It’s not every day that I wake up to find Patri Friedman being quoted in my local newspaper; but this story actually made the Opelika-Auburn News this morning.
Archive | December 26, 2010
I propose some new terminology: left-conflationism and right-conflationism.
Left-conflationism is the error of treating the evils of existing corporatist capitalism as though they constituted an objection to a freed market. Right-conflationism is the error of treating the virtues of a freed market as though they constituted a justification of the evils of existing corporatist capitalism.
Yes, these are basically just Kevin’s “vulgar liberalism” and “vulgar libertarianism” in new garb. And yes, the new terms sound more awkward and jargony than their predecessors.
But the advantage I claim for them is that they also sound less insulting than their predecessors. Of course neither set of terms entails anything about the etiology of the views it names. Nevertheless, left-conflationism and right-conflationism sound like intellectual mistakes, ones that well-meaning people might fall into; by contrast, vulgar liberalism and vulgar libertarianism sound like character flaws – the outlooks of, well, vulgar people. And to be sure, in many cases they may be. But not all; and we only make it harder for ourselves when our terminology alienates the very people we’re trying to persuade.
I’m not suggesting that we should simply junk the terms “vulgar liberalism” and “vulgar libertarianism.” There’s a time for polemics, and when we want polemical terms it’s handy to have them. But when we’re not engaged in polemics, it’s also handy to have a term for our interlocutors’ position that isn’t a conversation-stopper.
The following letter appeared in yesterday’s Opelika-Auburn News:
To the editor:
Jim Evans is quite right to point out Saturday that the founders (well, most of them) would not have approved of the insertion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Some of the founders would probably have had a problem with “indivisible” as well.)
But he omits the still more important fact that most of the founders would not have approved of any Pledge of Allegiance at all, with or without such phrases.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by the nationalist socialist Francis Bellamy. The term “allegiance” refers to the duty of obedience and subordination that medieval serfs owed to their feudal lord – their “liege.”
The American founders, by contrast, waged and won a revolution against the Old World idea that we owe allegiance to our governments; the United States was founded on the opposite principle, that our governments owe allegiance to us.
The founders would have been horrified to learn that two centuries after the American Revolution, schoolchildren would be forced to recite loyalty oaths to the government. The Pledge of Allegiance is one of the most blatantly un-American documents ever written.
Roderick T. Long
For a previous post on the pledge, see here.