an interesting review of "The Three Languages Of Politics" By Arnold Kling over at The Wall Street Journal

It begins:

'Political action involves mental vulgarity," wrote Michael Oakeshott in 1939, "not merely because it entails the concurrence and support of those who are mentally vulgar, but because of the false simplification of human life implied in even the best of its purposes." Economist Arnold Kling says something similar in "The Three Languages of Politics."

Mr. Kling's three "languages" are ways of talking about politics and government, and they align roughly with the progressive, conservative and libertarian viewpoints. Progressives, Mr. Kling thinks, typically express opinions using an "oppressed-oppressor axis": societal problems are envisioned mainly as forms of oppression of the weak by the strong. Conservatives favor a "civilization-barbarism axis" and worry about how to defend traditional values and institutions. Libertarians use a "freedom-coercion axis" in which the threat is governmental encroachment on individual choice.

One reason American political culture has become polarized and uncivil, Mr. Kling believes, is that each side puts its contentions almost exclusively in terms of its favored language, and fails to see that contrary opinions are manifestations of a different language rather than evidence of stupidity or duplicity.

Read the rest of the review at the WSJ.

One can buy the e-book at Amazon for $1.99. I just did.

Last 5 posts by Clark

Comments

  1. says

    A lot of truth in that. A anarchist/libertarian former friend is in the habit of criticizing, insulting, and alienating everyone that doesn't even appear to adopt her personal stance 100%, even as she claims she doesn't. She hates any attempt at outreach to conservatives or liberals that attempt to explain anything in the terms they know. She tore into a well known libertarian writer for daring to use constitutional arguments to make points to conservatives. Then she wrote to me wondering why [xxx] won't answer her emails anymore. I foolishly tried to explain that people don't like being insulted because they tried to use a particular tactic to get to the same place as her. She then tore into me: "liar", "traitor", "fool", "evil". And I wasn't even using those forbidden arguments, just explaining why [xxx] thought explaining libertarian positions in familiar terms was helpful.

    I stuck it out for a while longer. Then she attacked me again over a graphic I'd done- pro-RKBA poster directed at folks who aren't quite sure that allowing teachers to armed can be a good idea. She had nasty things to say about the fact that it mentioned police because anarchists don't use the cops.

    Well, for fsck's sake, I wasn't talking to anarchists.

    (Funny part is that when I first met her, she was libertarianish with strong law'n'order conservative tendencies. It was even a bit of a joke among other people who knew her, since she was on a mailing list that was pretty strongly anarchist. Now she doesn't even remember how she got where she is, and how people tailored discussions to her.)

    I can be guilty of language bias, too. But I try to be aware of it, and correct myself when I catch me using the wrong language for the targeted demographic. I screw up, but I try. She thinks using anyone else's language is "evil".

  2. Roland says

    Sorry, I just don't see the difference between Oppressor-Oppressed and Freedom-Coercion. As for Civilization-Barbarism, that looks to me more like "Us Good Folks" vs. "People Not Like Us Therefore Evil".

  3. AlphaCentauri says

    I get into discussions with liberals in a book group I'm in. The disagreements are not so nasty, probably because I'm the bigger asshole in the group. But the other members want to read books about world problems that we all agree about. I want to read books about how to influence those things by presenting arguments in a way that people who don't agree with us will find compelling.

  4. princessartemis says

    Looks like an interesting read. Seems to me that as far as those axes go, oppressor/oppressed and coercion/freedom would share enough in common that to translate one to the other should not be a very difficult thing.

  5. Dan Weber says

    Libertarians always self-destruct. And I say this as a small-l libertarian.

  6. Linsider says

    Thanks for suggestion, probably I'll buy and read it too.
    However, regarding political ideologies, I personally think that it's time when we should abandon them altogether as stereotypes they are. Instead we should talk about concrete problems using the same, widely understood vocabulary.

  7. says

    @Linsider An easy thing to assert, but first you need to decide whose vocabulary to start from, or try to invent a new political jargon from first principles. The former perpetuates the language divide we already have, and the latter is very likely to end in irrelevance. What's your third path?

