Patterico's Pontifications

12/15/2014

A Conflict of Visions, Part 1: Is Your Vision of Humanity “Constrained” or “Unconstrained”? Take the Quiz!

Filed under: Books,General — Patterico @ 7:39 am

This week I plan to do a series of posts on Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. I consider it an absolutely revelatory book, which will forever change the way I look at the world, and I want to share some of its insights with you this week.

But first, please take the following quiz. Get a piece of paper and write down which answer best describes your view: a or b. The quiz consists of 20 questions. Sometimes you will agree with both statements; it is possible you might not agree with either. Either way, choose the response that is closest to your view. Please take the quiz before reading the post further. You will need a pencil (or pen) and paper.

Scoring will take place at the end.

1.
a. I prefer decisions made according to tradition, which reflects human wisdom collected over time, to relying on a “new approach” by a select few.
b. I prefer decisions to be made according to human reason applied to our problems, and tend not to pay respect to a custom or tradition simply because that’s how people have done something for a long time.

2.
a. A judge should strive do to what’s right. A judge’s first questions when considering a possible legal result should be: “Is it good? Is it right?”
b. A judge should strive to follow the law, regardless of whether it results in outcomes with which he or she agrees.

3.
a. I want to get government out of the people’s way, and let people make their own decisions for themselves. The knowledge any one human can possess is limited, and I prefer to rely on a process that coordinates information scattered throughout society, rather than relying on experts.
b. Government has a role in improving people’s lives. Part of the reason is that certain people possess concentrated specialized knowledge, and I would prefer to entrust decisions to those people, rather than to the masses.

4.
a. Sincerity is an important aspect of a person’s character. I have noticed that my opponents are often insincere.
b. Sincerity is nice but is overrated, as sincere people can do bad things, while insincere people might do good things. My opponents may well be sincere, but their policies are destructive.

5.
a. When you are in an organization, it is important to act according to your role, because the success of the organization depends upon people carrying out their role in the proper manner.
b. I don’t care for titles, and I want to do whatever is the best thing to do regardless of what other people say my role is.

6.
a. Fidelity to the truth is a very important aspect of a person’s character. Using deception, even in pursuit of goals you think are laudable, is wrong.
b. Fidelity to the truth is nice but overrated, as it is sometimes necessary to use deception in pursuit of a goal, if that goal is lofty and the results of achieving that goal would benefit society.

7.
a. I would prefer that decisions be made by older people, who have the experience to deal with problems wisely.
b. I would prefer that decisions be made by younger people, who are not hampered by outmoded ways of doing things that have been shown not to work.

8.
a. I believe that patriotism and loyalty are important aspects of someone’s character, and one should act in accordance with those virtues where reasonably possible.
b. I believe that patriotism and loyalty are overrated. If my country is wrong, it’s wrong — and if a friend did something wrong, I can’t support their wrong action just because they’re my friend.

9.
a. It aggravates me to see someone getting paid a lot of money for a skill that was easy for them to acquire. Even if they have a skill that benefits society, that should not mean they get a big paycheck if they didn’t earn that skill through hard work. For example, if it was easy for them to learn it because of the contacts they had in life, they should not benefit from that.
b. If someone has a special skill, they should be paid more, regardless of whether it was easy or difficult for them to develop, learn, or obtain that skill. Paying them more ensures their skills are available to society at large.

10.
a. I care about incentives. We should not just give people money because that creates an incentive for others to look for handouts.
b. I care about equality. Some people are born with less and that hampers their ability to succeed. We can help those people by making their circumstances closer to those more economically fortunate.

11. a. To me, freedom means that I must have the practical ability to achieve what I want. Government leaving me alone, by itself, doesn’t make me “free” if I am still functionally unable to do important things like earn a living, obtain health care, and so forth.
b. To me, freedom means being left alone by the government. It does not mean that government owes me a pathway out of the circumstances of my particular situation in life.

12.
a. Businessmen should engage in business activities, which is what they know best, and should not donate profits to charity, which is not within their area of expertise. Charity should come from private individuals and not businesses.
b. Businessmen make enough money that they should give back to society, which includes making donations to charities and doing good works.

13.
a. I believe in a “living Constitution” because I never agreed to the terms of the Constitution — nor did anyone else alive today. Also, the men who wrote the Constitution did not and could not have anticipated the social, economic, and technological changes that encompass the vast complexity of modern society.
b. I believe in applying an original understanding of the provisions of the Constitution, according to how they were understood at the time the document was written. This is the only way to enforce the rule of law.

14.
a. I believe in adhering to principle. If you sacrifice your principles, simply to achieve part of what you are striving for, you are not only likely to get nothing done, but you also demonstrate that you are lacking in character.
b. All life consists of trade-offs. Choosing the least bad of two options is not unprincipled, but is simply being realistic.

15.
a. The problem with America’s politics today is that the system incentivizes politicians to take actions that are in their best interest rather than that of the country as a whole. The solution is to change the incentives, because human nature rarely changes.
b. The problem with America’s politics today is that our leaders are self-centered and care only about themselves rather than the good of the country. The solution is to elect people who are more principled.

16.
a. The problem with the economy is that too many people are selfish and want to grab as much as they can at the expense of others.
b. As far as the economy goes, I don’t care if people act in a self-centered fashion. The market allows people to act in a self-centered fashion and still take actions that benefit others.

17.
a. I believe the intent of a person is paramount when analyzing their public statements or actions. Nobody should ever be held accountable for an outcome that they did not intend, and no person should be held responsible for an interpretation of their words that they did not intend.
b. A person’s intent is relevant, but I also care about the results of a person’s actions or statements. If someone knew their actions or speech might result in a bad outcome, even if they did not subjectively intend it, they bear some responsibility for that outcome.

18.
a. I worry about changing things too much all at once.
b. We should change anything that needs to be changed, as long as reason tells us that the changes will be an improvement.

19.
a. I am enraged when people in positions of trust, such as members of the clergy, or teachers, engage in sexual activity or other wrongdoing that takes advantage of the very people who place their faith in people occupying those positions of trust.
b. Wrongdoing is wrongdoing, but I place no special emphasis on the fact that a wrongdoer occupied a position of trust when committing a bad act.

20.
a. It matters to me a great deal whether you can explain why you are taking a particular action in a way that makes sense.
b. I don’t care if you can explain your actions well; I just care whether society is helped or harmed by what you are doing.

Score 5 points for each answer listed below (if your vision is like mine, your score will be low, so don’t be concerned if you’re not racking up a lot of points):
1. b
2. a
3. b
4. a
5. b
6. b
7. b
8. b
9. a
10. b
11. a
12. b
13. a
14. a
15. b
16. a
17. a
18. b
19. b
20. a

This quiz gives you a rough continuum of whether you are “constrained” or “unconstrained.” The higher your score, the more “unconstrained” you are.

As I say above, this quiz is based on a book by Thomas Sowell called A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. This is a book I intend to discuss more this week. The basic dichotomy is between those who believe that humans have limitless “unconstrained” potential, on one hand, and those who believe human potential is “constrained” by certain realities such as the constancy of human nature, on the other. Many aspects of one’s view of life flow from which vision you hold. For example, the more “constrained” your vision is, the more apt you are to put your trust in systemic processes that improve the human condition within those constraints. The more “unconstrained” your vision is, the more apt you are to believe that humans can solve any problem through application of reason.

Sowell’s description of the two visions, how they view various social phenomena and processes, and related concepts are too much for one post, which is why I am doing a series. I hope this whets your appetite. Report your results below.

I am a 25, for what it’s worth.

In future posts, I will outline some more of what Sowell says about these competing visions and apply them to current controversies, like Jonathan Gruber, conservatives’ civil war over how extreme government makeover needs to be, whether it matters whether you think of a politician as a good guy, and so forth. It should be interesting.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jeff B from AoSHQ/@EsotericCD for helping me to refine the quiz wording and discussing the concept with me. (And for recommending the book to me in the first place!)

216 Responses to “A Conflict of Visions, Part 1: Is Your Vision of Humanity “Constrained” or “Unconstrained”? Take the Quiz!”

  1. What’s your score?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. Ding.

    kishnevi (294553)

  3. I prefer decisions made according to tradition, which reflects human wisdom collected over time, to relying on a “new approach” by a select few.

    A judge should strive to follow the law, regardless of whether it results in outcomes with which he or she agrees.

    I want to get government out of the people’s way, and let people make their own decisions for themselves. The knowledge any one human can possess is limited, and I prefer to rely on a process that coordinates information scattered throughout society, rather than relying on experts.

    Sincerity is an important aspect of a person’s character. I have noticed that my opponents are often insincere.

    When you are in an organization, it is important to act according to your role, because the success of the organization depends upon people carrying out their role in the proper manner.

    Fidelity to the truth is a very important aspect of a person’s character. Using deception, even in pursuit of goals you think are laudable, is wrong.

    [This one is iffy:]
    I would prefer that decisions be made by older people, who have the experience to deal with problems wisely. [Versus] I would prefer that decisions be made by younger people, who are not hampered by outmoded ways of doing things that have been shown not to work.

    [This one is iffy:]
    I believe that patriotism and loyalty are important aspects of someone’s character, and one should act in accordance with those virtues where reasonably possible. [Versus] I believe that patriotism and loyalty are overrated. If my country is wrong, it’s wrong — and if a friend did something wrong, I can’t support their wrong action just because they’re my friend.

    [This one is iffy:]
    It aggravates me to see someone getting paid a lot of money for a skill that was easy for them to acquire. Even if they have a skill that benefits society, that should not mean they get a big paycheck if they didn’t earn that skill through hard work. [Versus] If someone has a special skill, they should be paid more, regardless of whether it was easy or difficult for them to develop, learn, or obtain that skill. Paying them more ensures their skills are available to society at large.

    I care about incentives. We should not just give people money because that creates an incentive for others to look for handouts.

    To me, freedom means being left alone by the government. It does not mean that government owes me a pathway out of the circumstances of my particular situation in life.

    Businessmen make enough money that they should give back to society, which includes making donations to charities and doing good works.

    I believe in applying an original understanding of the provisions of the Constitution, according to how they were understood at the time the document was written. This is the only way to enforce the rule of law.

    I believe in adhering to principle. If you sacrifice your principles, simply to achieve part of what you are striving for, you are not only likely to get nothing done, but you also demonstrate that you are lacking in character.

    [This is overly generalized, since it leaves out the power of ideological biases that influence decisionmaking:]
    The problem with America’s politics today is that our leaders are self-centered and care only about themselves rather than the good of the country. The solution is to elect people who are more principled.

    As far as the economy goes, I don’t care if people act in a self-centered fashion. The market allows people to act in a self-centered fashion and still take actions that benefit others.
    hey did not intend.

    A person’s intent is relevant, but I also care about the results of a person’s actions or statements. If someone knew their actions or speech might result in a bad outcome, even if they did not subjectively intend it, they bear some responsibility for that outcome.

    [This is iffy:]
    I worry about changing things too much all at once. [Versus] We should change anything that needs to be changed, as long as reason tells us that the changes will be an improvement.

    I am enraged when people in positions of trust, such as members of the clergy, or teachers, engage in sexual activity or other wrongdoing that takes advantage of the very people who place their faith in people occupying those positions of trust.

    [This is iffy:]
    It matters to me a great deal whether you can explain why you are taking a particular action in a way that makes sense. [Versus] I don’t care if you can explain your actions well; I just care whether society is helped or harmed by what you are doing.

