The Problem of Doing

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Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “Why is this guy in prison?”
    “He shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”
    “Makes sense. Why is this guy in prison?”
    “He stole cars for a living. He specialized in people who couldn’t afford another car.”
    “Yeah, that’s good too. Why is this guy in prison?”
    “He sold drugs that make you feel good to people who wanted to feel good.”
    “Um… I suppose drug dealers belong in prison… why is this guy in prison?”
    “He used drugs that made him feel good.”
    “Um… is that a good idea? Well, this cell is empty. That’s good right?”
    “Well, we had it prepped for a guy who was selling loose cigarettes illegally but the cops who were arresting him killed him while he was complaining about constantly being harassed.”
    “I’m beginning to think that prisons aren’t as good an idea as I used to.”
    “What, do you think that murderers and car thieves should go free???”Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Jaybird says:

      bravo.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Jaybird says:

      @jaybird I’ve been meaning to tell you about a friend, got busted on a drug raid while visiting his neighbors who were dealing coke. He was there, but no coke, just pot; wasn’t his house, and no coke, just pot, at his house. But state law being state law, they all got the same sentence. So he’s been in jail for the last four years for pot, which was pretty controversial around these parts, because everyone who knows him knows he tokes up a storm, but no coke.

      My friend’s also got some health problems. A couple of weeks ago, the prison doctors just issued him a medical marijuana card and he’s getting his pot in prison now; paid for by the state.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic says:

        Something I’ve recently encountered that makes me absolutely boggle.

        http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279571.php

        Here’s the money graf: “THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties. This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors,” says Dr. Peter McCormick, from UEA’s School of Pharmacy.

        Now, the studying that I’m doing tells me that the brain cancer they’re talking about isn’t necessarily the type that killed my father (so I don’t have to process that, at least) but I am stuck wondering how we spent decades with this substance on Schedule 1.

        I’m trying to avoid being melodramatic and using the word “evil”… but, what is the justification for keeping people from smoking weed recreationally, again? It makes less sense to me every time I hear it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        @jaybird

        Do not misconstrue this as an anti-legalization argument, but I doubt lawmakers were aware of this property of THC and that makes it really hard to hold them accountable for it. “But, hey, maybe it will help combat cancer… who knows?!?!” isn’t a very sound argument.

        That said, weed shouldn’t need to combat cancer to be legal.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic says:

        But schedule 1 means that you can’t even test it, Kazzy.

        http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-04/why-its-so-hard-scientists-study-pot

        Money sentence: If you’re going to run a trial to show that marijuana has positive effects, the NIDA essentially is not going to allow it.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    *puts on a helmet* This should be good.Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    The other possible conclusion is that whatever you did that sucks no one should have done to begin with. This is the general position of modern libertarianism.

    I don’t really understand this statement or why it is the general position of modern libertarianism.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to j r says:

      Yeah, I don’t get this either. Like, if someone fixes my leaky roof, but does a crappy job, does anyone imagine a libertarian saying, “Well, you shouldn’t have fixed your leaky roof”?

      That makes no sense at all.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to veronica d says:

        @j-r @veronica-d

        I think I see what he’s getting at.

        Take for a random example: institutional poverty. Two people see it, and they hate it — or, think it sucks, if you will. They turn to one another and ask, “what shall we do about this institutional poverty that sucks so?”

        One says, “We must use the government to eliminate it now and forever!”

        The other says, “Nonsense. It’s only because of government that we have it at all! If we could go back and eliminate all that government, we wouldn’t have institutional poverty!”

        That, I think, is what CC is saying in his metaphor.

        It is also about 90% of all arguments I ever see take place between liberals and libertarians.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to veronica d says:

        Your roof leaks.

        Liberal: “Leaks are bad. Tape covers holes. Put tape on the leak! Right now! Why are we even standing here discussing this?”

        (they do. the tape gets sodden and leaks more.)

        Liberal: “Obviously the problem is we didn’t use enough tape.”

        Libertarian: “Rain is a natural occurence, if you just accepted that and wore a hat we wouldn’t even NEED a roof in the first place!”Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to veronica d says:

        Conservative- Jesus said, “Leaky roofs, you will always have with you.”Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to veronica d says:

        I think Tod’s more or less right. What I’m talking about here is a view that is not inside out but outside in. Hanley’s marginal libertarianism is actually not inconsistent with it.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to veronica d says:

        Conservatives have now resorted to mocking my attempts to mock them:

        “Outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry shrugged off wealth inequality, saying the Bible showed poverty could never be eliminated.

        “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion,” Perry told the Washington Post.”Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to veronica d says:

        @christopher-carr

        If that is the case, why the particular beef with libertarianism. There is an outside in (not sure that I’ve got the directions right) version of leftist ideology that holds that until you can abolish the capitalist system, and all vestiges of institutional religion and patriarchy and racial superiority and private property, etc., everything else is just window dressing on the Titanic.

        And there is a version of reactionary conservatism that holds that any deviation from the natural order of things (defined as religiosity or nationalism or some other form of strict hierarchy) begins a slide towards societal decay. The barbarians are always at the gate.

        Yes, there are doctrinaire libertarians, but that version of libertarianism does not define libertarianiam as a whole anymore than the doctrinaire versions of other ideologies define those ideologies.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to veronica d says:

        Yes, there are doctrinaire libertarians, but that version of libertarianism does not define libertarianiam as a whole

        Ah, @j-r, the innocence of youth (in OT terms). 😉

        Not really mocking you. It’s just that I’ve gone round-and-round on that many times here. Most folks here won’t disagree, and I’d be really surprised if Christopher did. Actually, I’m not sure anyone still here would expressly disagree, but sometimes the underlying disagreement comes out in statements about libertarianism. The one guy who absolutely disagreed–and who insisted I could not be a libertarian because I wasn’t an absolutist–seems to have left.