  8. says

    While the distinction may be subtle, I think a lot (not all, of course) conservatives favor an "order-chaos" axis as opposed to the "civilization-barbarism axis".

    As an example… it's easier to justify torture and a massive prison industry under the guise of maintaining order than preserving civilization.

    I've always found it odd that the rank-and-file rabble who comment on local newspaper websites will denounce Arabs as idol-worshiping savages, but they'll also advocate the US adopting an Arabian-style justice system, i.e.; public executions, chopping off the hands of shoplifters, etc. These types almost always self-identify as conservatives.

  9. says

    @Jack B.: What "local newspaper" is that? Around here, while I see some self-identified conservatives commenting to advocate for the death penalty for murder, and occasionally sex offenses (much more often it's "Lock 'em up forever and throw away the key."), I don't recall any calls for "public executions". I've never seen anyone identifying as conservative call for hand-chopping for shoplifting (not to say none has, just that I've never seen it). The closest I've seen to that would be some very occasional mentions of biblical "eye for an eye" that most folks consider debate hyperbole. The very few who seem to be serious demonstrate other characteristics that better classify them as Westboro lunatics rather than general political conservatives. Sometimes self-identification does need to be taken with a fifty pound grain of salt: I've had cats who seemed sure they were lions, but that didn't make them king of the jungle.

    For anything short of capital crimes, local conservatives favor pushing criminals into the corrections-industrial complex, and usually the same for capital offenses. Big money there.

    I think someone is trolling you at that local paper.

  10. Ken in NH says

    This paradigm makes since to me as someone who was very conservative for years, but has seen the libertarian light. What changed my mind was realizing the conservatism and civilizing behaviors (self control, morals, etc.) were best instilled at an individual level, but that liberty was best protected at the collective (political) level. In my view, there should be very little in the way of oppression in a society where most choose to live in a civilized manor and liberty reigns.

  11. randakar says

    Personally I think politics should best be viewed from a "engineering" viewpoint.

    What is the government for in the first place? Does it work properly? If not, why not?

    Most of these languages, ways to view the government, miss the point entirely. It should be about balance.. balancing needs and rights, balancing the power of those at the top against the needs of the many.

    If you look at any of these views, it seems much like an "us vs evil" kind of language. When there really should be a "us vs more of us" viewpoint. Having a good government means accepting a little bit of oppression, coercion, and barbarism. The real question is: How do you control the people that you allow to indulge in these things, even when necessary? How do you keep everyone honest (.. and especially those at the top!)

  12. says

    Bear

    A lot of truth in that. A anarchist/libertarian former friend is
    in the habit of criticizing, insulting, and alienating everyone
    that doesn't even appear to adopt her personal stance 100%

    This is one of my personal flaws.

    I'm trying to get better.

  13. says

    Clark, as I admitted, it's one my own faults, and I try to watch out for it (mostly; sometimes I give in to the urge to troll). But for the person I'm thinking of, it's pretty much a chosen lifestyle. [grin]

  14. says

    Bear,

    Had my local paper not recently switched to a subscription model, I could show you hundreds upon hundreds of comments of people advocating: public executions, chopping off the hands of shoplifters, forced sterilization, opening fire on illegals crossing the border and on and on.

    Quite frankly, I'm taken aback by your doubt. Arch-conservatives like Pat Buchanan and William F. Buckley were early opponents of the War on Drugs, but rank & file conservatives have been front and center in calling for more funding, more prisons, and harsher punishments. (Liberal politicians support this, too, but it's usually motivated by not wanting to look soft on crime come election time.)

    And yes, much of the criminal justice reform movement (a.k.a. "Right On Crime") is being spearheaded by Conservatives, but their chief opposition comes from other conservatives.

    I don't know where you live, but I was born and raised in Texas, and I've heard these things (advocacy of public executions, chopping off hands of shoplifters, etc.) all my life, not just in newspaper comments. Trust me, I am just as surprised at your doubt as you seem to be by my claims.

  15. Brad says

    The Kling argument makes sense to me.

