P R I N C I P I A T R I O O N I C A
The Great Political Divide Adds Up
The Malarkey Scale
of Human Reasoning
What? Why would reasoning be measured in malarkey?
It isn't. The name comes from the notion that all human knowledge falls short of a complete and universal understanding. Even the most diligent effort and careful reasoning will fall short of the total possible knowledge of reality. There is always a greater understanding beyond ours, from which ours is, in comparison and to some extent, malarkey. More reasoning means less overall malarkey in the final conclusion. By measuring reasoning, we inversely measure malarkey. Everyone knows that civilization is pockmarked with malarkey. So far, we've all had to live with it. We know, metaphorically, that particles of malarkey (malarks) can cause instability in the structure of our reasoning. Now there is a way to at least measure the effect.
The Malarkey Scale counts the steps of reasoning we take on a continuous path of logic until we end in a conclusion that is not followed by further steps. The reason or point of the scale is, why not? Why did we stop? The first answers that may come to mind are, the reasoning achieved its intention or, reached a practical conclusion that made something work. This essay intends to show that, while these answers are often correct, they are not the whole story. Reasoning carries weight in society and science but there is only so much anyone can raise before it gets too heavy.
Folks have blamed poor reasoning on confirmation bias, emotion-driven thinking and malicious intention but what if it could be shown, in a reasonable number of steps, that the most important factor in reasoning is the number of steps?
How does the scale define a step of reasoning?
Reasoning is a broad term. The scale specifically refers to conspicuous reasoning that we know we are doing because we are there steering or shepherding the action. We can take steps and score on The Malarkey Scale if our attention can make the reasoning continue beyond a single conclusion.
A step is made when a conclusion continues via further reasoning to a further conclusion. A single conclusion is not a step. It is a starting point. One step on the scale requires a second conclusion. Two steps involves a third conclusion and so on. The distillation made in one step becomes part of what is distilled in the next step. It is a cognitive continuity. We know we are carrying on with a path of logic. We know when we stop but do we know why?
We stop because we are finished. What other reason could there be?
Solving a complex problem or bringing order to conceptual chaos reveals a sort of brain muscularity. Is there any other form of what we call thinking aside from attended reasoning that can make strain show on our face? Or cause audible exclamations like "aargh!"? When we are shepherding our reasoning, we might close our eyes or point them at something empty of detail. We don't want external distractions. Our attention for reasoning is clearly not infinite. Nor is its stamina.
We don't do a hundred steps of reasoning in one go. If we stop reasoning, have lunch, then start reasoning again, the score resets and starts over. Even a sip of coffee or a pause for a deep breath interrupts the chain. We may, by using tools like paper or an app to preserve the steps, build a long chain of reasoning that goes a hundred steps but the chain is built from many smaller sessions of reasoning. When the problem is solved, we can relax. What other type of thinking results in a need to relax? Compared to attended reasoning, aren't they all relaxing?
Our capacity to engage in attention-driven reasoning is a kind of strength that can be exhausted. Our attention wavers and the reasoning stops. That's when we can count the steps taken and our score on The Malarkey Scale.
What's the point?
When we're convinced that someone is smarter than us, the scale and not their IQ is usually why. When someone takes things farther and we cannot keep up, they are out-scoring us on The Malarkey Scale. That is why, when examining our interactions with others, the scale becomes invaluable.
For humans, the practical spread of the scale is one to seven. Higher scores are possible but not typically so it is simpler to lump the top echelon together at seven & over. There are many ways to use the scale but the most valuable application is in establishing someone's default score. It can test someone's innate endurance when challenged to build a path of logic on an unfamiliar and unprepared for subject. The result is the person's default value or "aaargh-point". It is how far they can take things without strain or fatigue. Further steps are beyond their comfort level. Checking their score is just like coaxing someone to follow you up many flights of stairs until their knees give out. Unless yours do first.
Aren't folks just more or less smart than others?
The scale is not a measure of intelligence or smartness. It is a measure of our ability to use or harvest the intelligence that manifests in each conclusion taken in continuous reasoning. Some folks are born as threes and some are born as fives or sevens or ones. The scale is not concerned with how smart any single step may be. A person can be a dumb seven or a clever one.
Is everyone stuck with their score?
