Friday, December 11, 2009

Comrade Santa

Why do parents lie to their kids, telling them there is a magic man who gives gifts to all the good children in the world? Is Santa just religion for kids? (religion being a set of supernatural beliefs designed to encourage specific attitudes and behavior) Perhaps topics like the soul, creation, and afterlife are too serious for children - so Jesus was reinvented as grandpa in a fuzzy red suit rewarding with toys instead of eternal life in heaven. As a parent, I'll have to decide whether I will participate in the Santa lie. I suppose it's part of our culture, it engages children's' imagination, and Christmas can be fun. I guess those are all good things.

We may outgrow believing in Santa, but we don't outgrow vulnerability to other myths, fallacies, and biases. We are basically talking primates after all, so "to err is human". Karl Marx called religion the "opium of the people". Ironically, Marx called on people to give up "religious illusions", while he perpetuated economic illusions like the labor theory of value. Both religion and Marxism deny truths.... whether it be evolution or economics. Religion has heaven. Marxism has a stateless, classless society. Americans commonly fall for their own set of political myths and fallacies. The "appeal to tradition" fallacy: accepting that government must provide schools/freeways/health care/post/etc, because that's how it's been done. People want to have faith in a powerful protector: be it Santa, Jesus, or Government. People want to imagine that government provides things for "free", by magic the same way Santa and his elves provide presents.

If you support socialism for altruistic reasons... so be it. Just don't try to convince me it's practical or justifiable if your cognitive dissonance has convinced you so. Deadweight loss is an unavoidable truth with any government intervention. Public services crowd out private services, destroying jobs and competition. Subsidies create overconsumption, driving up prices. All of these also limit choice and quality... not to mention the tax burden. Keynes and Marx were the witch doctors of economics.... building a political-economic religion advocating looting. If you choose to be cognitively lazy, considering benefits of "free" public services without fully examining the costs and consequences... go right ahead. You might as well believe in Santa too.

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