Most People Are Not Like You

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.

I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:

…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.

This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,

Continue reading...

19 Responses to Most People Are Not Like You

  • People like Wilkinson have been crying out since 1976 that the GOP needs to go liberal on the social issues. That was John Anderson’s theme in the 1980 Republican primaries and fueled his third party run in the general election. It is all rot. Most republicans are fiscal and social conservatives and believe in a strong defense. A political party does not achieve success by alienating its base.

  • “And the majority of people who actually vote (and thus determine which party is in charge at a given time) are so woefully uninformed that making intellectual statements about parties as a whole is nearly impossible”.

    Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

  • Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

    Well, it’s true that I’d feel pretty comfortable saying that simply by having the interest to read that much about politics, regular readers of this blog are probably in the top 10-20% of voters as far as being informed. So yes, I suppose I am rather elitist in that sense. Though for what it’s worth, I’d also be ready to say that being informed about politics is not necessarily indicative of much of anything in regards to one’s worth as a person or overall intelligence.

    Perhaps I’m overestimating based on the sort of “man on the street” interviews which those on either side of the political spectrum are often able to use to point to how idiotic the other sides voters are (recall the YouTube that was going around where a local radio station got a bunch of Obama voters to voice their support for Obama’s opposition to Roe v. Wade, and even his choice of Palin as a running mate), but I do tend to think that the average voter has a very, very simplistic understanding of politics and economics (and the stands that the candidates have taken on them.)

  • Winston Churchill said that the best argument against democracy was a five minute talk with the average voter. I have noticed that when I discuss budgetary woes of the government with people who do not follow these issues very closely, invariably they will say that there would be plently of money if we didn’t give so much to foreigners. When I point out that foreign aid is a miniscule portion of our budget they will often refuse to believe me. I have never been interested in professional sports and my knowledge of that subject is small. I am afraid that a substantial percentage of the voters have the same attitude towards politics and the functioning of the government. I do not think it is elitist to point this out, but merely factual. Needless to say, this does not cause me to think that intellectual elites in our society make better political judgments. I agree with Buckley that I would rather be governed by people chosen at random from a phone book than the faculty of an elite academic institution. Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized.

  • Remember the much-maligned “values voters” of 2004? Well, gee, what happened to them all? Did they all take up recreational drugs and wife-swapping during the past 4 years and thus social conservatism is now on its last legs?

    I don’t think this past election had much to do with social conservatism at all. It was decided by the economy, above all, and by the fact that Obama ran a very good campaign (and had the MSM in his back pocket) and McCain ran a very poor one. (Other factors: the GOP learned nothing from the kicking it got in 2006 and so was seen as Dem-lite and the media successfully demonized Bush – who certainly made his mistakes.)

    One thing I do believe is that the conservatives made a great error in ceding the culture to the Left. As a result, we have kids who are indoctrinated in public schools, exposed to all sorts of garbage in the media, and have reached maturity thinking the party of “freedom” is the one which wants to expand government into every reach of life and the GOP is the party of white guys who yearn to oppress everybody. How the heck you reverse that at this stage in the game is beyond me. The only thing I can hope for this that once these Obama-smitten young folk actually get out of college and are paying taxes, the burning issues of gay marriage and pot legalization will recede in importance. It’s struck me before that that “political correctness” came to the fore in prosperous times. And it took hold most strongly in those parts of the country with high percentages of well-to-do upper middle class people with the luxury to worry about sexist language, recycling, “a woman’s right to choose” etc, etc. Real estate ain’t cheap in Berkeley on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

    P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college. Then he got his first job and took a look at what was withheld and lo, a conservative was born. And the GOP didn’t have to jettison its pro-life plank or become “cooler than thou” to bring him around.

  • Oops, that should be “Berkeley or the Upper West Side of Manhattan.”

  • “P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college.”

    When he told his rock-ribbed Republican grandmother that he was a Maoist she said “Just as long as you aren’t a Democrat dear”. Looking back on this time O’Rourke said: “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a “learning experience.” Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a “learning experience.” It makes me feel less stupid.”

  • Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized

    Very true, and what is wearisome is that these people think they’re rational and expremely knowledgable when all they’re doing is expressing the fashionable prejudices of the day. Mac down at the truck stop might have some ignorant prejudices, but Mac usually don’t think he knows everything about everything. Whereas I’ve had the most frustrating conversations on and off-line with college-educated people who “know” belief in God is idiotic, the Pope is a Nazi, the Founding Fathers were contemptible racists, Republicans hate poor people, animals should have the same rights as people do – who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?

  • “expremely”??? Was I trying to type extremely or supremely? Actually, I rather like “expremely.”

    (I really need to break down and get me some reading glasses. I’m at that age,…,)

  • “who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?”

    True Donna. My late mother and father never attended college although they made certain that my brother and I did. I never met a professor at college or law school with as much common sense as my parents displayed to me every day. The education I received at college and law school was mere icing on the cake for the more important lessons I learned from my factory worker parents. I just wish they had been alive to help their lawyer son and his librarian wife raise their own kids. I don’t think we have done badly, but input from them would have been invaluable.

  • Agreed, Donna. One of the reasons I’m suspicious of the technocrat culture which so many on the left seem enamored of (Europe envy, I guess) is that I think the elites generally know rather less about a situation than they think.

    Doesn’t stop me from being something of an elitist, but at least I’m an elitist who doesn’t think that knowing a great deal about a topic means that I should make everyone’s decisions for them.

    To know much is to know you don’t know everything.

  • Donald, since we appear to have similiar tastes in humorists, I think you’ll appreciate Iowahawk’s take on the Archbishop of Canterbury, written in Chaucerian English:

    http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/dburge/2009/02/17/heere-bigynneth-the-tale-of-the-asse-hatte/#comments

    It won high praise from Christopher Johnson (who I pray swims the Tiber one day).

    /OT

  • Ha! Donna if Iowahawk isn’t making a mint from his brilliance in the “real world” there is no justice. The man is consistently the funniest writer on the net. The Archbishop is a prime example of the worthlessness of education without an ounce of common sense.

  • Donna V.,

    How about a pic for your ID?

  • He knows people like him and I know people like me. But neither means that all young intellectuals are like us.

    While I agree with your broader point about the nature of political coalitions, I think there are solid grounds for believing Will’s intellectual and educational formation is more typical of young intellectuals than yours (or mine).

  • Tito: I confess – I have no idea how to post a picture here. There – now you all know there is no way I can be a member of the techocratic elite:-)

    DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers.

    Donald: I had the good fortune to meet Dave Burge (Iowahawk) at an informal get-together of conservative bloggers and blog readers held in Chicago in 2004. He looks like a pretty hip fellow, a guy who would have been playing the bongos in a bebop jazz band 50 years ago (the goatee gives him a Maynard G. Krebs vibe); but he said that the tension between the small town Iowa values he was raised with and the Chicagoland liberals he is now surrounded by inspires much of his writing. I didn’t talk to him for long, but we found we both have a weakness for cheesy low-budget 1950’s sci-fi flicks. A very affable, pleasant man. I don’t think he was making a lot of money from his writing then; I hope that has changed.

  • Above post is yet another echo of longtime New Yorker Moon Pitcha critic Pauline Kael. Who remarked that she was surprised that Tricky Dick swamped Goo Goo George in 1972 presidential election because nobody she knew voted for Trickster. Above essayist apparently polled limited number of people or own self for conclusions. Lies damned lies and statistics I say. I could say that Current Apostle for Hope and Change is worst thing to happen to Democratic party. Looks about true. Even though House Speaker La Pelosi is real President and allows Hope/Change Apostle to do her bidding as she sees fit. But- proof of my own. Many of y’all know that last Friday night, Phila. Police Officer John Pawlowski murdered- fifth officer killed in a year. Within 12 hours, Facebook group page set up to memorialize him. More than 11000 members as I write including own self. And my darling brilliant goddaughter Regina. And many many other young folks who admire and respect our fine law enforcement pros and mourn Officer Pawlowski- Mass of Christian Burial on Friday noon at Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Thus I have confidence in this nation’s future.

