T Nation

How to Squelch Innovation in America

This is Ben Stein’s take on how to go about ruining what makes America great and has made our economy the envy of the world. I wanted to post it because it’s applicable to several other threads I’ve seen and with on which I have weighed in recently. No wonder it’s so hard to win that guy’s money… he’s damn smart (as if the ph.D. in econ and law degree from Yale didn’t suggest that already…).

1) Allow schools to fall into useless decay. Do not teach civics or history except to describe America as a hopelessly fascistic, reactionary pit. Do not expect students to know the basics of mathematics, chemistry and physics. Working closely with the teachers' unions, make sure that you dumb down standards so that children who make the most minimal effort still get by with flying colors. Destroy the knowledge base on which all of mankind's scientific progress has been built by guaranteeing that such learning is confined to only a few, and spread ignorance and complacency among the many. Watch America lose its scientific and competitive edge to other nations that make a comprehensive knowledge base a rule of the society.

2) Encourage the making of laws and rules by trial lawyers and sympathetic judges, especially through class actions. Bypass the legislative mechanisms that involve elected representatives and a president. This will stop--or at least greatly slow down--innovation, as corporations and individuals hesitate to explore new ideas for fear of getting punished (or regulated to death) by litigation for any misstep, no matter how slight, in the creation of new products and services. Make sure that lawsuits against drugmakers are especially encouraged so that the companies are afraid to develop new lifesaving drugs, lest they be sued for sums that will bankrupt them. Make trial lawyers and judges, not scientists, responsible for the flow of new products and services.

3) Create a culture that blames the other guy for everything and discourages any form of individual self-restraint or self-control. Promote litigation to punish tobacco companies on the theory that they compel innocent people to smoke. Make it second nature for someone who is overweight to blame the restaurant that served him fries. Encourage a legal process that can kill a drug company for any mistakes in self-medication. Make it a general rule that anyone with more money than a plaintiff is responsible for anything harmful that a plaintiff does. Promulgate the pitiful joke that Americans are hereby exempt from any responsibility for their own actions--so long as there are deep pockets around to be rifled.

4) Sneer at hard work and thrift. Encourage the belief that all true wealth comes from skillful manipulation and cunning, or from sudden, brilliant and lucky strokes that leave the plodding, ordinary worker and saver in the dust. Make sure that society's idols are men and women who got rich from being sexy in public or through gambling or playing tricks, not from hard work or patience. Make the citizenry permanently envious and bewildered about where real success comes from.

5) Hold the managers of corporations to extremely lax standards of conduct and allow them to get off with a slap on the wrist when they betray the trust of shareholders. This will discourage thrift and investment and ensure that Americans will have far less capital to work with than other societies, while simultaneously developing that contempt for law and social standards that is the hallmark of failing nations. Hold the management of labor unions to no ethical standards.

6) While you're at it, discourage respect for law in every possible way. This will dissolve the glue that holds the nation together, and dissuade any long-term thinking. Societies in which the law can be clearly seen to apply to some and not to others are doomed to decay, in terms of innovation and everything else.

7) Encourage a mass culture that spits on intelligence and study and instead elevates drug use, coolness through sex and violence, and contempt for school. As children learn to be stupid instead of smart, the national intelligence base needed for innovation will simply vanish into MTV-land.

Damn. That about says it all.

Simply outstanding, BB…


Like char…there isn’t a lot more to add (even though I think that I’m going to digest this a little more…maybe I’ll have some thoughts later…!)

However, I will say this for now…


It’s often said that Cultures and Civilizations destroy themselves from within…


Something to think about…


Mufasa

I agree with his ideas pretty much. Do you think that the decay is coming from the top (government, bussiness especially the enterainment and advertising industries) down or the bottom (John Citzen’s lifestyle) up?

I think the media has done a huge amount to mentally and morally corrupt the youth of today.

I dunno if my 2 cents mean anything, but I think its both. The entertainment industry is feeding us different messages and obscuring basic goodness and decency. How many times have you seen something on tv that was insane, yet the commentator was like, "now they are having a good time". Also, the same thing can be applied to sports. Everyone knows that guy that doesn't vote and can't identify the president on the 1$ bill, but never, ever and under any circumstances misses a football game. Yes! I'm ranting, and I know this might sound disconnected and sloppy, but I hope you get my point. The entertainment "kings" are feeding us mediocrity and we love it.

Decay of a society starts with you. If a person is brought up in a certain way, the trends instilled in him/her will more than likely be instilled in the kids. Does media play role? Clearly, it does but not one more promiant than the role of the parents.

Media today has become the rearers of children, as stay home parents results in lower income, higher tax rates(at least in Canada), that in turn spurn the end result of latch key kids.
That parents can’t be bothered now adays to be parents, is another factor (see above for potential reason).