    Mark (c160ec)

  4. I did not take it. Maybe it is the aspie in me, but for almost every question, I could think of at least one other alternative, and the options given reflect assumptions abdnot necessarily valid generalizations. Are older people always wise and younger people more inventive? In my experience, most of the time, no. Und so wieter. The one question I would not quibble with is the one about truthfulness. Put me down for the first option there.

    kishnevi (294553)

  5. I scored 5/100.

    That being said, I thought that the “unconstrained” answers were largely caricatures and the “constrained” answers were carefully expressed.

    a) I am a sensible, decent American who values work, God, and family, and prefers to work within the system for measured change while respecting minority rights.
    b) I am a tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, patchouli-stinking Communist hippie urinates on the flag and everything else that’s “American”, and prefers to start a revolution so we can haul all the Rethuglicans into forced reducation camps.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  6. Gabriel,

    Dang. I tried hard to make the unconstrained answers seem like something an unconstrained vision type would pick.

    kish:

    Just pick the best answer!

    Patterico (9c670f)

  7. Which question were you unconstrained in, Gabriel?

    Patterico (b696b3)

  8. That is the problem. The best answer was usually C, D, or E.
    Do not feel bad. When I took the bar exam ye those many years ago, the worst designed questions were in the multiple choice section, which was made up of questions submitted by private individuals. The only criterion was that the submission be made by someone already admitted to the Bar.

    kishnevi (294553)

  9. Of course, in whining like this, I am demonstrating that I really did choose 6a.

    kishnevi (294553)

  10. I could not accept any of the answers on any of the questions as the choices were offensive to my sensibilities because there was always an assumption being made with which I do not agree.

    So, instead, I answered twice. Once, as though I were a Democrat. A second, as though I were a Republican. Yes, I realize that I am making great assumptions of my own about what each would make, but, hey, they are at least my assumptions.Here are “my” two scores.

    Democrat assumption 55
    Republican assumption 45

    What does it all mean? Do I “understand” the two parties constraints?

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  11. Arg. Choose the best answer of those provided. I understand that most real life situations call for a “in this case x but in that case y” answer. I am just asking you to pick the answer closest to your view, for assessment purposes.

    Patterico (b696b3)

  12. This is not a left/right deal. I am convinced that many conservatives are unconstrained in many ways, that many of you (and I) share. Those who refuse to vote for politicians who are prone to compromise, for example, are taking an unconstrained position, and I know many of you share that view.

    Patterico (b696b3)

  13. “Arggh!” You took the word right out of my mouth, Patterico.

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  14. Yes, I know it is not about left/right. But it was the “only” way I could bring my self to take the danged test! You should talk to my Opthalmologist if you really want to know how bad I am about taking tests!

    Felipe: (to DR. Yee) First, or second? Hmmm, any other choices?

    Dr. Yee: Mr. Felipe, I have other patients waiting!

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  15. I think there are missing words in 12:

    12.
    a. Businessmen should engage in business activities, which is what they know best, and should not donate profits to charity, which is not within their area of expertise. Charity should come from private individuals and not businesses.
    b. Businessmen make enough money that they should give back to society, which includes making donations to charities and doing good works.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  16. 10 pts. – 4 and 14.

    The deeper I got into the quiz, the more I realized that I had become a grumpy old man.

    Youth is for the young.

    ThOR (130453)

  17. In view of the title “political” I took ‘decisions’ to be those made for society by same, as opposed to those made by the individual for self.

    15

    DNF (7b206c)

  18. I think also like someone suggested in another way is to take this test independently after several weeks apart to compare scores and are they influenced by pressing emotion tugging events – like large mass layoffs coming in the oil industry or the Sydney Hostage taking etc.

    EPWJ (acb2d0)

  19. I am a 5 because I picked “a” on #20.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  20. 15. Which would increase my score.

    DNF (7b206c)

  21. DRJ (a83b8b) — 12/15/2014 @ 8:53 am

    I was wondering what was going on with that question, DRJ!

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  22. #5: I also scored 5/100. Question 20 got me thinking about the inability of our RINO “leaders” to explain the reasons for their actions. We really don’t need anymore McCains, Boehners, or Romneys. I’m hoping for a Margaret Thatcher. Someone mature enough to understand the importance of their policies and forceful enough to explain it in understandable terms. Also, someone able to detect a lie by their opponent and to seize on it and batter their opponents senseless, metaphorically at least, even if the moderator has cast her vote with the liar. Think of Reagan’s “I paid for this microphone” if my meaning isn’t clear.

    And as for the rest, the idea of choosing the least bad option forced me to select a number of answers that I don’t entirely support. For example, older fools are just as foolish as they were when they were young. Age doesn’t necessarily result in wisdom. However, the lack of experience, and ignorance of history, have no value whatsoever.

    Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College just wrote the latest Imprimus on the import of Progressive thinking in our affairs. He gives a nice historical summary of our country’s previous conflicts, and has a measured optimism about our latest difficulties. He translates Sowell’s thesis into the mechanisms of our institutions.

    bobathome (348c8a)

  23. @Patterico:7.Which question were you unconstrained in, Gabriel?

    a. I prefer decisions made according to tradition, which reflects human wisdom collected over time, to relying on a “new approach” by a select few.
    b. I prefer decisions to be made according to human reason applied to our problems, and tend not to pay respect to a custom or tradition simply because that’s how people have done something for a long time.

    Even an appeal to tradition is an application of reason. Nobody, in practice, ever makes the SOLE argument that “we do it this way because we always did”. The only time tradition alone justifies anything is when it needs no justification. An example: why are toothpastes for adults invariably mint-flavored in America? It’s not like people never tried to bring other flavors to market.

    The time “tradition” comes up is when a tradition leads to problems, and then the argument is made that tradition reflects the wisdom of our ancestors, etc, etc, but that is an argument from reason, because it starts from premises (“problems should be solved by human wisdom”, “tradition is a form of human wisdom”) and leads to a conclusion (“problems should be solved by appeal to tradition”).

    For example, slavery was not a problem for about 7000 years. When it became a problem, only then was tradition appealed to.

    Likewise votes for women, or marriage for same-sex partners.

    What you’re looking for I think is a test for rationalISM, someone who thinks all decisions must be jsutified from first principles. I don’t think, for example, that a ban on incest for consenting adults, or a ban on bestiality, or a ban on eating dog meat, needs to be justified.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  24. Ten.

    12 (b) businessmen should contribute to charity
    (I understand this distinguishes between individual charity and using one’s business to do good works. But if it’s my business, I get to do what I want with it. I do have problem with the difference between “should” and “must”, which this seems not to address.)

    14 (a) adhere to principle.
    (How is this the “unconstrained” choice?)

    DJMoore (89aba0)

  25. I don’t see how 12 (businessmen for charity) tests for constrained/unconstrained.

    Further I would have made the distinction that business ought to be MADE to ‘give back’ to society–
    “should” can be interpreted as a legal obligation or a moral one.

    I have a relative who made good living as an Alaska fisherman; and once I was asked “shouldn’t he have to give something back”? I pointed out that risking his life to feed people was, perhaps, quite enough to have given already.

    I run into conservatives who endorse mandatory national service, and I tell them that I think that the three hours out of every eight that the governments get from my labor is quite enough “service”.

    (When ever I hear the word “service” I try to figure out who is getting screwed.)

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  26. I’m a 20, Patterico. I adore Sowell’s books. They explain a lot about our bizarre self destructive society.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  27. @DJMoore:14 (a) adhere to principle.
    (How is this the “unconstrained” choice?)

    It’s a test for rationalism, that all decisions must be consistent with and justified by principle.

    Which leads to sonorous pronouncements on what model hybrid is really “green”, or that cigarette smoking is an expression of individualist principle.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  28. I’m with Kish and felipe. The available answers in almost all cases did not meet my needs or reflect my views closely enough to answer. Some generalized way too much for my comfort. So any assessment would be invalid. Sorry. I am not willing to admit being grumpy like THor, either. I am just back from vacay and fresh as a daisy.

    elissa (cddcda)

  29. 5 points, and that’s only because I think you got #14 backwards.

    ropelight (8fc677)

  30. elissa-

    I’m about to leave on mine, so I’m hoping for a bit of rejuvenation too.

    I’ll retake the test again in January and let you know.

    ThOR (130453)

  31. 25!!!! Just like Patterico!!!! But, I am the RIGHT 25!!!!! Ha Ha!!!

    I, too, had trouble with some questions but did what Patterico suggested and just answered as best I could.

    Ipso Fatso (10964d)

  32. One of the issues here, and it is a large one, is our society’s endless appetite for narcissism and patting itself on the back. Thus, people seldom read questions like this dispassionately, but in the context of “what does that say about me?”

    Now, I don’t think folks here do that. Much. It’s something everyone struggles with.

    Sowell discusses this quite directly in his “The Vision of the Anointed.” It’s a book WELL worth reading, because it shows this embarrassing tic in our thinking quite clearly.

    In other news, nk, I read that the Greek island of “Little Lesbos” is for sale. I just thought you would have an interesting response to that news item:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2847334/Uninhabited-16-acre-Greek-island-goes-sale-640-000.html

    That was a fun quiz, Patterico. I don’t think one size fits all, nor do I think government knows best. So I guess I am a lukewarm anti-Statist.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  33. 50 points. I guess I’ve moved to the center.

    I get that “choose the best answer” was a thing, but #12 in particular bugged me. You would think that a smart guy like Sowell wouldn’t conflate “businessman” with “business.”

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  34. #12: Patterico, Voting for RINOs can be excused if they have some redeeming qualities, for example truthfulness and a willingness to support the Party in its war with the Progressives. However, if the RINO is a liar, or a coward, then I have great difficulty voting for him or her. Elections are basically an extended job interview, and if the candidate isn’t the sort of person you would feel comfortable having over for dinner, then that person needs to find another line of work. It is also important to consider a longer time frame than the current election. Having idiots as spokespersons (e.g., Pelosi) can have catastrophic consequences.

    In this light, I was amazed at Mitch McConnell’s transformation from candidate to reelected Senator. I seem to recall a lot of promises from this silly man just two months ago. And now we have this fraud supporting a $1.1T bill that is devoted to undermining those promises. The Republican Party would be better off without him. He will continue to debase the Republican brand. It’s a bit like Lincoln’s difficulty in finding Generals who knew enough about war to know when to fight and where to fight. He got rid of the failures despite the political cost. We need to do the same.

    bobathome (348c8a)

  35. Good grief! I scored 10. What’s that make me? A rabbi?

    Nolanimrod (3c2a2d)

  36. 40 pts. Split on 3 of the 1st 6 and 4 of the final 5. 1 other in there somewhere.

    njrob (a5760a)

  37. 10 points–what does that make those of us who are scoring so low?

    rochf (f3fbb0)

  38. 5. Constrained and unconstrained seem to suggest some sort of a value judgement, though I’m not sure I understand exactly what is supposed to be measured yet. I question the construct validity and the research behind it, if only because I’m showing off some stale academic training.

    tek (2063de)

  39. Some of the a and b statements are not opposites.

    I noticed that 1a and 20b are the opposite of each other.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  40. An interesting quiz: I scored 25, questions 1,2,12,19,20.

    I look forward to the host’s contemplations on this topic.

    Pious Agnostic (7eb3b0)

  41. 1. Both, but closer to a.

    Relying on a “new approach” is liable to be wrong, and that’s only pretending to apply reason.

    There is something to be said for what is called Burkean conservatism.

    Remember also, people may mistake something that has been around for 15 years, or even 60 years, as tradition, when it’s not.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  42. 2. What’s right for a judge, often is whatever is the law. Yet sometimes law is terrible. But a judge should know what he is doing.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  43. I didn’t take the test but consider myself at “star trek” mission statement level. A balance. Lagom.

    There are truly constraints and our job is to kluge work-a-rounds and get our way.

    SarahW (267b14)

  44. 3b could not be more wrong. The people who claim they possess special knowledge, don’t, becaus eif somebody does, they don’t say so – they don’t claim too much. And 3a is basically right.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  45. The binaries in that test are too fierce which is why I cheated and gave my own assessment.

    SarahW (267b14)

  46. 4. Sincerity is important, and I didn’t think James Stockdale was such a bad choice for vice president in 1992. But sincere people can be fools. Still, a sincere fool can be educated.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  47. 5b is the way I acted anyway.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  48. One comment per question?

