Arnold Kling  

From the weekend's op-ed pages

Robert Caro's Hands-On Discove... Educational Counter-Signaling ...

1. Ross Douthat speculates that technological advances could change us from civil societarians to meek subjects of an all-powerful state.

2. Chris Mooney talks about personality traits as determinants of ideology. I think that many people will walk away from this piece with the view that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that the former are open-minded and the latter are not. I believe the research that says that liberals are more open to new experiences (the "O" in the OCEAN typology). I am not ready to say that liberals are more open-minded in the full sense of the term. Until I see evidence to the contrary, my presumption is that liberals are as subject as conservatives are to confirmation bias and tribalism (where ideological affinity is the criterion for tribal membership).

I could be wrong, but I actually think that conservatism has an easier time handling dissent than liberalism. If your view is that there is a social good and that "we" know how to achieve it, at some point your willingness to put up with people who do not share your views becomes limited. For example, if someone wants to do without so-called health insurance, it is hard to be open-minded about it if you think their choice contributes to market failure.

Speaking of tribalism, Colin Woodard reviews the latest book from Edward O. Wilson.

He builds a case for religion as a byproduct of human evolution, a mechanism for defining and uniting the tribe. As such, it has become "an unseen trap unavoidable during the biological history of our species,"facilitating submission not to God but "to no more than a tribe united by a creation myth." Our species, Wilson says, deserves better, and he makes a case that morality and honor are also part of our peculiar evolutionary heritage and, thus, can stand on their own.

"A good first step for the liberation of humanity from the oppressive forms of tribalism would be to repudiate, respectfully, the claims of those in power who claim they speak for God, are a special representative of God, or have exclusive knowledge of God's divine will," he advises, and he includes in that group purveyors of "dogmatic political ideologies based on unchallengeable precepts, left and right." Rounding out this view, he adds: "Their leaders may mean well. But humanity has suffered enough from grossly inaccurate history told by mistaken prophets."

In the preceding paragraph, substituting "society" for "God" and "politicians" for "prophets" will take you a fair way toward stating my case for leaning libertarian.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Rick Hull writes:

I am reminded of Penn Jillette's I Don't Know

Primum non nocere

DougT writes:

Ah, Plato vs. Aristotle. Would make a nice rap video. Is the immaterial real? Do concepts like "honor," "justice," or "beauty" have any reality apart from the social/evolutionary structure within which they function? For good or ill, our Founders were Platonists, and our founding documents reflect their convictions that Truth, Justice, and the American Way are Real, and not Irrational.

On the seriously philosophical side, the true materialist/subjectivist has the problem that if everything is socially constructed and genetically/evolutionarily determined, then no proposition can be said to be "true," including the postmodern meta-narrative itself if "truth" is a social construction, typically designed for oppressive ends.

You can't keep a good metaphysics down. The materialist Aristotelians may play whack-a-mole, but Plato will keep rearing his hoary head. Especially among libertarians, who believe that some things are Good and others are Bad.

David P writes:

I regularly listen to Point of Inquiry which Mooney hosts and honestly I think he has a strong lack of introspection. He's very keen to jump on "us vs. them" narratives that confirms his preexisting biases. He has some great guests, but the anti-right podcasts can frequently be frustrating to listen to.

And I like to say it's not that I'm open minded, just open to the idea that I am wrong about something. [/self congratulation]

blink writes:

You are right... The last quoted paragraph reads perfectly with "society" and "politicians" substituted. Eerie!

MG writes:

Since I am suspicious of any "definitive finding" on this issue, and since the conventional wisdom seems to be that conservatives are/must be more close-minded, my bias is to seek confirmation for the reverse. Is this confirmation bias seeking to falsify what is now dogma? Any way, in that search, I have tended to find it more plausible that the opposite is true. Arnold's suggestion is one I had run into. And read what Andre Biggs wrote just this week, on the back of a new book, The Righteous Mind.

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