Sunday, April 18, 2021

Decline of education, specialized expertise, and the theoretical background. Stakeholders vs shareholders

Czech politicians have announced that back in 2014, an explosion of a Czech ammo depot near the Slovak border (the village of Vrbětice) was caused by Russian agents. They also wanted to do something with the explosives in Bulgaria. We may get the full intelligence report in days.



In fact, they were the very two same agents Petrov and Bashirov who have allegedly poisoned Skripal using Novičok and yesterday, the Czech Police promoted its photographs of the two men who are "wanted"! Well, it is possible that these "molodtsy" do this much work. After all, the tensions were high in 2014 and the Russian agents' working days should be similarly full as those of James Bond 007. But even if it is true that they contributed to the explosion, I find it obvious that the timing of the revival of this scandal (or a conspiracy theory?) is explained by the takeover of the power over the U.S. by the New Loony Left, their being mental cripples, and their fanatical desire to cripple the relationships with Russia (and others).

Even if the agents have caused it, it is a tragedy that this is being exposed again, in the time when America is becoming nasty against Russia again and Russia is understandably preparing to acquire Ukraine if the tensions run even higher. It is very bad that Rosatom – which is the most sensible competitor, as far as I can say – is being eliminated from the tender to extend Dukovany, the older among the 2 nuclear plants in Czechia (the "nuclear" part in both was made in Russia and it's worked great in those decades). Seconds ago, Russia expelled 20 Czech diplomats, a revenge for the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats from Czechia. Bad. I am rather uncertain whether the Russian agents are innocent but I am almost sure that the timing now is caused by the rise of the Left in the U.S. – and about our government's role of a cheap slut directly controlled by the D.C. now.

But back to the title.

I finally watched the April 1st-2nd
Prague Café interview with Klaus Part I
Prague Café interview with Klaus Part II
which I previously hesitated to watch, despite the fact that in recent months, I have read, watched, or listened to every single one interview with expresident Václav Klaus, as he emerged as a leading warrior against Covidism (not only) in Czechia. Note that this particular program is called "Prague Café" because Žantovský wants to retake this nice intellectual phrase (and the coffee shops themselves) from the progressives who became associated with the phrase and who consequently reduced the credibility of the phrase dramatically.



Mr Petr Žantovský, a writer, publicist, and economist, was hosting the interview. Well, he came to the Klaus Institute to record the videos. He may look "more moderate" than Klaus from some perspectives but he's been close enough to Klaus for decades, anyway. They wrote a book together in 1998 etc.



In the first part, they discussed the increasingly superficial approach of the people to events and information, an evolution towards idiocracy that is being solidified by the increasingly low-quality media and other forces. All the focus is on the ephemeral, separate events. But people are no longer interested (and they are told not to be interested) in the underlying trends, the context, ideologies, and the umbrella theories within which the events may be explained. Klaus mentioned a would-be "cool" Czech journal from the communist era, "100+1 Foreign Curiosities" (Žantovský remembered the name), as a template of this misguided emphasis of the irrelevant separate factoids.

People are just led not to understand the trends and the theoretical underpinnings of their fields or any fields; they are encouraged not to understand what matters about the world. They can't correctly place any of the separate facts into the context, they can't compare the individual events with others, they can't sensibly interpret anything, and they don't even understand that the interpretation is the hard thing – depending on the main part of the actual knowledge. I couldn't agree more. Well, here I probably wrote something slightly different but I believe that Klaus' comments about these matters are equivalent. He says that everyone wants to talk about "facts" only. But there aren't any facts per se. Facts only exist when processed through theories and a methodology to evaluate them. All facts are theory-laden, a general fundamental principle that is being often contradicted explicitly. And because most of the people don't understand any theories, they don't properly understand any facts, either.

This general point has many dimensions. For example, we would fully agree with Richard Lindzen that contemporary "climatologists" are learning to do things incorrectly because they increasingly ignore the "theories of atmospheric physics", the essential theoretical background. It's really what matters for being a real competent scientist; having a computer model (plus some self-confidence and the views that "everyone can do everything, anyway") just cannot possibly replace it. Having isolated facts or pieces of information or computer programs is totally worthless if you need to make valid predictions or wise recommendations and you haven't mastered the "textbook theoretical material"!

This issue is slightly related to another topic they talked about, the education systems. Our, Central European, education systems had some standards and for centuries, thanks to folks like Marie Theresa and John Amos Comenius, they insisted on the students' comprehensive and full understanding of a field and the proper relationships between all subjects that make the field. Comenius already emphasized that the insights in a class must be connected with other insights in the same class and even in other classes! Instead, it's been normal in the West (even in 1968-1969 when Klaus visited the U.S. as a student; he says that there are basically no quality colleges in the U.S. anymore) to register for theoretical physics but also Icelandic medieval poetry (greetings to Jane Tolmie) and everything is fine. Clearly, the expertise obtained by spending the time with all these distractions is unavoidably shallower. Central Europe has mostly abandoned its Central European education philosophy and adopted the more superficial Western one.

