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Saturday, March 21, 2020


I recently read A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell (2019). 

In this book, TS articulates the foundational differences in worldview of those we customarily label as “the left” and “the right.”  TS is an intellectual, and he writes in a very cerebral way.  This book is definitely NOT a page-turner.  TS’s work reminded me of the non-fiction works of C.S. Lewis in that I almost felt I needed a dictionary close at hand. 

Some of my biggest takeaways:

Ø  Opposite ends of the political worldview continuum can be described as “Unconstrained” (what we would call The Left) and “Constrained” (what we usually label as The Right).
Ø  Regarding the concept of Vision, the Unconstrained worldview articulates in terms of desired results while the Constrained worldview aspires to processes designed to achieve desired results.
Ø  Regarding Knowledge and Reason, the Unconstrained worldview tend to value individual intellect (and intellectuals) while the Constrained worldview skews heavily toward historically evolved systems (whether religious, legal, or social).
Ø  Regarding Social Processes, the Unconstrained worldview holds that elite intellects (either individual or in groups) are best positioned to design and deploy processes that result in equity and fairness.  The Constrained worldview, on the other hand, insists that such outcomes are most likely when grounded in time-tested rules, constitutions, legal systems, and social contracts.
Ø  Bottom line:  The Unconstrained worldview focuses on equality of outcomes that are optimized through decision-making of an elite few while the Constrained worldview focuses on equality of opportunity premised in evolved systems of collective agreement and codification. 

My favorite quote:
“Here, as in other areas of the constrained vision, it is the experience of the many rather than the brilliance of the few that is to be relied upon, and historical evolution rather than excogitated rationality that is paramount.” (p. 197) 

Thanks for the recommendation, JK. 

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