Dan Popp
By Dan Popp
November 24, 2014

    There is no accounting for the caprices of madmen; and, in my opinion as well as in that of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, it is never safe to permit them to run at large unattended. A lunatic may be 'soothed,' as it is called, for a time, but, in the end, he is very apt to become obstreperous. His cunning, too, is proverbial and great. If he has a project in view, he conceals his design with a marvellous wisdom; and the dexterity with which he counterfeits sanity, presents, to the metaphysician, one of the most singular problems in the study of mind. When a madman appears thoroughly sane, indeed, it is high time to put him in a straitjacket. – "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether," Edgar Allen Poe
The most fundamental fact of human nature is that people seek pleasure and avoid pain.

We modify our behavior to avoid spankings, high prices/taxes, reprimands from bosses and executions. We also change our ways to have a greater chance of receiving cookies, discounts, praise and eternal life. The difference between an ascetic and a hedonist is not that one seeks deprivation while the other seeks pleasure; it's that the flesh-denying man seeks a higher pleasure – a lasting reward. He's "playing the long game."

This, I repeat, is the most foundational thing we can know about ourselves. It cannot be denied. It cannot be changed. People will always do more of what makes them happy (whether the reward is physical, psychological or spiritual) and less of what makes them unhappy.

Not to know this is to know nothing.

And yet there are millions of people in America who deny what I've just called undeniable. For them, human beings are not human beings. Incentives are a fiction, made up by the Tea Party. Reality is unreal. As the old joke goes, "Everything you know is wrong."

Since we've been hearing so much about granting amnesty to illegal aliens, let me start with the example of Ronald Reagan. He was faced with a crisis of millions of illegals "in the shadows" – good people who only wanted better lives for their chirren, etc. etc. Like the current "crisis," his was not a real crisis but merely political pressure brought to a boil. In other words, a lie repeated repeatedly. Reagan, being a kind-hearted man, felt compassion for those ostensibly driven to break the law, compromised with his opponents (something Barack Obama has never done) and granted amnesty on a one-time-only basis in exchange for border security and other promises that were never fulfilled. This unique "Get Out of Jail Free" card – what did it do?


Of course it led to much more illegal immigration, because human beings really are human beings. You get more of what you reward.

I'll pick on Reagan again. One of the most disconcerting corollaries of the pleasure/pain principle is that one should never pay ransom. Ever. We must not negotiate with terrorists, even through an intermediary. We can mount rescue missions, we can deliver massive retribution, but we cannot pay. If our heart overrules our head, more innocent people will suffer in the future. Obviously I'm alluding to the Iran/Contra scandal, which made "arms for hostages" a household phrase.

So it's not just Barack Obama and the nominal Democrats who delude themselves to the point of posing danger to all of us. Anyone who believes that we can give out candy (even if it's "just one time") without creating a perpetual line outside the candy store is denying reality. Another word for that is "insanity."

We are surrounded, taught and ruled by lunatics.

Let me amend that. One doesn't have to be psychotic to advance crazy policies. But if the policy is crazy, it doesn't matter whether the advocate is sitting upright in front of the TV cameras, clothed and seemingly in his right mind. The policy is based on fantasy. It will end in pain and destruction.

This essay was prompted by a Saturday-morning business show, and a debate over whether taxpayers should be forced to bail out an insolvent government pension fund. Such a discussion should never take place because sane people shouldn't try to argue with insane people. The proper response would be something like, "Your proposal rewards evil. It would provoke more bad behavior in the future, leading to more discussions about intervention, leading to more insolvencies. Your premise is that human nature is not what all rational humans know it to be. Your 'solution' is based on a denial of reality. It is psychotic. I will not pretend to discuss an insane plan as if it were a sane plan – that would only add to the collective madness."

Then stand up and leave.

Bailouts, whether instituted by George W. Bush or by Barack H. Obama, are nuts. So is amnesty for illegal aliens. (And yes, it is amnesty; if it were not amnesty the criminals would be on a bus headed for Mexico.) Ransom payments to ISIS. Subsidies for fatherless households, and for more out-of-wedlock births. Payments to the unemployed. These are not proof of our "compassion." They are evidences of mental illness, of reality-denial. Human nature will not change just because you really feel very strongly that you have to Do Something. Now! We'll always get more of what we pay for – including (should we be so batty) failed banks, foreclosed houses, empty pension accounts, illegal immigration, terrorist kidnappings, fatherless children, poverty, crime and joblessness.

Einstein, with his famous quote about doing the same thing over and over again, will back me up on this.

Let's quit trying to argue with poor wretches suffering the heartbreak of psychosis. Stop the insanity. If our society ever returns to a simple, rational program of punishing wrongdoers, rewarding the righteous and leaving everything else alone, we'll quickly find that the world has started to make sense again.

That, of course, would be maddening to the reality-deniers.

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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