        Of course if I go to most libertarian blogs, that’s where I’ll find the real disagreement with your claim, sad to say. So even as I feel like libertarianism is less and less welcome here at the OT, my take on it still gets a lot better reception here than just about any other site I’ve stumbled across.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to veronica d says:

        Libertarians are the new Nazis. Neither is a right-wing political philosophy, but both are used as descriptors for it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to veronica d says:

        No trolling, Heff.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to veronica d says:

        @j-r

        By “inside-out”, I mean an ideology-based approach to problem solving: i.e. what does libertarianism (to use libertarianism as the example) tell me about this problem?

        Let’s take the trans fat question as a case model: libertarianism suggests that banning or limiting trans fats defies markets and limits individual choice and is therefore an undesirable policy position.

        By “outside-in”, I mean an ad hoc approach to problem solving: i.e. trans fats benefit no one and cause a great deal of harm, plus doing something to ameliorate their negative effects is unlikely to significantly hurt any interested parties, so we should do something to mitigate their negative effects.

        Actually, I think if I had to pick one ideology to universally apply to everything, it would be libertarianism, not only because I highly value individual liberty, even to fault or the point of making bad choices, but also because libertarianism in its extremist form seems the least likely of all ideologies to lead us to totalitarianism or World War 3.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to j r says:

      I think that’s a reference to the “Get government out of X” concept. I’m not sure it’s libertarianism in general, but there is a rather vocal segment that, when faced with something like….oh, some issue with emissions regulations that leads to some weird trap or undesired outcome…immediately jumps to “we shouldn’t regulate X” or “This is why regulations don’t work” as a response.

      The most famous example would be gay marriage and the ‘We should just get government out of the marriage business’. Maybe we should, but in the real world that’s not gonna happen (marriage is too useful and inextricably bound up in law and tax codes and the like) so it’s not a terribly useful suggestion, however much it might solve the problem of gay marriage and marriage discrimination.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20 says:

        I’m all for getting marriage out of the tax codes. I’m not so much for removing the priveleged aspects of speech that husbands and wives share.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to morat20 says:

        But the problem with this argument is that it leads to further legal compilations as laws are modified vs just doing away with them in the first place. Sometimes it’s better to scrap what you have and restart. And as I’ve said before, and so have others, nothing in the legal structure that currently exists couldn’t be replicated outside of the gov’t.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        Damon,

        In my experience, the people in question don’t have any plans to ‘restart’. Scrapping X will lead to utopia, apparently.

        Which isn’t a problem limited solely to the folks mentioned here. Every ideology, political dogma, or even religion has had a pretty hefty dose of “Do it my way and the world will be perfect”.

        It fits on a bumper stick much better than “The world is a complex place and frankly there’s a lot of compromise required, not just with each other, but even when your own principles conflict.”Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to morat20 says:

        @morat20

        Hear you on relentless loyalty to dogma.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to morat20 says:

        In my experience, the people in question don’t have any plans to ‘restart’. Scrapping X will lead to utopia, apparently.

        Respectfully, I’d suggest you’re listening to a very limited circle of people, then. Libertarians have lots of suggestions for restarting, but I don’t think every liberal is actually listening. Which, of course, they are under no obligation to do, but it’s a bit much to not listen to what’s being said, then claim that no-one’s saying anything at all.

        (And of course listening does not mean agreeing. It only means knowing what’s actually being said, even if you vociferously disagree with it.)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        James,

        I come from Texas and primarily I listen to conservatives. And their general problem with regulation is that it exists. Full stop.

        No matter what it is, regulation is the wrong way to solve it. In fact, it’s generally a feature not a bug. In fact, it probably doesn’t even happen. Regulation MADE it happen.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to morat20 says:

        I come from Texas and primarily I listen to conservatives. And their general problem with regulation is that it exists. Full stop.

        So they’re in favor the Texas Railroad Commission backing off and letting the oil and gas drillers do what they want? Letting the petroleum and chemical terminals along the Houston ship channel spill what they want into the water?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to morat20 says:

        Morat,

        I’m pretty sure Texas conservatives are on board with zoning regulations that limit density. So there’s that.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        So they’re in favor the Texas Railroad Commission backing off and letting the oil and gas drillers do what they want? Letting the petroleum and chemical terminals along the Houston ship channel spill what they want into the water?
        In theory? Yes. Locally? NIMBY.

        Some Texas town banned fracking — the State of Texas is sueing them to overturn it. I’m sure the legal case is fascinating, but it’s drawn some really weird battle lines.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to morat20 says:

        @james-hanley @morat20

        Interestingly, most of my “VERY LIBERAL” friends (that’s how they describe themselves…yes, with all caps) rarely 1) listen and 2) don’t want to even discuss it because they “can’t believe you think like that”. And yah, “I can’t believe that you think like that.” is an actual quote. To which I responded. “Then you should get out more.”.Report

  4. Avatar RTod says:

    Hey! After X number of years, I finally got my first convert!

    Look out, world!!!Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to RTod says:

      @rtod

      I hear there is a snowball effect. Soon you might have temples!Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to RTod says:

      …a modern approach necessitates a strict negation of ideology, wherein the whole liberal-libertarian dichotomy becomes utterly meaningless and collapses upon itself.

      Indeed, to a significant degree I think you can include “conservative” there, too. Especially if you consider (as I do) that contemporary liberalism is about economic and political equality, not norms. It seems to me that contemporary conservatism is the ideology principally concerned with social and cultural norms. (N.b., what I hear a lot of Republicans talking about, and a lot of conservative talking heads in the venues like FOXNews, is not really that kind of conservatism. Rather, it appears to be contrariness, with what ever Pres. Obama, Democrats in Congress, or some ill-defined group of people called “the left” are doing as being that which must be contradicted.)

      But all of that isn’t particularly important, given that you’ve come around to thinking that a perfectly acceptable policy position is case-by-case pragmatism. Which, it really is.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    “Why is this cell empty?”

