Tuesday, April 30, 2024

#121 / How We Think And What We Do


I have previously given my opinion (with recognition to my mother) that "comparisons are odious." I have contended that the best way to think about things is not by comparing one thing to another, and then picking out the one you like best. 

Good advice bears repeating. Therefore, let me provide you with another example of what I do not think is a good way to contemplate important public policy issues. Previously, I contended that trying to compare "capitalism" with "socialism," picking out the "best" system, was a flawed approach. Here, the comparison I want to draw to your attention is between "progressive" politics and "conservative" politics. This is the choice discussed in a recent edition of The New York Times' "The Morning" newsletter, by David Leonhardt. Here is his opening salvo from the newsletter published on April 25, 2024, which was titled, "Chaos and Oppression."

Arnold Kling, an economist, published a book a decade ago that offered a way to think about the core difference between progressives and conservatives. Progressives, Kling wrote, see the world as a struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed, and they try to help the oppressed. Conservatives see the world as a struggle between civilization and barbarism — between order and chaos — and they try to protect civilization...

The debate over pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia and other universities has become an example. If you want to understand why university leaders are finding the situation so hard to resolve, Kling’s dichotomy is useful: The central question for colleges is whether to prioritize the preservation of order or the desire of students to denounce oppression.

According to this way of discussing the issue, colleges need to face the "central question," and pick a side. The choice is whether to "denounce oppression" or to seek "the preservation of order." Another way to evaluate the two options, according to Leonhardt, is to pick either "chaos" or "oppression." 

If we approach the world as a series of binary choices, and think our job, as we seek to govern ourselves, is to "pick a side," we will exclude from consideration anything new, or creative, and we'll be the losers!

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Another problem is equating "socialism" and "communism" as the same thing. As the son of the only Socialist in my home town, I can tell you that socialists hated communists because they introduced violence into the narrative. Almost all socialists are also pacifists. As are almost all anarchists. They are NOT street fighters, They are opposed to the draft. And war PERIOD!


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