With exercise, our reasoning can be strengthened in endurance. An education that favors or requires independent shepherding of our reasoning can bump up one's average on the scale, or at least guarantee high scores on the subject of the training. An education that favors rote and unexamined learning can numb the score downward. Almost anyone can be trained to do top-score work in some discipline but they and everyone else will still have a comfort zone on the scale for routine and informal thinking. It is the kind of thinking we bring to social interactions and politics. Speaking and listening rely on thinking and are subject to the same limitations. If we explain our reasoning or follow someone else's, it is with the same method of steps. Thus, the Malarkey Scale can also measure how we speak and listen. And then we can see why society is tearing apart.
The scale exposes one of the basic foibles of human communication. Those who tire at two steps assume everyone stops at two. Those who are comfortable with five assume everyone is capable of five. Some up-scale folks seem unemotional and detached from the feelings of others because things that others react to are not intellectually satisfying enough to warrant an emotional response. From their perspective, others appear to be content to live in an incomplete reality.
In conversation, saying "I see your point. However..." or even a simple "Yes, but…" can be a request to retrace a step or for a further step. It might lead to a different conclusion. We can observe how different folks are satisfied with differing amounts of steps and will gladly take whatever conclusion that number of steps leads to.
The fives might ask, "Why can't the twos see that they are wrong?" Because, at two on the scale, they aren't wrong. Fives, as seen by twos, look incomprehensible, which further confirms that sticking with two is a good idea. To be either upscale or downscale is intellectually sound as long as any observation or scrutiny comes from the same range of the scale. Otherwise, there is no way to see the same satisfaction in the logic.
Why not? Logic is logic, right?
Always. However, while logic may be involved in concluding an individual step, there is no logic involved in determining how many steps are taken or why we stop. That's why we see results like this...
If a conclusion that stopped at two is examined by someone who won't stop at less than five, the resulting critique will likely be received by the author of the conclusion as elitist, dictatorial and an example of over-thinking what is plain and simple.
If a diligent four-step conclusion is examined by someone who is always satisfied with two steps, the resulting critique will likely be received as a careless glance that oversimplifies and misses the point.
At the higher end of the scale, folks want to be scrutinized by those at the same level as themselves and not be short-changed of the thoughtful consideration they assume they deserve. When a six is confronted with a review that stopped at three, it is not because the reviewer is a narcissistic, Deep State fascist. It is because the reviewer usually stops at three. Three steps was all they granted and perhaps all they had to offer. When a six knows of The Malarkey Scale, the anger is less grim. There is solace in knowing why we're disappointed.
At the lower end, scrutiny is a matter of trusting someone who is offering a conclusion or advice that can be understood only because the advisor shepherded the extra steps for them. After the shepherding, the advisee cannot retrace the steps on their own so it becomes a question of trusting the source's conclusions. Since the path is intangible due to too many steps, there can be no room for doubt by the advisee. If trust is earned, shepherding privileges may be granted and higher-scale scrutiny that leads to advice may be accepted. If trust is eroded, those advised will conclude they have been misled. Further shepherding will be rejected as malarkey.
Folklore is full of examples of disparities in step-taking leading to differing conclusions about the world. The Chinese proverb called The Old Man and His Horse tells of an old man who admonishes his fellows for seeing finality where there are, in his view, only pieces of a larger story. Another telling is The Farmer's Son, which makes the same point. As proverbs, they are cautionary tales that elude to the reality of The Malarkey Scale. The Old Man is a learned up-scaler who has not learned why he feels the need to admonish everybody.
Beyond the interactions of individuals are the movements of politics where disparities in scrutiny are managed by power in the form of intimidation and enforced conformity. Politics needs illumination from The Malarkey Scale more than anything else. The scale reveals how political power is defined and wielded differently by folks of differing scores regardless of their views or positions.
Does that mean folks are voting for their favored range of The Malarkey Scale and not so much for the issues?
The number of steps taken in examining an important social issue will largely determine one's opinion about it so any candidate who can effectively convey a consistent preference for a certain number of steps will have an advantage with voters in the same range. Everyone has to decide what kind of political system they want to be a part of. It might be democratic, authoritarian or oligarchic but those will all be secondary features to what will truly define it. That is the depth of consideration it brings to the needs of the populace and its visible aspiration to be on the upper or lower end of The Malarkey Scale. Folks will want a system that is friendly to the way they like to use their brains.
