Arnold Kling  

Not Who You Think

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Cliches of Anti-Pacifism... Arnold Kling, Noble in Defeat...

1. Not Mencius Moldbug:


But a king--a king without any real power, that is--is such an ennoblingly arbitrary, such a tender and organically human institution. It is easy to give our loyalty to someone whose only claim on it is an accident of heredity, because then it is a free gesture of spontaneous affection that requires no element of self-deception, and that does not involve the humiliation of having to ask to be ruled.

Instead, that is David B. Hart, in a bracing attack on democratic leadership. Read the whole thing.

Possibly related:


At least King George had authority. And because people knew who he was, he might have even been more accessible.

2. Not Steve Sailer:


The message of the book, in headline form, is that Germany is becoming smaller (thanks to the familiar story of a falling birthrate among native Germans) and stupider (thanks to the fact that educated Germans are having fewer children and the fastest growing part of the population are poorly-integrated Muslim immigrants). That "stupider" is, of course, contested and has led to accusations of a flirtation with eugenics--of which more later.

The book is Germany Abolishes Itself, by Thilo Sarrazin. I have quoted David Goodhart's essay about it.

Goodhart writes,


Nowhere in Europe is the gap between public opinion and published opinion as wide as in Germany. And nowhere has public policy been more influenced by a 1960s generation, post-national, society-is-to-blame kind of liberalism. Yet this "official" liberalism has never reflected the way people live and think, even in the German chattering classes.

Here in the United States, one thing that strikes me about my most liberal friends is how conservative their thinking is at a personal level. For their own children, and in talking about specific other people, they passionately stress individual responsibility. It is only when discussing public policy that they favor collectivism. The tension between their personal views and their political opinions is fascinating to observe. I would not be surprised to find that my friends' attachment to liberal politics is tenuous, and that some major event could cause a rapid, widespread shift toward a more conservative position.


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COMMENTS (24 to date)
MernaMoose writes:

I would not be surprised to find that my friends' attachment to liberal politics is tenuous, and that some major event could cause a rapid, widespread shift toward a more conservative position.

I see similar discontinuities in my liberal friends.

I'd like to believe you're right. But I don't.

richard writes:

In Germany the discontinuities are comparatively absent. Child rearing is an amazing thing to observe over there. It is always, the kid is right, you have to let them explore, no discipline.

fundamentalist writes:

I don't think that is hypocrisy. Socialists think the state should help the poor, but they don't want their children to become one of the poor who needs state help. Socialists are hypocrites in that they don't give their own money to help the poor; they want to give other peoples' money through the state. Conservatives give their own money to the poor.

Chaitanya writes:

Right... coz the dichotomy between liberals and conservatives boils down to collectivistism and responsibility? Please.

There is nothing hypocritical about stressing individual responsibility and also having a safety net for the poor. Nothing hypocritical about wanting to inculcate into your own children responsibility, and believing that the disenfranchised and dispossessed of the world need to be given welfare payments. I'd love for everyone to be responsible, but responsibility alone cannot abolish poverty in the world.

Corey writes:

Here in the United States, one thing that strikes me about my most liberal friends is how conservative their thinking is at a personal level. For their own children, and in talking about specific other people, they passionately stress individual responsibility. It is only when discussing public policy that they favor collectivism.

This is only hypocritical if you buy into the strawman notion that liberals want everyone on the teat of Mother Government. In reality, we want a safety net for those who either truly can't care for themselves or for those whom circumstance has rendered them temporarily incapable of doing so.

Mike Huben writes:

they passionately stress individual responsibility

Just what is conservative about individual responsibility?

And of course it matters WHO they are responsible to. Could be other individuals, could be society.

It's this sort of sneering insinuation that libertarians so frequently substitute for thinking.

phil writes:
I would not be surprised to find that my friends' attachment to liberal politics is tenuous, and that some major event could cause a rapid, widespread shift toward a more conservative position.

You mean like 9/11?

MernaMoose writes:

Corey,

I'd believe that if ObamaCare was designed like a safety net. But instead it imposes the same "solution" on all of us -- and also forces all of us to be on the teat of Mother Government, whether we like it or not.

