Thursday, October 23, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

The conventional wisdom is not the property of any political group.  On a great many modern social issues, as we shall see in the course of this essay, the consensus is exceedingly broad.  Nothing much divides those who are liberals by common political designation from those who are conservatives.  The test of what is acceptable is much the same for both.  On some questions, however, ideas must be accommodated to the political preferences of the particular audience.  The tendency to make this adjustment, either deliberately or more often unconsciously, is not greatly different for different political groups.  The conservative is led by disposition, not unmixed with pecuniary self interest, two adhere too the familiar and the established.  These underlie his test of acceptability.  But the liberal brings moral fervor and passion, even a sense of righteousness, to the ideas with which he is most familiar.  While the ideas he cherishes are different from those of the conservative, he will be no less emphatic in making familiarity a test of acceptability.  Deviation in the form of originality is condemned as the faithlessness or backsliding.  A “good” liberal or a “tried and true” liberal or a “true blue” liberal is one who is adequately predictable.  This means that he forswears any serious striving towards originality.  In both the United States and Britain, in recent times, American liberals and their British counterparts on the left have proclaimed themselves in search of new ideas.  To proclaim the need for new ideas has served, in some measure, as a substitute for them.  The politician who unwisely takes this proclaimed need seriously encourages something new will often find himself in serious trouble.
-John Kenneth Galbraith, The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom

I have taken to reading some Galbraith now. For me, he's very hit and miss, he makes some really astounding points, and I vehemently disagree with him on others. But I really like this point he makes, and it really echoes what I have been feeling in recent times. Liberals will often trumpet the need for an open mind and condemn their opponents as closed minded, while in reality they are just prescribing to a different sort of doctrine, and are just as closed minded as their opponents. Both of them carry with them an air of moral superiority, which is really what pisses me off; though at least the religious fundies on the right are open about it. The sense of "if you disagree with me, you're closed minded" is probably one of the most innane thoughts ever thought. 

For years I carried with me the belief that liberals were generally, truely open minded, questioning individuals, whereas conservatives refused to critically think over their ideas and ideals. College broke me of that, not only by exposing me to many terribly unthinking liberals, but also introducing me to some intellegent, questioning conservatives. Honest people with different premises can indeed have legitimate differences, it would seem. Before college, I don't know if I would have admitted that.

Of course, the hope is that I am actually striving for new ideas; hopefully I have not become myself indoctrinated within a separate ideology. 

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