Skip to main content

Josh Rosenau on liberalism and optimism

My friend Josh Rosenau picks up on that John Derbyshire post, and offers some thoughts about my pessimistic liberalism:
Liberals and (sensible, pre-teabagger) conservatives generally recognize the issues Joel raises. Some people sometimes suffer in unregulated markets, wars hurt some people, and majoritarian influence can have pernicious effects, especially on racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities.

Conservatives who are willing to grant any of those premises, though, essentially throw up their hands. They'll grant that markets aren't always good for everyone, but they'll insist that government intervention would just make it worse. Or sure, Jim Crow laws are an affront to American standards of decency, but government can't just impose integration on the South, we just have to leave it for folks to sort that out on their own. And so forth.

In other words, both sides acknowledge the facts on the ground, an acknowledgment which Joel considers pessimistic. But what makes him (and me!) liberals is that we think something can be done about that. We think that government regulations can make markets fairer. We think government actions can improve the lot of oppressed minorities. We think government action can avert or at least alleviate the suffering caused by war.

And in practice, that optimism (in the capacity of government to do things) has been repeatedly vindicated. The Marshall Plan, the New Deal, civil rights laws and the Great Society all show government doing exactly these things, in ways that strengthen society and even out damaging inefficiencies. We've seen the same benefits from the stimulus bill, and from Affordable Care. There are comparable gains to be seen from enacting climate change policies.

Conservatism is pessimistic in that it rejects the possibility of fixing problems. And if you don't think you can fix a problem, you often try to ignore that it exists (as we see with global warming denial). Liberalism is not pessimistic for acknowledging that problems exist, it would only be pessimistic if it gave up on the idea of fixing those problems.
Read the whole thing, as they say.

Comments

deregulator said…
All I can say is that he's dead wrong about this:

Conservatism is pessimistic in that it rejects the possibility of fixing problems. And if you don't think you can fix a problem, you often try to ignore that it exists (as we see with global warming denial). Liberalism is not pessimistic for acknowledging that problems exist, it would only be pessimistic if it gave up on the idea of fixing those problems.

The guy has no idea what he's talking about, which undermines his credibilty, despite making some other sensible points. Plus, "teabagger"?. What are you? 14?
emawkc said…
The use of a reductive ad hominem is often an early red flag that someone isn't being intellectually honest or logically rigorous.

Popular posts from this blog

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Interesting:
Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…