For example, what would the semi-literate and barely educated peasantry most desire in their society? How about freedom from any requirements of literacy and education? Big intrusive governments create for them a fear of their own ignorance that was never needed before and certainly never felt by their ancestors. Their brains never had to say "aargh!".
On the other end of the scale, a government for a preponderance of high scoring citizens had better rely on a system of checks and balances with top-scale scrutinizers who can be empowered by trusted institutions filled with folks who are trained to deliver intelligent and high-scoring advice on pressing issues. All citizens are required to participate in some complex rituals like tax forms but they also enjoy an agreed on balance between privacy and scrutiny. They trust that everyone will practice empathy and respect the balance out of their own good intentions.
When the median public score is one, leaders need only maintain a two to spin up a half-real, half-fantasy world that will provide order, safe sleeping, steady labor, fed children and safety from invaders. Life in these systems might make an appealing option compared to families fending for themselves at the whims of Nature. Leaders do not need to maintain terror if they can maintain an illusion of awesomeness and present an appealing fantasy for everyone to believe they live in. The Shining City On a Hill is a promotional pitch first designed to appeal to and attract tribes out of the wild.
There is a vast spectrum between these two examples but any society's basic nature will fall into one of two types. Folks of all levels of intelligence but who function at the low end of the scale and aspire foremost for Law & Order are here identified as Type A. Social systems that cater to their needs are Type A societies. Type B societies are liberal democratic People's representative republics where hierarchies and food-chains are replaced with an ethereal and unembodied Rule of Law. And an adversarial two-party system that assumes everyone on both sides are Type B's with differently nuanced views.
A Type B person is not just someone who scores higher on the scale. There is something in the experience of stepping farther in our own reasoning that reveals a previously unseen frontier where The Malarkey Scale seems to stretch to a far horizon that can only be reached by untaken steps. Type B folks are those who have discovered that there is a new world of learning and understanding that they can see and reach. Type B's aspire to live in a society that will let them and all B's reason and use the harvest to decide its laws and its future.
How does America rank?
Way up there, at least in its intentions. The Founding Fathers of the USA may have thought it was a given that the bulky system of Type B governance the Constitution describes shows a fundamental aspiration to be as upscale as possible about everything. At the time, it was pitched as an alternative to low-scale systems that quickly degrade into a sinister manipulation of the public to conceal and sustain an elite with an insatiable desire for perversion. That can't happen here. Scrutiny isn't top-down. It's circular. Each of the three branches is open to the scrutiny of the others. Other nations built strong fortresses to defend the personage of authority. The US Capitol is full of fortresses built to defend not personages but the settings and procedures that provide the ability to be up-scale and engage in up-scalery. They are safe spaces where one can be heard, in full, and then challenged by others taking different steps of reasoning. The system encourages and forces the participants to take further steps and engage in better reasoning as the only way to prevail or get anything done. Some call this freedom from tyranny but not everyone.
The flaw in this scheme is what its Founders took for granted. They believed that the revolutionary aspiration of the age, once empowered, would never stop or wane. They knew their system would not work without a citizenry that shared their up-scale aspirations. Maintaining that aspiration was, by design, not going to be the job of the government.
The aspiration of that age was for the growing numbers of up-scale folks to have a place that their brains want to live in. Growing literacy and better schooling was making the public, on average, trend upwards on The Malarkey Scale. Many were asking, "what is the point of thinking for myself when all choices are pre-reasoned by some authority?" Existing systems like monarchies were designed to get humans barely out of the wild to operate together under supervision. Overlords shepherded everyone without the need for individual reasoning. Scrutiny of leadership was not in the design. Any reasoning from the public like, "I think I have a better idea" or, "Yes, but..." was brutally discouraged. That's what made the Founders' aspirations revolutionary. They wanted Mutually Assured Scrutiny.
When the average score of the public climbs to three or more, then those aspirations will become an actual revolution. Folks of all upper scores share a desire to be up-scale and have things decided by a course of reasoning that is un-halted by any un-checked authority. That is where the US founders got it right. There must be no corner of the system to weasel into. Anywhere its power goes, scrutiny must follow. It could be said that this puts The Malarkey Scale in charge.