    Pious Agnostic (7eb3b0)

  49. Questions 4 and 6 are about the same, but scored the opposite.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  50. I get 20/100 answering as myself… and on those four items, I didn’t really like either answer, or maybe I disagree with the wording, the premise, or the interpretation.

    #1: I don’t respect the old way merely because that’s how it’s always been done, but I also believe in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — if it’s been done that way for a long time, and it still works, then the guy with the new ideas needs to make a convincing argument for fiddling with it. Of course, if he’s proposing to change things with his own resources, without the use of force, then let him go ahead and peddle his better mousetrap. In the absence of a monopoly, new approaches can prove themselves, or fail to do so, without destroying civilization.

    #5: Maybe it’s my small-business experience, but I find that “everybody stay in your own lane” is no way to run an organization. I don’t care if your business card says “Grand Vizier of Marketing”; this furniture won’t move itself! And: the manufacturing process won’t improve itself; if the way decreed by Management is faulty, the line workers need to speak up. On the other hand, people do need to be getting their own jobs done, and not interfering unduly with others doing the same (nor venturing too far out of their lanes; if you haven’t been checked out on the forklift, find someone who has).

    #14: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Someone’s gotta stick to principles, or those with no principles will take over! Oh, wait….

    #20: If you’re doing something that appears unreasonable, I’m willing to listen to an explanation, up to a point.

    Eric Wilner (3936fd)

  51. A perfect 10!

    Mitch (341ca0)

  52. I only agreed with 2, 5 and 18. So my score is 15.

    AZ Bob (7d2a2c)

  53. 25 points. #1, #12, #14, #19, #20.

    Was squishy and could go either way on #1 and #14.

    Dejectedhead (ec3741)

  54. It occurs to me that acting exactly contrary to 17a is the lifeblood of political bloggery.

    But that does not mean that 17b is the choice of any political blogger, either, since it is one of those alternates that is not the direct opposite of the other option.

    kishnevi (870883)

  55. i think america is embarrassing

    happyfeet (831175)

  56. 15 points

    5, 12, 18

    Mark Johnson (46b570)

  57. 10, but conditional.

    9, as it applies to outrageous entertainment (music, film and sports) celebrity contracts.

    12, businessmen, to the extent of solvency and the dictates of their conscience – not compulsory

    David (099e1f)

  58. Now that I go back and see the three questions I “missed” I would say this about them:

    5. I consider my answer “B” to be the more conservative choice.

    12. This is one of the dumbest choices. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Businesses shouldn’t give to charity” makes no sense.

    18. I agreed with both answers. The key wording in my choice was “We should change anything that needs to be changed” Its rather hard for me to dispute that assertion.

    Mark Johnson (46b570)

  59. #58, Mark, I think the problem here is that some of the things that need to be changed, social security and other entitlements for example, are so deeply embedded in our “culture” that fixing this will take time and a series of steps. Chile managed to do it quickly when the whole system collapsed, but this involves a lot of hardship, and it would require similar circumstances for us to do it quickly.

    Meantime we have our entitlement culture fueled by Greenbacks that Aunt Yellen is only too pleased to print. And this has given us a national debt that grows by 5% to 10% every year. The crunch will come when the producer nations of the world become reluctant to accept them. The current oil crisis might be a first step in this process. If things really go sideways and oil is no longer traded for dollars, then China, Japan, and a host of other countries that buy oil might show some reluctance in accepting our dollars. Fortunately, Europe and Japan, and even China, are intent on printing money also, so the dollar still looks like a relatively good currency.

    bobathome (348c8a)

  60. What can anyone use besides Dollars?

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  61. @SammyFinkelstein:What can anyone use besides Dollars?

    Euros, yen, renminbi, pounds, or giant rocks with holes bored through them.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  62. Hershey bars. Chocolate is the ideal international medium of exchange. It requires a multinational effort to produce the cocoa beans, sugar, and milk, and it’s universally irresistible.

    nk (dbc370)

  63. But not Canadian chocolate.

    nk (dbc370)

  64. Meantime we have our entitlement culture fueled by Greenbacks that Aunt Yellen is only too pleased to print. And this has given us a national debt that grows by 5% to 10% every year.

    Um, no. We have an expanding national debt because of Congress and the President, not the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve purchases in the secondary market. The public remains quite willing to buy Treasury issues. (And, while we’re at it, the outstanding federal debt grew by 4.5% in the last 12 months).

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  65. 15, with three where I thought both answers too wrong-headed to accept either(1, 9, and 15)

    htom (9b625a)

  66. Art, Aunt Yellen buys enough of the Treasuries to ensure that interest rates are kept incredibly low. Just rolling over her holdings as they mature will be plenty to distort this market. How much it is distorted is the guestion. This leads to all sorts of malinvestment, but then again, that is the point of the whole thing isn’t it. Wind mills, electric cars, solar farms, ocean waves, algae, ethanol are all considered prime investment opportunities in this crazy economy. In the roaring twenties it was Florida (swamp) land.

    Meantime the majority of electric power is still generated by coal, which is on life support due to EPA bungling.

    bobathome (348c8a)

  67. canidianians need to stick to having fun with concoctions of maple and pureed baby seal i think

    mostly in the form of clever clever products what a pikachu can buy at his local “Tim Hortons”

    you gotta play to your strengths in this most fallen of whirls

    and have yourself

    a

    merry

    lil

    christmas

    now

    happyfeet (831175)

  68. These questions don’t strike me as political (right/conservative vs left/liberal) as much as about what motivates us (self-centered capitalists vs utopian socialists). It only seems political because, in some respects, conservatives tend to favor capitalism and liberals favor socialism.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  69. 61. Oil and gold is priced in Dollars. Dollars are not priced in gold or oil. So U.S. Dollars are money.

    In the days when they had coins, coins became money, and there were coin clippers, and governments that debased the coinage. There hasn’t been a true gold or silver standard since governments started minting coins.

    Euros, yen, renminbi, pounds are not any better than Dollars.

    Chocolate is worth too little per ounce – and it isn’t money.

    Money is whatever you don’t have to worry about passing on to the next person.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  70. chockit could more than double next year

    i read it on the internet

    and as you know chockit contains valuable antioxidants

    happyfeet (831175)

  71. Art, Aunt Yellen buys enough of the Treasuries to ensure that interest rates are kept incredibly low. Just rolling over her holdings as they mature will be plenty to distort this market. How much it is distorted is the guestion. This leads to all sorts of malinvestment,

    Take it up with someone who takes Austro-crank economics seriously. Not my waste of time.

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  72. @Samuel Finkelstein:Oil and gold is priced in Dollars. Dollars are not priced in gold or oil.

    Priced to the seller, or to the buyer? There’s no difference. From a seller’s perspective dollars are what you get for oil, and from a buyer’s perspective oil is what you get for dollars.

    You will find, if you look, that oil is priced in any more-or-less hard currency, seeing as how it’s a global market.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  73. oil does not contain valuable antioxidants

    it’s just oil

    I’m not judging

    happyfeet (831175)

  74. 10 – I picked 14a and 20a. Apparently I think human nature is based highly on what worked for us as creatures in the past. And that those traits were selectively breed for (and into us) over a huge amount of time. That we are perfectly able to change in another direction, however, we haven’t had the time to do so yet, and given the way things are going, it doesn’t look like we are breeding for that solution anyway.

    mz (1d5c03)

  75. I come out at 45.

    1. I prefer decisions to be made according to human reason applied to our problems, and tend not to pay respect to a custom or tradition simply because that’s how people have done something for a long time.

    2. A judge should strive to follow the law, regardless of whether it results in outcomes with which he or she agrees.

    3. Government has a role in improving people’s lives. Part of the reason is that certain people possess concentrated specialized knowledge, and I would prefer to entrust decisions to those people, rather than to the masses.

    4. Sincerity is an important aspect of a person’s character. I have noticed that my opponents are often insincere.

    5. When you are in an organization, it is important to act according to your role, because the success of the organization depends upon people carrying out their role in the proper manner.

    6. Fidelity to the truth is a very important aspect of a person’s character. Using deception, even in pursuit of goals you think are laudable, is wrong.

    7. I would prefer that decisions be made by older people, who have the experience to deal with problems wisely.

    [Although I *really* didn’t like either answer to this question and would prefer to have abstained.]

    8. I believe that patriotism and loyalty are overrated. If my country is wrong, it’s wrong — and if a friend did something wrong, I can’t support their wrong action just because they’re my friend.

    9. If someone has a special skill, they should be paid more, regardless of whether it was easy or difficult for them to develop, learn, or obtain that skill. Paying them more ensures their skills are available to society at large.

    10. I care about equality. Some people are born with less and that hampers their ability to succeed. We can help those people by making their circumstances closer to those more economically fortunate.

    [Which is not to say incentives aren’t important, because they are.]

    11. To me, freedom means that I must have the practical ability to achieve what I want. Government leaving me alone, by itself, doesn’t make me “free” if I am still functionally unable to do important things like earn a living, obtain health care, and so forth.

    12. Businessmen make enough money that they should give back to society, which includes making donations to charities and doing good works.

    [But note that I’m expecting this in their capacity as individuals. I expect successful people to give back to society; the business does not need to be the mechanism]

    13. I believe in applying an original understanding of the provisions of the Constitution, according to how they were understood at the time the document was written. This is the only way to enforce the rule of law.

    [This is an oversimplification, because I think the original understanding, applied to new facts, may yield understandings that were impossible at the time – freedom of the press applies to the internet even though the founders could not have imagined the internet.]

    14. All life consists of trade-offs. Choosing the least bad of two options is not unprincipled, but is simply being realistic.

    15. The problem with America’s politics today is that the system incentivizes politicians to take actions that are in their best interest rather than that of the country as a whole. The solution is to change the incentives, because human nature rarely changes.

    16. The problem with the economy is that too many people are selfish and want to grab as much as they can at the expense of others.

    17. A person’s intent is relevant, but I also care about the results of a person’s actions or statements. If someone knew their actions or speech might result in a bad outcome, even if they did not subjectively intend it, they bear some responsibility for that outcome.

    18. We should change anything that needs to be changed, as long as reason tells us that the changes will be an improvement.

    19. I am enraged when people in positions of trust, such as members of the clergy, or teachers, engage in sexual activity or other wrongdoing that takes advantage of the very people who place their faith in people occupying those positions of trust.

    20. It matters to me a great deal whether you can explain why you are taking a particular action in a way that makes sense.

    aphrael (ca6a52)

  76. “And, while we’re at it, the outstanding federal debt grew by 4.5% in the last 12 months”

    Art Deco – Have no idea of your source, but the Treasury show it as 6.5% 9/14 over 9/13.

    http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt_histo5.htm

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  77. Mark, the patriotism/loyalty one is very, very difficult.

    If my friend makes a mistake, I still love him, despite the mistake – but I don’t have to help him make the mistake, and maybe the best way to help him is to call him out on it.

    Loyalty doesn’t extend to helping a friend commit murder or rob a bank, for example, no matter how much loyalty I have. And yet *disloyalty*, where loyalty isn’t important at all, is a major character flaw and makes me not want to have anything to do with you.

    aphrael (ca6a52)

  78. My score was 25. Looking forward to the series Pat.

    Bill M (906260)

  79. I come out at 45.

    aphrael (ca6a52) — 12/15/2014 @ 4:47 pm

    Hey, I think that you’re more conservative than me. :)

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  80. It’s time for plan B:

    As hard as it is to believe – given the strength of the “Russia-is-doomed” meme – Crude oil prices for Russia (in Rubles) are unchanged since February… This is important as all costs are Ruble denominated while revenues are USD denominated, leaving Russian oil companies’ margins insulated despite the dollar decline in price. In addition, the Russian government is easing the export taxes which further improve the profitability of Russian oil. So as US Shale Oil sector is destroyed by its USD costs, it appears Putin’s core energy industry is somewhat insulated… and America’s late-80s “defeat The Soviet Union” playbook is failing.

