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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, June 19, 2006


Conservatism is surely not this

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, June 19, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
From the pages of National Review, flagship of conservative thought:

- an essay lambasting Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene, for causing "emotional distress" to the "spiritually sensitive".

- an approving link to an essay (labeled as an "elegantly stated truth") that asserts that liberalism prevents people from comprehending a perversion of the soul (and therefore, implicitly facilitates the same).

What bothers me most about these two examples is the underlying sentiment that ordinary people are simply reactive, and must be shielded from unpleasant truths.

I take the opposite approach - that all people are rational actors, and can be trusted to reason. As long as one does not mistake reason for being flawless objectivity. I think that's the requisite assumption for someone - anyone - professing to believe in democratic ideals. For if the populace cannot be trusted to think, then why give them any power over society?


aziz, i believe how much of a 'rational actor' one is is directly proportional to IQ. and even those who have graduate school educations get into situations of ridiculous credit card debt :)

in other words, you need to modulate the model by two factors:

1) there is variance of rationality in direct proportion to the amt. of logical-analytic aptitude that god gifted one with

2) rationality is also bounded by other 'irrational' predispositions which are likely byproducts of cognitive architecture or evolution

as far as rationality & conservatism goes, fundamentally i think conservatism is anti-rational, insofar as it believes that custom and tradition hold within them truths which can't be immediately accessible to reason. an attempt to over-rationalize falls pray to the folly of 'constructivism.' i don't necessarily buy this whole-hog, but this is a strong (dominant?) stream in conservatism. less so in american conservatism though, which is in many ways a hybrid child of genuine conservatism and classical liberalism.


Of course ordinary people must be shielded from unpleasant truths:)

The truth is that this whole war on "terror" was disguised imperialism. Set up paper tigers(terrorists) all over the place and spread your battalions and regiments all over the place!


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.