With this unique feature, the US model became recognized everywhere as the top brand in democratic republics. It was a decent fit for the up-scale aspirations of folks all over the world. Everyone could see that the US model held the most promise even if many of those living in it now seem determined to ruin it or turn it into something more old-school or altogether Type A.
So, the lady who asked Franklin what kind of government meant A or B?
Ben Franklin's warning to the inquisitive lady about B-keeping meant the public's score on the scale had to stay high enough to maintain the aspiration to live in a world that demands that folks think for themselves. Science and reason will show the way but only if we are motivated. There is no ultimate authority dragging us along. It is presumed that everyone will get out of the bus and push. Letting the score drop will be the nation's primary vulnerability.
Folks in this age who carry on the aspiration be B's may be baffled as to why anyone would, once aware of what is possible in B-town, still desire an old school authoritarian system built for lower-scale populations. Once made aware of The Malarkey Scale, the befuddlement will cease.
It is easy for modern folks to say "Full stop! How could living in a totalitarian state be anyone's aspiration? Those citizens will risk their lives to escape!" North Korea is an example of a total-authority state that has, through industrialization and education, allowed its public's score to rise up the scale. The average Joe can give any official reasoning a "Yes, but…" without breaking a sweat. They would if they weren't terrified of the response. There is a crippling incompatibility between their Type A leaders and the Type B citizens' aspirations.
Types A and B have one thing in common. Neither A's nor B's have the slightest idea of how the other is thinking. A's will stop and defer their reasoning to an authority or a firearm. B's will think the A's are stubborn or intellectually dishonest or charmed by confirmation bias. It is none of that. They stop because that is where low-scale folks stop. There is no 'further' that they are not going. There is no frontier. Great Leader blocks the view. For Type A's without that experience of the frontier, a Type B society will be unimaginable in its intentions and look like an invitation to chaos that abandons a proven order.
A's will be befuddled by B's being full of themselves and over-thinking things and possibly disloyal to norms of morality. Type B societies will demand that citizens participate by understanding rules and systems that are nuanced beyond the A's comfort zone. The A's will see Deep States and conspiracies that are, for them, just as ghostly and intangible as the system that is really there. Denials and rebuttals from up-scalers only add to the suspicious intellectualism that is out to use slippery and intangible big talk to take your stuff and your freedom. Or worse, a sinister manipulation of the public to conceal and sustain an elite with an insatiable desire for perversion. Everyone talks about how their side of the Great Divide is standing on the brink.
Type B pundits complain on the TV that they cannot relate to or empathize with the childlike understandings of angry and fearful Type A citizens. The temptation to dismiss them as unforgivably infantile or simple morons is hard to resist but dangerously off the mark. Their obsession with freedom relates to a fundamental need to not be scrutinized.
For B's, scrutiny is synonymous with justice. When B's see authority acting without scrutiny, they will object by withholding their civility. They will protest and chant, "No Justice, No B's!". The call will be an echo of how all B societies got started. They were revolutions that forced a Type A society into a Type B. No such hoopla or political spasm is needed for changing into a Type A again.
When a Type B society's deliberative body doesn't have enough frontier-aspiring B's in it, the A's will find their own way of using it. Avenues of scrutiny will be closed. Deliberation will be a formality. Executive leadership will come to those who show the will to be the strongest and meanest power-grabber. When someone who rarely bothers with more than one step of reasoning has the power to decide where their own scrutiny comes from, they will rely on those who loyally stay one step behind them at all times. The resulting is a cadre of loyal and unquestioning enablers. B's will stand by with their jaws agape and wonder What Happened? That's life in the shining city, snowflake.
The Great Divide slices through the middle of The Malarkey Scale and not just in politics but anything we can reason about. Almost every religion offers a low-scale version for folks likely to favor a simple and clear-cut Type A society and, a reformed version for B's that provides a funhouse of wildly imaginative nuance that could be mistaken for the frontier if you squint.
How does anyone go backwards from B to A? What makes someone declare "I will become unreasonable"?
What can we take away from a three or a four that then makes it impossible to be a three or a four? The answer is space and time. Space to intellectually stretch-out and the time to see things through. When life runs at a pace where there is only time for tweets and only enough space for a slogan, that can make one see the frontier as a distant and unreachable planet or even forget that the frontier is there. The terminally up-scale will feel like they are living on that distant planet and cut off with no means of impacting on this world. Others will realize that there is no being heard unless you can squeeze into a size two brain. If that brings successful connections with others, it is easy to forget you're wearing it.