    What do you mean “there is no plan B”?

    DNF (7b206c)

  81. Well done, Patterico!

    Jeff B from AoSHQ/@EsotericCD (9ef35f)

  82. 68. Or possibly what is mankind’s capacity for self-amelioration?

    DNF (7b206c)

  83. Hi. First of all, let me say that I think some of you are misinterpreting this as a left/right test. I understand why; many of the thought patterns which Sowell labels “constrained” are easily identifiable as “conservative” in the sense most people understand that word. But Sowell’s concept is subtle, multifaceted, and not easily characterized as “left vs. right.” There are clearly aspects of the unconstrained vision that some conservatives share, and some aspects of the constrained vision that certain types of leftists might share.

    For example, Sowell labels fascism as a hybrid philosophy, and Marxism as a different sort of hybrid.

    So please, don’t view these as political questions. That’s my first plea.

    Second, this is my quiz. I wrote the answers. I was advised by Jeff B (@EsotericCD on Twitter), particularly on ways to make the unconstrained answers seem less cartoonish. (Gabriel Hanna still thinks I didn’t succeed.) I am still on Chapter 7 of the book, and I cannot guarantee that Sowell would not quibble with the wording of some of my suggestions.

    That being said, I will spend the next couple of comments responding to some misguided criticisms from people who have not read the book. I don’t mean to single out the people raising these criticisms, or make them feel bad; I just want to reassure you that what might have seemed like a mistake, probably wasn’t (although DRJ did catch a mistake, since corrected, in which I left a couple of words out of question 12). In particular, the question about sincerity accurately captures a distinction between the constrained and unconstrained visions, in a way that apparently would surprise at least a couple of you. And “sincerity” is treated quite differently from “fidelity to truth” despite Sammy’s uninformed claim to the contrary.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  84. Hey, it’s Jeff B from AoSHQ/@EsotericCD! I think I will update the post to note his contributions.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  85. UPDATE: Thanks to Jeff B from AoSHQ/@EsotericCD for helping me to refine the quiz wording and discussing the concept with me. (And for recommending the book to me in the first place!)

    Patterico (9c670f)

  86. 76, on 64. Prolly neglected the cost of roll overs. 70% of the debt is financed on short-term bills that effectively under ZIRP pay no interest.

    However, nifty commissions are paid are paid to the primary and direct purchasers. Also we have entered a period where the yield curve is flattening over the spread of maturities. This means the interest charged for, e.g., a new 3-month bill has risen from zero to 0.02%, whereas the 30-year has fallen to 2.7%, i.e., it is suddenly more expensive to maintain the debt.

    Watch this space.

    As to what the difference is between a monetarist and and Austrian whatever, I give a rip.

    DNF (7b206c)

  87. FWIW, I think that “sincere” (or sincerity) is one of the most overused/misused/misapplied and misunderstood words in the English language.

    elissa (b2da86)

  88. Between 20 and 25. Strangely the one I was a little uncertain of is 13, which might have been me reading too much into it. I definitely don’t believe in a ‘living constitution’, since it speaks to very basic generalities about the rights we should have as humans…but I strongly believe that the law is always behind reality by a pretty wide margin (who owns frozen sperm in the case of a divorce, for example?) and always playing catch-up to the realities of modern life. Other mechanics in the constitution such as the time delays associated with travel that evolved into rules of when a body gets to call itself in session, and the lame duck period, are totally OBE.

    Plus the Constitution wasn’t perfect (slavery) and has been improved upon with time (most of the amendments) with perhaps a flaw or two introduced (wish Senators were still selected the old way vs having two ‘populist’ elected houses, one with equal representation and one proportionate).

    On the other hand, answer 13b is too much like 1a, admiring tradition for its own sake, in the absolutism of its wording. If it were worded something more like my first sentence above (speaks to basic god-given not government-given rights, which are inviolate and have not been improved upon since) I’d have easily picked that.

    rtrski (2e2489)

  89. If you’re talking about #4, elissa, that’s a no-brainer to any man whose wife axed him “Does this dress/blouse/skirt/pants/whatever make me look fat?

    nk (dbc370)

  90. Crap, I fail at the history thing. Even the Bill of Rights was an addition to the Constitution, wasn’t it? So where do we draw the line between a living and dead document?

    rtrski (2e2489)

  91. 12 (b) businessmen should contribute to charity
    (I understand this distinguishes between individual charity and using one’s business to do good works. But if it’s my business, I get to do what I want with it. I do have problem with the difference between “should” and “must”, which this seems not to address.)

    At page 55, Sowell argues that the unconstrained vision urges “social responsibility” on businessmen. The idea is that they should conduct their business in such a way that it will confer benefits upon society at large. He should hire the disadvantaged, he should seek to produce things that will benefit society rather than make him a profit — and he should take some of his profits and donate them to charity, rather than giving them to shareholders or plowing them back into the business.

    By contrast, the constrained vision of Adam Smith (for example) argues that these things are outside the competence of the businessman. His competence lies in maximizing the profit of his firm within the law. The systemic effect of competition is what will produce benefits for society, rather than individual intentions of businessmen. (As we will see in this series, “intentions” count for little in the constrained vision.) According to Smith, the businessman who intends only his own gain will benefit society more than the businessman who intends to promote the social good. As in so many other aspects of the constrained vision, systemic processes are favored over individual actions or intentions.

    At least one of you wanted to change this into a question about whether government has the right to tell the businessman what to do, but that was not the point of the question. The constrained vision certainly opposes government telling businessmen what to do, but it also opposes businessmen operating their businesses to promote the social good, because it believes them incompetent to know what the social good is.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  92. 91. Thanx for the clarification.

    DNF (7b206c)

  93. 86. “the secondary market”

    POMO has, at least for now, ceased and the Fed is ostensibly sitting pat. There is some talk they are silently purchasing equities, especially at Fridays’ close.

    DNF (7b206c)

  94. Re 91, but a business-MAN (sorry, ladies, or WOMAN) is still a man (or woman). Why are they any less able to recognize ‘social good’ than those elected to politics, who are still just men …and women?

    Its really hard to read that question as other than ‘may they’ or ‘no, they mayn’t’ not “must they” or “no they mustn’t”. If a business is willing to forgo some profits in a pursuit of some sort, and they don’t have shareholders to replace them…why not? It’s their organization and their money, and both customers and other employees are free to vote with their feet. Hobby Lobby comes to mind, although that’s not “charity” so much as having a set of operating moral standards they choose to live by.

    rtrski (2e2489)

  95. I think question 12 is talking about something that is not a closely held corporation, but some people have the power to write a check. If it closely held, it is the same thing as a person using their own money, but the question draws a contrast between “private individuals” and “businesses”

    One problem is that people disagree as to what is a worthy charity.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  96. Re 91, but a business-MAN (sorry, ladies, or WOMAN) is still a man (or woman). Why are they any less able to recognize ‘social good’ than those elected to politics, who are still just men …and women?

    The hidden assumption in that question is that, in the view of the constrained vision, those elected to politics should be entrusted with promoting the social good. That assumption, as I read Sowell, is false. The constrained vision would prefer to leave promotion of the social good to systemic processes (such as the free market) rather than a knowledgeable elite (such as politicians). Leaving social decisions to surrogate decisionmakers such as politicians is a characteristic of the unconstrained, and not the constrained, vision.

    Its really hard to read that question as other than ‘may they’ or ‘no, they mayn’t’ not “must they” or “no they mustn’t”. If a business is willing to forgo some profits in a pursuit of some sort, and they don’t have shareholders to replace them…why not? It’s their organization and their money, and both customers and other employees are free to vote with their feet. Hobby Lobby comes to mind, although that’s not “charity” so much as having a set of operating moral standards they choose to live by.

    A business is free to do whatever it wants, I suppose (within the law of course), but despite the fact that your brain wants you to read this question a certain way (are businesses allowed to do x?) the fact remains that the wording of the question addresses what they should do (should businesses do x) and that is a different question, whether you choose to rewrite it in your head or not.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  97. Thanks for the engagement. “Should” implies would I prefer it, to me, but also presupposes it’s allowed. Like you said, my brain is probably defeating me.

    Or the bourbon. Mmmmm, bourbon…

    And in other news….since you’re actively viewing this comment page… hope you’re aware of this? http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/12/some-100000-or-more-wordpress-sites-infected-by-mysterious-malware/

    rtrski (2e2489)

  98. Businesses donating money is a formula for having money wasted by non-profits because when money iis donated through abusiness, the donater probably cares less about how the money is used and what happens, than when the money is raised from private indiciduals. Although maybe a few good, not very important, things can get done, like say, Little League, so if it has become customary, I wouldn’t want to disparage it. Of course, somebody could be looting the Little League charity.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  99. 14 (a) adhere to principle.
    (How is this the “unconstrained” choice?)

    In the constrained vision, as Sowell explains at page 17, “trade-offs are all that we can hope for.” So when I pose this question:

    14.
    a. I believe in adhering to principle. If you sacrifice your principles, simply to achieve part of what you are striving for, you are not only likely to get nothing done, but you also demonstrate that you are lacking in character.
    b. All life consists of trade-offs. Choosing the least bad of two options is not unprincipled, but is simply being realistic.

    The constrained-vision answer is clearly b.

    In the unconstrained vision, humans have unlimited potential, and the knowledge, wisdom, and special insight of a particular person is considered very important, so qualities such as sincerity are paramount. By contrast, in the constrained vision, no person or small group is treated as having particular qualities that are tremendously important to the benefit of society, and one’s personal perfection or adherence to principle is not important; systemic processes that rely on diffused knowledge throughout society are elevated in importance. In question 14 above, a person holding the constrained vision would clearly settle for trade-offs, which are all that can ever be achieved, rather than sticking to principle and hoping to change society through dramatic personal accomplishments.

    I am pretty sure this reflects Sowell’s thoughts as expressed in the book. Jeff B, any dissension?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  100. 12 contains poor question choices in several respects. Obviously many commenters are having trouble with that one. Here is a big part of the problem with it, I think: Whether the company is large or small who can say if the businesses’ donations/charitable giving is diverting profits from shareholders and is purely altruistic to benefit society (Sowell social responsibility), or if their donations/charitable giving is part of a masterful marketing/advertising effort which, in essence, is absolutely “plowing profits back into the business” (Adam Smith capitalism)

    elissa (b2da86)

  101. re 98…um, what? A charity going over its books thinks “this money came from the Kochs…let’s waste it!”???

    And I thought I was the one drinking and posting…

    rtrski (2e2489)

  102. elissa,

    I think Sowell would concede that if the businessman’s intent to promote the image of his own business, then he is the businessman who intends his own gain rather than the one who intends to promote the social good — and that is fine. It is when businessmen actually think they are making sacrifices that they are acting outside their competence.

    In any event, I think people are overthinking this. The fundamental dichotomy is between do-gooders with good intentions (which please the unconstrained vision folks, to whom intentions are paramount) vs. evil capitalists out to help themselves, but in so doing, actually benefit society (which please the constrained vision folks, to whom the results of systemic processes matter far more than intentions).

    Patterico (9c670f)

  103. For example, constrained vision folks love price-gouging/so-called “profiteering” in disasters, because of the excellent effects it has on the allocation of resources, both increasing supply and efficiently allocating goods to those who need them most. Unconstrained vision folks hate that the gougers aren’t acting like part of the world community.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  104. Your money is no good here.

    http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2014/11/next-phase-in-currency-wars-society.html

    One credible explanation for Fed policy lo these past 6 years is to devalue the dollar against world currencies thereby making US products and services more competitive. Unfortunately corporate income taxes, passed on to consumers in higher prices, are now the highest in the developed world.

    The result is the USD can no longer fulfill its responsibility as global reserve currency. We do not supply enough of them to global monetary velocity, i.e., the grease to the skids of economic activity is withdrawn.