Students can't solve exams that their equally old counterparts could solve in 1890 (or another moment many decades ago). This isn't just a hypothesis, this experiment has been tried by Klaus' older son when he was the principal of the prestigious PORG liberal high school. The students' inability to solve the old exams seems to be in agreement with the fact that they don't take the education (especially in the college) as seriously as Klaus' generation when he was a student (1958-1963, in this case). Students tend to dedicate "two days before the exam" to the material; Klaus and classmates actually discussed it in the pub etc. (so did we, not sure whether it was to the same extent).

Another aspect of the "end of the world" is all about the stakeholders vs shareholders debate, a topic that was hot among economists half a century ago. It should be even hotter today because the "stakeholders" are winning but the economists who discuss this important issue are no longer the leading voices in the field of economics.

That's also something that I've been deeply annoyed by – and I often discussed it in the context of the claims "Twitter has the right to censor conservatives because it is a private company". You know, I've been an actual stockholder of Twitter several times. The share was minor but I am sure that many shareholders have similar opinions about the censorship as I do, they have a much greater share, and they still can't actually control the company, either. It is totally obvious that actual profit-seeking shareholders wouldn't like to eliminate a substantial part of the GOP voters (consumers bringing profit to the company) by the censorship. Instead of shareholders (who own the company because they have invested some capital into it in the past), the key decisions are increasingly done by "stakeholders", various important but partial interest groups within the corporation who are employees, not owners. They may be important but they are not directly motivated to see the company thrive as a whole – only the shareholders have a clear motivation to do it. The interest of the stakeholders – various jobs at all levels, a loose generalization of labor unions – is unavoidably dominated by partial interests which can't be identified with the well-being of the company as a whole and that is why this "system" just can't be equally good for the company (and the society as a whole). To promote their interests, these stakeholders have increasingly exploited the moralist language. You need to be responsible in this way, another way.

I am sorry but it is extremely irresponsible and pathological to allow these (under healthy circumstances) irrelevant individuals and "bullshitters about responsibility" to decide about the most important matters in the companies. It's the end of capitalism, the end of the world. Companies led by stakeholders don't differ much from companies led by workers or labor unions – a system controlled in this way is undoubtedly a form of socialism (whose most important "proletarians" are much more lazy and smug than the hard-working and poor Soviet-style working-class-based proletarians, however). For example, when Audi banned an ad with a little girl eating a banana, it wasn't done by the real owners, I believe. Such decisions are being done by someone who doesn't actually own many shares of the companies – and the fact that such people (often straight SJW loons and even more often, not quite straight ones) control the companies means that we no longer live in capitalism. Can't the actual owners of the companies flush the SJWs and other "stakeholders" (who are sucking quite some blood from the company) down the toilet? What is a better places where all the world's SJWs should be flushed? In proper capitalism, they could but we don't live in proper capitalism anymore. So flushing stinky SJWs, just like any other excrements, down the toilet would probably be considered politically incorrect. The actual capitalists don't have sufficient freedom, legal strength, and/or testicles in the present conditions to deal with these harmful, parasitic "stakeholders". The precise choice of words is mine (LM), of course.

As another example of a similar phenomenon, Klaus mentioned the current president of the Federal Reserve, Jeremy Powell, who claimed that the powers of the Fed should be extended to... include the fight against inequality and the climate change! As Klaus correctly points out, this is the end of the world, too. The central banks were created to keep a stable currency, to prevent hyperinflation that the Czech readers may know from Remarque's novels (about Germany after the First World War), and they should do nothing else! But this toxic garbage – far left propaganda and pseudoscience such as the climate hysteria and fights against alleged inqualities – are spreading everywhere and their dishonest cheese carriers are increasingly stealing the power and money that they shouldn't possess and they wouldn't possess in a system that is both fair and efficient – in proper capitalism.

Second part

The second part begins with Žantovský's remarks about the divided society (the very meme that the society is divided is dividing it, it acts as a self-fulfilling prophesy) and about the cult of youth. The old generation should no longer occupy the space. My Oma is an old environmental swine. (LM: See also I am scared by innocent children. Incidentally, the song is from late 2019 and it's bizarre that to try to save a greater number of these Omas, Germany and others soon picked the opposite extreme, the Covid-19 lockdowns.)



Concerning the divided society, Klaus said that the implicit assertion that the "society is divided in a 50-50 way" is too optimistic because an apparent majority has been persuaded to follow the rosy future according to the only politically correct truth while the sensible people have been reduced to a self-evident minority. Increasingly drowning in the ocean of brainwashed superficial loons, the likes of your humble correspondent (and some of you, of course) have been turned into marginal characters!

