Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Two Great Books

A Redstate thread: Two great books for the summer by two of the best conservative thinkers and writers today, Thomas Sowell and Mark Steyn. The article lauds Sowell's fact-based debunking of economic fallacies:

Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies may be the second most important book of the century. It is a brilliant work of popular scholarship, as Dr. Sowell systematically destroys the fallacious assumptions underlying so much harm that the socialist-liberal worldview has caused.

It further points us to a 'facts, not ideology' view of how to advance conservative ideals:
We can argue against things like rent control, not because they offend our ideology of the free market, but because they do not work. We can argue against transfer payments to third world countries, not because they offend some ideology of not supporting dictators, but because they do not work.

In other words, we can and should make pragmatism as our central political philosophy: Does it work? is the first and last question we will ask.

At the hands of political operatives who have forgotten the 'vision' thing, or never had a freedom-focussed limited-Government vision in the first place, Republicans have lost their limited-Government pro-freedom conservative voice. At times like this, it is good to get back to basics. As on commenter on the thread put it:
"The difference between the conservative position and the liberal position, in short, is that ours is about Results, while theirs is about Good Intentions."

Freedom works!


mcblogger said...

Uhm... these statements of reality as principles of conservatism are pretty funny.

I'm always amused when folks assert that one ideology or the other has a lock on reality.

Anonymous said...

mcblogger: That's a fair retort, all ideologies are fallible yet claim to speak for reality; I've seen many liberal tout that they are 'reality-based' while spouting off highly arguable non-reality-based things.

But you'd have to look at the context of the discussion, which goes back to Sowell's presentation - fact-based and not really ideological at all in the usual sense. Sowell's just telling it like it is. It's not just "We are right, they are wrong" assertions, it's more "We can point to the record of experience that makes our case" where that record of experience shows continued failures of Government intervention, socialism, affirmative action, etc.

The fact is that conservatism and pragmatism have much in common. You look at the neo-conservative critique of 60s liberalism, its all about the simple fact-based case that liberal ideals fail when implemented - there was even a book called "The Cost of Good Intentions" that went into that.

The Sowell book is about economic facts that are too inconvenient or mundane to get remembered when we try to fix what is broken, and fall prey to the illusions of 'hope' over 'experience'. As Reagan liked to say "Facts are stubborn things."

There are those who in fact assert that conservatism is not even an ideology. Russel Kirk for example.
This has some appeal, since conservatism is rooted in the American tradition and the American tradition is God-fearing, freedom-loving and ... pragmatic.
If it works, do it; if it doesnt work, drop it.

Now you can reread my comment on Johnson High School and Reagan's quote and you can see that theme. When in comes to Govt, we feed failure not success.

The further lesson for conservatives is to stay true to this pragmatic tradition, dont fall prey to spin from either side, and stick with what works.

MJSamuelson said...

Another good book to read this summer: Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Takes apart the history of fascism and boy, it's damning.