    Now, everywhere, foreign governments cannot manage their finances and time has come to devalue.

    The Fed’s goal is busted and we will see more asset deflation, it’s greatest fear.

    DNF (7b206c)

  105. 101. It’s the gluepot over sterno.

    DNF (7b206c)

  106. Questions 4 and 6 are about the same, but scored the opposite.

    Quite wrong. Sowell explicitly distinguishes between fidelity (to truth) and sincerity in the two visions.

    Because of conflicting visions of how much knowledge a given individual can have, and how effective that knowledge can be in deciding complex social issues, the two visions attach widely differing importance to sincerity and fidelity. Where the wise and conscientious individual is conceived to be competent to shape socially beneficial outcomes directly, then his sincerity and dedication to the common good are crucial. Godwin’s whole purpose was to strengthen the individual’s “sincerity, fortitude and justice.” The “importance of general sincerity” was a recurring theme in Godwin, and has remained so over the centuries among others with the unconstrained vision. Sincerity tends to “liberate,” according to Godwin, and to “bring every other virtue in its train.” While conceding that everything is insincere at some time or other, Godwin nevertheless urged ” a general and unalterable sincerity” as a powerful, ideal, capable of producing profound social benefits.

    Sincerity is so central to the unconstrained vision that it is not readily conceded to adversaries, who are often depicted as apologists, if not venal. It is not uncommon in this tradition to find references to their adversaries’ “real” reasons, which must be “unmasked.” Even where sincerity is conceded to adversaries, it is often accompanied to references to those adversaries’ “blindness,” “prejudice,” or narrow inability to transcend the status quo. Within the unconstrained vision, sincerity is a great concession to make while those with the constrained vision can more readily make that concession, since it means so much less to them. Nor need adversaries be depicted as stupid by those with the constrained vision, for they conceive of the social process as so complicated that it is easy, even for wise and moral individuals, to be mistaken–and dangerously so. They “may do the worst of things without being the worst of men,” according to Burke.

    This observation is part of what I find so revelatory, and I will likely do an entire post on it — because it reveals why it is so important to some people (with the unconstrained vision) to decree a politician opposing their views to be anything but a “good man” . . . while those with the constrained vision will more readily concede sincerity in opponents, and argue that it doesn’t matter, because the policies are what count.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  107. Fidelity to truth, by contrast, is very important to those with the constrained vision.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  108. Well, it is a plan:

    http://thefederalist.com/2014/12/15/how-a-conservative-insurgent-can-win-the-2016-gop-presidential-nomination/

    The good news is Romany vs. Boosh will suck all the oxygen out of the room. Please to make sure candidate of choice not present.

    DNF (7b206c)

  109. Can an insincere person be said to have fidelity to the truth?

    Conversely, if a person is sincere in what they want, and why they want it, don’t they have fidelity to the truth?

    Now sincerity doesn’t mean that what somebody wants is good or wise.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  110. may do the work of things without being the worst of men,”

    Shouldn’t there be some other word besides “things”

    It could be “thugs” except that that word would be anachronism for Burke. It dates (in English) from about the 1830s.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  111. Looked at it briefly.

    Note criticisms, just off the cuff thoughts.

    The one about sticking to principles versus making trade-offs. I would have to know what kind of trade-off one is talking about. Are we talking about not fighting for the corner office, or are we talking about taking a job you think is immoral because, “After all you have to eat”.
    I made a trade off on this. I could have decided not to comment at all because I hadn’t read everything through carefully, or I could make a brief comment non-dogmatically while admitting my lack of thoroughness.

    Businessmen and charity. I know people who do both, like run a thrift-store that is self-sustaining and provides job training for people trying to get their lives together.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  112. I understand why 20 is scored the way it is, but it’s because I care about truth that I want leaders who can explain their policies. Politicians who can’t explain their policies are often lying about how they will work and/or whether they will follow through on implementing them.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  113. Note criticisms

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  114. Government has a role in improving people’s lives. Part of the reason is that certain people possess concentrated specialized knowledge, and I would prefer to entrust decisions to those people, rather than to the masses.

    First of all, this is a false dichotomy. If I make my own decisions I’m not entrusting anything to the masses or to government.

    Most concentrated specialized knowledge in government is supposed to be there to administer laws that were passed by Congress. If someone doesn’t trust the masses why would they trust Congress?

    You will find “concentrated specialized knowledge” in many businesses – more so than government in all likelihood.

    Gerald A (d65c67)

  115. Conversely, if a person is sincere in what they want, and why they want it, don’t they have fidelity to the truth?

    Radley Balko is a very sincere libertarian. I don’t doubt his sincere convictions for a moment.

    But he has suggested that he would lie to a court (and then backed off his assertion when I called him on it, and said that he would “misdirect” the court), to get on a jury and nullify in a drug case.

    His sincerity is nice to see, but many misguided people are sincere. It does not matter to me tremendously because they can do bad things to society even while being sincere.

    By contrast, though, fidelity to the truth in answering questions propounded by a judge or lawyers during jury selection is, I believe, of paramount importance — even if shading the truth might get you to a result that you think is best.

    Take Jonathan Gruber as another example. He sincerely wanted ObamaCare — so much so that he was willing to lie to the American people to get it. “Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.” The elitism and willingness to deceive for the supposed greater good is the unconstrained vision writ large.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  116. Oh –

    may do the worst of things without being the worst of men,”

    Sowell has the quotation right in his book, according to Google Books.

    Here is an online quote without it being in Google Books:

    http://www.forgottenbooks.com/readbook_text/The_Works_and_Correspondence_Burke_v2_1000434042/287

    ….This religious persecution, like most others, has been carried on under the pretext of their being bad subjects, and disaffected to the government. I think it very possible that, to a degree, the ascendants were sincere. The understanding is soon debauched over to the passions; and our opinions very easily follow our wishes. When we are once ill-inclined to any man, or set of men, we readily believe any evil of him or them that is inconvenient to our hostile designs. Besides, in that, they have another excuse. Knowing and feeling that they are themselves attached to the cause of government only on account of the profit they derive from their connexion with it, it cannot enter into their conceptions how any man can be other than a rebel, who is not brought into an obedience to law and authority. They are excusable, and may do the worst of things without being the worst of men.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  117. Yes, “worst” of things. I copied it from someone who had retyped it and did not proofread their copying job.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  118. The one about sticking to principles versus making trade-offs. I would have to know what kind of trade-off one is talking about. Are we talking about not fighting for the corner office, or are we talking about taking a job you think is immoral because, “After all you have to eat”.
    I made a trade off on this. I could have decided not to comment at all because I hadn’t read everything through carefully, or I could make a brief comment non-dogmatically while admitting my lack of thoroughness.

    These are very general statements. But if you don’t overthink it, you gravitate towards a “life is about trade-offs” view or a “life is about sticking to your principles no matter what” view. I agree that I have vacillated on that depending on the issue, the stage of my life, and other factors. But again, we’re looking for tendencies here.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  119. But maybe Gruber was just making a trade-off, wanting to pass a law without fully winning the argument over it?
    Again, not trying to be difficult, I would probably score a 100 and then divide by 2 and say “It depends”,
    like the southern politician who was asked what he thought about whiskey, and said,
    if you mean that evil liquid from the devil that ruins good hard-working men and puts families in poverty, I’m against it
    if you mean that golden elixir shared between friends on a front porch that helps people be neighborly,
    then I’m all for it.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  120. Patterico, you’re asking me not to overthink something?
    Where did you get the idea that had a chance of working? 😉

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  121. 115. In that case, the sincerity is limited, maybe to the larger picture, or to a greater audience.

    Or by sincerity maybe you mean, more or less altruistic motives, or honesty about goals..

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  122. 15 points (1, 12, and 20), though question 12 depends on the meaning of “should”. I see other people seem to have the same concerns.

    malclave (4f3ec1)

  123. I understand why 20 is scored the way it is, but it’s because I care about truth that I want leaders who can explain their policies. Politicians who can’t explain their policies are often lying about how they will work and/or whether they will follow through on implementing them.

    I understand, and I know that people import their own interpretations into reading the questions, which is fine because it’s unavoidable. But Sowell does lay out “articulated reason” as a key element of the unconstrained vision, which is not to say that mainly constrained people reject reason (of course we don’t!) but that they tend to respect traditions more and unadorned reason less than others.

    My 25 comes mainly from answers that rejected tradition and pre-imposed roles. Here are my unconstrained answers:

    1, 5, 8, 18, 19.

    Now, some of these are easy choices and some are hard.

    I am eager to change what needs to be changed regardless of tradition or what my role expects of me. So I easily reject traditional answers or slow changes. I easily favor reason over tradition.

    8 is tough because, like aphrael, I believe in loyalty, and do in fact sometimes let transgressions by “my own folks” go uncommented on out of loyalty. The older I get, the more I feel this way. I still end up valuing truth and reason over choosing a team.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  124. All that said, I think it sounds interesting.

    I’ve said this before, and I still can’t remember who said it but it was over at PowerLine quite some time ago, measured in many, many months, if not years.
    The argument was made that essentially the great divide is between theists and non-theists; that theists take the view that humans are not up to the task of making utopia, so do what one can staying within what is right to do, and do not do wrong in the search of “making society better”.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  125. I will say that reading Sowell gives me a deeper understanding of why, for example, people oppose gay marriage. The traditionalist, while probably the aspect of the constrained vision I find the least appealing, does have the advantage of being able to claim that he is favoring systemic successes over elitist opinion.

    But then I think of slavery, which was traditionally accepted, and argue that not all traditions are to be accepted. Which is not to compare traditional marriage with slavery, but rather merely to say that tradition alone cannot be a sufficient justification for a moral stance. There must also be reasons behind it, preferably resting in natural rights theory, which I believe in wholeheartedly — and which causes people to reject incrementalism when society throws natural rights aside, as we largely have in the United States.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  126. What I find to be such an affront to my spirit, in the two visions, is that it seeks to separate sincerity from fidelity in the way that humanism seeks to separate reason from faith. The truth is, these pairs are intimately involved with one another in the same way that justice and mercy are intimately involved. I hold that all attempts to separate them from one another are affronts to the truth. But that’s just me.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  127. Well, you know, Gruber wasn’t really telling the truth anyway, in these forums. CBS News out it – I’m not where they may extracted this idea from his testimony – that he was claiming to be more an insider than he was at the time, and that may be it.

    Gruber didn’t know why any of this was done. He wss hired to game teh CBOO numbers, and justify – and maybe judge the necessity of – all the provisions of the law, that’s all. He may have been somewhat sincere (without thinking it over) in that he thought something like the individual mandate was necessary in order for something good to happen.

    The Wall Street Journal today had an editorial. (reposted here)

    http://www.luxlibertas.com/wsj-a-post-obamacare-strategy/

    The Republicans ought to come up with some plan – now – about what to do if the Supreme Court terminates subsidies for people buying insurance through healthcare.gov in the King v. Burwell case.
    (they suggest a fixed dollar tax deduction or credit for those people not having health insurance paid for by someone else deducting it)

    Or else President Obama will suggest a one-sentence law and blame Republicans if they don’t pass it.

    There may be a lack of sincerity here or something in just ignoring this.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  128. MD in Philly,

    There are aspects of this dichotomy that could be simplified into utopian vs. realist, or capitalist vs. socialist, etc. — but none of these quite hit the mark. The key is whether one believes in the limitless possibilities of man to improve his essential nature. Fundamentally, I don’t. The constrained vision is what Sowell calls a “tragic vision” but it is certainly realistic — but it is also much more than that.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  129. My comment at 7:29pm is not a response to any other comment, but simply the result of introspection.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  130. What I find to be such an affront to my spirit, in the two visions, is that it seeks to separate sincerity from fidelity in the way that humanism seeks to separate reason from faith. The truth is, these pairs are intimately involved with one another in the same way that justice and mercy are intimately involved. I hold that all attempts to separate them from one another are affronts to the truth. But that’s just me.