    “We built it for a guy who committed immense amounts of fraud that cost innocent people billions of dollars.”

    “And?”

    “We lent him more billions of dollars instead.”

    “To pay the people back?”

    “Umm, no.”

    “But at least you made him promise not to do it again.”

    “You’re new here, aren’t you?”Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      “In fact, he sued us because he felt we were too stingy with our terms when loaning him billions”.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Who exactly is this comment supposed to be implicating? All the libertarians who build prisons or who work as cops? Or all the libertarian prosecutors and financial regulators. Or is it all the libertarians who control state houses and all the libertarian attorney generals and governors? Maybe it’s that libertarian congress or the libertarian president. They must be the reason why all the evil bankers aren’t in jail.

      Democrats have had the White House for the past six years and had both houses of Congress in the years during and immediately following the financial crisis. If those Democrats did not do enough to punish those responsible, it’s not because libertarians stopped them. It’s because they chose not to do it.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r says:

        “Who exactly is this comment supposed to be implicating?”

        Everyone?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to j r says:

        Democrats have had the White House for the past six years and had both houses of Congress in the years during and immediately following the financial crisis.

        Some revisionist history, no? The details of those facts sorta belie the facts themselves.

        (Franken, Kennedy, Brown, 60-vote majority and all that jazz.)Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Some revisionist history, no?

        No, not at all. From Jan 3, 2007 to Jan 3, 2011, the Democratic Party had the White House and both Houses of Congress.

        That’s just history. No qualifier needed.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        2007? Bush converted?Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to j r says:

        @j-r

        If those Democrats did not do enough to punish those responsible, it’s not because libertarians stopped them. It’s because they chose not to do it.

        They were smart enough to know that high profile convictions would be difficult if not impossible to get, Matt Taibbi’s screaming notwithstanding. Hell, they settled with Angelo Mozilo and they were pursuing civil fraud charges. The two Bear Stearns managers that the government tried to prosecute were acquitted.

        My prediction: the government loses its civil fraud case against Standards and Poors.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to j r says:

        I don’t blame the libertarians. I do, however, point out that advancing major legislation in the US Senate requires 60 votes these days, and the Democrats (plus independents) had 60 votes for only a few months in 2009, and less than 60 the remainder of the time.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @chris

        You are right. Please pardon the typo. 2009 to 2011.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to j r says:

        “You can’t call this our fault. After all, we only had total control of the country for, like, a little while, hardly long enough to actually do anything.”Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to j r says:

        Actually, the Democrat’s actually only had a 60 vote supermajority for only a few months.

        (http://sandiegofreepress.org/2012/09/the-myth-of-the-filibuster-proof-democratic-senate/)Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to j r says:

        Dave,
        With that whole financial crisis thing, we were pretty close to “just pass the ammunition”… Nothing like a little revenge for blackmailing the entire financial world.
        (Luckily, Bush/Pelosi et alia managed to stabilize the whole thing. Nobody really wanted another Argentina… (Iceland, otoh…)).Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    I’m growing a might tired of the diagnostics of modern liberalism. We don’t actually get to try liberalism, but we’re told how it’s failed. Yet again.

    So just imagine you have a kid. Kid has trouble learning to read. Do you give up after the first attempts don’t stick? You have a car, car makes funny sound. Mechanic thinks she knows a solution, but car still makes funny sound after the repair.

    Yet this is what we expect of politics and government. There is no sense of working to solve problems over the long haul; one shot, and if you don’t get it something close to 99%, you bad.

    This is the problem of political ideology. It’s ideology, dogma, instead of actual effort. I don’t care about your ideology; I care about working to create opportunity for people to succeed. That’s not liberal, it’s humane.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

      SEE???!!!

      Now we are three!Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

      If at first the Republicans don’t agree, shut down the government until they do (and then you end up doing what they wanted but dammit it’s the principle of the thing.)Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        It’s not about agreeing, @jim-heffman. It’s about disagreeing (the negative space of Obama) as a matter of governing principle. But I don’t expect you to get that, though; and since disagreeing with anything a liberal says now seems to be a conservative ideological guide post, and a liberal says this is true, I hope you’ll prove me wrong and give me all sorts of examples to show how conservatives are all warm and fuzzy to work with liberals to compromise.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        If at first the Republicans don’t agree, troll troll and troll again.
        Sooner or later someone will be a moron.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        “I hope you’ll prove me wrong and give me all sorts of examples to show how conservatives are all warm and fuzzy to work with liberals to compromise.”

        Well, there were all those funding bills that the House passed that Reid said he wouldn’t even allow the Senate to vote on.Report

      • Avatar Notme in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        I like current obama version, pass amnesty I appove of or I’ll declare an executive amnesty.Report

      • Well, there were all those funding bills that the House passed that Reid said he wouldn’t even allow the Senate to vote on.

        It’s more complicated than that sentence. There have been cases where the Senate Dems simply said they were happy with the budget numbers already in statute (eg, the Budget Control Act numbers). There have been cases where the Senate Republicans have said they would filibuster steps in the process, which makes the steps that come before that rather moot. There has been at least one case where the Senate Republicans refused to name conference committee participants so the committee couldn’t meet because they didn’t trust the House Republicans to stand their ground in the committee.

        The budget process is broken. Since 1977, the full process — joint budget resolution and 12 appropriations bills passed — has occurred four times: 1977, 1989, 1995, and 1997. Years where the process failed include all partisan configurations: Democratic House and Senate, Democratic House and Republican Senate, Republican House and Democratic Senate, and Republican House and Senate.