    And it fits my own observation that Republicans/conservatives prefer to seek out foreign enemies whereas Democrats/progressives prefer to seek out domestic enemies.

  16. Anonymous says

    And it fits my own observation that Republicans/conservatives prefer to seek out foreign enemies whereas Democrats/progressives prefer to seek out domestic enemies.

    I've noticed this myself, especially in language like "What, are you with the terrorists suddenly?" which is almost verbatim something I've had asked of me once.

    No. No I am not. But I'm far more worried about people in power over me suddenly thinking "torture is acceptable" than I'm worried about some guy in a cave somewhere who might, if he's lucky in his best decade, kill three thousand people – less than traffic casually kills off annually.

  17. anonymous says

    A slight addition:

    I have higher standards for me than I do for my family.

    I have higher standards for my family than I do for my country.

    I have higher standards for my country than I do for the rest of the developed world.

    I have higher standards for the developed world than I do for other nations.

    Somebody once asked me why I care so much more about what the Israeli do to the Palestinians, rather than the other way around. My reply was thus: Because the Israeli are more "my team" than the Palestinians are – I relate to their civilization more than to the Palestinians – and we're supposed to be better than that.

  18. Extravaganza says

    The distinction between oppressor-oppressed and freedom-coercion only vanishes if you assume that all coercion is oppression, and that means you are already thinking in purely libertarian terms.

    Consider it from the liberal perspective: taxation is coercion, but it is not considered oppression because it's reasonable to require people to give back to society; regulations reduce freedom, but that's justified because they protect the weak from oppression.

    So the distinction exists in liberal discourse, and that's, well, basically the entire point of this whole thesis, isn't it? That different political groups often fail to understand each other because they use language differently?

  19. Paul Baxter says

    George Lakoff had a similar sort of theory, which is likely simultaneously better and worse than this one in his intriguing book, Moral Politics. Possibly better in the sense that Lakoff has done quite extensive work in the area of how metaphors function in human life and thought and his thesis fits nicely into the fact that those of differing political convictions use entirely different metaphorical conceptions of the task of politics. Lakoff is likely worse in the sense that he only works with two models of political thought (liberal and conservative), and almost certainly worse in that the concluding part of the book runs along the lines of "now that I understand conservatives better, let me tell you how I hate them even than I used to."

    Sometimes mutual understanding is not nearly enough. That said, I do highly recommend Lakoff's work. He's a brilliant and original scholar.

  20. AlphaCentauri says

    I may not have heard people advocate cutting off hands for shoplifting, but I have certainly heard them advocate surgical castration or even penile amputation for child rape.

  21. Hazard says

    Interesting how there are ONLY 3 political languages. No despotism. No monarchy. No mention of any kind of view outside American politics.

  22. princessartemis says

    @Extravaganza, no suggestion it would vanish, but that there could be translation in order to explain ideas one to another. I talk to a friend who is liberal sometimes who I have trouble understanding and she has trouble understanding me at times. Considering things in this manner might help.

  23. James Pope says

    @Hazard, I'd wager that's because there's really no point in trying to engage a dialogue with a despot. That's not a system of politics, that's an ego made large and lording it over a population. That is, there's no point in discussing language if there's no conversation to be had.

  24. C. S. P. Schofield says

    I question the assumption that American politics are, at this time, particularly polarized or uncivil. Contrary to bad Hollywood thrillers without number, out politicians do not routinely, or even often, order the assassination of their opponents. Or, for that matter, beat them bloody with a walking stick As (Democrat) Preston Brooks did in 1856.

    I'm not at all sure I believe that the people who complain of the "lack of civility" aren't, for the most part, bitching about having an opposition.

  25. Mike_C says

    > just don't see the difference between Oppressor-Oppressed and Freedom-Coercion

    Roland (and Artemis): I think one of the underlying differences between Liberal and Libertarian, not addressed by the notion of the three axes, is the tendency of the Liberal to think in terms of groups, classes, collectives, or what-have-you versus one another, while the Libertarian thinks in terms of individual versus group, any group. Additionally, the former thinks the way to address problems is via group (often governmental) action (fiat), while the latter thinks the answer is for the group to at a minimum go away and mind its own business, or in the more extreme case, to disband itself and f*ck off.

    Incidentally, isn't it interesting (i.e. sad) that today's meaning of "Liberal" is in many ways the opposite of the original meaning, whereas "classical liberals" are now best described as libertarians?

    Here's a semi-facetious but perhaps useful example of Conservative, Liberal and Libertarian behavior:

    Question: Do you agree with the statement "Things are right or wrong, black or white."

    Conservative: Yes, I agree.
    Liberal: Humph, I'm sure you meant to say "African-American and genetically oppressive." [sniff]
    Libertarian: Were you talking to me? Sorry, not interested in your quiz, but good luck with it anyway.

    There is also the soi-disant "libertarian" subset of the pathetically bitter and often socioeconomically marginalized: Where do you get off defining "right," "wrong," "black," or "white" anyway? Who do you think you are? I can tell you that's not what Dagny Taggart would have said. It's self-evident and morally demonstrable that self-interest is the highest goal of [… blather]. (Before you Objectivists get too upset, this is from someone who loved Anthem in high school and still thinks it's a damn fine book. As symbolism, it's not a bloody guide to life.

  26. Hazard says

    @James Pope
    There HAS to be a language for political wrangling with a despot, dictator, or military police state. Even if it's just sycophant BS, there's a language to be had. Especially if you consider that the same languages are used in international relations. Consider China. Or Iran. There's some pretend due process in action, so there's a way of speaking in each of those states.

  27. James Pollock says

    "it fits my own observation that Republicans/conservatives prefer to seek out foreign enemies"

    Tell that to the gays/communists/immigrants/RINOs/tax-and-spenders/moral deviants/big-government-types/baby killers/union thugs/people who prefer to take from the government rather than earn honestly/etc. that we Real Americans have to take our country back from.

  28. James Pollock says

    "Liberal: Humph, I'm sure you meant to say "African-American and genetically oppressive."

    While I'm sure you can find an example of A liberal who'd offer this answer, I don't really think it's typical. I think the liberal answer is "it depends. There isn't really a black or white, but rather shades of gray, and sometimes the gray looks black, and sometimes the gray looks white, and usually it winds up somewhere in between. So it really depends on the context."… only with about 250 more words.

  29. Richard says

    The distinction between oppressor-oppressed and freedom-coercion only vanishes if you assume that all coercion is oppression, and that means you are already thinking in purely libertarian terms.

    Consider it from the liberal perspective: taxation is coercion, but it is not considered oppression because it's reasonable to require people to give back to society; regulations reduce freedom, but that's justified because they protect the weak from oppression.

    So the distinction exists in liberal discourse, and that's, well, basically the entire point of this whole thesis, isn't it? That different political groups often fail to understand each other because they use language differently?

    I think the distinction lies more in who the oppressor/coercer is.

    A liberal might be more okay with a government forcing people to carry around an RFID card that could get scanned at every street-corner (to prevent terrorism!) as identification, because it would help the government work more efficiently, while a libertarian might see that as coercion by a totalitarian government.

    A libertarian might be more okay with a bank that has removed all of its competitors requiring people to carry a RFID card that could get scanned at every street-corner (to prevent fraud!) in order to access their money, while a liberal might see that as oppression by a monopoly.

    This is my understanding of the difference:

    A libertarian would argue that the government is the bigger threat, because while one can choose to not do business with the monopolistic bank (as crippling as that would be), as a citizen of the country you cannot opt out of the government's rules.

    A liberal would argue that the bank is the bigger threat, because while a government is answerable to the people (although hard to exert pressure on), a monopolistic bank is answerable to no one but its shareholders.

  30. James Pollock says

    "A liberal might be more okay with a government forcing people to carry around an RFID card that could get scanned at every street-corner (to prevent terrorism!) as identification"
    No no no no. A liberal would NEVER be OK with government forcing people to carry around an identification card because that would lead to having to show that ID card to vote, and they need the illegals to vote in order to win elections. Since the liberals can't win ANY elections without massive vote fraud, they know that any kind of national ID card spells the end of their kind ever holding any kind of elected office again because right-thinking Americans prefer Republicans to run up the deficit and enlarge the government, not Democrats.