    I did my best to explain it at 7:12 pm. What did you think of my comment there?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  131. My comment at 7:29pm is not a response to any other comment, but simply the result of introspection.

    That’s fine — but I would love to see (while I have no right to demand, of course) a comment that is a response to another comment — namely my comment at 7:12pm.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  132. Carlitos, at 78:

    *laugh*

    One of the reasons i’m able to function as a commenter here is that, while I self-classify as a liberal, I’m sympathetic enough to strands of conservative thought that I’m able to communicate with conservatives. :)

    OTH, this isn’t really measuring liberalism vs. conservatism.

    aphrael (ca6a52)

  133. Patterico: I would describe my view as believing (a) humans have limitless possibilities ti improve our essential nature, but at the same time (b) critical systems should be designed in alignment with the worst-case assumption – eg, they should be designed to handle the worst likely outcome, rather than being designed optimistically. If they’re designed pessimistically, the worst thing happens is they cost too much; if they’re designed optimistically and the optimism turns out to be unwarranted in the specific instance, then the critical system could collapse … which might be fine, except that it’s a *critical system*.

    aphrael (ca6a52)

  134. I think one of my very favorite applications of Sowell’s framework is to the continuing discussion we have over what is wrong with politics. This is question 15. I have found past writings of mine, from well before I ever heard of Sowell’s book, that seem to put me clearly in the constrained camp on this issue. But I think many today argue that the problem is the politicians. And while I do rage against unprincipled politicians from time to time, I think that when I am at my most thoughtful, I see the problem as systemic rather than personality-based.

    I know that many of you disagree. I know you do because I have read what you have said before.

    And I think that will make for a lively discussion.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  135. 124. Utopia is making society perfect, but surely anyone will concede that it is possible to make some things better. They’re not the same thing.

    In medicine for instance, curing every possible illness – and more – would be utopia, but there are more limited things people might be able to do. You could even eliminate smallpox from the world, at least temporarily, at least till maybe someone uses genetic engineering to reintroduce it, and maybe it will be stopped then, too, anyway.

    Maybe you mean there are people that have this idea or they propose things that only make sense if it is a step on the road to utopia.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  136. Patterico: I would describe my view as believing (a) humans have limitless possibilities ti improve our essential nature, but at the same time (b) critical systems should be designed in alignment with the worst-case assumption – eg, they should be designed to handle the worst likely outcome, rather than being designed optimistically. If they’re designed pessimistically, the worst thing happens is they cost too much; if they’re designed optimistically and the optimism turns out to be unwarranted in the specific instance, then the critical system could collapse … which might be fine, except that it’s a *critical system*.

    Sowell says some visions are hybrids. Yours may be.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  137. Question 15.

    15a is the pphilosophy that James Madison articulated in the Federalist, particularly number 10.

    Of course it would be better to elect people who are more principled but I can’t see how someone could propose a general solution, except that you could make it easier to elect principled people or harder to elect unrpinciples ones. (of course that’s not the only criteria, because principled (= sincere) people can be very wrong.

    The only general way of electing more principled people (also more capable people, with better judgement) is to make the process of election more long and drawn out.

    So we should be for long campaigns, with many ways to stop candidates – and also opportunities for new ones to jump in.

    Certainly not deciding things quickly.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  138. A sincere person will lie for a good reason, while a person committed to truth will not. So truthfulness requires sincerity, but not the other way around.

    But I will say this…most political blogs, including this one, fall into the unconstrained category, if one applies the description quoted in 106.

    kishnevi (a5d1b9)

  139. I am more modest in my conceits. I believe humans have the capability to behave better than their natures; that this is the essential distinction between humans and other forms of life; and that it is sufficient for all purposes.

    nk (dbc370)

  140. BTW…to me the constrained vision shows more tolerance for human imperfection and therefore a greater tolerance of insincerity.

    kishnevi (3719b7)

  141. critical systems should be designed in alignment with the worst-case assumption – eg, they should be designed to handle the worst likely outcome, rather than being designed optimistically. If they’re designed pessimistically, the worst thing happens is they cost too much; if they’re designed optimistically and the optimism turns out to be unwarranted in the specific instance, then the critical system could collapse … which might be fine, except that it’s a *critical system*.

    aphrael (ca6a52) — 12/15/2014 @ 7:37 pm

    You’re being so general it’s fairly pointless to argue one side or the other of that. Can you give concrete examples? What are some “critical systems” and what are alternative design philosophies for them? Is the military a critical system?

    Gerald A (d65c67)

  142. but I would love to see (while I have no right to demand, of course) a comment that is a response to another comment — namely my comment at 7:12pm.

    Balko is guilty of separating sincerity from fidelity (to the truth) which is where your problem with him comes in. Sincerity without fidelity is selfishness.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  143. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!

    In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!

    And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.

    SarahW (267b14)

  144. So truthfulness requires sincerity, but not the other way around.

    kishnevi (a5d1b9) — 12/15/2014 @ 7:43 pm

    I like that. I would add that truthfulness requires both sincerity and fidelity. If you lack sincerity you become one of those guys that shakes his enemies hand at the command of a superior. It is not a truthful testament to peace.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  145. 20. 7, 11, 15, 18.

    The most difficult choice for me was about being a proper jurist. I went with “follow the law” because so many jurists abuse the notion of that which is “right.” However, I would most definitely reserve the right to nullification in extreme circumstances.

    Thanks, Pat, for endeavoring to take us on an important and challenging course.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  146. BTW…to me the constrained vision shows more tolerance for human imperfection and therefore a greater tolerance of insincerity.

    I would not characterize it as tolerance, so much as acceptance of the inevitability of a certain amount of insincerity, as a piece of human nature, which does not change. Thus, the constrained vision puts its faith in systemic processes that provide incentives for the insincere to benefit society regardless of their insincerity.

    The businessman may be insincere, but if he makes a product I like, I don’t care. The politician may be insincere, but if he votes to unravel regulations, I am still happy.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  147. Patterico, what you call acceptance I call tolerance. So we agree on that, at least.
    But from I read above, the unconstrained accepts insincerity more than the constrained. Did I misunderstand something, or do I need to wait for your post.

    kishnevi (294553)

  148. Sowell on sincerity and fidelity as aspects of honesty:

    Both sincerity and fidelity can be seen as aspects of honesty–but as very different aspects, weighed differently in the opposing visions. The constrained vision in particular distinguishes sincerity from fidelity to truth: “The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie,” according to J. A. Schumpeter. It is one reason why sincerity is given such light weight in the constrained vision. A modern defense of judicial activism by Alexander Bickel clearly put more weight on sincerity than on fidelity, when it urged that “dissimulation” was “unavoidable” and referred to “statesmanlike deviousness” in the public interest.” When Bickel later turned against judicial activism, he also shifted moral grounds, now emphasizing fidelity over sincerity. It was now “a moral duty” of judges to “obey the manifest constitution,” with improvements being left to the amending process. In both positions, Bickel’s conclusions were consistent with his respective visions.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  149. 145.
    For me the ideal jurist will do his best to get a result that combines both a just outcome and adherence to the law as it stands. Being ideal, this jurist will always achieve that result. :)

    kishnevi (a5d1b9)

  150. By their works you shall know them. So Hitler kept a picture of Henry Ford by his bedside (that’s not a likely story). Ford’s assembly lines rescued millions of black people from segregation South.

    nk (dbc370)

  151. In this context, I think sincerity means earnestness more than truthfulness. Someone can earnestly believe in the merits of their position without caring about the truth of what they say and/or without knowing the truth.

    For instance, on the issue of global warming/climate change: Constrained people want to know whether or not global warming/climate change is true. Unconstrained people earnestly (sincerely) want to do something about global warming/climate — whether or not it’s true — because it could be true.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  152. Being ideal, this jurist will always achieve that result. :)

    This is one reason I think the unconstrained view is more about utopia than liberalism.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  153. So the unconstrained downplays inner honesty (=sincerity) and the unconstrained downplays outer honesty (=truthfulness)?

    In that case, I reject both of Sowell’s options. Both inner and outer honesty are necessary.

    kishnevi (a5d1b9)

  154. NK…brought them to the segregated North is more precise.
    BTW, you do remember that Huxley chose Ford as the ideological focus of his dystopia (“Ford’s in his flivver, akl’s well with the world.”)

    kishnevi (a5d1b9)

  155. For instance, on the issue of global warming/climate change: Constrained people want to know whether or not global warming/climate change is true. Unconstrained people earnestly (sincerely) want to do something about global warming/climate — whether or not it’s true — because it could be true.

    and yet, those who want to do something want to do it all the same way. Few of them want to end global warming by detonating the entirety of the world’s nuclear arsenal in a single day (which was proven by Carl Sagan to work).

    Michael Ejercito (45f52b)

  156. Patterico, I don’t know if you are interested in this, but I found it helpful:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGvYqaxSPp4

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  157. In this context, I think sincerity means earnestness more than truthfulness.

    DRJ, I think that is exactly what Sowell means when he talks about “sincerity.”

    I have drafted my post for tomorrow. It deals with the application of these principles to the rift within the Republican party as to whether to go radical, a la Ted Cruz, or settle for incrementalism, a la MItch McConnell. In typical mealy-mouthed fashion, I argue that the former is an unconstrained position, but one I feel increasing sympathy with as our problems get worse . . . but I also observe that my general philosophy of a constrained vision should cause me to wonder whether my unconstrained views in this area are misguided. In a utopian and therefore rather unconstrained fashion, I also opine that viewing these issues through the prism of Sowell’s dichotomy could help warring Republicans to understand one another better, leading us to a Shangri-La of greater mutual understanding!

    Followed by a postscript saying I am just kidding; nobody will understand each other better at all because of my stupid post.

    There’s your summary. Why bother posting it now?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  158. Patterico:

    The businessman may be insincere, but if he makes a product I like, I don’t care. The politician may be insincere, but if he votes to unravel regulations, I am still happy.

    I see this in theory but I need some help in a practical sense: Most of the time, I can see the product the businessman sells so I don’t care (much) if it’s made by a liberal or a conservative — and the only reason I care at all is because I don’t want to give my money to someone who supports causes I dislike. But it’s harder to see the “product” a politician is selling because all we see are campaign promises + explanations of past actions/decisions that are hard to disprove.

    There was a time when we could look at a politician’s voting record and know whether they voted for or against issues we support. Now bills are so convoluted and confusing that no one even knows what’s in them, let alone what they do or whether they unravel regulations. I think that partly explains why Justin Amash’s explanations of his votes are so appealing.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  159. Simon Jester:

    Beautiful. That is my next post instead. I will put it up tonight once I am done watching the video. Tomorrow’s post will now be part 3. This video will be part 2.

    It seems to summarize the basic ideas well, so far at least — and has the benefit of letting Sowell speak for himself.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  160. I agree with the notion that (in some sense) both sincerity and fidelity can be seen as aspects of honesty – but they are not, in fact, aspects of honesty. Honesty is related to truthfulness in that sincerity and fidelity are critical subsets of honesty as they are in truthfulness. But honesty falls short of truthfulness in that part of the truth is withheld.

    An amorous suitor can be quite honest in professing desire, but still hold back the truth that he belongs to another. In this example, fidelity is place at a distance, if not altogether betrayed.

    I do not impute to Sowell any ill motive in his two visions; he is not trying to separate sincerity from fidelity. No, I think he has aptly identified the root cause of the current tumult, which is, the separation (by appropriation) of sincerity from fidelity. This, of course is only my opinion which is entirely dependent on what has been patiently explained to me on this thread.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  161. Direct and decisive mercenary killer Othello did as much harm as thoughtful and indecisive noble Hamlet. (Thank you, SarahW.) They both behaved according to their natures, when it would have been better for all concerned if they had not to their own selves been true.

    nk (dbc370)

  162. And here I thought “Out damned spot!” was meant to put out the dog! Oh, wait, that is the Scottish play.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  163. If we’re telegraphing our positions tonight on tomorrow’s post regarding Cruz vs McConnell, then here goes:

    I don’t think it’s radical to respond to unconstrained policy changes with a return to the constrained status quo, and I think that’s what Cruz is trying to do. In this situation, McConnell’s incrementalism is unconstrained because it effectively embraces utopian/socialist principles instead of capitalism. (And that goes double for John Roberts “traditional incrementalism” in the ObamaCare decision.)

