Ideas Must Be Earned

The worst ideas are those unearned.  If you believe something just because it’s common, comfortable, or inherited like a genetic trait, It’s a bad belief.  Not bad because it’s wrong – it very well may be right – but bad because there was no journey, no effort or will to discover it, and this is likely to cause you trouble.

Why are given beliefs bad for you?  Because they’re not examined, rooted, or truly respected by the believer.  When challenge comes, you’ll feel embarrassed and defensive.  You may build up a wall of falsehood or dismissiveness towards others to protect your unearned belief – a wall that will blind you from valuable truths.  Or you may see the weakness in your idea, become bitter at those who passed it on to you, and join a crusade against it, missing any elements of truth it had.

Many people who rail against this or that idea or belief system do so because it’s what they used to believe, and now they view themselves as having grown out of it.  It is possible for a person to change from one genuinely earned belief to another, but when you see them mocking their old beliefs constantly, or changing very quickly, it’s usually because they never really earned their former ideas.  When someone attacking an idea appeals to their own authority as a former believer, it’s almost always a sign that their former belief wasn’t earned.

This is more true the more radical the idea.  Radical ideas, especially, must be earned.  It’s tough to hold radical views.  All the cool and respectable people might mock you, or pressure you, or dismiss you.  If your radical beliefs came to you unearned or too fast, you’ll make them look crazy with weak defenses, or you’ll quickly abandon them and join in the chorus of mockers.  You do yourself and the world no favors this way.  The idea may or may not be true, but it deserves a genuine and serious examination before you become a firm believer or detractor.

If you haven’t really earned a belief, take a few steps back and don’t try to be a crusader for or against it.  To paraphrase Murray Rothbard, It’s no crime to have unearned ideas; but it’s totally irresponsible to be a loud advocate for those ideas.