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Monthly Archives: August 2011

  1. Find a fairly unknown, relatively promising candidate
  2. Convince the candidate to run for president
  3. Hype the candidate as the savior of the party
  4. Watch as the media takes a month to completely discredit the candidate
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 as needed
  6. Nominate Mitt Romney
  7. Lose

Previous iterations: Trump, Cain, Pawlenty

Current: Rick Perry

Future: Palin, Paul Ryan, Christie, Pataki, Giuliani

David Henderson has a good post on how studying economics led him to combat his emotional feelings and adopt a more libertarian viewpoint:

I started to understand that the vast majority of income in a relatively free society is earned. It’s true that a small number of wealthy people did get their money by fraud or dishonesty. More common, especially in societies with lots of government controls, were people who got wealthy by using political pull. But I started to see that the typical high-income person in a relatively free society gets his or her income the old-fashioned way–by earning it.

What interests me about the post has less to do with the intellectual underpinnings of Henderson’s argument and more to do with the relationship between reasoning and emotion.  Even after adjusting his intellectual framework, Henderson retained the emotional effects of a prior framework:

Even though this was a full four years after I had realized that the vast majority of “the rich” get their money relatively honestly, I felt the old resentment at these people who had what I could not imagine myself ever being able to afford. I looked down at my fists and saw that I had clenched them in anger.

It’s fundamentally difficult to confront one’s own emotional intuitions, and if you surround yourself with like-minded thinkers (or include only the most extreme and moronic opponents) you never have to do so, because you’ll never have to change your views.  This is, in my humble opinion, a very bad thing.  It turns you into a fundamentally unthinking person.  Instead, I strongly advocate a deliberate attempt to seek out the most intelligent opposing voices you can tolerate, to engage with them in argument, and when tension arises between your emotions and reason, acknowledge and address the tension, no matter how difficult or painful.

In response to a request via facebook, I’ve compiled a short list of blogs that I read regularly.  My basic stance on media consumption is that people should read sources that resonate with them, but should also actively seek divergent viewpoints.  I disagree with a lot of what I read on these sites, but the writers are all brilliant, and they almost always present interesting, well-defended, and honest arguments.

  1. Marginal Revolution, RSS feed: George Mason University economist on politics, economics, travel and other interesting things.
  2. Matt Yglesias, RSS feed: Interesting blend of liberal activism, neo-liberalism, and some fairly unique policy ideas.
  3. Ross Douthat, RSS feed: Intellectually honest and quite conservative.
  4. Overcoming Bias, RSS feed: Another GMU economist, proposes fairly crazy theories merging economics, science, philosophy and future-gazing, and then defends them very convincingly.
  5. The American Scene, RSS feed: Group blog of conservative, mostly young writers on culture and politics.

If you lean conservative and thus want more left-leaning analysis, I like Ezra Klein (RSS) and Nicholas Kristof (RSS); if you’re a liberal and want more right-leaning analysis, I’d try Daniel Larison (RSS) and Conor Fridersdorf (RSS).  Will Wilkinson (RSS) and EconLog (RSS) have pretty solid analysis from, respectively, left-libertarian and right-libertarian perspectives.  Please submit any further suggestions in the comments; I’m always looking for new sources of content.

Wilkinson:

American conservatism is fixated on the idea that the country’s most numerous and powerful group identity—white, right-leaning Christians—is under relentless attack by the “cultural elite”. These nasty, moronic comparisons of tea-party Republicans to terrorists are high-octane fuel on the right’s raging identity-politics bonfire. And that’s the thing. Why are liberals so eager to invigorate the right by justifying its grievances? It completely baffles me.

I can think of two answers: habit and cynicism.  By the first explanation, party-line extremists say stupid and extreme things because they don’t know how not to.  By the second explanation, party-liners deliberately try to empower the fringe elements on the other side; they want the debate to move to its extremes so that they–extremists–can gain in prominence.  Regardless of cause, this is a dynamic that thinking people across all ideologies need to oppose, as it does real damage to discourse, to public policy, and ultimately to everyone’s well-being.