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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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Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Leashing and unleashing

posted by Razib Khan at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Over the past few weeks I have been expressing what I believe is the irrational and emotive discourse which seems to pervade the political blogosphere. From this you might conclude that I believe one should guide one's life by the light of reason, and that a cold-blooded calculus must be our ground of being. Well, of course I don't believe this, rather, I hold that reason and emotion complement each othr, have different roles to play in the way we make decisions. In evolutionary biology there is often a distinction between between the ultimate and the proximate. The former is the tendency for fitness to increase within a population by the tautological nature of natural selection, that which begets in this generation perpetuates the generations to come. The latter is the means, the mechanism, the shorter term strategies through which one attains ultimate aims. I believe that in our personal political and moral landscape emotion should be skewed toward the ultimate, and reason toward the proximate. In the short term day to day reason must hold emotion by the leash, but over the long term reason is simply emotion's dog of war, obeying the injunctions of the heart.

To illustrate why I believe that there is an unfortunate conflation of the role of reason and emotion in modern politics, and in foreign policy, consider the circumstance where several young thugs confront you on your way to school. They hurl insults at you, and push you to the ground. How do you feel? You are enraged, furious, and perhaps fearful. How do you react? You could charge them, unleash your fury, but despite the short term satisfaction it would get you nothing but a bloody nose beause of the nature of the battle. On the other hand, you could hold your tongue and practice short term stoicism. That day you could discuss the situation with your friends, explain your dilemna, and proceed upon a cold blooded course of action. The next day when the thugs confronted you your friends could swing around the block and beat the living crap out of them, you could stand upon the lead thug's chest and kick him the face. Ah, what a sweet prize delaying unleashing your emotion for one day yields! I will be candid and admit that this scenario is taken from my own lfe, and it was delicious to be victorious and impose my brutal judgement upon those who taunted me. I will leave the details to your imagination. Never again did my antagonist say a word to me!

So please note, even if I express caution in the short term, never doubt that I am unaware of the passions and furies which drive a man to violence, I am no pacifist in my worldview nor in my own personal life. But violence must be wielded with care, caution and forethought.


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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.