I think that the modern media has the same power as the medieval church. Something to consider.


Also, to Mufasa: It ain’t just written. Check out Thomas Cole’s series of 5 paintings, “Course of Empire”.

I couldn’t agree more with what Stein said. Great stuff that I wish more people realized.

I couldn’t agree more with your statement about modern media and the medieval church. I just finished taking a broad history course where this was discussed in some detail. The medieval church gave people something to focus on other than their lives and while americans have it much better than medieval people did the media does the same thing today. People would rather discuss who won the best actor oscar, or what they thought of the new friends epsiode than talk about things that are revelant to everyones wellbeing.
The medieval church also made most of its decisions based on the pope and other high up officials either making money or keeping power over the masses. Think about the practice of people paying for redemption(maybe not right word).
The medieval church also encouraged the masses to persecute and ostracize those who did not conform. Is the media not doing the same thing today. If you don’t wear the newest Gap clothing or have a cell phone than you aren;t cool. People are ostracized for this today and its the media that is telling us how we should look, dress, and act.
The media is doing all this because it has power over the American people and it wants to keep it that way, just as the medieval church wanted to centuries ago. Not to mention what a lucrative market the media has. Why do we need all this stuff that the media tells us we do?? Obviously because the media is making money and they are happy with things the way they are.
I see religion as a crutch, especially in medieval times, and today I see media and the entertainment industry as a crutch for the american people. All those who disagree with me, religious or others please feel free to comment/flame away.
:slight_smile: Groove

Couldn’t agree more that the media is a HUGE culprit. Did anyone here see Michael Moore’s documentary “Bowling for Columbine”? In it, he tries to determine why America has so many more deaths via gun violence than any other nation in the world. Canada, apparently, has just as many guns as we do, but less than half the death rate from them.

He speculates that the media is largely responsible because of their constant shock tactics, making all of us feeling extremely unsafe. Think about how many “news” stories you see or hear on a daily basis that are as far from news-worthy as you can get? Up here in the Pacific NW, if even one snowflake falls, it’s round-the-clock coverage and all of the local news stations are competing with one another. I go to Southern Cal to visit my dad, and they do the same damn thing every time it rains. Ridiculous.

They constantly remind of all the bad things that can happen to our kids: don’t let 'em go trick-or-treating or they’ll be poisoned or kidnapped! Better stay out of the water, else they’ll be attacked by a shark. Hell, I remember this last summer and the summer before, there seemed to be more shark attacks than in the history of mankind. It seemed like I heard a new story every week. Well, surprise! There haven’t been anymore shark attacks over the last two years than ever before, but they made us think it must be some kind of sign from God. Again, ridiculous. Hell, I even find myself getting uptight about all of these things that we need to watch out for nowadays. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and lighen up a bit.

Point is, the media is absolutely everywhere and they’ve got something to say about everything. Magazines, television, and movies all glorify an image 99.9% of us could never possibly hope to acheive; and impressionable young kids think they’re less worthy if they don’t happen to look like Hollywood does. Not to mention every kid expects to be rich and successful without really having to do any hard work. Somehow, they think they’re *owed". Ha! Anyway, I could go on and on.

Now if you'll excuse, channel 8 just said that there are some kids going around fire-bombing people's houses in the next state. I'm going to go grab a six-pack and my shotgun and sit in the front yard.

Canada has as many guns as the US? Well, I guess I shouldn’t expect much from someone who takes Michael Moore seriously.

So what is the answer? Burning television sets a la Hitler’s book burnings? (said with a wry smile and good humor so please do not be offened!)

Ok, ok. So I took Michael Moore’s word for it. But according to this gun control site:

www.guncontrol.ca/ Content/Cda-US.htm

…the US has 3.3 times the number of guns PER CAPITA as Canada, yet we have 7.9 times their murder rate from firearms. While those numbers are much less inflated than Moore’s, it still shows that Americans have a much greater propensity for gun violence than do Canadians.

By the way, it really tears me up inside that you feel you can’t expect much from me. Give me a break. I was simply using Moore’s info to illustrate a point: that the media in this country is out-of-control and it has an enormous impact on our youth, and our society as a whole.

I agree about the media, think of fitness, people believe what TV or magazines tell them, hence infomercials promising results we know are impossable under the best of circumstances. To quote Homer Simpson “but TV wouldent lie to me would it?” Also in the schools we are dumbing down the smart kids so the dumb ones don’t feel stupid! There was an article on CNN.com the other day about college professors getting upset because little Johnnys parents now think it is the college professors fault that he got a D, never mind the fact he didn’t study or go to class. This all carries over from the lawsuits resulting from when someone does not get a grade they like in highschool or does not make the cheerleading squad. No longer does anyone take a failure in stride, learn from it, and try harder next time, now we say “couldn’t have been me, must be someone else’s fault”, and the courts are backing them up!