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  164. Cruz is most definitely well past a constrained philosophy. Things are so fundamentally broken that they need to be blown up. I’m with him.

    Lincoln walked a similar path once the war was forced upon him.

    “War” is not here, but it IS coming. I choose to not be a Whig.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  165. As I understand the implications of this discussion, if you start with the premise that government knows better how to run things than individuals going about their daily lives, then you may be an unconstrained person — and your positions and votes will focus on perfecting government. I think this is what Obama, Pelosi, Reid, McConnell, Boehner, et al, believe.

    If you start with the premise that individuals going about their daily lives works better than government, then you may be a constrained person — and your positions and votes will focus on freeing individuals from government regulations. I think this is what Cruz, Lee and many of us believe.

    Politicians’ and voters’ policies typically reflect one of these premises. I don’t think the issue is incrementalism vs radicalism in tactics, but the underlying policies. If that’s correct, then Cruz’s premises and policies are constrained, whether or not he’s seen as radical in how he achieves his goals. Similarly, McConnell’s (and many other politicians’) policies are unconstrained because they accept the premise that government is the solution, even if they use incremental acts to achieve their goals.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  166. Maybe you mean there are people that have this idea or they propose things that only make sense if it is a step on the road to utopia.
    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f) — 12/15/2014 @ 7:38 pm

    An unconstrained utopianist will say the government should take over a nation’s health care system because they say they will make it more fair for everyone.
    The constrained realist realizes there are things one can do to make the system better, but putting the government in charge of who lives and who dies is not a good idea.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  167. PS — For those who think politicians like McConnell are constrained, he may campaign on fewer government regulations but he doesn’t govern that way.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  168. I agree with that.

    However, the process may be different than the policy.

    Accepting a trade-off is more constrained than staying home to teach the party a lesson.

    Would Sowell vote for John McCain? Watch the video in my most recent post.

    Patterico (b696b3)

  169. a. I prefer decisions made according to tradition, which reflects human wisdom collected over time, to relying on a “new approach” by a select few.
    b. I prefer decisions to be made according to human reason applied to our problems, and tend not to pay respect to a custom or tradition simply because that’s how people have done something for a long time.

    To answer that question, one should sonsider Loveland Pass.

    Loveland pass is a mountain pass through the front range of the Colorado Rockies. It was used as the primary route across those mountains for thousands of years. U.S. Route 6 was constructed through that pass.

    But then Eisenhower Tunnel was built in 1973, and became the primary route through the mountains.

    Clearly, Loveland Pass was the traditional route. Eisenhower Tunnel was the new approach.

    And yet, why was it built in 1973? why not 1963, 1863, or 1863 B.C.?

    it seems to me, that to justify abandoning tradition, we have to ask three things.

    * Why was it done this way in the first place?
    * why has not the alternative been done before?
    * How is the alternative better now?

    Michael Ejercito (45f52b)

  170. I know Sowell would vote for McCain but isn’t that a question for voters, not for politicians like Cruz or McConnell? The question for them is how far should they go to teach their party a lesson — is unquestioned loyalty to the party more important to loyalty to the voters they represent? The answer to me is obvious.

    Also, I’m not sure the tactics (process) a politician uses tells us whether he is constrained or unconstrained. IMO the trade-off is at the policy level, not the tactics.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  171. The unconstrained view is more about utopia than classical liberalism. Liberalism as it first appeared was about individuals and freedom, and it wasn’t based on the perfection of the human animal. The current use of the word as an alternative for Democrat initiatives is an abomination. It is an example of the Republican’s inability to wage a war for the hearts and minds. They have let the language be suborned and now they can’t find the right words to make their case. Let alone candidates who have a passing familiarity with Sowell or our country’s heritage.

    The idea that National Socialism (the Nazi party) is on the right while communism is on the left is another example of undermining the language. The Nazi’s were socialists who didn’t conform to the “international” communist movement which was another name for the Soviet Union. Hence National Socialism. That was the big difference between Nazism and communism, it did not take orders from Moscow. This was just fine with the communists and socialists in our country right up to the moment that the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, whereupon the right-left distinction we take for granted was created. And this served to discredit conservatives since they were also considered to be on the right. It was guilt by a misplaced association. Mussolini was pretty much a side show, and didn’t contribute to the ideological wars other than to demonstrate that tyranny was to be preferred over anarchy … he made the trains run on time.

    bobathome (348c8a)

  172. I know Sowell would vote for McCain but isn’t that a question for voters, not for politicians like Cruz or McConnell? The question for them is how far should they go to teach their party a lesson — is unquestioned loyalty to the party more important to loyalty to the voters they represent? The answer to me is obvious.

    Also, I’m not sure the tactics (process) a politician uses tells us whether he is constrained or unconstrained. IMO the trade-off is at the policy level, not the tactics.

    Well, I’m talking about the voter’s choice, but you raise an interesting issue about the politician’s tactics as well.

    Stick with the voter’s choice initially, since that’s what I meant. I think the constrained view says, human nature is unchanging, and politicians who work within our system are bound to be influenced by the incentives created to get re-elected.

    So take an easy case: we’re past the primaries. Vote for McCain, or stay home to teach the party a lesson? I think the constrained view is to vote for McCain.

    To a lesser degree, if you have a candidate that better represents your views but you think has no chance of winning, vs. one who could win the general easily and advance your views marginally, but not as faithfully, which do you choose? Again, I think the constrained vision counsels in favor of the latter.

    Doesn’t make it right. I have advocated the former before.

    I think I have even disagreed with Sowell on these issues. But it helps me see where he is coming from.

    I may have to amend my post to reflect these thoughts.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  173. I agree with you and Sowell that voters should make the least bad choice in each election. But I don’t think voters have to make that choice before the primary is over, let alone before it’s even begun.

    And re: your slavery point, here’s another view that I think is interesting. I’m not smart enough to know if it’s right but it’s interesting.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  174. The American Revolution is one reason I’m making a point of tactics (process) vs policies (substance). I think the Founders would be fairly described as constrained but their tactics — revolution — were very radical. Thus, unless I’m completely misunderstanding Sowell (and that’s possible), I don’t think radicalism in tactics is how we decide whether someone is constrained or unconstrained.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  175. Patterico:

    So take an easy case: we’re past the primaries. Vote for McCain, or stay home to teach the party a lesson? I think the constrained view is to vote for McCain.

    To a lesser degree, if you have a candidate that better represents your views but you think has no chance of winning, vs. one who could win the general easily and advance your views marginally, but not as faithfully, which do you choose? Again, I think the constrained vision counsels in favor of the latter.

    I think the only reason to consider a vote for McCain as constrained is if you believed the system could still be saved. But for voters who believed the system had reached the point of no return, then voting for anyone would have been an unconstrained vote for big government.

    FWIW I’m not there yet but I’m certainly closer to that than I was in 2008 or 2012.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  176. Fascinating. I just re-read three of my posts excoriating Sowell for criticizing Cruz’s radical tactics. Here, here, and here.

    I thought I was right when I wrote those posts. I just re-read them and I still think I’m right.

    But Thomas Sowell, in those columns, makes the exact same point that he makes in the video that I just linked in the last post: that people who think you can let the other side win and then capitalize on the backlash are like the Nazis who said the same thing about Hitler. Many of them died in the concentration camps, he says. In the video, he offers that as a reason to vote against Obama and for McCain. In his anti-Cruz columns, he offers them as a reason to oppose Cruz . . . because Cruz, by calling out Republicans, was making their re-election chances more difficult, and thus imperiled Republicans’ ability to retake the Senate and the Presidency and effect real change.

    DRJ, you and I might favor radical tactics in favor of a constrained policy, and because in this dichotomy “unconstrained” sounds Pollyanna-ish and silly, I can understand wanting to argue that our position is constrained.

    Maybe it is. But 1) Sowell doesn’t seem to think so, based on my reading of his anti-Cruz columns, and 2) I note that in my posts attacking Sowell, I resort to the rhetoric of “principle” more often.

    Which is interesting, in and of itself, isn’t it?

    I’m not saying your wrong, and indeed, I am still reading the book.

    It’s all worth thinking about though.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  177. I think the only reason to consider a vote for McCain as constrained is if you believed the system could still be saved. But for voters who believed the system had reached the point of no return, then voting for anyone would have been an unconstrained vote for big government.

    Exactly. What’s interesting is that Sowell uses the exact argument of reaching a point of no return as an argument against allowing Obama to get in. It’s the same rhetoric but used for different ends.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  178. Patterico:

    In his anti-Cruz columns, he offers them as a reason to oppose Cruz . . . because Cruz, by calling out Republicans, was making their re-election chances more difficult, and thus imperiled Republicans’ ability to retake the Senate and the Presidency and effect real change

    I’m not saying Sowell is right or wrong, but I view this as a judgment call. Not standing up to Obama and his policies could also imperil Republicans’ ability to win. I think doing nothing is the path to losing, and others disagree.

    Just because he wants something to be so doesn’t make it so.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  179. Put another way, just because everyone he knows thinks Cruz’s actions hurt the GOP doesn’t make it so. He could be channeling Pauline Kael.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  180. 20-25 out of 100: 2a, 8b, 12b, 14a, probably 20a.

    8b is not so much “Patriotism? who cares about that?” as the conviction that there is one higher law and one Higher Power, to which all human allegiance must bow.
    (2a is similar logic.)
    12b: I see no logic to distinguishing the business from its owners for this purpose; I do not mean to imply that the government should be involved in any way, as it seems to have less understanding of needs than any other party (and if it does understand needs well enough to have a hope of solving them, it gains an interest in the perpetuation of those needs).
    20 is not something I have a strong opinion on, but I don’t want to postpone all analysis till we see how much of a mess has happened.

    Ibidem (541300)

  181. I know Kael’s real quote is different but it’s still fun to trot out the other one.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  182. It’s a judgment call where I come down on Cruz’s side . . . but I think — I say I think — Sowell sees the radical tactics as silly and (yes) unconstrained. He is wrong about the former, I believe. Not as sure about the latter.

    Busy incorporating all these thoughts into what is now a very unwieldy and even more mealy-mouthed, but hopefully interesting, post on all this — coming in the morning. Maybe I will schedule it for midnight if I can finish it in the next couple of minutes.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  183. Patterico:

    But Thomas Sowell, in those columns, makes the exact same point that he makes in the video that I just linked in the last post: that people who think you can let the other side win and then capitalize on the backlash are like the Nazis who said the same thing about Hitler. Many of them died in the concentration camps, he says. In the video, he offers that as a reason to vote against Obama and for McCain.

    That’s an interesting analogy since there is evidence the wealthy were Hitler’s strongest voters and supporters.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  184. Ben Howe on Sowell’s Nazi analogy.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  185. Ted Cruz’s response to Sowell:

    “The great Thomas Sowell – I admire and respect,” Cruz said. “Listen, I have read his works all my life and he is a fantastic thinker. And I actually agree with just about everything he says except that unfortunately congressional leadership in the Senate, you have got to pick some battles to fight. I believe in picking your battles. I don’t believe we need to fight on everything. I think we need to fight on issues that matter. There have been two significant battles that I think we really should have fought on that I tried to fight on as much as possible.”