Somehow I thought Medicare/Medicaid was supposed to be this safety net you're talking about. So then why was ObamaCare necessary? Why wasn't some refashioning of the existing safety net not good enough, and done in such a way as to leave those of us who were happy enough already, alone?

You personally may be a "safety net" kind of Democrat. But I see something quite different coming from the hardcore liberal Left: they want to impose the exact same conditions on all of us (excepting the very elite, of course). Which is the same moral principle that is a cornerstone of socialist ethics.

This is no different from forcing everyone to wear the same kind of blue overalls every day, because class differences are not allowed.

When liberals give up this part of their agenda, maybe I'll believe they only want a safety net for the poor and needy.

Dan H. writes:

That's not really true. American liberalism has gone far past just helping the poor and those incapable of helping themselves. It also includes public health care for the middle class, consumer protection for everyone, universal retirement plans, free health care for retired people of all classes, tax breaks for the middle class paid for by increased taxes on the wealthy, laws prohibiting smoking, trans-fats, and other 'unheathy' lifestyle choices, publically funded day care and pre-school care, opposition to privatized education, and the list goes on.

Floccina writes:

Chaitanya and Corey, I wish that more democrats were like you two. IMO we could subsidize the poor at very low cost instead politicians try to subsidize everyone at great cost and to very little effect. As Bryan Caplan has said "I can understand robbing Peter to pay Paul but why do we rob Peter to pay Peter?"

Scott Scheule writes:

I've noticed similar discontinuities with my conservative friends. While at the national level they insist that people should be left to purchase health care on their own, when it comes to their own children, it's straight to the doctor at the slightest cough. These same conservatives will stubbornly insist that food stamps and welfare make slaves of the poor, and then turn around and give food to their own family members, all without demanding payment!

Peter writes:

I actually would go farther and go with they are only liberal either because of past perceived guilt (i.e. white guilt), a guilt over being middle to upper class, some other guilt, or they exist in a peer circle which requires them to be liberal (i.e. polite society). It is rare I have found anybody, in private and off record, that is liberal outside fanatics (i.e. I knew a die hard lefty women who was 67 who got a hysterectomy at 24 to "free herself from nature and male oppression" and continued till the day she died to rail against male oppression, women quislings, capitalism, and meritocracy).

Even the folk that vote Democrat aren't liberal for the most part, they just vote that way either in historic patterns, or out of a sense of guilt or shame, it's cool or socially expected (i.e it's always fashionable to be against conservatives).

Yes I know there are always exceptions, I find them to be few.

@Scott - Yep, it's why I love America .. an entire country of center-right and center-left but the dialect is all about actual right or actual left. Everybody hates the nanny state until they need it.

@Chaitanya: Sure it is. You are telling your children that they are spoiled entitled brats who hold a special place above the dredges who are incapable of helping themselves and need your children benevolence. And that the benevolence makes it OK to steal from their peers instead of sacrificing their own funds to assist the incapable dredges because both your children and the dredges are special. Fundamentalist hit it on the head. Nothing will abolish poverty so quit trying and just accept that some people will fail in life and it was of their own causing.*

*Yes I will make an exception for mental retardation and the like social security and medicaid scenarios.

Paul Johnson writes:

"This is only hypocritical if you buy into the strawman notion that liberals want everyone on the teat of Mother Government. In reality, we want a safety net for those who either truly can't care for themselves or for those whom circumstance has rendered them temporarily incapable of doing so."

If that was how it worked in practice I'd be a liberal "of a mild sort". But we've gone way beyond that point.

David K writes:

As a liberal I see no tension. I think it depends on your prior as to who works hard and is individually responsible.

It seems to me that libertarians take monetary success as a prima facie indicator of hard work. Arnold's comments imply that liberals must therefore not care about individual hard work. I think he and other libertarians might find it surprising to understand that liberals (esp. academic-type liberals) actually come to their liberalism precisely because they value hard work.
They just think that it's the rich that are lazy, and the poor that are hard-working.