I’d have to agree with everything in that article, kick ass. We really are at a crisis point with our morals and it is starting to really degrade our society. Now, I’m not talking about morals from a Biblical, judgment, you’re bad if you do this and good if you don’t do this type of standpoint. I’m coming at this from a PRACTICAL standpoint. Morals at their best are the glue of society and when those things come apart, everything goes with it. One of the main reasons often attributed to the fall of the Roman Empire was moral decay. People got lazy, turned into materialists, and started doing everybody in sight. Have you guys heard of the vomitorium? It was a room in the houses of the wealthier Romans where people would go to to throw up. They did this so they could go back to dinner and stuff themselves even more.

Forget a few:

  1. Under the guise of the noble sounding phrase “political correctness” indoctrinate pop culture (through it’s various media) with the belief that “tolerance” is not only a virtue but that it is the highest virtue and should be pursued at all costs-- especially at the expense of virtues like genuine equity and justice, individual excellence and all manner of moral virtues (such as courage, honor, freedom and the pursuit of truth). In fact, make moral leaders of any type laughable but promote and excuse the behaviour of celebrities and criminals. Tell everyone that there is no such thing as truth–but all the while imply that what you are saying is true and that your position is the only valid perspective or truth. In other words, be a psuedo-intellectual and point out that everything is relative (especially those crusty old religious and philosophical moral/ethical ideas) but, then, turn around and preach your own version of politically correct “truth” with the zeal and conviction of a fundamentalist sunday-school teacher. It’s amazing what you’ll be able to accomplish. Yes, let your version of “tolerance” be a unique version–one which tolerates no rivals!

9. Make men look like idiots at every turn. The best place to do this is on TV. The sitcoms and commercials should stereo-type men as balding, dorky, childish, self-centered, weak minded, subservient--basically just doofis'. Especially do this if he is older and has accomplished anything meaningful. If you want to project a "positive" image of men (in which they look strong and are taking the lead), be sure you inextricably link it up with rap or rock stars who don't take personal responsibility but cry & whine incessantly and blame all their woes on their family (esp. their mother and father), criminals or any other shocking personalities or celebrities. Make the hard working father and husband who plods to work everyday and is doing his best to do the right thing in life look like a clueless chump.

10. Act like your an expert on God (that is, in conversation, hand down your dogmatic opinions and insist that God thinks "such and such" or prefers "this or that"), but never actually look into any of the major world religions to see if God may actually have an opinion on the matter or have really communicated what he wants or expects. That is admit that he exists but then relegate him to some corner void in the universe so that he can't interfere with your projects and desires. Make him intelligent enough to create beings who thrive on communication but always question whether he communicates. In fact, rather than looking to the common core found in all world religions (with codes of morality that say don't murder, steal, commit adultery, etc.), simply play each world religion off against the other based on their more superficial differences. In fact, this can be used as a good piece of evidence in your whole "all truth is relative" pitch. This is a key thing to do because you can undercut all other positions that rest on religious foundations but all the while secure the moral high ground and claim to be "objective" and "rational." If any one begins to question the implications or fundamental foundations of your particular point of view, act indignant and like you are personally outraged on a moral level. Say things like, "how dare you imply this or that" or "I'm offended and insulted with the direction that your taking this issue . . . ." Make everything personal and link it up with what is currently construed as political and social "progress." Make nothing bigger or better than your own personal moral outrage. Make everything revolve around your own personal version of moral or political correctness. If the moral high ground becomes anything outside your own personal opinion and perspective, you may actually come up against real absolutes by that supposedly quiet Deity. With this whole maneauver, you'll be able to pull the proverbial wool over most eyes. Case in point: watch an episode of some afternoon talk show. Everyone present, especially the host, will presume to be moral authorities but you will find that their moral standard is nothing other than what is popular and sanctified via the media of pop culture at that time. Watch the same show 10 years later and all those "moral" standards have changed but no one will notice, they will apply them with a rigor and fanaticism that may well match the inquisition. Lastly, invent legal doctrines to minimize the impact of religion or morality on populace. Create historical fictions so as to be able to do this. Take your time and over several generations, you may even get the mention of God of the currency.

Paul Erdos (famous mathematician) said “television was invented by the Russians to destroy American education” I think that’s very true. Also, one of my profs always says whenever we’re doing huge long calculations on the board that the stuff was developed before television when people had time for that stuff. Albert Einstein got his Nobel Prize for the discovery that made television possible (photoelectric effect). Is that irony or what!

That about sums it up…