  31. James Pollock says

    Oh.

    Was it some other kind of small, scurrying animal with pancakes on their heads?

  32. princessartemis says

    Nah. However, she, being my friend, would have understood the reference and, had she not, been unlikely to have chosen to troll me with it in a completely unrelated thread.

  33. James Pollock says

    "she has trouble understanding me at times" 6:16PM
    "she, being my friend, would have understood " 8:45PM

    Perhaps this sort of inconsistency leads to misunderstanding?

  34. Anonymous says

    Tell that to the gays/communists/immigrants/RINOs/tax-and-spenders/moral deviants/big-government-types/baby killers/union thugs/people who prefer to take from the government rather than earn honestly/etc. that we Real Americans have to take our country back from.

    You mean all the traitors who threaten tribal cohesion so we can't stand up to the other tribes?

    No no no no. A liberal would NEVER be OK with government forcing people to carry around an identification card because that would lead to having to show that ID card to vote, and they need the illegals to vote in order to win elections.

    I'm amazed that's your takeaway from the vote fraud debate. Consider:

    Voter suppression is an internal, systemic problem.
    Illegal voters is an external, individual problem.

    Now, consider the article you just read and ask yourself which of these two problems any given liberal is going to consider the bigger problem, regardless of who the outcome is in favor of. There you go; you now have an explanation that anticipates the behavior you see in real life without having to invoke a massive conspiracy across multiple state governments.

  35. NoneCallMeTim says

    Hi, reader from the UK here.

    The book sounds interesting, but how focused is it on US politics against the ideologies in general?

    When debating politics, I find that most people use facts such as "This scheme will benefit the working class which will help because…" when what they are actually doing is debating ideology.

    This dissonance between what people are saying and what they are meaning against what the other party is hearing is another cause for confusion.

  36. James Pollock says

    "Voter suppression is an internal, systemic problem.
    Illegal voters is an external, individual problem.
    Now, consider the article you just read and ask yourself which of these two problems any given liberal is going to consider the bigger problem"

    The one that was really happening as opposed to the one that was hysteria (or coldly calculated as an excuse for the other, take your pick). Voting fraud is a sore subject amongst liberals, who remain doubtful that Florida's 2000 vote was counted fairly and impartially. I don't know of any liberals who object to being required to show photo ID at the polling place… provided as a precondition the state makes sure that all voters have acceptable photo ID at no charge to the voter before requiring it (no, everybody does NOT already have a driver's license, and the people who don't skew strongly in favor of one party, coincidentally NOT the one pushing strongly for photoID-at-the-polling-place laws. Suspicious.)
    I live in Oregon, which has universal vote-by-mail. We don't have polling places, and votes are authenticated by signature. The state turns up a handful of rejected ballots every election, and last election cycle prosecuted an election worker who was tampering with ballots by filling her preferred candidates in undervoted ballots.)

  37. AlphaCentauri says

    Voter ID ought to make the libertarians and conservatives fume, too. The state is supposed to be responsive to the people through elections — but the state gets to decide who can have an acceptable ID, who can have a birth certificate in order to obtain one of those IDs, who has committed crimes that disqualify him/her from voting, or who gets to become a citizen and vote after 5 years and who is perpetually "illegal."

  38. Brad says

    Pollock

    You may not see it, but it is very telling to me that the liberals consider domestic "right wing extremists" a greater terrorism threat than foreign islamic jihadis.

    And which administration just wildly over-reached with secret investigations of reporters? And turned the IRS against political opponents? Whereas Bush went to war against Iraq and Afghanistan.

  39. Mark says

    It sounds like an interesting book, but I would disagree with Mr. Kling's reasoning on the incivility of modern political discussion.

    "One reason American political culture has become polarized and uncivil, Mr. Kling believes, is that each side puts its contentions almost exclusively in terms of its favored language, and fails to see that contrary opinions are manifestations of a different language rather than evidence of stupidity or duplicity."

