Karl Pierson’s Revealing Ideas on Human Nature

Denverpost.com report [12/13/13]:

The teenage gunman [Karl Pierson] who entered Arapahoe High School on Friday afternoon and shot two fellow students with a shotgun was outspoken about politics, was a gifted debater and might have been bullied for his beliefs, according to students who knew him.

In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as “Keynesian.”

“I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn’t the market correcting itself?” he wrote. “If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn’t it be able to overpower regulations?”

Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing “you republicans are so cute” and posting an image that reads: “The Republican Party: Health Care: Let ’em Die, Climate Change: Let ’em Die, Gun Violence: Let ’em Die, Women’s Rights: Let ’em Die, More War: Let ’em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?”


This wasn’t a major national headline. CNN, ABC, NBC and MSNBC were not all that interested in Pierson’s political beliefs.

Would the same have been true if he was Republican, libertarian, Ayn Randian/Objectivst or conservative? Imagine if Pierson had posted the following on Facebook: “The Democratic Party: Enslave them, nationalize them, socialize them.”

It would have been instantaneous news: “Laissez-faire capitalism advocate of Ayn Rand shoots two classmates.” Of course, it probably should have been news, if that happened. Because a student of Ayn Rand shooting up classmates would be engaged in a glaring contradiction, i.e. the initiation of force against others (something Objectivism completely opposes). An advocate of Keynesian economic controls on human behavior? Well, not quite so inconsistent.

I’m not suggesting that economic views alone are enough to cause a person to be violent. But economics is a behavioral science, like psychology. Like psychological theories, economic theories explicitly draw upon philosophical attitudes and premises about force, mind and reality.

Ideas matter. Not everyone has ideas about politics or economics, but everyone, by the age of 18, surely possesses ideas of some kind.

Pierson clearly believed that leaving people free was neither moral nor practical. He belittled Adam Smith’s idea of a benevolent universe, i.e. a world where people, when left free (and self-responsible) to be rational, will end up choosing the best possible outcomes for themselves.

A “Keynesian” is someone who believes people must be forced to do what’s best for them. “Best” is a standard determined not objectively, but by one’s superiors, generally in the federal government or some other authoritative body responsible for overseeing the good of all.

It’s fair to assume that Karl Pierson was an impatient young man. He wanted his way, and he wanted it now. The fact that others in his life described him as “normal” and ordinary doesn’t mean anything. People can seem ordinary and normal, but it doesn’t mean they’re so. People can conceal their real selves until a pivotal situation or moment arises when they decide to act—consistently—on their most basic premises.

Keynesianism is a set of ideas which tells us that initiating force—and submission to one’s superiors, in government bureaus—is the proper way for human beings to interact and ultimately survive as a society.

It appears that young Mr. Pierson looked around the world and didn’t like what he saw. He saw too much freedom. What he failed to consider is that we’re buried in Keynesian economic policies, and the United States is less free (economically) than at any time in its history.

If he hated himself and the society that embodied his ideas so much, why did he have to take it out on innocent people? Because, on some level, he felt that force is the most important persuader. So do most of our intellectual “leaders” and government rulers.

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