I Heart Steven Pinker
By Arnold Kling
Recently, he took on George Lakoff, and he got off this one-liner:
One can just imagine the howls of ridicule if a politician took Lakoff’s Orwellian advice tried to rebrand “taxes” as “membership fees.” …If you choose not to pay a membership fee, the organization will stop providing you with its services. But if you choose not to pay taxes, men with guns will put you in jail.
He goes on to say,
The standard analysis sees the political right as having a tragic vision in which human nature is permanently afflicted by limitations of knowledge, wisdom, and virtue, and the political right (sic) having a utopian vision in which human nature is naturally innocent, but corrupted by defective social institutions and perfectible by reformed ones.
The right therefore has an affinity for market economies, both because people will always be more motivated to work for themselves and their families than for something called “society,” and because no planner has the wisdom, information, and disinterest to run an economy from the top down…And since we are always teetering on the brink of barbarism, social traditions in a functioning society should be respected as time-tested workarounds for the shortcomings of an unchanging human nature, as applicable today as when they developed, even if no one can explain their rationale.
Positive freedom (“freedom to”) is the right of people to the prerequisites that enable them to act as they please, such as food, health, and education. The concept [is] far more problematic than negative freedom, because human wants are infinite, and because many of them can only be satisfied through the efforts of other humans. The idea that people have a right to paid vacations, central heating, and a college education, for example, would have been unthinkable throughout most of human history…my freedom to have my teeth fixed impinges on my dentist’s freedom to sit at home and read the paper.