        My own suspicion about why the process is broken is that two-thirds of the federal budget is permanently appropriated (>70% if you include interest on the debt). Congress can futz around, shut modest portions of the government down from time to time, and live by continuing resolutions just because so little of the budget is affected when they misbehave.Report

      • As a follow-on to my own comment… There’s the way that Congress works as taught in civics class; then there’s the way that Congress actually works. None of the classes I took, including graduate school, spent much if any time discussing how the Speaker has rather complete control over which bills reach the floor, who can speak to them, and who can offer amendments. The Senate is even uglier. Almost no one spends enough time on “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings…”.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to zic says:

      With affection Zic, a libertarian could say the exact same thing you did (replacing liberal with libertarian) and it’d be equally salient.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    “Two possible conclusions result: one is that whatever you did that sucks needs to be fixed. This is the general position of modern liberalism. The other possible conclusion is that whatever you did that sucks no one should have done to begin with. This is the general position of modern libertarianism.”

    Meh, in the private sector, if what someone did sucks, you remove them and put someone better qualified to that thing in their place. This assumes the thing to be done has value. In gov’t, well, you just hire someone else to do it, it never gets done right, or whatever, no one will get fired anyway. (very infrequent exceptions to this rule)Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

      We have lots of evidence that things don’t exactly work that way in the private sector.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Screams even. It appears that “don’t do that” is less effective than “My skin turns black if I do that…”

        Workplace safety? What’s that?Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq

        My personal exposure to it in the workplace has been somewhat limited since, in many cases, it happens in other departments, but I’m aware of three cases of general incompetence in the job. Two were handled rather quickly, although not as quick as I might have preferred. One took much longer as there was a lot more CYA by the company. Most of these delays were for too much benefit of the doubt and / or for making sure the termination was lawsuit proof.

        But I’ve actually seen more of the “move the idiot” to another job than terminations. Seen quite a bit of that….Report

  8. Avatar James Hanley says:

    1. I think it’s impossible to actually do away with “ideology” because ideologies contain a set of ideas about what is a desirable outcome, and a set of principles about what are legitimate means and legitimate ends.

    2. I think anyone who thinks they’re just being pragmatic without having any ideology is deceiving themselves, because they all have a set of ideas about what outcomes are desirable, and principles about what means and ends are legitimate.

    If you lack any such ideas and principles, then what is it you’re looking to do? What actually are the goals you seek, and what legitimacy constraints are there on the means you would find acceptable to achieve them? And, I’m sorry to say you’re trapped, but you’re trapped, the moment you tell us your goals and the legitimate and non-legitimate means of achieving them, you are invoking ideology.

    We want to minimize the suffering of the sick and elderly? Pragmatically, we can achieve that by euthanizing them. That doesn’t suit your vision of pragmatism? Then you’re sneeking in some ideological principles.

    You may not be readily classifiable as liberal, libertarian, conservative, progressive, or whatever, but the “I don’t have ideology, I’m just a pragmatist” stance is a conceit.

    And, hell, look at the way Christopher went off on me because I didn’t get all worked up over trans fats. Is he seriously going to claim that’s a purely pragmatic position? Does pragmatism require that we stop people from taking actions that, statistically speaking, shorten their lives? Why? Why is that a goal? It’s a goal because it’s a value, and it’s a value that stands outside of pragmatism per se, so it’s a value that comes from some ideological perspective.

    Tod is concerned about conservatives’ views on racial issues–that’s a perspective that derives from particular ideas, values about what’s right and wrong, and that’s an ideology.

    Certainly one can be more or less pragmatic in the pursuit of their ideological preferences (put alternatively, one can be more or less blindly ideological) but one can’t actually be wholly pragmatic without ideology, unless one simply has no personal values and preferences, and functions merely as a technocrat providing others with information about the effectiveness/efficiency of various means–not limited by one’s own values!–of achieving the goals those others pursue.

    I’ve not been persuaded by Tod’s claims that he’s purely a pragmatist who’s set aside ideology, and I find yours no more persuasive. You both are tired of the liberal-libertarian argument? That’s fair. It means, probably, that neither of you are fully satisfied with either liberalism or libertarianism. But just because you can’t really identify with a named ideology does not remotely mean you don’t have any ideology.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

      I don’t’ think the issue is about not having an ideology but with letting your ideology predetermine your answers before finding out about the actual issue. Of course everybody has some ideology and that will always influence how you see things. But the ideologues view ends up being “I have the answer to this issue, so i don’t need to know anything about it.” Facts, even those viewed through our ideology and biased eyes should matter and influence the answers whatever they may be.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

        Greg,
        I’m not in disagreement with you, and can believe you see it that way. But that’s emphatically not what Christopher wrote.

        such a modern approach necessitates a strict negation of ideology,

        You’re talking about tempering ideology, which I’m all in with. Tempering is not “negating,” though.

        (i.e. the problem isn’t that we need to build prisons or a prison system and figure out the best way to meet that need – it’s that our prisons suck);

        Notice that this approach would avoid looking at ways to mimimize the need for prisons. Even if we accept that some prisons are necessary, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the primary problem is just that our prisons suck. As stated, to take it to its (obviously unintended by CC) extreme conclusion, we could be imprisoning the whole population, and we’re still talking about the problem being that the prisons suck.

        But why? Why is it not a more pressing problem that we’re imprisoning people who shouldn’t be imprisoned? That we’re imprisoning people for actions that arguably shouldn’t be crimes? That we’re imprisoning people who arguably would be better handled through means that don’t involve incarceration?

        There has to be an answer to that question of “why” focus on fixing prisons rather than on reducing the rate of imprisonment. It could be a good answer possibly, or at least a reasoned answer, but it’s going to involve the person’s values, which implicates their ideology. Values are ideas, and ideals, and the set of values we hold constitute our ideology.

        It’s all well and good to ask people to be less virulently ideological, to temper it. I do it all the time (and sometimes am reminded by others to do it myself). But to say “let’s negate ideology” is to ask for an impossibility. It’s to ask for the negation of values. Or more precisely, it’s to ask others to negate their values and to accept ours, under the guise that our values aren’t really ideological, just pragmatic. But values can’t be pragmatic, so this is a fundamentally deceptive and self-serving stance, no matter how well intended.Report

      • @james-hanley

        This is probably me intruding too much, but I think @tod-kelly has a legitimate gripe about the following statement from your comment: “I’ve not been persuaded by Tod’s claims that he’s purely a pragmatist who’s set aside ideology, and I find yours [CC’s] no more persuasive.”

