Ignorance and Honesty

Every day I face my ignorance. At some point almost every day after feeling a negative emotion, I falsely attribute my feelings and thinking to external circumstances. Honesty demands that I look at my false accusations and make another choice. If I am honest, my suffering is limited; if I am dishonest and believe my ego’s lies, my suffering extends for as long as I make this foolish choice. Believing my feelings are coming from external circumstances keeps me riveted where solutions aren’t found.

Last week at the airport on an early morning flight, I was sitting next to a father who was flying with four children under the age of 10. He had bought each child a Dunkin’ Donut and a 20 ounce bottle of Fanta soda. As the children eagerly ate their “breakfast,” I cringed thinking of the amount of sugar in that single meal. The father was well-meaning but ignorant about nutrition. Down the road, he and each of the children will face a choice. They may choose to remain ignorant and suffer the health consequences, or they may begin to learning the principles of a healthy diet and dispel their ignorance. If poor health arrives and they believe that there is nothing they can do but take a pill, they will suffer out of ignorance.

Every day, firms, competing against other firms, must honestly measure and adjust to changing consumer demand. If you doubt that look at Blockbuster, look at A&P, look at clothing on sale in stores, or look at the many shuttered shopping malls. Competition demands that decision makers in organizations honestly seek to serve the consuming public or face the consequences.

Both the process of life and the market process demand honesty. When we are honestly open to correcting our ignorance, the process can be joyous.

Yet, some are dishonest or would rather remain ignorant. Those who choose to remain ignorant may choose to use the coercive power of government to shield themselves from the natural process of life.

Consider Monsanto. Monsanto has bet the future of the company on growing demand for genetically modified (GMO) foods. Yet, a growing number of consumers are concerned about GMO foods and are demanding that food labels provide accurate and complete information about ingredients. Monsanto is using the coercive power of government to protect their investment in GMO foods. Recently a bill was introduced in Congress that would ban states from passing laws requiring GMO labeling. Food labeling is Monsanto’s enemy, and they are determined to keep the public ignorant. The bill is dishonestly called “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.”

Consider the Koch brothers who have honorably spent millions supporting organizations that educate the public on the dangers of government coercion. Now, they have dishonestly decided the join the forces of coercion. They are in the business of providing oil. With a growing number of homeowners using solar panels, the Koch brothers feel threatened and are lobbying state governments to pass legislation imposing a surtax on homeowners using solar panels.

Or consider this startling story from the pharmaceutical industry:

A top physician who used to work for drug giant Merck & Co., creator of the Gardasil vaccine for cervical cancer, has made some groundbreaking public admissions about the dangers and ineffectiveness of this controversial jab. During a recent interview with the French magazine Principes de Sante, Dr. Bernard Dalbergue confessed that Gardasil is a worthless vaccine that not only fails to protect against cervical cancer but also puts individuals at risk of paralysis, encephalitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and a host of other debilitating ailments.

Dr. Dalbergue went on to predict that Gardasil will become “the greatest medical scandal of all time.”

What does the vaccine industry do to combat growing public concerns about the safety of vaccines such as Gardasil? It is engaged in a propaganda campaign against parents who withhold vaccines, like Gardasil, from their children. Industry allies demand that parental choice be eliminated and all children be subjected to vaccination on a schedule determined by the pharmaceutical companies and “experts.” This despite recent evidence that vaccine dangers have been deliberately withheld for 30 years.

I could go on and on. Ignorance is dispelled by honesty. The combination of ignorance and dishonesty, however, when enabled by the coercive force of government, is deadly and dangerous.

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2 Responses to Ignorance and Honesty

  1. Jim D. says:

    I’m certainly not trying to oversimplify, but I think that we face 2 basic failures of humanity in the examples Barry so eloquently points out. I apologize now for the length of this post.

    The first goes to the economic principles surrounding open information in market systems. The more “reasonable” people understand the costs that go into a product and all the other costs associated with it (regulatory fees, taxes, etc), the less room there is for staggering profit. We know there is profit built into pretty much everything we pay for, but in a system where all information flows freely, we’re only going to be willing to pay so much profit before finding an alternative or going without. Or when faced with information that a product is harmful, we’ll let that product fall by the market wayside. But when the information to make an informed choice is withheld, or people are coerced into purchasing a product, by the police power of the gov’t, then levels of profit that make our eyes bug out occur. Those with the politicians in their pockets deliberately alter the market system to protect their unjustified profits.

    Sadly, this first part I at least understand. We all have a basic desire to protect our income streams and accumulate wealth.

    The second failure is much more insidious, and frankly, evil. This is the moral failure of the corporate executives and those in gov’t. Even beyond any corporate bylaw or gov’t regulation that might state that a firm’s products not be harmful, I think there is a level of intrinsic human morality that they need to be held accountable for, but are not, hiding behind the PR people and spin doctors. I could not, personally, in good conscience, offer someone a product I knew might harm them without at least making them aware of the potential dangers. If I were selling a chainsaw I knew had a nasty kickback, I would certainly tell a potential buyer. Maybe they know how to handle it, maybe they know how to fix it, maybe they’re going to use it for spare parts and thus don’t care. But it also might warn off a potential buyer. Yeah, I’d be out that money, but I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if the person come back to me missing a hand or foot because I didn’t tell them. Many corporate executives and gov’t officials seem to have either so distanced themselves from the end result of these issues that they can delude themselves into thinking things are ok, or are consciously willing to place profit before people. Either way, its just wrong. Buyers in the market certainly need to do their due diligence, but we cannot allow our corporate executives and their gov’t puppets to hide behind some twisted version of “caveat emptor”.

    • Barry Brownstein says:

      Thanks, Jim for your thoughtful and wise words. To your second point Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

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