David Harsanyi On The State Of Political Debate-A Few Additional Thoughts

I think many people not accustomed to the culture wars aren’t accustomed to the tactics of many who participate in them; the blind loyalty to causes and one’s own tribe/team, the naked self-interest, the skulduggery, the shouting, the smear tactics etc.

It can have all the appeal of playing tug-of-war in a muddy field, with lots of name-calling.

To top that off, I’ve been at debates of substance, genuine and profound substance, where I’ve walked away with one set of impressions and ideas (even a clear winner in mind) while friends in my party have walked away with a completely different set of impressions and ideas (good to have dinner or go to a bar afterwards).

Harsanyi on his experiences and the broader claim he makes as a result of them:

When a group confuses its politics with moral doctrine, it may have trouble comprehending how a decent human could disagree with its positions.

Such has been one of the main themes of this blog, really:  I don’t have much evidence that human nature has changed very much lately, and find most people desirous of change usually haven’t thought through many of the consequences of holding the ideas, ideals and ideologies driving the change they seek.

Many such doctrines can pose serious threats to all of our liberties, deeply affecting American social, legal, political and educational institutions. Many such doctrines remain impossibly utopian in spirit, not really scalable to large groups of people, while proving to have had drastic consequences in practice.

Here are a few ideas I keep running across where I live:

History has an endpoint which can be known and reached. Religious dogma and faulty metaphysical doctrines with no modern appeal are just about consigned to the dustbin of history, don’t you know, while secular progress and the ‘good’ society are just around the corner…right after the next change.  Join the community and the modern world.

Human nature itself is shaped only by cultures and the current culture (i.e. ‘they’) is failing to shape human nature properly (i.e. ‘me’ ‘us’ ‘we’ will shape human nature properly once we control the institutions and political process allowing ‘us’ to do so).

Once someone begins to hold the right ideals, acting with enough emotional commitment and loyalty to those ideals, all that remains is some action in the real world (buying a Prius, voting for the ‘right’ people etc.) or better yet, some political activism to start shaping human nature in a virtuous manner.

Enemies are not merely wrong, but can easily become morally suspect and ‘bad,’  as Harsanyi points out.  The modern social sciences can then became cudgels and tools of ostracism and mischaracterization:  ‘You’re a psychopath, a sociopath, you have no heart etc.’

There is knowledge that will somehow allow for the fair and equal control distribution of economic resources through the political economy, laws etc, and all that’s left is for the ‘right’ people to implement that knowledge.

Am I missing any?

Such seem to be the muddy fields of the moment, so let me know what I’ve got wrong.

This blog ain’t a soapbox nor a lectern, much as I seem to act though it is.

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Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”