Bryan Caplan  

I Dream of Repentance

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Since the election, several people have privately asked me, "Well, whatever you think about Trump, don't you at least enjoy the attendant outrage of the left?  At least that must make you happy, right?" 

In my misanthropic youth, the answer would have been a resounding yes.  But in all honesty, I put away such childishness years ago.  I have a rich, full life that affords me ample opportunities for pure joy.  I have no need to seek out joy sullied by anger.  And again in all honesty, I wish everyone else felt as I do.  Living through this disgraceful election, and then seeing partisan pundits double down on their disgraceful behavior afterwards, just discourages me.  This is especially true when I'm sympathetic to the conclusions of practitioners of the disgraceful behavior.  Reasonable, fair-minded disagreement gives me hope; unreasonable, unfair agreement just creeps me out.

What about the unreasonable and unfair?  Don't I want to see them choke on their own rage?  Not at all.  To give me pleasure, they would have to display a far rarer reaction: heart-felt repentance.  All of the following would be music to my ears:

1. "Forgive me, for I have allowed my emotions to cloud my judgment.  From now on, I'll strive to be calm when I analyze politics."

2. "Forgive me, for I have apologized for dishonesty, demagoguery, and half-truths.  From now on, I'll prize truth over political victory."

3. "Forgive me, for I have trolled, stating arguments I know to be flawed in order to aggravate others.  From now on, nobility comes first."

4. "Forgive me, for I have advocated collective punishment of groups I dislike, even though I know most members of these groups are innocent.  From now on, I will make a special effort to treat members of groups I dislike justly."

5. "Forgive me, for I have advocated government coercion, even though it's far from clear that leaving people alone would lead to worse results.  From now on, I embrace the presumption of liberty."

If any of these mea culpas come my way, I'll be delighted and grateful - and never say, "I told you so."  But if repentance remains rare - as I firmly expect - I won't let it get me down.  Any observant person who turns to politics for happiness is doomed to dismay.  I have my Bubble, and it is enough.




COMMENTS (6 to date)
Jg writes:

Irrespective of the response to a certain action, it is not immoral to gain satisfaction if the action in question is just in and of itself. And some would propose that trump's victory is just in of itself because his actions will move toward greater protection of the greatest good which is life itself.

LD Bottorff writes:

I try very hard to be calm when I analyze politics. I probably spend more time than 95% of non-politicians preparing to vote for local offices, especially the non-partisan judges. But when it comes to deciding between the two demagogues who were running for president, I neither apologize for my decision, nor do I hold it against anyone who voted differently. When the choices are as bad as they were, I think we should remain calm and clearly state why policies are good or bad.
I appreciate that you usually do just that. And I appreciate the links to your older posts, because I apparently missed your excellent post on Demagoguery from May 2014. Thanks!

Ross Levatter writes:

You dream of repentance, but I note you aren't betting on it...

Thaomas writes:

Does "trolling" include addressing only the weakest arguments against/for the ideas we advance/oppose and steadfastly refusing to address stronger arguments?

Hazel Meade writes:

I am in agreement with your sentiment.
It's true that I despise the left for it's sanctimonious moralizing, and for it's economic ignorance, and especially when it combines the two.
(Nothing worse than listening to a leftist get sanctimonious about the evils of free trade.)

However, I derive no satisfaction from listening to the left get outraged by the election of a populist nationalist. First of all, because the guy elected is not right, and the things they are most outraged by are the things they are correct about - immigration, race, Trump's general competence and temperment. The left can be insufferable about white privilege, but they aren't wrong about it.

Secondly, because making the left angry does absolutely nothing to change their minds. Probably the opposite. The more angry people get the more stubborn and entrenched their preconcentions become. The more the right pisses off the left, and the more the left pisses of the right, the less likely it is that either side will be willing to listen to one another's arguments with an open mind.

I don't want to make leftists angry, I want to make them listen to me. Electing a guy like Trump just to piss them off might be emotionally satisfying to some people, but it makes me lose hope.

Mark ST writes:

Can you comment on probably-not-so-repentant Trump considering naming FDA chief who's in favor of people getting paid for selling their kidney? (I know it's one of your favorite topics.)

https://www.statnews.com/2016/12/07/trump-fda-oneill/

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