Monday, April 22, 2013

I am right; you are evil

'Never hate your enemies,' Michael Corleone advised, 'it affects your judgement.' In politics this holds true (although always remember that in politics your opponents are on the other side; your enemies are generally behind you).

Via Tim, David Friedman has written a very interesting piece about what the important dividing line should be in politics: not whose side am I on; but what is the right answer. David's politics are 'purer' than mine. He espouses an "extreme version of free market capitalism", and has been debating with both 'pure' libertarians like Murray Rothbard and Marxist anarchists like Robert Wolff. Friedman found that both classified the world into good and evil men, although each would disagree about which side was which.

I have made this point before myself in the context of British politics:
Weighting your arguments on the basis that your opponents are wicked sub-human scum is intellectually sterile. Why bother assessing the actual merits of anything? We are right because we are good; you are wrong because you are bad. It's a standard of political analysis that would shame a three year old. Worse than that, it's a line of argument with seriously dodgy antecedents. Maybe Charlie should take a little look at the sort of people that label their political opponents cockroaches or rats and consider whether he thinks this is the sort of thing he's proud of doing.
It's always better to ascribe good faith to your opponents and be disappointed if needs be. Life is sufficiently complicated to support more than one theory, without all the others being evil.

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