For all the right reasons, modern science, employing empirical methods, superseded alchemy. Alchemy was based on the “received wisdom” or “common knowledge” found in ancients texts saying all things were made of the four “prime elements”: earth, air, fire and water. The Renaissance (14th -17th centuries) was a transition time between acceptance of alchemy as legitimate knowledge about the world and the time when it was rejected and replaced by the empirical scientific method — the science that is practiced in every modern university today.
America has been in the midst of a similar transition since the 1980s until today, only in reverse. Before the 1980s, American politics was dominated by practical humanistic values. The U.S. Supreme Court looked at the social mores of the day and rejected the theory of “separate but equal” in our schools (irrespective of those clinging to past prejudices) and desegregated them.
Earlier, President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration rejected the “balance the budget to stimulate employment” mantra that was the “received wisdom” of the country and embraced Keynesian economics because there was empirical evidence it worked.
With the 1980s and the ascendency of what we call conservatism, all empirical evidence was rejected out of hand.
An entire propaganda machine was created with the single purpose of turning the clock back to a time when myths trumped empiricism … when alchemy trumped science.
The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, right-wing talk radio, Glenn Beck and the rest of the “conservative” intelligentsia devoted themselves to a grand rewrite of our history and inserted a mythology, implemented by Grover Norquist with Ronald Reagan as the front man.
That mythology was created and promulgated throughout the country… indeed, the world. This mythology embraced the following false elements: Reagan lowered taxes…balanced the budget…created millions of new jobs…never negotiated with terrorists…won the Cold War single-handedly…proved that debt does not matter…established that the government is always inept and that education, at any level, is to be rejected in favor of the GOP mythical partly line.
In short, Reagan rescued America from the corrupting influence of liberalism, internationalism and collectivism and made us a “shining city on a hill.”
So well did Norquist do his job that millions of people still buy into the great Reagan myths.
It is axiomatic, in most “conservative” circles, that cutting taxes creates jobs or balances a budget, though no one can explain how or show that it ever has. Supposedly compassionate, conservative voters are demanding their elected representatives take food out of the mouths of hungry children, deny women disease-prevention opportunities and cut seniors’ retirement funds in order to reduce the national debt.
The same people still think that every government program and agency is corrupt, incompetent and prevents businessmen from making a profit. Anyone who thinks otherwise is labeled a socialist with strong negative connotations.
Americans born after 1965 were inculcated with this “conservative” mythological dogma, a mythology where none of the claims are true. There is not a shred of empirical evidence to suggest that anything that the myth says happened in the Reagan Administration actually did happen. Should anyone wonder, therefore, that we have “birther” members of the Tea Party setting the agenda for the Republican Party? Should we be surprised that vast numbers of people are willing to vote against their own economic interest and savage our social safety nets by believing in the Reagan myth?
The alchemists have returned and are creating a failed state.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company. "The Voter’s Guide to National Salvation" is a newly published e-book from Turner. You can find it at www.barnesandnoble.com/ebooks. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.