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Advice for Your Younger Self

Posted by $ minniepuck 5 years, 5 months ago to Education
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All the graduations around here got me thinking of my time in college. I remember giving a presentation on taxation and, in the middle of it, getting into a heated argument with the finance professor about the abuse of a growing government and increasing taxes. His opinion was that the government should be responsible for an entire list of entitlement programs while my opinion was that those programs were not needed and people were being taxed too much. I distinctly remember him standing up and saying, “You’re one of those people that doesn't want to pay the money to get our roads built.” I got very upset, but all I could say was that he didn't understand. My classmates were happy to see the exchange and thanked me for speaking up, but I felt defeated.

That afternoon, an econ professor stopped me in the hall and told me he’d heard about what happened. He said, “Lily, don’t argue with stupid people. You’ll never win.” It has stuck with me all these years because I just wasn’t convinced. If I didn’t argue, who would? How, then, do you influence the world and persuade, perhaps even educate? There are those who will never understand for lack of IQ, but this professor had the intellectual capacity to understand what I was saying. My frustration was that he simply wasn’t listening, wasn’t open to entertaining an opposing view for even a few minutes.

However bewildered this professor made me, I was even more surprised months after graduating when an employer told me she didn’t want to learn about technology to make her business more efficient. Why would someone ever want to stop learning? I didn’t get my answer, but I did resign a few months later.

I don’t think it’s stupidity that frustrates me—it’s apathy. Apathy is the disease I’ve yet to find a cure for. It still stumps me. When I see it in people, I tend to sigh and keep quiet. I tell myself that this person is just someone I need to work around to get to my destination. Then I ask myself, is that “winning”? How do you win? What does that look like?

I still question what my econ professor said, and I’m not sure yet what advice I’d give my younger self concerning what happened.

I come here and learn from all of you every day, so I’m interested to know from Gulchers what experience or thought made you pause earlier in life, and what advice would you give your younger self?

I almost wish I could find out how to get a hold of that old finance professor. I’d like to tell him that since graduating, my husband and I have started two businesses and, judging from our tax statements, we’ve not only paid for the roads, but also for a thousand bureaucrats and their families to go on an awesome skiing vacation—and that’s too much.


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  • Posted by dbhalling 5 years, 5 months ago
    I had a somewhat similar experience. I was taking tax law in law school and the professor laid out all the possible ways of setting up a tax system and their supposed benefits and drawbacks. Then he asked if anyone could think of another tax system. I suggested a non-coercive tax on contracts (Rand's idea). The professor was shocked he had never heard of anything like this. His counter was did this mean that the government would not protect you against torts. In fairness, other people have raised this issue, but it is clear that is not the concept. I am sure I did not change his mind, but I think it is important to let other people know that not everyone agrees with these socialists. I also think it is important they experience dissonance.

    Your econ prof is right that you will never convince the finance prof. The finance prof epistemologically is likely an intrinsic-ist (There are some Atlas Society videos on point), which means he does not discusses things to learn the truth only to support his position (making him a sophist). Religious people tend to be this way. They will argue that for instance the story of Noah is literally true and that is why they believe in god. When you show them that the story of Noah cannot be literally true, they don't suddenly not believe in god, they shift to a new argument, like my favorite "god is love."

    Back in 1999 or 2000 we started seeing these anti-patent articles. I had very busy practice, two young kids, and very little free time. K suggested that I should be sending in letters to the editor or things like that. I assumed all this was in the noise and would never have any real world effects. Besides I would not make money by concentrating on these theoretical issues. It only took about 4 years for these people to have a major impact on patent law, the patent office, my practice, and ultimately my life. That is a big reason why we are in Mexico, why we are writing the Hank Rangar series, and why we were lucky enough to meet you.
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 5 months ago
      That is why Rand's fiction initially made such a strong impact on me. While her message is clear and loud, there are still characters to love and drama to resolve. Her novels presents her argument in a beautiful way. A person can be convinced to change their point of view without feeling like they were defeated by someone's point-blank argument. Someone doesn't have to walk away feeling beat up; they can instead close the book and feel new and energized, ready to live in a different manner. While I think that all literature has something to say, there are messages that I'd rather see more than others--messages and points that can shift someone, even if it's just a little bit at a time, towards a new, logical, and better direction. My excitement for a character like Rangar comes from that he is not only entertaining, but also wildly intelligent in the best ways. He will make a difference.

      I'll look up those videos this evening and also look up sophists. I have to admit that I missed all the philosophy classes in college, and I've been kicking myself ever since then for not taking them. Now I'm playing catch up. This is why I love this place (and the people)--I always come here and learn something new that transforms me. Thank you, DB.
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  • Posted by Mamaemma 5 years, 5 months ago
    Lily, I don't think it's apathy. I think it's an absolute refusal to question one's world view, or especially a person's view of himself. That first professor could not listen to you because he knew that if he did his whole fabricated life would fall apart. The people who live a life that is a lie are the most resistant to learning because they cannot bear to challenge the lie.
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  • Posted by $ Abaco 5 years, 5 months ago
    Love the comments, Lily. Apathy is just laziness, I guess. One can be intelligent yet lazy.

    Lucky for me, I went to Cal Poly. I don't remember any mind-dead profs there. It was an incredible education. And, based on what I hear from colleagues, my alma matter is outside the norm.

    I tell people today (including my little boy) not to argue with stupid people. Let them hang themselves. The older I get, the more Galt-like I become. In being educated, wanting to learn, and wanting to create and actually do good things - I am so far outside the norm in America now that I consider myself a trace-minority. The first step to a solution is recognizing a problem...
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 5 months ago
      Professors like that are definitely part of what I see is the problem. He was the exception to my campus, however, and the only person I suggested retire on his end-year review. I am glad you also had a different experience and relieved your son has a father who can instill in him a love for learning.
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      • Posted by $ Abaco 5 years, 5 months ago
        I used the line the other day with a hard-core liberal colleague of mine (who is actually an intelligent guy)..."The mind should be treated as the opposite of the mouth. Keep one open, the other shut." He loved that. He got it. Let dumb people shoot their mouths off. Just nod and smile, knowingly. Let them inherit this mess. I'll be in a beach-side villa somewhere someday, hitting the "sell" button on the last of my holdings and watching this ship sink from a safe distance...
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  • Posted by Mamaemma 5 years, 5 months ago
    Speaking of taxes, my husband and I were at lunch and across from us is a heavily pregnant teenager, maybe 14. I looked at my husband and said, "aren't you happy that we get to pay for that baby?"
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 5 months ago
      I know what you mean. Half of my family lives in Canada, and every time I see something that makes me cringe (like a pregnant woman smoking in a parking lot) I ask, "How's it feel to pay for their health care?" They just sigh and shrug.
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  • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 5 years, 5 months ago
    Hello minniepuck,
    They are everywhere and we should not waste our time on some. We can only attempt to reach those with an open mind.

    “The truth is not for all men but only for those who seek it.”

    “He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see.”

    “Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.”
    Ayn Rand

    Regards,
    O.A.
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