After the meeting with Kilo, I went back to my room and reviewed the paper. I went through the logic and the arguments, and everything seemed to hang together pretty well for me. It was an anti-socialism argument, based on Hayek’s Road to Serfdom that said the Soviet Union had failed because of the flaws inherent in economic planning. That is, there just isn’t enough information and expertise available to plan or control an economy. And even if there is enough data, there’s not enough cognition or computing power to process and make sense of it, which is what makes it a rationality-based argument. Even worse is, once one goes down the route of planning, propaganda and totalitarianism — the forced acceptance of only one opinion, viewpoint, or perspective – follows naturally
Kilo’s published work on democracy, which got him tenure at MIT, argued that instead of having centralized control of the economy, people would vote on how the economy would be controlled. Of course, this democratic socialism, which is just a small variation on socialism, would still suffer from the weaknesses of socialism with a few additional problems added for good measure. First, how would the voters know what they would be voting on? California has tried this with its democratic referendum system, which is super confusing and could never result in a unified, workable plan. Second, people learn about issues from the media, which again opens democracy to a range of influences and untruths. Third, with the people being informed and influenced by the media, this increases the power of the people who control the media, which is essentially the point of the whole socialist project.
Socialists know that socialism will be a disaster for the population, but it would greatly benefit them. In fact, this is their one shot at having power, wealth, and status — so it is important to them. To be specific, Kilo had put years of his life into this concept constellation, so he was emotionally invested in democratic socialism. Extending beyond Kilo, socialism is the logical conclusion of making politics one’s primary consideration. If you value politics above all else, as most political scientists do, then that places you far down the road of being a socialist. In contrast, I was an engineer and computer scientist, so political science was kind of a sidelight for me — an indulgence of intellectual interest because if everything went wrong, I could always fall back and be engineer. Kilo did not have that as a fallback; he had gone “all in” on socialism.
Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. I figured Kilo was a tenured MIT professor because he wanted to teach and was looking out for his students. I thought of myself as a conservative back then, but I only had a vague notion of what that meant in a Burke, Tocqueville, Buckley kind of way. I was basically a patriotic American engineer who felt comfortable with my academic background. I figured most conservatives didn’t have my engineering, math, and physics background and that, so long as I stuck with that — especially at MIT — I would be safe. I was also studying politics of the environment, not Besides, I thought that if it did turn out to be a problem, it would be interesting to find out how that manifested itself. I was about to find out.
I made an appointment with Kilo and returned to MIT Building 20, the temporary WWII building that was still standing 50 years later with its basic wood construction, off kilter angles, and assortment of odd smells. I knocked on his door, was admitted to his office, and sat down with Kilo’s desk between us. He knew I was there to talk about the paper. I started, “Professor Kilo, the argument I was trying to make in the paper–”
“Your paper meant nothing — NOTHING!” shouted Kilo, interrupting me.
I was quiet because, like the F he gave me last time we talked, I was not expecting to be shouted down. However, Kilo’s interruption told me three things. First, my paper did mean something, because why else would he have raised is voice? Second, his problem with it was emotional, not logical. His angry outburst pointed towards something more elemental and fundamental. Third, I knew further conversation with Kilo was pointless, so I said that I understood his perspective and maybe we could talk about this another time. Then I got up and left.
As I made my way across the MIT campus though, I felt much better than the previous time I walk out of Building 20. Last time, I thought I had made a horrendous error that I didn’t understand, which might be pointing out more fundamental problems. This time, after having reviewed my arguments, I felt going in that they were correct, or at least defensible. Kilo’s over-the-top reaction indicated that they were indeed sound because he was unwilling and afraid to talk about them. I still had a big problem though — I had alienated an important professor, but I was pretty sure I was correct, and for that evening, that was enough.