I recently mentioned Jerry Seinfeld’s fun little series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee as a prelude and “inspiration” for a discussion about the Left’s tolerance of some forms of prejudice. That same episode, featuring Bill Maher as a guest, included this chestnut:

I don’t bother remembering what doesn’t interest me. — Jerry Seinfeld

I’m going to, henceforth, refer to this as the Seinfeld Corollary.

Corollary to what, you might ask? Unless that is, you are one to look to history as a series of cautionary tales, in which case you can figure the next part out.

Yes, indeed, the Seinfeld Corollary is to be attached to philosopher George Santayana‘s famous observation:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Why is it that people continue to support and demand political systems as destructive and murderous as socialism? Why are so many ideas that have led to bad-to-disastrous outcomes reincarnated, time and again, by people who should know better, who have greater access than ever to information and history, and who have ample free time to seek out that information and history?

Santayana covered some of these people with the word “cannot.” “Cannot” implies obstruction, inadequacy, or some other failure. It doesn’t quite convey the willful ignorance that is at the root of most non-remembrance.

Thus, the Seinfeld corollary, and it doesn’t apply just to the past.

Many of our fellow citizens choose their news sources so that they hear what they want to hear. Many may hear information and data that is contrary to or conflicts with something they prefer or want to believe, and decide not to bother retaining any of it.

“Many” might even be an understatement. We all do it, to some degree. I’m sure, at some point in my life, some information about the game cricket crossed my consciousness, but rest assured, I retained none of it. That’s fair – in a world of nearly infinite information, we are well served in focusing on things that are more relevant or interesting to us.

However, when it comes to making decisions or demanding actions, we are derelict if we do so without seeking what we should know in order to ensure those decisions and actions are informed.

A classic example of the Seinfeld Corollary is the Depression of 1920. Wait – don’t I mean 1929? Nope. In 1920-21, GDP dropped 17%, and unemployment climbed from 4% to 12%. Yet, few ever talk about it, and too many are simply unaware of its existence.

Why?

Because the government’s response, rather than the massive interventions and spending that characterized FDR’s response to the Great Depression, was all about getting out of the way. Government spending was cut by a third or more, taxes were slashed. Not only did the Depression of 1920 end in mere months, the nation experienced an economic boom that has not been seen since. Heard of the Roaring Twenties? Shepherded by “Silent” Calvin Coolidge’s fiscal conservatism, the nation experienced unprecedented economic growth, and Coolidge offered us a playbook for managing the nation out of economic downturns.

People who know in their guts that big government is what we need are textbook examples of the Seinfeld Corollary. Despite all the evidence of socialism’s failures, and despite all the evidence of capitalism’s successes, they remain steadfast in their beliefs. And, in order to support their policy ideas, they cherry-pick the things they like from economies they like, ignoring all the other things that are fundamental to those economies but clash with their ideas. And, when stark failures of their ideas are staring them in the face (see: Venezuela)… you get the idea.

Willful ignorance in an age where information is absurdly easy to access may itself be a result of our enormous prosperity, aka a “first world problem.” Wealthy societies can afford, for a while, to engage in destructive and wasteful ideas without their elites (and, lets be honest, it’s not the struggle-to-get-by working classes that are shilling big daddy government so much as it is people of greater means, from good colleges, and living in the richest cities in America) feeling much of a pinch. We don’t even have to rise to the level of Leonardo Di Caprio flying to global warming summits in private jets to see the farcicality of hipsters awash in the products of capitalism rallying for communism and socialism.

The realities of history and the cold, hard facts of science and economics are of too little interest to too many people. That wouldn’t be as big a problem if those people simply left everyone else alone, but they don’t, and their willful ignorance harms the rest of us.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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