Marketplaces, Ideas, and Customer Bases

One of my favorite Kipling poems:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

It is certainly a k-selected poem, and the point it makes is that it doesn’t matter what pretty lies and gewgaws we chase, reality and the odds will catch up.

But that’s not why I brought this up.

One term you hear often in libertarian and free speech circles is “the marketplace of ideas”.

There’s a critical assumption there.

Namely – that the market is interested in truth. That the marketplace is willing to figure out which are the best ideas and apply those, forsaking others.

For what it’s worth, working within the context of this assumption, that the market is strictly of available ideas for you as the individual to choose from, to find the best ones, is utterly necessary to test ideas against reality and each other to determine their worth, and to have access to ideas instead of them being censored or shouted down for being unpopular.

Unfortunately, just like there’s only a small segment of the population interested in tabletop boardgames and wargames, there’s a limited number of people interested in truth over their feelings, especially in this day and age of millennials and prior generations being steeped in post-modernism and leftist assumptions.

And these people will not only follow popular opinions regardless of their value or how badly, like cheap steel and out-of-spec concrete in a bridge, their ideas will collapse in the future, but they will not allow you to have your own ideas. They will not allow you to ignore them.

They want you dead.

And if they have the market share, if they choose feels, or tyranny of the petty over each other, how will you gainsay them? The majority, the market, has, after all, spoken.

Democracy, republic, and the marketplace of ideas will only work in a culture that values fair play, leaving each other alone to “screw up” instead of forcing them to do the “right thing”, and care enough about the truth to make people who don’t back off.

In short, losing by following principle means losing the principle.

But is it losing the principle?

Those who have declared they don’t value the truth do not need to be respected in the same manner as those that do. As Taleb says, if they would rule over you, push back. Otherwise, you are declaring through your own actions that it is acceptable to push you around and subjugate you.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.