19 October 2010


On that last point.

I'd say that when I talk to people who are progressives, liberals, whatever the term is supposed to be, I find that the problem is that they're ignorant of economics. Explain some basic features on how rent controls actually work, or how farm subsidies do, maybe throw in a little public choice theory (particularly things like rent seeking), and while you might not change their mind on the policies they support, they're at least more skeptical of some things because their errors in assessing the reality around them are in a place that's at least sometimes empirically verifiable (economics, still a soft science without controlled experiments, but there's some obvious cause and effect relationships that have been shown and are agreed upon as actual costs and benefits of a particular policy position). I mean really, why do we need licensing for people to cut hair or regulations governing how many colours a sign can have? Things like that tend to get someone's attention.

When I talk to people who are more conservative, the problem seems to be that they're living in a completely different world with completely different corners to it that have to resolved. It happens in relation to Islamaphobic tendencies, or to attitudes on homosexuality, assessments of the drug war, or the authority vested, generally blindly, in police and military matters. These are matters of ideological contention often enough that they're not necessarily costs to them, even where they are obviously so to me extremely high costs. And that's to say nothing of even more reality based arguments like teaching evolution, the efficacy of vaccinations, or global warming (the appropriate argument there is what to do about it, maybe how much of the sky is falling at worst, not whether or not the sky is falling as most GOP political figures can get away with). I'm not sure how to get through to people who have their own private reality exclusively to themselves and can then safely pretend, politically, its the actual one that everyone else must be living in too.

Having different facts makes it a very big problem to proceed on how we might disagree. In the case of progressive liberals, the problem is usually that they do not possess some economic facts or a clear idea on how markets work. They do make very different assumptions in the light of their ignorance, and that is a problem. My free speech "debate" from a month or so ago demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of how people may speak freely in an open market far more easily than where the government constrains what may or may not be said, which to me is a serious problem with the "liberal" worldview (that it does not embrace its founding roots in classical liberalism and individual freedoms and that there are many means of suppressing unpleasant and hateful speech without endorsing institutional and government control over what may or may not be considered hateful). Conservatives however often fall prey to the very same lack of knowledge on how markets work and then proceed to make very different assumptions about the appropriate role and behavior of government anyway, in spite of this failing. I see all the time calls to drug test everyone on welfare as though it is a crime to be poor or that somehow being poor is not sufficiently unpleasant enough an incentive to do or seek more for one's self. This is both a failure to trust markets and a failure to understand and consistently apply then what the role of government is (even within conservative strains of thought).

This results, in both cases, that government should do what they want it to do and nothing of what the other team wants it to do rather than a coherent message of ideological contentions. In most cases, it's a safe bet that I find that governments should do nothing of what either team wants it to do, or at best, to have very limited missions drawn from both, and at worst experimenting at local or state levels of governance to see how those will work if they're expanded and to be competitively abandoned when they do not work at all.
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