The amity that wisdom knits not, folly may easily untie.William Shakespeare
A friend of mine defines rationality based on its etymology in the word ratio, which expresses one thing in terms of another. Rationality, then, is a recognition of proportion, which requires that we see things in terms of the various other things that make up the whole. This definition of rational also provides an excellent foundation for defining justice. Justice is that which seeks to safeguard the balance each thing has in relation to each other thing, all things being appropriately valued. It is the wisdom rooted in individual and cultural self understanding necessary to recognize where balance is served and where it is undermined. Our rationality grows in proportion to our growing sense for the whole, and so too, therefore, does our understanding of justice.
It follows, then, that a good definition of irrationality is the absence of proportionality or the absence of sensing the whole. Irrationality can be immediately recognized in the dogged prioritization of one thing even at its margins at the expense of another thing or things at their most essential and necessary. Irrationality in law produces injustice, as imbalance is imposed on the commons. Marcus Tullius Cicero famously asserted “more laws, less justice,” an astute observation often misunderstood. It’s not that laws undermine justice per se, it’s that the mindset of partiality that typically seeks to resolve problems with clumsy legalisms introduces imbalances which disrupt the balance of a whole not yet perceived. Justice is rationality seeking to safeguard or restore the balance of the whole, which inevitably pits it against the reckless proposal of new laws.
Our legal system becomes irrational in proportion to its loss of sense for the whole. As an example, we judge violence dangerous and control its dispensation with the sober deliberation of courts and judges. It’s a wise enough stance, yet people outsourcing all dangerous violence and conflict resolution to distant third party bureaus for sober consideration while pretending they are peaceful seems to initiate a tendency to covertly nurture violence. As violence becomes less visible, less accountable, more remote, and more sterile, such a society seems to drift toward proposing the violence it once considered dangerous in order to resolve minor issues and petty squabbles. People begin proposing violence to deal with those using the “wrong” pronouns or in service of creating “green” incentives. People coolly propose forcing a vaccine in someone else’s body or imprisoning those with whom they disagree. The society becomes numb to the reality of violence, which in reality represents a grievous loss of sense for the whole.
Additionally, cognitively adept people lacking scruples can harm others within the context of established laws, or can at the very least often find gaps in structure that offer them the opportunity for legal sophistry. As law is foolishly expanded to socially tinker and economically incentivize, the legal system undergoes strain as it is forced to adapt to the incompleteness of complex primary rulesets that were proposed without a sense for the whole, and institute secondary or tertiary addenda to compensate whatever poorly reasoned primary ruleset is being weaponized or colonized. This not only introduces considerable imbalance but has the systemic secondary effect of making law virtually indecipherable and incomprehensible to the common man. Lawyers become necessary to decipher the Byzantine morass, and justice quickly becomes a pillar of caste as the common man finds himself excluded from realistic participation. The notion that the common man appeal to a caste of lawyers for redress becomes an impractically aristocratic one, particularly as high functioning people casually harm others and colonize the system of justice itself, precisely what happens when laws are written without a rational sense for the whole.
One topic currently coming into focus in the culture is that of mandatory vaccination. Despite what activists and ideologues would have us believe, mandatory vaccination is entirely irrational because it prioritizes the importance of something at its margins at the expense of something else in its entirety. Judging whether vaccines work or not is not the purpose of this commentary, but if they work, then there should be little concern whether others participate in vaccination. Concern of this kind originates in a desire to increase herd immunity at the margins, yet by entirely and categorically trading liberty even of something as crucially important as our own bodily autonomy.
Indeed, the global COVID-19 hysteria may now be considered an historically unprecedented example of irrationality, as virtually all elements of society are being dismissed and discounted in service of addressing a virus with a 99% survival rate. Disrupted supply chains will reduce the abundance of key economic goods, which will have the effect of increasing price (demand staying the same), and exacerbating poverty and inequality. Businesses have been forced to close, livelihoods have been destroyed, unaccountable government has been expanded, and education of the next generation has been disrupted. Laws aimed at reducing COVID infection have reflected a poor sense for the whole, and have therefore been largely irrational and unjust.