    I think we can already see the different sides in argument freely utilizing the axes of the other sides.

    For example, I have heard many conservative pundits use the language of oppression in discussing the "mainstream media", gay marriage, and access to birth control. At the same time, a liberal pundit may make use of the conservative axis when defending government action or gun control while using the libertarian axis in defending gay marriage and access to birth control. Finally, I don't have to look far to find a libertarian who characterizes government as an oppressor or who states that the measure of a civilization is how well it maximizes personal liberty.

    Without actually reading the book, I don't have much else to say except that Kling seems to have avoided two very obvious titles for his book:

    1) Axes to Grind
    2) Rock, Paper, Scissors

  40. James Pollock says

    "it is very telling to me that the liberals consider domestic "right wing extremists" a greater terrorism threat than foreign islamic jihadis."

    I don't know any liberals who believe that. Of course, our local terrorism experience is of the jihadi type. I think you see a lot of "Hey, don't forget that these guys are ALSO terrorists" but not "and they're more dangerous, too."

    The difference I've seen is that conservatives are more likely to include in the category of "ecoterrorism" violent acts which are directed solely at property (damaging SUVs, mining and forestry equipment, etc.); liberals are more likely to accept that there's a difference between intentionally targeting innocent people and recklessly endangering innocent people.

    I'll give you "over-reached" and quibble "wildly", and I think its debatable whether the IRS was directed by the administration to target political opponents. By design, it's supposed to be hard for the administration to do much of anything through the IRS. Both were mismanaged; and the IRS problem needs attention to make sure it doesn't happen again (I'm all for extensive probing of requests for tax-exempt status, but I want it spread amongst all applicants.)

    .

  41. Brad says

    Pollock

    You don't know any liberals who believe that domestic "right wing extremists" are a greater threat than foreign jihadis? Really? Don't you pay attention to the center-left press?

    Let me assist you. Just google the phrase 'domestic right wing extremists greater threat' and see. The results speaks volumes about the liberal mindset.

  42. AlphaCentauri says

    To some extent, what you find googling a position only shows that people with extreme views write blogs, because they can't find anyone in their social network who wants to hear about them.

  43. corporal lint says

    Libertarians always self-destruct. And I say this as a small-l libertarian.

    Liberals always self-destruct. I say this as a small-l liberal. And conservatives have done an outstanding job of self-destructing over the last two decades.

    I think I've found a common ground for everyone across the political spectrum!

  44. James Pollock says

    "You don't know any liberals who believe that domestic "right wing extremists" are a greater threat than foreign jihadis? Really? Don't you pay attention to the center-left press?"
    No, not really. I'm not sure I could reliably indentify "center-left press"

    "Just google the phrase 'domestic right wing extremists greater threat' and see. The results speaks volumes about the liberal mindset."
    Does Googling "Obama conspiracy" give me results that will speak for the conservative mindset?

    Having done the experiment, you may be right. There were about 127,000 hits, and no two of the ones on the first page agreed with each other. (And several were in accord with my counter-premise).

    I'll point out, again, however, that where I live the news was dominated by the arrest and trial of a radicalized Muslim whose terror plot was infiltrated by the FBI. We've had left-wing domestic terrorists (ecoterrorists spiking trees) and right-wing domestic terrorists (The Order) operate in the region, but the one with the all the recent publicity was a radical Muslim.

    Speaking personally, I don't care what drove a person to kill innocents, I want them stopped.

  45. Mike says

    People are missing the point on the "civilized versus uncivilized." Spend some time reading a self defense blog (they all lean conservative). There is a strong belief that there is a significant difference between adults who commit crimes and are willing to kill someone for money, and ones who live boring normal lives and go to work every day. And that is that some people have been brought up to be part of a civilized culture and others have not — for various reasons, usually related to home life and local cultural influences.