  • I know that most of the folks I know with any sense don’t talk to folks who look like they’re doing “man on the street” interviews– and that’s both for the liberal and conservative folks.

  • “DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers”.

    I believe the subject was exhaustively discussed by Socrates in THE SOPHIST.

    [Note; The Sophists were the lawyers of their day. They could argue both sides of a case with equal conviction].

Political Philosophy or Ideology?

Saturday, February 14, AD 2009

While we’re discussing libertarianism and its derivations, Randy Barnett at The Volokh Conspiracy recently flagged a post by a libertarian that I found interesting:

I’ve always found libertarianism to be an attractive political philospohy. But…the libertarian perspective has a couple of traps. The trap Barnett describes is a particularly tough one to get out of: once seduced by a libertarian idea, like “goods and services are produced & distributed more effectively when markets are not interefered with by coercive agents like government”, its apparently obvious correctness turns it into a sort of semantic stop sign.

I went through a phase where if, say, education or healthcare policy came up in conversation, I’d say “Markets! Markets markets markets! MARKETS!” I found these conversations astonishingly unproductive, but I didn’t think to blame myself.

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Political Philosophy or Ideology?

Cultural or Political Axis?

Saturday, February 14, AD 2009

Donald linked below to a discussion of the death of “liberaltarianism”, which led many to ask what exactly that is.  As it so happens, I’d been reading about this seemingly contradictory phenomenon on Ross Douthat’s blog the other day.  It seems all this goes back to a piece Brink Lindsey originally wrote for The New Republic a couple years ago in which he complains:

Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.

Though he admits there’s not been much real movement on the part of Democrats to please libertarians, he cites a few things:

Continue reading...

6 Responses to Cultural or Political Axis?

The Death of Liberaltarianism

Friday, February 13, AD 2009

liberaltarianism

Robert Stacy McCain has a brilliant column here on the death of the idea of a liberal and libertarian alliance.  Libertarian sites are noted for their scorn of traditional conservatives.  It will be amusing to see how much their economic and small government ideas need to be trashed before they decide that government sanctioned hedonism is not satisfactory compensation for paying for the socialization of America.

Continue reading...

15 Responses to The Death of Liberaltarianism

  • I guess I’m missing something here. I consider myself a little “l” libertarian, but myself and other libertarians I know and read about are hardly Obama supporters. Lewrockwell.com scorns Obama just as much as they scorned Bush.

    I suppose there must a class of political thinking that calls itself liberal/libertarian and supports Obama.

  • Most libertarians I know are fairly conflicted. They are repelled both by social conservatism (particularly the creationist strain, but sometimes also by the pro-life/defense of marriage strain), and, of course, by Obama/Pelosi style big-government liberalism. As Bush blurred the lines between what Republicans are offering and Obama/Pelosi style liberalism in terms of fiscal policy, many of them naturally gravitated towards the Democrats last election. Granted, nearly everyone gravitated towards the Democrats last election (at least relative to 2004), so that may not mean very much.

    I think at this point we have at least a partial answer to the rhetorical question, ‘How much worse could government spending get than it did under Bush?’ It remains to be seen how libertarians (and liberaltarians) will respond next election cycle. It also remains to be seen whether libertarians are really numerous enough to matter. As delightful as they are as bloggers, there seems to be an all-chiefs-no-indians quality to the libertarian movement.

  • I don’t find myself conflicted in terms of conviction.

    Democrats and liberals are the “cool” people. You don’t mind hanging out with them (well, most of them…they have their fair share of “creepy”), and they certainly at least put on the aura of intelligence. But scratch just a little and you’ll find a philosophical undercurrent to their thinking thats positively loathsome. So, no problem abandoning them at all.