        I will say that I used to needle Tod a lot about his “principled pragmatism” approach and about what I used to interpret as his refusal to acknowledge he had an ideology. But I think I was wrong. And I remember, Tod defined what he meant in one thread quite a while ago, and when he says now that “ideology” is the enemy, I mentally replace “ideology” with “tribalism” (or what Orwell called “nationalism”) and I now find I’m pretty much agreement with what he says.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        One other thing. This quote from James pretty much sums up why I disagree with your more politically oriented posts as much as I do.

        Or more precisely, it’s to ask others to negate their values and to accept ours, under the guise that our values aren’t really ideological, just pragmatic. But values can’t be pragmatic, so this is a fundamentally deceptive and self-serving stance, no matter how well intended.

        It’s the ole “above the fray” view I wasted so much breath on a coupla years ago.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Oops. Mis-threaded. Sorry bout that.Report

      • @stillwater

        I don’t think @james-hanley is saying he’s above the fray. He seems to be saying no one is above the fray, including him.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        GC,

        Double oops! I was using James comment as a concise summary of my criticisms of Tod’s posts, not James’. Tod tends to think I just troll him. I thought citing that comment might render my intent clear.Report

      • My bad, too, I wasn’t following the quotes right.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley says:

      @james-hanley

      And, hell, look at the way Christopher went off on me because I didn’t get all worked up over trans fats. Is he seriously going to claim that’s a purely pragmatic position?

      Interestingly enough, I keep going back to that conversation as I re-read Christopher’s post here. Big time deja vu.

      I’m still trying to figure out what was pragmatic about anyone’s position in that discussion. I know I wasn’t necessarily being pragmatic, but that wasn’t my purpose. I respected Christopher’s and Robert’s arguments but there wasn’t enough common ground developed to establish a set of premises on which a pragmatic solution could be developed.

      I think I felt that I would have had to discard my own beliefs and simply sign on to their arguments although I was far from convinced in some ways. I didn’t get enough time to take the conversation further so who knows where it could have ended up. Sadly, I wasn’t able to contribute further.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave says:

        Right, I agree.

        And to be clear, in saying CC’s position was not pragmatic, I’m not making any normative claim about the rightness/wrongness of his position. However one interprets the right/wrongness of his argument, it was undoubtedly an argument based in a particular ideological perspective.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Dave says:

        What ideological perspective might that be, James?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave says:

        Christopher,

        As I note elsewhere, in different terms, a lack of an identification with a named ideology does not mean one does not have an ideology. It just means one’s ideology does not map well onto those named ones.

        You do have a set of values, and those shape what you see as goals/ends that we ought to pursue, and what means are legitimate to achieve them, and probably a preference order among those means that takes account not just of effectiveness (the pragmatic aspect) but which, among two equally effective means, would be preferable, and that is also based on your values. If it all doesn’t fit comfortably under one label, that’s ok; you’re in good company here, with Tod and Chris at a minimum (probably me, too, despite my self-description as libertarian, and I’m sure a number of others).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave says:

        @christopher-carr

        I misspoke above, where I wrote “in saying CC’s position was not pragmatic.”

        I used pragmatically badly there. It’s undeniably true, I think, that your proposal can rightly be seen as pragmatic. I should have said it’s not so “purely pragmatic” as to stand outside ideology (outside the set of values that shape our goals and what we see as legitimate means).

        I apologize for the gross overstatement.Report

    • “1. I think it’s impossible to actually do away with “ideology” because ideologies contain a set of ideas about what is a desirable outcome, and a set of principles about what are legitimate means and legitimate ends.
      2. I think anyone who thinks they’re just being pragmatic without having any ideology is deceiving themselves, because they all have a set of ideas about what outcomes are desirable, and principles about what means and ends are legitimate.”

      Great. I’ll just go ahead and file this next to “Why don’t you just move to Somalia?” and “FYIGM,” then.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m at a loss.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly – at risk of involving myself where I’m neither wanted nor needed, it seems to me that you may be bristling a little at @james-hanley ‘s implied critique of your oft-repeated “principled pragmatism” and “ideology is the enemy” hobbyhorses.

        But I doubt James is trying to poke you in any way; and moreover, he has defined his terms in (1) and (2) (specifically, “pragmatic” and “ideology”, and what those concepts contain and mean from his POV) and made his critiques in a way that I think is pretty clear.

        It may not be the way YOU define those terms; but if not, then providing your competing definition might serve better to resolve any conflicts between POVs, than just throwing out the old “Somalias” and “FYIGMs”.

        Just my .02.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Do you think “a strict negation of ideology” is a possibility?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @james-hanley – or even a “desirability”, whether possible or not? Many people favor an ideology which values people as ends, not means, for example.

        Even if it were possible for them to completely ignore that ideology, would we want them to?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @glyph YOURE NOT WANTED OR NEEDED!!!

        nah, not really. I’m just fishin’ with ya.

        Yeah, I understand that’s what’s going on here, and believe you are correct on your reading — which is actually my point.

        Who, exactly, says “I don’t have an ideology” and is interested and regularly argues about politics? Who, exactly, argues for doing away with ideology — or indeed that you even could if you wanted to? Who believes they have have neither principles nor desired outcomes to events? And I’m not talking about myself even… what actual person, ever, that argues for looking at anything in a pragmatic way ever argues any of these things?

        To my mind, bringing these up points up is the equivalent to me saying to libertarians here “You mean FYIGM” or “Somalia” or, for that matter pointing out them that sometimes you need a government to do something. (I mean, yeah, of course sometimes you do need one, but what libertarian actually ever argues that you don’t?)