The Sarajevo Assassination was mentioned (this term mostly means Klaus' forced resignation in 1997, while he was visiting Sarajevo) and Klaus bragged that his foes from 1997 are no longer young while he is still alive these 23+ years later. A simply clever usage of double standards. ;-)

Klaus insists that Václav Havel was the forerunner or template of the contemporary progressivist, overtly "apolitical" political philosophy or style; many friends tell Klaus that he seems biased or obsessed and he should already allow Havel to sleep in Hell. (The Klaus-Havel ideological conflict was surely the actual, deep political confrontation after 1989, and everything else was a detail. I surely see how Havel's progressivism was ahead of his time and how many theses of Havel perfectly agree with the current illnesses of the society but I still find it illegitimate for Klaus to automatically assume that Havel would help every single pathology that is taking place today.) Klaus says that Havel needs to be studied as a social phenomenon, there is no personal obsession here. On the other hand, Klaus rarely talks about the Sarajevo Assassination, and when (senior painter) Knížák and his spouse told him (in the luxurious home of the Knížáks) that the assassination was immoral, Klaus said "yes and no". For Klaus, the assassination was primarily a political confrontation as such, with some form (involving the human dimension and betrayal) – it was a branch of Klaus' confrontation with Havlism, he would probably agree.

Žantovský mentioned that he, Klaus, and our side are being labeled by the progressives. We are the misinformers and conspiracy theorists, among other things. Can't the outcome be that the public will be fed up with these labels and these constant unjustified vacuous insults will become counterproductive? Klaus says that these insults are a "way to simplify the argumentation". Some trivial sins are easier to understand for many people than actual deep mistakes. PM Babiš should have fired the ex-ex-minister of healthcare Col Prymula (Czechia already has the 4th minister of health in the Covid era) much earlier, for profound mistakes, but he only fired him after a trivial "ugly" visit to a Vyšehrad Restaurant, against his own lockdown rules. And that firing due to a trivial sin was no anomaly. Prymula, a high quality chess player, accidentally went to see a soccer match and Babiš fired him again (from the role of his personal aide) for being a spectator, another superficial trivial sin. Babiš doesn't decide about such ministers according to the merit of their work; but according to the moral appearances. Similarly, when labels are attached to Klaus, the attachers and audiences don't have to study what Klaus is actually saying. It's so comfy. People should think about this methodology – and how they're being had.

Klaus would be happy if the society were getting saturated with this propaganda but he seems to think it is just a wishful thinking. A pessimistic number that Klaus mentioned was that in a poll at the Parliamentary Letters – which have an overwhelmingly non-PC, anti-Brussels... audience (and in these issues, they are on Klaus' side) – 77% of readers supported a "full lockdown". It's a terrifyingly high number but one must understand that the readers of PL are generally pro-authoritarian and the lockdown seems rather natural in that mental context. It is clearly not "quite" a bunch of Klaus voters (and the support for the lockdown was actually well below 50% at iDNES.cz and maybe even Novinky.cz). But Klaus is rightfully frustrated. He complained that the changing trends towards shrinking Covid-19 "cases" didn't seem to make the people significantly more anti-lockdown. Again, the data themselves don't work. It matters how they're interpreted and distributed to assorted drawers.

Klaus looks at these questions (about the public that might be fed up) as an economist, through "economics of information". So we must distinguish the supply of information and demand for information; the "information" without extra words is "nothing". The Czech Public Television produces some supply of factoids about Covid, Klaus has never contributed to the demand, but others do. (Klaus is just showing a newly published book – hot from the printing presses – "Reason Against [Covid] Panic" that he is seeing for the first time; the Czech medical elite has co-authored the book.)

Žantovský discusses a topic that I saw in some Klaus' texts LOL that when it comes to the paradigm shifts, the world is turning away from Orwell – where the transformation of the people was "forced" – to Huxley where the people are changing themselves voluntarily. I know very well that Klaus totally agrees with it (Orwell was the Bible but Huxley turned more relevant) but I don't know whether Žantovský constructed the same ideas independently of Klaus ;-). Maybe Orwell was right for the old communism but Huxley is appropriate for its current replacement.

Klaus finally mentioned the aforementioned last high quality university that is left in the U.S., the Hillsdale College near Detroit. In a recent issue of their university journal, the president – whom Klaus knows, Klaus is sometimes invited there – was analyzing the three main dystopias, Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, and Koestler's Darkness at Noon (and another, American one that Klaus doesn't know). The president has established a one-semester course about the dystopias (where he teaches as an instructor, too)! ;-) The Academic boss feels that it is a fundamental topic of the present, wants the students to think whether the dystopias are easy to bring, and so on. Klaus also promotes another book by his institute, The Self-Destruction of the West. It is a crucial ongoing process even though some would-be wise pundits keep on childishly warning about the threats coming from the East. These childish people can't see the tip of their noses and are completely missing any real content in the real world events.

At the very end, Žantovský asked – like other journalists – whether Klaus wants to return to the real, party-based politics. Klaus was disappointed that Žantovský joined the spectrum of journalists who always kill a one-hour interview by this superficial question "Will you be at the Castle again". That's sad, Klaus says. To show his respect, Žantovský agreed that this was an OK answer to his last question, and thanked President (Emeritus) Klaus for the interview (while saying it is a good tradition to keep the title "President" after the tenure).

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