From the weekend's op-ed pages
1. Ross Douthat speculates that technological advances could change us from civil societarians to meek subjects of an all-powerful state.
2. Chris Mooney talks about personality traits as determinants of ideology. I think that many people will walk away from this piece with the view that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that the former are open-minded and the latter are not. I believe the research that says that liberals are more open to new experiences (the “O” in the OCEAN typology). I am not ready to say that liberals are more open-minded in the full sense of the term. Until I see evidence to the contrary, my presumption is that liberals are as subject as conservatives are to confirmation bias and tribalism (where ideological affinity is the criterion for tribal membership).
I could be wrong, but I actually think that conservatism has an easier time handling dissent than liberalism. If your view is that there is a social good and that “we” know how to achieve it, at some point your willingness to put up with people who do not share your views becomes limited. For example, if someone wants to do without so-called health insurance, it is hard to be open-minded about it if you think their choice contributes to market failure.
Speaking of tribalism, Colin Woodard reviews the latest book from Edward O. Wilson.
He builds a case for religion as a byproduct of human evolution, a mechanism for defining and uniting the tribe. As such, it has become “an unseen trap unavoidable during the biological history of our species,”facilitating submission not to God but “to no more than a tribe united by a creation myth.” Our species, Wilson says, deserves better, and he makes a case that morality and honor are also part of our peculiar evolutionary heritage and, thus, can stand on their own.
“A good first step for the liberation of humanity from the oppressive forms of tribalism would be to repudiate, respectfully, the claims of those in power who claim they speak for God, are a special representative of God, or have exclusive knowledge of God’s divine will,” he advises, and he includes in that group purveyors of “dogmatic political ideologies based on unchallengeable precepts, left and right.” Rounding out this view, he adds: “Their leaders may mean well. But humanity has suffered enough from grossly inaccurate history told by mistaken prophets.”
In the preceding paragraph, substituting “society” for “God” and “politicians” for “prophets” will take you a fair way toward stating my case for leaning libertarian.