    “They were number one, ObamaCare, the most disastrous law hurting millions across this country,” he continued. “And number two, the debt ceiling, because we’re bankrupting our kids and grandkids. And he said — Mr. Sowell said you should fight on fights we can win. I agree and if Republicans had stood on the debt ceiling — we had the votes to insist on meaningful spending reforms. And in fact, just a few years ago, Congress used the debt ceiling to get the Budget Control Act and we did that with Barack Obama as president and Harry Reid as majority leader. If we showed the same resoluteness now than we did then, we could have gotten spending reforms. Unfortunately, we just rolled over instead.”

    I believe Sowell thinks there is time to right the ship. Ted Cruz and I and people like us think we’re quickly running out of time.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  186. @Patterico: I think it is well to remember that every conservative is too conservative, until they are dead. I see no evidence that moderates are winning races; the media never portrays an electable conservative as a moderate during the election.

    Remember in 2000 when McCain was the good, non-loony conservative? And then what was he painted as in 2008?

    The people giving the Republicans advice not to nominate people who are too conservative are largely media types who either want Republicans to lose, or associate with people who do.

    Remember John Huntsman? Or how Charlie Crist switched parties after he lost the primary to Mark Rubio? And when Dede Scozzaafava lost to Scott Brown–who was portrayed as a threat to uteruses everywhere then–she promptly endorsed the Democrat?

    Try to remember that politicians are lizard people; a separate class with separate interests divergent from yours.

    Maybe we should vote for the ones that aren’t like the others.

    Gabriel Hanna (dcffe4)

  187. Done with my post. It’s a long one. Goes up at midnight.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  188. While I’m ranting, I don’t think the GOP leaders hate Cruz because he stands up to them. Every politician does that at times, if only for show. The GOP leaders hate Cruz because he’s good at standing up to them. His actions and words resonate with people and are a threat to the leadership’s success and power.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  189. I look forward to reading it, Patterico, and it’s been interesting to talk to you about this.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  190. Try to remember that politicians are lizard people; a separate class with separate interests divergent from yours.

    On the one hand, I think they are just people, like other people.

    On the other hand, please remember that I agree Cruz has been doing the right thing.

    I try to reconcile all this in my giant post, and probably fail. If anything, it’s a discussion-starter. For anyone who makes it through the whole thing.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  191. I look forward to reading it, Patterico, and it’s been interesting to talk to you about this.

    Likewise!

    Patterico (9c670f)

  192. Gabriel Hanna:

    Try to remember that politicians are lizard people; a separate class with separate interests divergent from yours.

    My Congressman holds a minor leadership role and sometimes he has a hard time reconciling his leadership position with his constituents’ wishes, so he ends up favoring the former over the latter. That happens because he’s a self-centered human, not because he’s an alien being or a lizard person.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  193. Ted Cruz’s crime is that he is demonstrating the incompetence and lack of leadership and initiative that has characterized Republican efforts in both houses of Congress. If we are to win this battle with progressive authoritarianism we need to have great leaders. Boehner and McConnell are mediocrities in the battle-space where this war will be fought. Cruz’s actions suggest that much more could be done even now, although Cruz is not in a position to make the effort effective.

    In the early 80’s Reagan “shut down” the government when he refused to sign budgets and other bills. The Democrat House and Senate were held to be blameless. Looking ahead to next year, the Senate and the House need to be laying the ground work so that responsibility for the shut down can be laid at Obola’s door. This latest $1.1T bill could have served a very useful purpose if it’s last minute additions could have seen the light of day. I thought Senator Lee’s remarks before the Senate were educational, and if he had been one of a chorus of 45 voices, it would have made a difference. The current leadership seems to assume that the road to success is to politely and passively impede our headlong rush into oblivion. I think much more will be required, and it may not be pretty. And it will require a great deal of preparation. Sowell’s disappointment in Boehner as he rushed past the reporters after failing to get some reasonable compromise from the administration is an example of what is wrong with our current brain trust.

    bobathome (348c8a)

  194. Here’s a good example of why radical tactics to get back to a constrained view is desirable, however you term it: surely Thomas Sowell would favor overruling Roe v. Wade (as I do).

    Radical? In one sense, yes. In another sense, it’s the clearest example I can think of, of a return to a true constitutionalist vision.

    It would be the right thing to do. Constrained or unconstrained? I guess that’s debatable. I’d have to think about it. I tend to think, as a reversal of unconstrained activism, it would be constrained. And maybe that’s the right way to look at shutting down the government over ObamaCare, too.

    Patterico (b696b3)

  195. My Congressman holds a minor leadership role and sometimes he has a hard time reconciling his leadership position with his constituents’ wishes, so he ends up favoring the former over the latter. That happens because he’s a self-centered human, not because he’s an alien being or a lizard person.

    Right. And I’m sure he rationalizes it as follows: why, having someone in the leadership is good for your district! It’s a trade-off!

    See how these terms can be manipulated?

    But in truth, fidelity to his role within the party would be a constrained-vision virtue for Sowell. And if that is accomplished by votes for an unconstrained vision of big government, then we have another instance of that policy/tactics tension we have been discussing with respect to the GOP civil war.

    Patterico (b696b3)

  196. If I foster rebellion against an unconstrained government in order to institute one which will strictly adhere to plain meaning of words in the law, and will similarly be constrained to exceedingly limited growth and a bare minimum regulatory and taxation regime, am I the embodiment of constraint, or am I the opposite?

    If I am an avowed statist in a statist regime who will change any position and/or interpretation necessary to maintain the current power, am I constraining, or am I the opposite?

    I fully grant I may be missing hge elements of this question. Yet, does the question largely revolve around the maintaining of the status quo, regardless how chaotic it may be?

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  197. Christian morality – though I am not much of a Christian – circumscribes my world view, which is predominately constrained. The unconstrained view runs afoul of many traditional Christian prohibitions, including dishonesty, envy, and pride (especially pride).

    “The GOP leaders hate Cruz because he’s good at standing up to them.” How true. Thanks DRJ. Oddly, I think the left also hates Cruz because he’s good at standing up to the otherwise compliant GOP.

    ThOR (130453)

  198. I appreciate Sowell’s theory, and I admire his books. (I especially like his book about his late-talking son, but his political and economic books are also excellent.) On the surface, there seems to be an ambiguity in his unconstrained-constrained argument that Patterico has highlighted in his comments. But I wonder if Sowell’s theory breaks down when he treats as fact things that aren’t known or knowable, e.g., things like whether Cruz’s actions help or hurt the GOP. If so, I don’t think it undermines his theory. It only means he’s making assumptions that may or may not be true.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  199. Patterico:

    Right. And I’m sure he rationalizes it as follows: why, having someone in the leadership is good for your district! It’s a trade-off!

    See how these terms can be manipulated?

    Exactly. Well said.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  200. Patterico:

    But in truth, fidelity to his role within the party would be a constrained-vision virtue for Sowell. And if that is accomplished by votes for an unconstrained vision of big government, then we have another instance of that policy/tactics tension we have been discussing with respect to the GOP civil war.

    But wouldn’t that mean the interests of the Party will always trump the interests of individuals? I don’t see how that can be constrained according to Sowell, unless to him constrained means entrenched interests should always prevail.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  201. Or maybe Sowell believes the GOP is the best political representative of constrained interests. If so, I think he’s making an assumption that is not based on facts. The GOP may be the party that traditionally favors smaller government but that doesn’t mean every Republican does.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  202. 185. I read somewhere in the past week paying off the debt is now mathematically impossible.

    It has not been plausible for some time. In an era of deflation, such as Japan has been experiencing since the mid-nineties, debt worsens dramatically because income shrinks.

    The cavalry is not on the way.

    DNF (7b206c)

  203. 10 points: 4 and 18

    TG (0c10e8)

  204. 176. Patterico about Sowell:

    that people who think you can let the other side win and then capitalize on the backlash are like the Nazis who said the same thing about Hitler. Many of them died in the concentration camps, he says.

    I think you mean non-Nazis. There weren’t actually many like that. There were German Nationalists who thought they could control Hitler, because after all, he had been started as someone else’s political tool, or so they thought.

    By the way, I think you silently corrected #106 after I pointed out there was something wrong with the Burke quotation.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  205. 169. Michael Ejercito (45f52b) — 12/15/2014 @ 9:47 pm

    re: Eisenhower Tunnel vs Loveland Pass.

    * Why was it done this way in the first place?
    * why has not the alternative been done before?

    The answrrt to both of them wa sthat it wasn’t possible.

    * How is the alternative better now?

    The trip takes less time – plus there is the element of “pork barrel” spending/jobs.

    They also wanted a highway.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  206. 179. DRJ (a83b8b) — 12/15/2014 @ 10:30 pm

    Put another way, just because everyone he knows thinks Cruz’s actions hurt the GOP doesn’t make it so.

    It doesn’t hurt the GOP, or doesn’t by itself. If everyone were to follow him, it might, because it might make the Republican Party look be unreasonable.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  207. kishnevi @149.

    For me the ideal jurist will do his best to get a result that combines both a just outcome and adherence to the law as it stands. Being ideal, this jurist will always achieve that result.

    By thinking hard, a jurist could probably do this more often than you think.

    This works because he can always fall back on original intent, and original intent, in most cases, is more likely to be just. And there are cnflicting principles.

    Sammy Finkelman (8bd44f)

  208. I scored a 55. Interesting. I see that carlitos scored a 40 and aphrael a 45. Did anyone else score higher than a 25? I didn’t see.

    Leviticus (f9a067)

  209. The key is whether one believes in the limitless possibilities of man to improve his essential nature. Fundamentally, I don’t. The constrained vision is what Sowell calls a “tragic vision” but it is certainly realistic — but it is also much more than that.

    Hmmm. I believe that there’s an infinite amount of improvement available to man’s essential nature (whatever that is) until the eschaton when the universe will be changed. I also believe that very few make any meaningful steps in achieving those improvements (for either their personal lives or mankind in general); more — although still few — attempt to make changes and fail. I believe some are aware of the possibilities and dream of changes, and by far and away most are unaware of even the possibilities of improvement. (I classify myself as attempting and failing, btw; the good part of that is that if you’re failing then you’ve been trying, and can try again.)

    So am I constrained or unconstrained? Or am I — probably the case — completely missing the point? That I expect most of my attempts to change to fail does not remove the possibility of my success, however slight it may be. Society, itself, puts constraints on me; in that sense we are all constrained. The uncaged eagle flies freely over the mountains and is still constrained by gravity and the atmosphere.

    htom (9b625a)

  210. 5, #14

    Roy in Nipomo (8c3b61)

  211. I scored a 40, FWIW

    Eric in Hollywood (3c9b7f)

  212. 35

    School Marm (e30dcc)

  213. Very interesting stuff, Patterico. This is your blog at its best.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  214. I scored a 55. Interesting. I see that carlitos scored a 40 and aphrael a 45. Did anyone else score higher than a 25? I didn’t see.

    Leviticus (f9a067) — 12/16/2014 @ 7:53 am

    You’re an unrestrained pinko commie, I think.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  215. I was sensitized to the underlying concept by reading your short summary post (after part III) before taking the quiz. I scored 0, but even if I hadn’t been sensitized I don’t think I would have scored more than 10 or 15 at the most.

    Ken in Camarillo (2c0dee)

  216. Patterico,

    I scored a 5. Number 19 was where I differed from the list of answers. But I agree with some of the other commenters here that some of the questions were a bit obtuse. Example:

    12.
    a. Businessmen should engage in business activities, which is what they know best, and should not donate profits to charity, which is not within their area of expertise. Charity should come from private individuals and not businesses.
    b. Businessmen make enough money that they should give back to society, which includes making donations to charities and doing good works.

    It would have been clearer if the subject were “businesses” here instead of businessmen. Are not businessmen individuals?

    That said, apparently I’m a knuckle dragging constrainista. I agree that Sowell is one of the greatest thinkers and clearest expositors of human behaviors, and where they lead, in our time.

    Thanks for what you do as well. I enjoy stopping by to read your writings from time to time.

    Verde (2b96b9)


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