top of page

Dangers of Ideology

Ideology sealed off from external validation and results endangers society.

August 20, 2023

African-American economist Thomas Sowell wrote that “ideology is fairy tales for adults.”  Many ideological claims, he observed, are asserted by fiat with no external validation and even systematically disregarding evidence to the contrary:

  • “The great problem—and the great social danger—with purely internal criteria is that they can easily become sealed off from feedback from the external world of reality and remain circular in their methods of validation…

  • “Ideas sealed off from the outside world in terms of their origin or their validation may nevertheless have great impact on that external world in which millions of human beings live their lives.. ”

  • “The ideas of Lenin, Hitler, and Mao had enormous—and often lethal —impact on those millions of people, however little validity those ideas had in themselves or in the eyes of others beyond the circles of like-minded followers and subordinate power-wielders.”[1]

To the ideological extremist, what is "real" is not what actually happened in real, documentable terms, but the dogma and agenda.  Similarly, attempting to reason with such individuals is generally fruitless, as their beliefs are not evidence-based.  Facts are admitted or ignored to fit the theory, whereas belief in the theory is resistant to facts, hermetically sealed off from reality.  As Dr. Sowell noted, the lack of real-world basis for false ideologies does not inhibit their devotees from causing severe real-world harm.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in his Nobel prize-winning masterwork, The Gulag Archipelago, of the dangers of ideology:

  • “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good, or else that it's a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions. Macbeth's self -justifications were feeble — and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too. The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare's evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.

  • “Ideology — that is what gives evildoing its long- sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.

  • “Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. This cannot be denied, nor passed over, nor suppressed. How, then, do we dare insist that evildoers do not exist? And who was it that destroyed these millions? Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.”


[1] Sowell, Thomas. Intellectuals and Society (2011).

[2] Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr.  The Gulag Archipelago (1974).

bottom of page