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comment by blackbootz
blackbootz  ·  317 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: September 6, 2017

I'm taking an economics course which has us read a book by a smarty pants by the name of Thomas Sowell. The book is called A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. As the name suggests, the topic is all the reliable screaming past one another that political discourse seems to amount to.

Why would seemingly unrelated questions—the role of government in economic intervention or the right to own a firearm—draw the same supporters to one side or the other? Sowell thinks that a more fundamental disagreement colors each side’s respective worldview. That disagreement stems over the malleability of human nature. Sowell names each end of the dichotomy the constrained or unconstrained vision. What's (un)constrained is human nature. Those of the constrained vision take the view that human nature is more or less fixed; man will only ever act in his own self-interest and to expect otherwise is foolhardy. Those of the unconstrained vision, however, see man as perfectible. Individuals can become more virtuous and beneficent as allowed to by more good institutions and social arrangements. The book then demonstrates all the different "takes" these two different visions have on a range of social policies.

I read a critique by economist Bryan Caplan that makes some pretty good points (like there's some internal inconsistencies with the operational definition of the visions Sowell presents later in the book). But I think there's a lot to the theory. Furthermore, it jives in some way with the work on moral foundations and moral psychology done by Jonathan Haidt, whereby tweaking where people fall on four or five spectrums of moral foundations lead to vastly different value systems.

On an unrelated note, I saw a tweet that summed my thoughts of the last two days perfectly: