By Arnold Kling
Liberty is best loved when it is loved because it is good — because it makes possible a rightful order. Liberty is neglected when it is loved merely because it’s what we, the folks in these parts, happen to tell each other we love. An ongoing culture of liberty certainly makes us readier to grasp liberty’s real worth. But a culture in which the love of freedom is too easily confused with an admiration of martial virtue is a culture likely to find itself sooner or later at war with some imagined enemy and its own liberal values.
I believe that people seek in politics some emotional gratification. Masonomics would say that it’s mostly about group status–you want to feel part of a group that is doing well in terms of relative status. But there can be other things as well–it could be a desire for “transcendence” in Deirdre McCloskey’s terms.
Where emotional politics clearly goes wrong can be in people getting emotional about the wrong things, people getting overly emotional, or people combining emotions with arrogance.
Last night I was at an event where the speaker waxed optimistic about the Republican Party, but several of us pointed to the divisions between the elites or moderates or libertarians and the party’s base. Someone who was defending the Tea Party movement said that they are the sort that carries a copy of the Constitution with them at all times. Well, yes, but they are also emotional about “securing the borders” and “energy independence,” two crusades that don’t resonate with libertarians.
Goldberg throws this at Wilkinson:
Wilkinson’s mockery wouldn’t be possible if thousands of Americans hadn’t died in an effort to defend his right to mock. He may think Marines leap on grenades and charge machine-gun nests out of a deep and abiding respect for Lockean contracts, but I think the evidence breaks against him.
So, soldiers are not inspired by copies of the Constitution in their pockets but by a drive to protect their friends and families from aliens.
I will stick with my position that the Tea Partiers make me a bit nervous, but the Progressives make me terrified. Both are too emotional for my taste. But it’s the combination of emotionalism and hubris that is most toxic.