        James is always saying how if people are going to take shots at libertarians, they should at least take the effort to know what libertarians are actually arguing. My comment above is simply volleying that ball back in his court, and noting that he should do the same to those who are pragmatists.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Arkady and Bazarov had no ideology.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @chris Hmmm, I know who Arkady is, but Bazarov must be coming up in Season 3 of The Americans. ;-).

        @tod-kelly – OK, fair enough, I get what you’re after now. But it wasn’t clear before, and as I said, James’ critiques of the concepts and their values seemed a little more fleshed-out and substantial than “FYIGM” or “Somalia”, which is why I didn’t catch the point you were trying to make.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Would be cool if they added a character named Bazarov who had an undue influence on Arkady’s running of the KGB office.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod,

        You may forget that I’m fully in agreement with your “ideology is the enemy” claims.

        But 1) I think your “principled pragmatism” is more deeply rooted in ideology than you let on. If you think that’s the same as FYIGM, I’m still at a loss.

        And 2) CC explicitly said “strict negation of ideology.” Do you not think that goes a bit beyond just “principled pragmatism”? Do you think arguing that “strict negation of ideology” is impossible is really as simplistic as “FYIGM”?

        Keep in mind that FYIGM, libcom, and such other terms come out of a strongly ideologically blinkered perspective that damns other ideologies without giving them any consideration. What particular ideological perspective do you think underlies my critique here? Is this something only a libertarian could say? Or could a liberal, a conservative, a Marxist, or even a fascist make the same critique? If the latter, isn’t there automatically something there that’s different than FYIGM?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod,

        Or you could ignore my questions above and just address yourself to the question of what “strict negation of ideology” means.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @james-hanley

        “Or you could ignore my questions above and just address yourself to the question of what “strict negation of ideology” means.”

        I’ll let CC answer the bits about that quote, as I suspect the only issue here is sloppy semantics (i.e.: I doubt you’ll find CC disagrees with your point).

        But to your other points:

        “But 1) I think your “principled pragmatism” is more deeply rooted in ideology…

        Well, duh. Of course it is. So is everyone’s who calls for pragmatism, principled or otherwise — just as I say every freaking time I post on the subject. You’re pointing that out is, as I said above, like a liberal here doing a j’accuse with you by getting you to admit that the government does in fact have a legitimate role in society — after all, you’ve never argued otherwise.

        Which just makes this part:

        “… than you let on.”

        makes me want to pound my head against the wall.

        “What particular ideological perspective do you think underlies my critique here?”

        The part I quoted and objected to above was pretty close to to verbatim the responses of TVD, Stillwater and the sock-puppet on most of my posts that deal with pragmatism ever since I’ve been here. I don’t think it’s indicative of any particular ideology; I think it’s indicative of someone who isn’t listening.

        And yeah, I get that it’s clearly unfair to come down on you about this. Your comment just happen to be the straw on this camel’s back.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Sorry to be the straw. I’ll go back and look at a couple of those posts.

        But to CC’s “strict negation if ideology” comment, what’s the charitable reading here? That he could never have meant such an absolute statement, or that he’s smart enough to use words exactly as he means them?

        You seem to suggest that I should believe his real meaning is other than what he wrote.Report

      • It’s possible it was hyperbole. But I’d like to hear CC’s side of the story.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Since I say my name mentioned up there, I’ll chime in:

        1. I’m entirely with James on this point. Which you seem to concede even as you disagree with him. So,

        2. My comment above is simply volleying that ball back in his court, and noting that he should do the same to those who are pragmatists.

        Is it hard to understand?I mean, earlier you said I kind of feel like I’m making up my own principled pragmatism as I go along. Perhaps that’s why no one understands it?

        I’d also note that at core, manymany conservative principles and values are based on or defended by pragmatics as are manymany libertarian principles. To echo James, in what sense is your view of pragmatics antithetical to (other) ideologies? (We’ve had this discussion before so I understand if you don’t wanna get into it again.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        To follow up on that comment a bit, I think Roger wouldn’t be overly insulted if I called his ideology a form of Pragmatics. His view, the one he argues for every time he shows up, is that eliminating/preventing forms of coercion the prevent people from engaging in voluntary actions leads to bad results on a micro as well as macro level, and his argument for these principles is based on (as he sees it) empirical evidence and existing practices. In other words, pragmatics: continue on with policies and principles that have revealed themselves as successful in practice.

        Why isn’t he a principled pragmatist?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @james-hanley

        James, what would you say is the difference between values and ideology? Are these different concepts? Surely everyone has values, but to me, “ideology” suggests a more refined, general approach to political and economic problem solving.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Christopher,

        An ideology is defined in large part by one’s particular configuration of values. Out values are ideas that we hold, and that shape our perspective on the world, and that perspective is our ideology.

        That set doesn’t have to well-defined enough, or common enough, to nestle comfortably within the confines of a named ideology to still be an ideology. Our rough named categories are not exhaustive, nor wholly mutually exclusive. Humans being human, they collectively partake of all the various possible sets of values (or if not truly “all,” then a mighty wide variety of them.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Me: Who, exactly, says “I don’t have an ideology” and is interested and regularly argues about politics? Who, exactly, argues for doing away with ideology — or indeed that you even could if you wanted to? Who believes they have have neither principles nor desired outcomes to events? And I’m not talking about myself even… what actual person, ever, that argues for looking at anything in a pragmatic way ever argues any of these things? … as I say every freaking time I post on the subject.

        [That’s] the responses of … Stillwater … on most of my posts that deal with pragmatism ever since I’ve been here. I don’t think it’s indicative of any particular ideology; I think it’s indicative of someone who isn’t listening.

        Stillwater: I’m entirely with James on this point. Which you seem to concede even as you disagree with him.

        Thanks. There is no way I could have scripted that better.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Dude, stay on point. James is objecting to the claim that a person can do away with ideology, that such a thing is even possible. You responded by disagreeing with him (that it’s the equivalent of responding to a libertarian with FYIGM). That expression of disagreement strikes me (as well as Hanley apparently, given his subsequent responses) as endorsing the claim that a person can be ideology free and *still* advocate for policies, principles, outcomes, etc.

        But then you later say that you *also* have an ideology!

        How can you have it both ways, my man? Either you have an ideology (hence, your anti-idology view is no such thing) or you don’t (in which case you can’t argue for principles, practices, outcomes, etc.).

        I don’t know what you think I’m arguing when I argue with you, Tod, and I’d very much like to know. It’s certainly an expression of trolling. I’d think you’d know that about me by now. I actually have substantive disagreements with your views and (gasp!) ideological commitments!Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly ,

        What definition of ideology are you using? You don;t have to be precise. Just, when you see or think of the word, and it creates this strong reaction in you, what is the thing/concept that its invoking for you to which you have that reaction – how would you describe that? (Other than by calling it “ideology,” I mean?)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And I’ll even come clean (again!) on one of them, which I already mentioned upthread: that you think you’re “above the fray”, a cool, clear-thinking, dispassionate, rational observer and impartial critiquer of other people’s irrationality.

        I mean, I could go on from there….Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @michael-drew I define an ideology as a system of beliefs and ideals; in this context, one that specifically dictates what political apparatus and system of governing works best.

        I am open to other definitions.Report

        • Tod, no that’s okay, I’m not trying to get you to adjust your definition of a term at all. I’m trying to get to the thing you’re concerned with – what it is, why it motivates you, etc.

          As it happens, I wouldn’t differ too much with that particular definition. But that’s neither here nor there.

          I guess the question I’d have about the concept as you describe it – a system of beliefs and ideals, in particular (if this is the area causes you concern) one that specifically dictates what political apparatus and system of governing works best: why is that the enemy? It seems like something of a basic prerequisite for the kinds of discussions we think of as the raison d’être of this site (just for example).

          If the problem is “unrealism in” or “inhumanity in” or “extremism in” or “excessive and exclusive overcommitment to just one extremely narrow” ideology, then aren’t those qualifiers the problem (“enemy”), not ideology itself? (Here, it’s important I didn’t say “the” ideology itself, as indeed, “the ideology itself” may indeed be the problem in a given case, if the “the ideology” in question is inhumane, racist, murderous, etc. It may be just the normatively wrong ideology to have, while another one might not be nearly so wrong, maybe not at all wrong. Meaning, if that were so, that “the ideology” might be the enemy in a given case, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that *ideology* (always) is.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Stillwater: “You responded by disagreeing with him”

        No, I didn’t.

        “you think you’re “above the fray”, a cool, clear-thinking, dispassionate, rational observer and impartial critiquer of other people’s irrationality.”

        No, I don’t.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Stillwater: “I don’t know what you think I’m arguing when I argue with you, Tod, and I’d very much like to know.”

        Beats the fuck out of me. Seriously, Still, I have no fishing clue.

        My best working theory is this: You believe since I do not call myself a conservative, liberal or libertarian that I must be David Brooks. You thus come to do battle with David Brooks, because you don’t like him and he won’t return your emails. And it will never matter how many times, after you insist “But you believe X!” I explain that I really, really don’t believe X, because crossing swords with me about why I believe X is the only reason you wish to engage me.

        As I said, that’s just a working theory. I have no doubt I am wrong, but it’s the only one that makes sense to me so far.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Well, next time I disagree with you I’ll try to express myself extra-special clearly. Although I have to say I find your claim that you have no idea what I object to surprising. I mean, I’ve written oodles about this, long before you decided I was just trolling you. Surely you must’ve gleaned something from all those werdz?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @michael-drew I don’t know how much of my stuff you’ve read, Michael, but the answer to your question is that, from my viewpoint, ideology itself is not the enemy — it’s what we are currently doing with ideology (or perhaps what it is currently doing to us) that is. Take conservatism for example, because in my opinion that’s the easiest one to use to illustrate what I’m taking about.

        I think in most modern, pluralistic democratic societies ideology has been a pretty tame and almost nebulous thing. My dad, for example, was a conservative and so was his father. So were my uncles. But none of them spent their waking hours trying to figure out how to become *more* conservative; nor did they expect the people they elected to come up with “conservative answers.” They really just wanted the trains to run on time, and to whatever degree they were tied to conservatism it was in the same way Capt Barbosa is tied to the Pirates Code. (“It’s really more of a guideline.) And they understood that their neighbors who were Dems/liberals/what have you weren’t really that much different than they were, really.

        What’s happening today with conservatism is different. It isn’t really enough to be a conservative these days; do that too loudly, and there’s a good chance you’ll be excommunicated. Today, conservatism itself demands that everything you do feed conservatism. Does science reject what conservative politicians say? Then we need to discount all of science. Does the media report on an affair that makes a family values candidate look bad? Then you need to turn your back on that same media and never listen to it again. Etc, etc. And the more closed off it becomes, the more dogmatic it becomes, and the more hostility it demands that you show toward anyone who falls out of dogmatic line.

        Anyway, I could go on and on but you could just go back in the archives and read my Ideology Is The Enemy posts.

        My point has never been that ideology itself is wrong. That’s like saying “belief” is wring, or “systems” are wrong. What’s wrong (IMHO) is where our increasingly segmented society is letting ideology take us.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @michael-drew Or if you want something more concrete and fleshed out, to chew on, you can read the first IITE post I did here. It explains where I’m coming from fairly well.Report

      • Why’d you title it that, then?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Because it’s catchier than “You kids today and your new-fangled ideology.”Report

      • It’s a big claim that I apparently spent wasted time evaluating, as well.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @stillwater
        “You responded by disagreeing with him”

        No, he said my point was banally true.

        And maybe in his case it is, although, like you, and perhaps like Mike Drew (assuming I read his last line correctly, which I won’t swear to), I didn’t really get that message from Tod’s posts (although I did understand that by “ideology is the enemy” he didn’t mean ideology per se, but letting oneself be dominated by ideology).

