There is also my model that progressives frame issues in oppressor-oppressed terms and conservatives frame them in civilization-barbarism terms.

Also, Sowell's constrained vision has another aspect. It treats all of us as constrained in our cognitive and moral capacity to decide what is best for society. The unconstrained vision is one in which there is an elite, The Anointed, who enjoy cognitive and moral superiority and are entitled to tell the rest of society how to behave.

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Agreed. I very much enjoyed your book on the topic!

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I consider myself politically homeless, but I did grow up in a Democrat household so I know that side way better. And one thing I've struggled with these last few years is that I can't figure out what the hell Republicans stand for? I don't mean anti-abortion or closed borders, I mean their broader vision. Some kind of plan and dream for where we should go.

And so I thank you for writing this article, which helped to clear up my confusion about why I can't understand just what it is that Republicans want.

None of this is meant as a critique of Republicans btw, I'm genuinely just trying to figure it all out.

And maybe I'm totally off base, but I think that if Republicans could be clearer and articulate a plan, they would attract far more disaffected voters from the left.

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There's a problem with mixing the left/right paradigm with the progressive/conservative and liberal/illiberal paradigms, which is done constantly these days, with the shortcut "right wing" to label anything that is right/conservative, but also a mix of liberal and illiberal things, whichever is politically incorrect at the time.

Part of this is that the definition of "liberal" has been ruined in US politics, where what one means is almost always left/progressive, not actually liberal.

Populist, economically centrist parties in Europe are almost always called "right wing" these days, even though what they truly are is nationalist conservatives, whereas they are more to the left than traditional "right" parties (see: populism).

The label "right wing" seems to be a strategy by progressives to smear anything to their economic right as racists, bigots etc by association through the aforementioned group who are not actually "right" in any meaningful sense other than the fact that they aren't consistently leftist.

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Jul 24, 2023Liked by Erik Torenberg

Erik - I'd love if you try to add one more "idea nugget" into your analysis. It centers around the difference between right and left to agree on "rising tide lifts all boats" vs "zero sum game". What I mean by that, if we had a choice between of a policy that gave everyone $100 of wealth/income/whatever and one that gave everyone wealth/income/whatever a range of $200 to $2,000, which one would be better for society. While I recognize that the Left may question whether the second policy can actually achieve that, I think they fundamentally prefer the equity of $100 vs the imbalance of the second policy.

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I’d phrase it Conservatives/Constitutionalists are concerned with humanity right now.

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"The Right" is centered on normie middle class married heterosexual couples with 2+ kids. Usually well off enough not to get welfare but not well off enough to benefit from the elite power.

"The Left" is "not that". It can be "not that" because it's elite. It can be "not that" because it's underclass. It can be not that because it's gay. It can be not that because it's childless. Etc.

Race and geography move the baseline, but the pattern is the same controlling for those things.

Even race follows what your might expect from that frame. Blacks are underclass and unmarried. Asians aspire to be coastal elites. Hispanics, especially white Hispanics in Red States, are the closest to the "the right" though brown Hispanics in blue states are closer to blacks.

How that translates into policy varies. There is a donor/voter split that means sometimes policy doesn't reflect voter interests. There are also policy categories that I think are just too abstract to map onto left/right (like foreign policy).

COVID is easy to understand. When the costs of prevention fell on foreigners (travel bans) the right was in favor. When it fell on their children (school closures) the right was against.

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Interesting blog posts like these make taking the clear pill very difficult.

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'If man and mankind (society) are perfectable, if utopia is possible, then it's an absolute moral requirement to do it. That’s liberalism. If it’s not possible, and attempts to perfect man and mankind lead to hell on earth, then it's an absolute moral requirement not to do it. The right wing response is that man and mankind are fallen, and trying to fix it will destroy us all. Or that mankind can only flourish with freedom — improvement/perfection comes from the edges/ unexpected places.'

I think that the next major political fault line that will emerge may be between the techno-optimists and the techno-skeptics. Both camps will include elements from the right and the left. We're starting to see this divide with the conversation around AI, now that ChatGPT and autonomous vehicles are on the scene.

The techno-optimists believe that rapidly or exponentially advancing technologies, particularly in areas such as genomics, robotics, AI, and 3D printing, will greatly improve the lot of humanity individually (from the right) and collectively (from the left). As 'liberals' who believe in humanity's and society's perfectibility they will embrace the moral mandate to pursue the tremendous and even utopian potential of these technologies. This can be summed up by Peter Diamandis's theory of the phases (six Ds) of the rollout of exponential technology: digitization, deception, disruption, demonetization, dematerialization, and ultimately democratization. On the way to democratization a lot of money will be made in the tech and other industries; something many on the right, especially the libertarian right, should be on board with. According to techno-optimists like Diamandis we're headed to a Star Trek like future of almost unimaginable abundance. This has been referred to as technological socialism, where everyone's needs are taken care of by cheap and universally available advanced technology; this would basically fulfill the egalitarian dreams of the left.

Techno-skeptics want to slow down or even stop these advances because they fear unintended consequences. Or they believe that the pursuit is folly that is doomed to failure. Or they seek their utopia in a mythical or idealized past as opposed to the promise of a much better future. The techno-skeptics from the left have a limits-to-growth mindset and emphasize the potential risks to the environment, workers and vulnerable groups and claim that economic inequality will increase even further due to technological advances. Many oppose anything they don't see as 'natural.' Techno-skeptics on the right fear impacts to the current social order and traditional hierarchies. Then there's fear of the unknown generally, which applies anywhere across the political spectrum.

Some techno-skeptics believe that it's all being over-hyped anyway and that life will go on much as it is now for the foreseeable future; when proven wrong this group will be blindsided and will want to slow it all down. To try to retreat back to the safe space of the status quo ante. Which really isn't possible once the genie is out of the bottle. Again, we're basically already there with AI. Which I don't believe can be stopped or even substantially slowed down. There is too much money to made and too much benefit that will accrue to the winners of the AI game. Any country, industry or individual that doesn't adapt will fall behind.

The question now is how society adapts to AI and to other transformational technologies, like genomics, that will be coming online. I believe that to tackle these challenges and realize the incredible and unprecedented opportunities a new political alliance needs to be forged between techno-optimists on both the right and the left. I would see this as a coalition anchored by the libertarian right and the center left, which could also attract some elements of the progressive left and Reagan/Bush conservative types. Anyone who believes that technology is generally a force for good and that if something is beneficial it should be developed, deployed, and universally made available as quickly as possible would be welcome. I would imagine that people who are sitting around waiting for the rapture or whose ideal society would replicate a past time (1950s, 18-something) or a hippie commune wouldn't be interested.

Holding this coalition together would require compromise and give and take on both sides. The progressives would have to come to terms with the fact that corporate interests and entrepreneurs will make a substantial amount of money, and that many jobs will be impacted if not eliminated entirely. Libertarians and conservatives will have to accept some government regulation and government funded efforts to assist workers and others who are affected; maybe even support initiatives such as a universal basic income and a shorter work week.

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