Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thomas Sowell on Vision

Thomas Sowell has two books with similar themes, but both are worth reading, this one and that one.

Anyway, this came up with respect to Harold Myerson, who is so far beyond self-caricature that he has actually created his own reality.  That reality transcends logic and evidence and simply allows HM to make pronouncements based on metaphors that amuse him.  The applicability of these metaphors is completely beside the point.  I'm thinking of this screed, or perhaps this bizarre and fact-free squib, cited here.

What Sowell said was a general remark, but it is an apt description of HM.

What all the [ideological crusades of the twentieth-century] have in common is their moral exaltation of the anointed above others, who are to have their very different views nullified and superseded by the views of the anointed, imposed via the power of government....

[S]everal key elements have been common to most of them: 
1. Assertions of a great danger to the whole of society, a danger to which the masses of people are oblivious. 
2. An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe. 
3. A need for government to drastically curtail the dangerous behavior of the many, in response to the prescient conclusions of the few. 
4. A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes....(p.5) 

What is remarkable is how few arguments are really engaged in, and how many substitutes for arguments there are. This vision so permeates the media and academia, and has made such major inroads into the religious community, that many grow into adulthood unaware that there is any other way of looking at things, or that evidence might be relevant to checking out the sweeping assumptions of so-called "thinking people". Many of these "thinking people" could more accurately be characterized as articulate people, as people whose verbal nimbleness can elude both evidence and logic. This can be a fatal talent, when it supplies the crucial insulation from reality behind many historic catastrophes. (p. 6) 

And, to be fair, this is a fine description of plenty of neocon ideological crusades, also.  "National greatness" and "the ownership society" and...well, it's not just the left, by any means.  It's just that the fantasies of the right don't get echoed quite as much in the halls of academe, or the (now nearly empty) press rooms.

Nod to WH


Jeff said...

"Harold Meyerson...Writes a weekly political and domestic affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog."

Building a giant wall around the South east for its anti-liberal attitudes is a post-partisan idea? I'd hate to see what his real partisan plans are!

Thomas W said...

You're right about the description applying to all ideologies. When I read Dr. Sowell's "Applied economics" I was struck by the chapter on immigration. Gone were the reasoned economic arguments. His anti-immigration (at least, illegal immigration) arguments used the same techniques he had criticized Ralph Nader for using in the previous chapter.

For the most part I agree with Thomas Sowell but I found his take on immigration to be a departure from reasoned economics into the realm of partisan politics.