The Buffoon


Add it to holy writ: The Art of the Buffoondoggle: If the Buffoon had a book ghostwritten for him, it might begin, “Boondoggles are my art form.  Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry.  I like pulling boondoggles, preferably big boondoggles.  It’s how I get my kicks.”  But here’s one problem with replacing the social contract with “the deal” as an orienting political metaphor.  When we enter into a social contract, our object is shared, mutual benefit; when we enter into a deal, each of us is after individual, private benefit.  What we secure through a social contract, we secure with one another; what we secure through a deal, we secure against one another.  A social contract reifies a consonance, in which each of us thinks the other’s gain is also our own gain; a deal reifies a dissonance, in which each of us thinks to have gained more than the other, to have gotten more than given.


The Dupe believes only the buffoona fide: But that doesn’t make the Dupe wholly irrational.  It’s true that supporting the Buffoon is not rational, in this sense: the circumstances of those who do will not be bettered by the Buffoon.  But that does not mean abiding the Buffoon has no rationality at all.  If the system has resulted in (and is resulting in) ever-increasing concentration of wealth, and ever-narrower distribution of wealth (here construed narrowly as capital and broadly as civic entitlement and well-being), then, offered a choice between one who would smooth and enhance the system’s continued functioning and one who would disrupt its functioning, if I am among those many from whom wealth is being transferred, rather than those few to whom wealth is being transferred, it is rational to support the proponent of disruption.  For those many, it’s true that life conditions are not bettered by the disruption, but just as true that those life conditions are worsened by the smoothing and continuity.




© Harvey Hix 2020

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