I think this is shaped by two things among the educational elite, one at least partly valid, the other not (but possibly more powerful):

Validly, the field that one chooses has much more to do with final income than the effort one puts into that career. This I think is accentuated when one attends a school where effort and ability is all rather equal. The top bio student seeking to be an academic will almost certainly never make as much as a middling economics student ultimately seeking an MBA, even though the societal benefit of the bio student might be as high or higher and he might be in some sense "smarter" (at least, in his field).


Invalidly, but possibly more potent in terms of liberal-creation, as a student one interacts with a group that is selected through biased means. Imagine a student who cares a lot about individual work and responsibility. If you went to a top-tier university, you got in one of two ways:
1) You got perfect marks at a public high school.
2) You were a legacy, or went to an extraordinarily expensive feeder prep school.

Given this the probability of a bad or lazy student coming from a rich background is exceedingly high. Thus the students that offend the hard-work-believing student's sensibilities are all going to be rich. And that student knows no one who is poor and lazy-- they never got admitted. Thus the incorrect generalization that rich people=lazy quickly takes on an air of truth to the believer in hard work. Thus someone who values hard work will tend to become a liberal-- it really does seem to him like the proletariat works hard while the bourgeoisie is lazy.

Hyena writes:

I assume that we should expect secretly monarchist political beliefs amongst the heads of family-owned businesses?

Tom of the Missouri writes:

Arnold said: " I would not be surprised to find that my friends' attachment to liberal politics is tenuous..."

I used to think this, too. I dated many leftist women in my day, who usually opened their minds to my deep conservative/libertarian leaning beliefs, after hearing them for the first time in their lives from me. Their politics were usually the result of little thought on the subject and out of fashion or family tradition.

Then I married a woman with two children whose peronal life was the empitiome of conservatism. Only later did I find that her political beliefs were unshakable hard core leftist in nature. That I her husband was undergoing financial calamity partly due to the current economic direction of the current administration which he tried to explain to her might happen before the election, has to date changed her views not one bit nor did I see any sympathy expressed post facto and millions in losses later. To this day she cannot explain why she holds the views that she does, has no particular interest in economic issues or ever studied them, and resist being informed on the subject. She has advanced degrees from good universities, has a high level position at a top 10 university in a non political field, but she is unshakable in her views. Her oldest, who is now at Stanford, was an Obama campaign drone helping register convicts, despite the effect that has had on his once potential inheritance, which was also explained in advance.

We are now separated and likely headed for divorce.

My first clue should have been I think that she grew up and Marin county California. Live and learn as they say, even at my age.

Thus unlike Arnold, I no longer think that Liberal's hold on their views is likely tenuous.

bryan writes:

It's good for me to come over (thanks Tyler!) here and read such simple minded caricatures of the liberal elite obamasocialistacrats in your comments. For example, I had to remind myself more than once during the debate on health care reform that not every opponent of reform was part of the ignorant "keep the government out of my medicare" crowd. There are liberal thinking individuals out there who come to their beliefs honestly, through rational thought without the insidious notion of socialism driving them toward a world where we all look alike.

So just because I want the best for my kids it's irrational to believe in a safety net for the poor that won't have anywhere near the opportunities my children have or yes, even the folks that do have those opportunites and fail to take advantage/get unlucky in life?

Just because I teach my kids to pick up their toys, it's inconsistent to believe that there are characteristics of the market for health care that warrant a public role in it's provision? If I teach my boys that they can do anything they put their mind to, it's unreasonable to believe in government funded pre-school education based on the
positive returns and positive externalities associated with investing those dollars?

I don't buy it. I see little inconsistency in my belief in the power of individuals, the beauty of markets, the fact that markets do fail, the importance of correcting many of those failures, and the reasonableness of some collectivist thinking (such as my comment above on government funded pre-school education).

Extinct Species writes:

I was a conservative/libertarian that went the other way. The transformation was a fairly slow process which started about 15 years ago when I was 40. I fail to see why my move to being a liberal should in any way affect my strong sense of individual responsibility.

I just came to believe that the domination of the rich and powerful at the expense of average people, which is all too often the outcome of conservative policies, is bad for society, bad for the nation and morally and ethically wrong.

It's nice to believe in trickle down. There may even be circumstances where it actually happens, but for the most part it doesn't.

