Has The Prudent Man Lost His Mind in Post-modern America?

Diversity Destroys Any Standard Rules Of The Road
Diversity Destroys Any Standard Rules Of The Road

“When men live in society a certain average of conduct, a sacrifice of individual peculiarities going beyond a certain point, is necessary to the general welfare.”


-Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Amidst the buzzwords, bull-feke and innumerable “Powerpoint masterpiece” slides, you will find a kernel of indisputable truth in the Lean Six Sigma pile of pony poop. Take any process with random variation affix its mean result to an acceptable value and then limit variations to the point where they are miniscule. This will yield a consistent and reliable acceptable result that people can trust and store value in. It works best in the mechanized environment of the modern fabrication plant but it can be and has been applied to numerous environments across at least two centuries of history* with a reasonable likelihood of success. This was true because there was always an identifiable standard by which we could tell what right looked like.

If you are fortunate enough to have read The Metaphysical Club** by Louis Menand, then you are well aware of one man’s attempt to apply a primitive version of Lean Six Sigma to Jurisprudential Thought. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was heavily influenced by Charles Darwin’s Origin of The Species. In this book Darwin famously argues that natural variations occur in a random pattern from a pre-established mean and that the most suitable adaptations enable an organism to out-reproduce similar organisms with less effective mutations. Another influence on Holmes’ legal views was the outcome of an 1830 court case Harvard College vs Armory. This case was one of the first adjudicated through application of The Prudent Man Rule which roughly reads as stated below.


The Prudent Man Rule directs trustees “to observe how men of prudence, discretion, and intelligence manage their own affairs, not in regard to speculation, but in regard to the permanent disposition of their funds, considering the probable income, as well as the probable safety of the capital to be invested.”

Justice Holmes loved this concept and attempted to expand it beyond the world of financial trusts without loss of generality. So Holmes believed a jury would represent a method of taking an average of what smart, intelligent Americans believed. He believed this average was more likely to be wise and grounded in common sense. But he never understood that this truth only held in conjuction with strictly defined and agreed upon communal standards of decency and right.

He never took into account what would happen if the common sense was dulled and if the overall level of reason and epistemology fell below the minimum requirement required to yield a “prudent” decision. You have to have at least some smart people in the sample, or that mean implicit in The Prudent Man Standard will not reflect any significant intellect.

This is what happens when a society pursues diversity for the sake of diversity without the leavening or standardizing effect of assimilation. This process becomes the opposite of the Lean Six Sigma rudiment I discussed above. In a society where nobody cleaves to the traditions that the founders laid down, that nice sharp, Bell Curve that clusters tightly around a generally accepted mean gets flattened like a beer can run over by a pickup truck. The deviations become so extensive that nobody can even discern the mean along the curve.


At this point you have a Uniform Distribution of social values where nobody’s culture or customs are considered any more valid than say The Donner Party’s. Selecting a jury or conducting a poll of such a population does not produce any wisdom. There is no longer any reference point by which a belief or a decision can be viewed a prudent. The Prudent Man is just another dude.

At that point, we have no way to tell whether we can trust one another and are tempted to do what The Talking Heads once advised and “Stop Making Sense.” At that point the society begins to fail and there is widespread dissatisfaction with are fellow man. As two staffers of Senator Marco Rubio put it below:

Ryan Lizza: Well their argument [presumably the unions’] is, what, that they have American workers for these jobs, they don’t need this program.
Rubio Aide 1: Yeah. I mean, one of the problems you have with this, “Oh there’s American workers who are unemployed.” There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it. There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly because. . .
Rubio Aide 2: But the same is true for the high-skilled workers.
Rubio Aide 1: Yes, and the same is true across every sector, in government, in everything.

(HT: National Review)

And yet if we dilute and debase the standard further, if we just bring in several million more diverse people and issue them no requirement to assimilate to any cultural norm whatsoever, this problem will be magically cured? Really? This, in a nutshell, has been my fundamental gravamen for opposing much of Barack Obama’s agenda -the immigration reform bill, the gay marriage push, the fundamental belief that abortion is there to protect his daughters from being punished with a baby.


All of these efforts dilute and undermine what America once stood for. All of these efforts seek to change what America once stood for without providing any illumination as to what we will eventually become or why it would be any better than what we are now. It leaves us in the self-imposed hell Brett Stevens describes below.

These people are better than the usual person, who compensates for a failing society by being as absolutely selfish as possible. Those are the true Nietzsche-described “last men.” They have traded their souls for trivial pleasures, like being the 400,000th person to climb Everest. All of the suit and tie guy, grey world of city misery, ugly buildings and ugly jobs, boring meetings and dishonest people, interpersonal drama, passive aggression, etc. has a huge penalty. It’s the death of a thousand cuts. No act by itself is big, but together, they make civilization a hateful place.

The way out of this mess is to return to our founding traditions. To demand that laws be enforced instead of circumvented by “Comprehensive Reform” workarounds. We either want to enforce laws or repeal them. We do not want to subject them to any sort of “Prudent Man Rule” when there is no socially acceptable definition of prudent anymore. A real and sincere demand for enforcement of the laws and of the original intent of the Constitution as framed and amended in the Bill of Rights would go a long, long way to reestablishing a gravamen upon which we could stand when judging whether or not our next major reform project is actually prudent or not.


*-Some argue St. Origen selected the New Testament Canon by a similar process. He received thousands of copies of The Gospel of St. Luke, but maybe only one or two of the Gospel of Thomas the Twin. You’ll note which one is currently in your copy of The New Testament.
**-Amazon Link.


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