Those fortresses of debate in DC that held the space and time to be upscale about things are made inaccessible and held by dogmatists who wish to avoid the scrutiny that the institution would have allowed. Folks who turn to the public square will find barely enough space for a sign with a slogan and little public patience for that. Folks who turn to the streets will find only room for a shout of a meme, the hurl of a rock or the sting of a blow. Younger folk observe that no one is making being a B look very appealing.
Public mentors retreat to speeches aimed at the low end of the scale just to stay connected to voters. Everyone speaks over a drum machine. Determined and un-rhythmic up-scalers risk cancellation or PBS just for being boring and tedious and making people's brains say "aargh!".
That leaves Type A's who tend to be kind, plain spoken and hard-working folk looking for Law & Order to protect them from the freaks and crazy others they've been instructed to fear. They are riled up and ready to accept any means of reaching That Shining City On a Hill.
Those in the midrange of the scale are caught in the middle of the Great Divide. . They are the moderates who can sway this way or that but only so far. Long-haired, academic liberalism may be a bit over their head or just unrealistic and folksy, plain-spoken hard truths may seem too often as wishful thinking and gullibility. They long to live in a society with a government where both ends of the scale are proportionally represented and compromise is the only way forward. Even though many of us are already living in one. Why are these democratic societies so fragile? I suggest that it is because they have, so far, been stumbling in the dark. That is, in the dark about The Malarkey Scale.
What can be done?
We could all wear colorful caps with an A or B on them and have a number on our shirts. That way, when we find people to be puzzling, we can check their letter and number and eliminate the puzzle. Singles in search of romance can add a Malarkey score to their wish list. Resumes would be more informative if they included a score on The Malarkey Scale. It should be right at the top. Threes should mention whether they are open to being a one. Up-scalers could say, "I'm a four but I'm willing to stop at two if there's a decent pension".
If I think someone's argument is stupid, is it because I short-changed the scale of attention they were asking for? Are they really a low-scaler or am I being unfair? What if the score were upfront in the debate? Anyone pining for a three step argument could call out, "Anyone for a three?" Those who are not inclined could say "No thanks. I'm too busy for anything more than a two". Then, everyone can move on with their busy day. Name calling can be avoided.
How can we insure a high-scoring government?
Citizens could pick a number… four for example… and an amendment could be offered that stipulates that all government mandates, laws, orders, declarations and policy statements must be the result of debate that qualifies as at least a four on The Malarkey Scale. We could call it the Four Amendment. Or we could aim even higher. That can mean raising our children to be B's and making B-ness look appealing again.
This would impose tyranny upon Type A's who would have to be dragged along any Type B path. B's will not like what they must become in order to see their progressiveness through. Technology, entertainment and advertising have been increasing focusing on quick conclusions and fast results. Pointlessly accelerated schedules convince folks that there isn't time for slowpokes to waste by considering things.
When the B's start building the world they want to live in, they might believe that simply putting B-town in front of folks will make everyone want to make a B-line for it. It's builders will believe that B-ness has arrived for society to enjoy. Only The Malarkey Scale could show them how that is not the way to build a Type B society. Step out into the public square. Listen and count. This is not B-town yet. Those decent and able folks we could be trusting right now were raised in A-town and may still live there. Society's median score has the Malarkey Meter not quite pointing all the way to B.
The most any citizen can hope for is to build a local farce where their influence reaches as far into their community as they need. They must be prepared to live in a world of competing farces where the object is to dominate the battle-space. The same strategy carries on at the leadership level. Winning is everything. A's celebrate their freedom when one agreeable authority achieves domination and escapes scrutiny from dissenters. Favored intellectuals will present clever and complex theories of economics and governance that presume the citizens they serve will always be far less clever and complex than their theories.
Some who are born on the high side of the scale will find they have an advantage over others. Moderate up-scalers who are convinced that mankind has always been and will always be mostly low-scalers can also believe their gift obliges them to be a guide that finds and leads the way to the Shiny City On a Hill.
In the Big Picture, B's cannot consider themselves as the solvers of society's problems without first seeing that they are, as seen from either end of The Malarkey Scale, one half of the problem.