Monday, June 16, 2014

Say it ain't so, Charles Blow.

Charles Blow is a stats guy.  Usually, stats guys run rings around theory guys, like me, because we have our heads in the clouds.  Stats guys are grounded in reality.  But once in a while theory guys need to take the lead because stats guys provide an inadequate framing of what's at stake.  This is one of those times.

In his most recent column, Dangerous Divisiveness, much of what Blow writes I agree with.  But then he writes:

This is a mistake.  What we must do instead is to produce a coherent narrative.  In this narrative each of the issues listed above, and many other issues too such as how to get the workforce to share in the gains from economic growth and finding ways to accommodate the aging of society, are seen as parts of the whole.  My single biggest objection to President Obama, particularly when he discusses economic issues, is that he invariably presents a laundry list and does not produce this coherent narrative.  In the first paragraph of Blow's that is quoted above, who can doubt that respecting the rights of individuals and having the economy on terra firma are intimately tied?  One does not have to be much of a student of history to observe that the 1930s were a time of economic stagnation which bred extremist and intolerant views that resulted in horrible consequences.

In other words, we must wrestle with the foundations of Liberalism/Progressivism.  This need for foundations should be acknowledged by Blow.  Indeed, he should desperately want their articulation.  The question then is whether these foundations can be found in our history or if they must be invented more or less from scratch, because the ideals expressed during our history such as this essay by Albion Small from a century ago, The Bonds of Nationality, are inadequate for our present time. 

Let us debate the foundations.  From this the articulation of the issues and their resolution will follow.  Absent this, we're nowhere.

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