Saturday, February 26, 2005

Who's Dogmatic Now?

To keep up with the blog world, I thought it was time that I commented on Jonathan Chait's article, "Fact Finders", from the New Republic. It's been well-examined already (here by Jane Galt, and deliciously, here by Will Wilkinson), but why not add a little into the fray?

This is one of the most self-congratulatory and self-rightous pieces of "journalism" I've ever read, and pretty much sums up a lot of the lack of comfort I have with the left these days (not that there isn't a lot to be found in the National Review or the Weekly Standard that make me just as uncomfortable with the right). First off, to claim that the most important distinction between liberalism and conservatism is the liberals' focus on pragmatism seems to me to bring the debate down to a level that makes it almost impossible to discuss intellectually. And clearly, the set of standards you are using to measure "success" are going to determine whether or not a policy is successful - if the goal is to reduce the size of government, then a policy that achieves that objective is pragmatically, a suceess. It may not be a success from Chait's, or others, point of view because they are bringing in different objectives.

I'd also take issue with the statement that liberals are more likely to change their position than conservatives. No doubt, there are some extremely stubborn conservatives, but I don't think liberals have a monoply on virtue in this regard. Liberals are just as likely to ignore imperical evidence when it goes against their grain, as seen in their continued commitment to the status quo strategy in the war on poverty, etc... that doesn't seem to be bringing home much in the way of results.

For more on this, check out Julian Sanchez's piece on Chait's article. He can do it much better than I can.


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