Willful ignorance is the ability to be both cognizant of a fact while simultaneously ignoring it. This affords one the ability to derive some measure of comfort from pretending to live in a world where such a fact is not extant. For example, a child may know deep down there is no Santa Claus but derives more psychic comfort in pretending that there is. Any belief system that makes testable claims is susceptible to objective scrutiny and when that scrutiny undermines the belief, willful ignorance typically ensues in order to preserve the comfort of that belief. While the world has many religions, there is one belief system that transcends them all. Nearly every member of our species adheres to it (insofar as it seems to be woven into our DNA). It is known as tribalism or its more common variant, patriotism. This is the belief that ones own arbitrarily defined group is superior to all other arbitrarily defined groups. One can even stack their tribes and believe each is the best (best city, best county, best state, best country). Now while there may be no way to prove or disprove ones estimation of their group’s “greatness” sometimes the patriot will make a testable claim, such as, “America stands for freedom and independence” or “America is the freest country in the world.” The latter is easily disproven by reviewing any of the various indices of freedom (the US ranks very poorly at around 25th). But even if the US is not quite the freest it is still believed by the patriot that America is a “free” country; that we fought the Revolutionary War in order to gain our “freedom”. A close examination of the actual history shows that it was not a war of independence for the peoples of the United States but rather a war of independence for the governments of those states from Great Britain. The individual remained just as ruled after the war as before, all that changed was the accent of the ruler. But the myth persists, that America is all about freedom of the individual against tyrannical governments and that our military fights to preserve “our freedom”. This is where the willful ignorance comes in to play. Let us examine the evidence that puts the lie to that notion of “our freedom.”
Would a free country enact laws restricting the non-violent behavior of its citizens? Would a free country throw people in a cage because they exchanged an unapproved good or service for money? Would a free country throw people in a cage if the exchange were approved but the exchange did not conform to some third party’s idea of the proper conditions for the exchange? Would a free country throw people in a cage because they did not get permission from someone to work for themselves or others? To wit, a recent article in the Morgan County Citizen (3/3/16, pg. 1) or Lake Oconee News (3/10/16) concerning a lake homeowner who faces JAIL TIME for renting out her home for short-term vacations. The horror! Yes, certainly, let’s JAIL this MONSTER who clearly represents an imminent threat to public safety. The point is not “did she do it?” the point is “how can such a law even exist in a supposedly free country?” America the land of the free? North Korea would be proud.
Laws prohibiting or regulating human actions are in an absolute sense anathema to the supposed principles this country was founded on: freedom. If a transaction is voluntary and there is no fraud involved then it can’t be “wrong” in a civic sense. You might morally frown upon some activities but you have no more right to impose your morals on others than they have to impose theirs on you. If you wish to live exclusively among those sharing your exact moral code, then follow the Amish example and set up your own private communities. The public sphere does not become a private sphere just because you happen reside within it. Repeat after me: if violence (or the threat thereof) is the only way society can change the behavior of non-violent actors then there is something wrong with society.