The Conservative, the Progressive, and the Masonomist
By Arnold Kling
Insofar as I am conservative (debatable) I would rewrite the definition:
A realization that we will do best by building on the strengths of the particular habits, mores and institutions of the United States (and other successful nations) rather than trying to reshape the nation radically in the pursuit of particular ideological goals.
I know conservatives, I have attended symposia with conservatives, and Tyler Cowen is no conservative. The differences among conservatives, progressives, and Masonomists can be summarized concisely as follows:
|Label||Change||Decentralized, Unplanned Human Activity|
The core belief of conservatives is that we are going to hell in a handbasket. Depending on who you talk to, this has been happening since the 1960’s, or since the French Revolution, or since the fall of the Roman Empire, or since ___. Depending on who you talk to, our problem is that we have forgotten the teachings of Ronald Reagan, or those of the Founding Fathers, or those of Jesus, or those of Plato, or those of ___.
Tyler’s phrase “build on strengths” is anti-conservative. It implies that it is possible to move forward, when conservatives believe that all movement is backward.
The core belief of progressives is that ordinary people need to be told what to do for their own good. Progressives embrace change that is conceived and managed by experts, especially if it is grounded in science. In the 20th century, the relevant scientific apparatus included eugenics, Keynesianism, and Bergson-Samuelson social welfare calculus. Today, the relevant scientific apparatus includes climate science and behavioral economics, the latter embraced with enthusiasm by CBO Director Peter Orszag and by key economic advisers to Senator Obama.
The core belief of Masonomists is in spontaneous order. We embrace change that emerges from an evolutionary, trial-and-error process. We trust the process of entrepreneurial creative destruction, market solutions to market failure, and technological progress. What we distrust is central planning by experts. And I am sure that Pete Boettke would want to remind me of our intellectual debts to Austrian economists.