies, you don’t need to be the brightest mind. This is socialism’s legacy: a nation so ill-educated that many haven’t even heard of the classics, where vast swathes of society don’t have to engage their brain to feed and clothe themselves, where generations of parents don’t feel the need to encourage their children to explore the world. This country is no longer run by a patrician elite, but by a cynical class of populist authoritarians who pander to every ignorant desire of the largest minority. Britain is a tyranny of the ignorant.
Do go and read the whole post, because it is pretty much spot on—it chimes, of course, with my oft-expressed contention that education is the most important way of progressing. However, Blue Eyes makes the wider point that people just don't want to educate themselves at all.
Naturally, your humble Devil would lay some of the blame for this at the feet of the Welfare State and of various governments. After all, if the Welfare State is going to molly-coddle you, and protect you from the consequences of your actions, why bother learning about how other people fared?
And when the government keeps protesting (in the face of all of the evidence) that today's kids are better educated, cleverer than ever before, surely those kids are going to assume that they have nothing more to learn.
Some, of course, would say that affluence has a lot to do with it—a theory that Blue Eyes also advances.
Authoritarian government is much easier when the populace is materially rich, I opined. Hardly an original comment, but one that I felt had been ignored in the libertarian blogosphere’s discussion of New Labour’s legacy.
But it is really an attitudinal thing: only an arrogant idiot would think that they have nothing to learn from the writings of others—no matter how rich said idiot was.
Partly to blame is an educational system that has left 50.4% of the country with low literacy levels—something that cannot help in the pursuit of knowledge. But also to blame are anti-aspiration fuckwits like Polly Toynbee—does anyone remember this?
However, [Polly] attacked Murray’s argument and said that to tell children that they could achieve greatness was to fill their heads with fairy tale nonsense.
There's your problem, right there. People like Toynbee—the type with which the education system is stuffed to the gills—don't believe that people should learn for themselves. After all, not only might people get ideas above their station, but they might also start asking themselves why they need all of these stupid, over-qualified teachers. And that would never do.
So, we will continue to be ruled by the stupid, and the ignorant, and the Left. People who know nothing and who even lack the equipment to work things out for themselves.