It's nice to believe that there is no need for regulations limiting mortgage lending because individuals make the best judgments about their own monetary decisions and the market will prevent bad judgments from getting out of hand and reeking havoc. How did that work out for us?

It's nice to believe businesses act responsibly in their pursuit of profit and that the market will keep them from cutting corners and taking big risks that have grave consequences for individuals, communities and society. For all those conservatives out there that are so big on individual responsibility, how about holding some of your corporate overlords accountable for their actions.

MernaMoose writes:

I just came to believe that the domination of the rich and powerful at the expense of average people, which is all too often the outcome of conservative policies, is bad for society, bad for the nation and morally and ethically wrong.

And you think liberal policies don't lead to the same thing? Try again.

Miguel Madeira writes:

"Here in the United States, one thing that strikes me about my most liberal friends is how conservative their thinking is at a personal level. For their own children, and in talking about specific other people, they passionately stress individual responsibility."

But the conservative position is not that children are mindless and irresponsible and that they need strict parental (especially "fathertal") supervision?

Extinct Species writes:

And you think liberal policies don't lead to the same thing? Try again.

We've had decades now where conservative policies have dominated and look where it has gotten us. Give me an example where the domination of liberal policies has done as much damage.

Do liberal policies have their downsides? Yes. Do they lead to the same thing? Not even close. No need to try again.

MernaMoose writes:

We've had decades now where conservative policies have dominated...

Where are these decades that you speak of? I haven't seen them yet.

All I've seen is a watered down, half-hearted compromise between Left and Right. Where most of the Right (as in Republicans) has been half-way converted to the Left's position anyway.

Republicans don't really object to government interference in much of anything. Democrats just object to Republicans because they don't think Republicans interfere enough.

All of which leads to this Creature we have today, that somehow manages to continue staggering down the road in darkness.


What has not been tried, is a genuine dominance of free market principles. We could generate a gigantic list of US market segments as examples, but let's start with health care.

You do realize that health care in the US has not operated as a free market since many, many decades ago? Like before WWII. And Democrats have had more than a hand or two in the undoing of market forces in the health care industry.

Look ye upon the disaster of the US health care industry. Can't we all be proud of the disaster Democrats so greatly helped create.

"Dominated" by "conservatives"? If by "conservative" you mean "people who believe in free market principles", then you've been missing out on a lot that's been going on.

Jacob Oost writes:

David K, are you saying that liberals are shallow, one-dimensional thinkers who base their beliefs on stereotypes? So if you put a proto-liberal in, say, an inner-city public school, he would quickly be influenced by what he sees and hears and become racist against blacks and hispanics? (fwiw, it's kind of a cliche/joke among many teachers that the fastest way to turn a liberal into a racist is to have him teach at an inner city school for a few years)

Notice how the actual "proletariat" isn't that liberal. (I'm not counting professional welfare-entitlement-recipients) So their on-the-ground observations of other proles hasn't had taught them the lesson that hanging around spoiled rich douchebags (pardon my French.....hey, it's actual French too, cool!) has taught Stanford grads.

You've made it clear that you believe this stereotype is incorrect, so I'm not hassling *you* per se.

While I'm at it I have to point out one of my annoyances: confusing "hard work" with "productivity." The guy who spends all day digging big holes around the countryside and then filling them up again is "working" a lot "harder" than a guy sitting in a comfy leather chair efficiently managing a company. But which one is more productive? We as third-party observers can only tell by looking at which one is getting paid the most. This tells us their value to "society" by telling us how much dough other people are willing to trade in exchange for whatever it is the other guy is producing. You and I might think that a scientist is more beneficial to society, but society may not agree, and pay the NBA star a lot more than the guy who built the first IC.

bigfatdrunk writes:

@Scott Scheule: I think you're close, but it goes more along these lines...

Here in the United States, one thing that strikes me about my most conservative friends is how liberal their thinking is at a business level. For their own children, and in talking about specific other people, they passionately stress taking risks with other people's money for their own personal gain. It is when these risks become a disaster they favor collectivism.

See also: bailouts, George Bush, Harkin Energy, etc.

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