    I think his axes make a lot of sense. Conservatives view as world as though society is something that must be built and maintained against the natural elements – outside dangers, basic forces of nature like food and weather, and the darker side of our own human nature. Liberals treat civilization as an assumption, and are far more concerned with the negative consequences of some people being in charge of it. The split between liberals and libertarians is the degree to which they think democratic government is something that protects you from the people who are really in charge, or just a different set of people in charge.

  46. says

    @Baer – I swear I thought I knew who you were talking about until I saw the gender. Switch the sex and I know the exact same person.

  47. Jerry says

    @Mike You're touching on a much older distinction, going back perhaps to Edmund Burke: Liberals believe that human beings are fundamentally good, and civilization's role is to make use of the good in human beings to help control the excesses of the outliers who fail to act on their fundamentally good natures (or the outlier moments when each of us, good as we fundamentally are, is lead astray).

    Conservatives believe that human beings are fundamentally flawed (few would go so far as to say evil, though that strain is certainly present). The role of civilization is to erect constraints that help human being act in good ways, even if their inner natures are pushing them in fundamentally different directions.

    This classic view of liberals is still a reasonable description, but for conservatives, things have become much more complicated with the incursion of libertarian ideas. Conservatism as a movement can't quite make up its mind whether we need a strong government to help keep people on the straight and narrow, or a weak government because a strong government will be abused by the not-so-good human beings who run it. This leads some to make the distinction between government as guide and society as guide.

    — Jerry

  48. babaganusz says

    sounds like a stuffier parallel to Jonathan Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind' – unless one is thoroughly convinced that ~Politics~ is a particularly discrete set and various tones/topics/etc. aren't "political" (as opposed to appreciating that anything outside of pure 'hard science' data can be given political spin/substance/support). IOW, we can moot the hell out of what subjects 'should' be politicized, but that alone doesn't actually guarantee/prevent any such politicization. i blather that much merely to convey that i grasp the supposed 'difference' between a 'book about politics' and a 'book about moral psychology'.

    from Haidt's intro: "…I chose the title … to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it's also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental."
    he breaks it down into "moral taste buds" (foundations of morality): care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. perhaps Kling, with his declamations of ~vulgarity~, could appreciate the greater breadth of nuance.

    also (recall the Ideological Turing Test), Haidt quotes Carnegie quoting Henry Ford: "If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own."

    ALSO, in an effort to reach the ~meta~ tipping point, another excerpt:
    "In 2010, the cultural psychologists Joe Henrich, Steve Heine, and Ara Norenzayan … pointed out that nearly all research in psychology is conducted on a very small subset of the human population: people from cultures that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic … They then reviewed dozens of studies showing that [such] people are statistical outliers; they are the least typical, least representative people you could study if you want to make generalizations about human nature."

  49. Demosthenes says

    Mark sez:

    "I think we can already see the different sides in argument freely utilizing the axes of the other sides."

    This. Oh, yes, this. And often, they're doing so very consciously. It is obvious that Kling has missed this crucial development. If he had, he wouldn't wonder why politics has become so uncivil and polarized. (Not that it's ever really been civil or non-polarized, but you know what I mean. Heh.)

    Let me see if I can illustrate this. You have a neighbor who votes differently than you do, and supports causes that oppose yours. This puzzles you, because he talks a great deal about his actions in terms of words (like "freedom" and "rights") that you know the meaning of and believe in. But you two can never seem to agree on anything.

    You can't think that your neighbor is a stupid man, because you have experience that he isn't. And you don't know him to be dishonest — or at least, not any more than anyone else. So you tell yourself that he just must not understand how the actions he is taking oppose the things you both believe in. One night over a beer, you explain your positions to him, trying to get him to see the error of his ways…

    …and you finally realize that your neighbor isn't talking in the same language you are. Those words mean different things to him than they do to you. Given his assumptions, he is absolutely right to support his causes and candidates, and oppose yours. And if he has his way, your conceptions of those words will eventually die out, and the best parts of the world you live in will die along with them. Wouldn't knowing what he was really about make you fight all the harder against him?

    All of which is my long-winded way of saying that there is a deep truth about human nature in the last line of the Hitchhiker's Guide entry for "Babel fish." And Mr. Kling has missed it.

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