    With the GOP its quite a bit more complicated. There’s plenty I “agree” with, but of course thanks to the last 8 years I don’t trust them to actually follow through on their political philosophy. That, and the strain of militarism and foreign interventionism unnerves me quite a bit. The militarism especially. It borders on state-worship to my mind. The GOP at times seems down right trigger-happy, which is quite a bit different than defending 2nd amendment rights!

    I still think there’s “hope” for libertarianism long term. If the GOP continues to be broadly defeated and the Democrats ruin everything like they always do then perhaps their might come a tipping point were people across the spectrum will say “you know, lets actually give liberty a shot again”.

  • “As delightful as they are as bloggers, there seems to be an all-chiefs-no-indians quality to the libertarian movement.”

    That is very true as to the all-chiefs-no-indians quality. The charm of their bloggers, I confess, has mostly eluded me.

  • Anthony,

    the GOP at times seems down right trigger-happy

    you may have forgotten that there was a bipartisan resolution in congress authorizing military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, 70% of the population supported it. While you may have been among the 30%, it was hardly an unpopular move. Getting bogged down was unpopular.

  • “you may have forgotten that there was a bipartisan resolution in congress authorizing military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, 70% of the population supported it. While you may have been among the 30%, it was hardly an unpopular move. Getting bogged down was unpopular”

    I haven’t forgotten, I just think its a bit irrelevant. Thats not to imply that the Democrats/liberals don’t love their wars. I’m confidant Obama will demonstrate in due time.

    Military action in Afghanistan was quite a bit different than Iraq. Afghanistan is an undeclared war in reaction to a specific event done against the United States. In the case of Iraq its an undeclared war of choice and aggression, which distinguishes it in a bad way.

    What does that have to do with my feelings towards the GOP? Everything. They turned their back from a “humble” foreign policy and instead abandoned all common sense in favor paranoia and political opportunism. The idea of invading Iraq being “popular” shouldn’t have had any bearing on whether or not it was a moral thing to do.

    And getting bogged down in what was unpopular?

  • In the late ’80’s I started to shift to the right – quite against my will, I might add. I lived in Washington DC. I was a paralegal at the time and worked for various law firms, but most of my friends were staunchly liberal government workers. I thought I was too cool for school in the 1980’s – a “cultural Catholic” (i.e.: Mass at Christmas and Easter) who knew better than to express my private qualms about Roe v. Wade in polite company. I loathed Reagan and thought the Washington Post was the true word of God.

    And then reality started setting in. I started shamefacedly buying copies of the National Review and to my horror, I found I agreed with many of the articles. I began calling myself a libertarian, because I could not bring myself to admit that I was becoming a *gasp* conservative. Conservatives were Republicans and everyone knew the Republican Party was made up of wealthy, middle aged, WASPY white guys like William F. Buckley (I didn’t know then that he was a Catholic) who belonged to country clubs and looked down on everyone who wasn’t a wealthy WASP. That was the image I had of them, at any rate, and it horrified me to think I might be morphing into something that seemed so alien to my sensibilities. (A decidedly non-WASPy Republican co-worker from South Philly pointed out the obvious fact that the many millions who had voted for Reagan in ’80 and ’84 were not all country club WASP’s. He also pointed out WASP’s we both knew – Groton, Harvard, lockjaw accent types – who were indisputably flaming libs. But prejudices do die hard.)

    I called myself a libertarian for a long time, despite the fact that I find Ayn Rand unreadable. Why? Well, I still had all those lib friends. When I said at parties, “I don’t believe in big government any more” – a dangerous sentiment to voice in Washington DC, no matter who is in the WH – and eyebrows were raised, I found that following it up with “I’m not a conservative, I’m a libertarian” was somehow socially acceptable. And then I discovered the reason for that – all the libertarians I met seemed to be mainly concerned with drug legalization. And on abortion, they were no better than the liberals.

