An Organising Principle


I recently read Peter Hitchens saying that people need an organising principle in their lives. Peter Hitchens’ organising principle is God. Hitchens is a conservative and I started wondering why conservatives are often Christians while Lefties are often Godless heathens. It occurred to me that if people lack a belief in God then they might look to the state as an organising principle. Conservatives want things to be planned by God, Lefties want everything to be centrally planned by the state.

Personally, I neither believe in God nor want the state to imitate Him. If the government restricts its actions to organising infrastructure and raising an army then I’m happy. I believe that, like the internet and crystals, society is best organised from the bottom-up without any pre-existing plan. As far as I can see, Adam Smith was right when he claimed that there is an invisible hand that organises both the economy and society.

This bottom-up organisation can perhaps also be applied to individuals. I have read Susan Blackmore say that she doesn’t really make decisions any more, at least not conscious ones. Things just happen without her deliberating much. She gets up in the morning without making the conscious decision to get up. She lives like Dimitar Berbatov plays football: seemingly effortlessly and instinctively.

There is something almost animal-like in all this. Animals clearly make decisions but they are instinctive decisions, not ones they have agonised over. Since hundreds of decisions have to be made every day and as Bertrand Russell said, decision-making is tiring, it would generally be best to act on instinct and save energy and your nerves. By doing this you sometimes make mistakes, since instinctive decisions aren’t always the correct ones, yet neither are carefully planned decisions. You can still make a wrong decision after days of agonising.

For that reason I think trusting your instinct should be your default position. If a specially important decision comes along then maybe you can allow yourself to agonise a little.

So just as in politics and economics, your mind, like a government, should generally be non-interventionist except in emergencies. It should be lean and convened only once in a blue moon.


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