    I am back in my hometown now, and although I live in a very left-wing neighborhood (ah, but I am a block away from Lake Michigan, and I love the lake dearly, and the Art Museum and any number of good restaurants are a short walk away), I am now a middle-aged woman and coolness does not concern me any more. So I freely admit to being a conservative and (since 2005) a Catholic revert.

    And I do wonder if libertarism isn’t, for some others as well as for me, a phase one passes through on the way from the left to the right, an attempt to maintain hipness at an age when hipness still matters.

  • Anthony,

    sorry for not being clear. I was responding to an accusation you made apparently singling out the GOP as down right trigger-happy. It wasn’t moral defense of the Iraq war. If the GOP was trigger happy, so were the Democrats, and the typical American. That’s all. There’s no need to hijack the thread on the question of a just war.

    They turned their back from a “humble” foreign policy

    A fair enough point.

    and instead abandoned all common sense in favor paranoia and political opportunism.

    No basis for this. The US had been long escalating it’s response to Hussein’s refusal to submit to the terms of the ceasefire agreement he signed during the first Gulf War… and his periodic attacks on US pilots enforcing the UN sanctioned no-fly zone.

    The idea of invading Iraq being “popular” shouldn’t have had any bearing on whether or not it was a moral thing to do.

    And it doesn’t.

    And getting bogged down in what was unpopular?

    I don’t understand what you’re confused about? My response was referring to the Iraq war, you’re surely aware we got bogged down until a change in leadership, strategy, and tactics.

  • Nice biographical detail Donna. I am certain that when young more than a few people adopt the political attitudes of the friends that they admire. Then time passes, friends change, experience accumulates and analysis and thought begin.

  • I became acquainted with Ayn Rand and Objectivism via my husband, who had had a brief flirtation with Objectivism in his youth and had several of her books. (By the time I met him, however, he had discarded that and had reverted to his Catholic faith.)

    I will give Rand credit for pointing out that ideas matter (see “Philosophy: Who Needs It”), and that there is such a thing as objective truth, falsehood, right and wrong. She also did a great job of skewering some of the pretentions of the ’60s counterculture crowd.

    However, I think a lot of her ideas — particularly the notion that “altruism” is bad and “selfishness” is good — were simply overreactions to the oppression she experienced in Communist Russia and her disgust with Nazism. Objectivist philosophy leaves no room for God, for the family, for the virtue of charity or for any notion of a common good. In fact, Objectivists will argue until they are blue in the face that there is no such thing as “common good.”

    I got a kick out of watching hard core Objectivists on You Tube, several months ago, try to explain away Rand disciple Alan Greenspan’s admission that the economic policies he’d been following for most of his life just might have been a bit off the mark.

  • This blogpost doesn’t make sense to me. As there is no term that is called ‘liberaltarianism’ and Libertarians in general despise the [American] liberals (as the term is very different from what it means in Europe), maybe the poster is just upset that some people that aren’t proclaiming themselves to be conservatives nor liberals voted Obama. Not sure. In either way, the only one to vote for in 2008 for a Libertarian would have been Ron Paul…which sadly didn’t reach above some collective 10% in the primaries. Americans still have a long way to go in adopting their for-fathers whishes for a free nation.

  • As there is no term that is called ‘liberaltarianism’

    The whole point of this post and the one linked to it as that there is a group of American libertarians who coined the phrase and who have called for an alliance of libertarians and the Democratic party.

  • Pingback: Cultural or Political Axis? « The American Catholic
  • Paul>> Thanks for that explanation.
    One thing in the OP however: “Libertarian sites are noted for their scorn of traditional conservatives. It will be amusing to see how much their economic and small government ideas need to be trashed before they decide that government sanctioned hedonism is not satisfactory compensation for paying for the socialization of America.”
    Here the author fails to make a distinction between the supposed minority of some Libertarians wanting to form a ‘Liberaltarism’-group and real Libertarians. Hence part of my confusement.

  • Pingback: The Dangers of Political Philosophy « The American Catholic