        But Chris’s responses suggest to me it’s not banally true as a response to what he’s writing. And that’s not meant as a harsh criticism of Chris, just as a statement that his responseto my claim has been distinctly different from Tod’s.Report

      • @tod-kelly

        What would you say about my point elsewhere on this thread that ideology, as you seem to define it, especially in the “Ideology is the Enemy” series, is more like tribalism? To me, “tribalism” probably captures where you want to go with the idea more than “ideology” does because from what I’ve read, you don’t have a problem with the fact that people have an ideology, but with the fact that they identify so much with their ideology that they don’t try to see outside it or that the double down on it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod,

        You say you are not claiming to be above the fray or free from ideology. I take you at your word. But having re-read all your IITE posts, I still don’t think that comes out as clearly in them as you think it does.

        For example,
        As I continue to say over an over, ideology itself is becoming dangerous in this country.

        In that example you’ve shifted from your emphasis that it’s how people use ideology (rigid consistency over flexibility) to pinning the blame on “ideology itself.” Although I think it could be read as “not really ideology, but people’s of it,” as you have in other posts (although that’s a paraphrase), I hope you can see how your sentence might be read as a critique of ideology, period.

        On the other hand, here you say,

        get why people think I’m somehow anti-ideology, but I’m not. In fact, I’ve been pretty consistent in my Ideology Is the Enemy posts in saying that ideologies are a necessary tool toward good governance.

        Now I don’t think you really said that consistently or clearly in your prior posts. It was an implication that could be drawn out, if the reader focused on a few words in the middle of the post, rather than on the bulk of the post or its tone. But here, of course, you are quite explicit.

        Overall, I think the understanding that you are not claiming to be non-ideological os consistent with your writings, but for the most part not clearly a definitive element of them. I suspect that’s because it is so clear to you that being repeatedly explicit about it seems unnecessary, like beginning every post with “of course the sky is blue.” And I know it sucks to have to explicitly reiterate what you think is obvious. And I know it sucks to have people argue that you didn’t make things clear in your essay. I’ve experienced both those things, and I won’t pretend I always dealt with it graciously.

        But in my view, given the nature of your project, I don’t think it’s as obvious to the reader as you would hope it to be. I’m in general agreement with your critique of ideological rigidity, mind, and I’m happy to find that I misinterpreted you, so I don’t think I’m just an uncharitable reader looking to score cheap points.

        In summary, I believe you,Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And having followed the link from one of your IITE posts, I read your first post here, which seems to send mixed messages. On the one hand,

        First off, a definitional point: When I think of pragmatism, I am not intending it to mean “devoid of values.” I just don’t think of any specific political philosophy as being a core value… Instead, my core values as they relate to the public sphere can be summed up in this laughably near universal and milquetoast statement:

        I value freedom and the ability to achieve prosperity (financial and otherwise) for as many people as possible, and I value any system that enables these things – without interfering in the most basic of human rights – in the most efficient way possible.

        That’s good. You’re clearly stating that your pragmatism is in pursuit of some ckear set of values.

        But on the other hand,

        I know that some people will read this and think “that’s how other ideologies works, we’re much more reasonable.” … But even if you’re right (I don’t think you are) I’m not so sure this matters. Your ideology might have a good and decent approach on paper, especially if you have not yet come to power. But ideologies always work on paper when you’re not in power.

        And there it reads like you’re saying everyone’s ideology is the problem, and your views, being the solution, are logically excluded from the set of ideologies.

        Now its obviously unfair to poke too hard at someone’s very first post here, especially when they are explicit about their idea being a work in progress. So I don’t mean to condemn your writing there. Overall you are a very good and clear writer. But as this idea of principled pragmatism is a work in progress, maybe certain elements of how to express it clearly are also works in progress?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @james-hanley

        I don’t intend to speak for Tod, but if I may offer my own answer to this question:

        Of course it’s a work in progress! Not only (trivially) because everything is a work in progress, but also because that’s kind of the point.

        The ideologue takes a look at an issue and thinks: what does my ideology tell me is the solution?

        The pragmatist takes a look at the same issue, attempts to learn as much as possible about the issue, and takes situation-specific action.

        Again, these are two distinct paradigms of how to approach problems. Call pragmatism ideological nihilism if you will. It is an attempt, at least, as I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, to have an outside-in, as opposed to an inside-out, perspective on political problem solving.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I agree with Stillwater’s summary that I too would consider myself a pragmatic consequentialist. For whatever it is worth.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley says:

      Sustained.

      I will though, offer you as a counter, a quote from Friedrich Hayek:

      “An experiment can tell us only whether any innovation does or does not fit into a given framework. But to hope that we can build a coherent order by random experimentation with particular solutions of individual problems and without following guiding principles is an illusion. Experience tells us much about the effectiveness of different social and economic systems as a whole. But an order of the complexity of modern society can be designed neither as a whole, nor by shaping each part separately without regard to the rest, but only by consistently adhering to certain principles throughout a process of evolution.”

      Now, my somewhat new outlook (it hasn’t really changed all that much) is consistent with the last line of this quotation. Again though, I’m looking to shun the theoretical questions about whether a particular program should or should not exist and instead looking for things that are broken and need to be fixed. As I noted above, I do not think this is inconsistent with your concept of marginal libertarianism.Report

  9. Colorado’s General Fund is largely (as in ~95%) spent on the Big Six programs: K-12 education, Medicaid, other health and human services, public safety, higher ed, and transportation. When state revenue imploded in 2007, one of the members of the Joint Budget Committee mused out loud that rather than do six things poorly, perhaps it was time to do five things well and tell the people that there simply wasn’t enough revenue to pay for the kind of government services they were asking for.Report

    • Which one of those six did he have in mind to get the axe?Report

      • Political realities in the state would mean getting out of the higher ed business. Each of the state schools was asked to submit a plan to the Joint Budget Committee on how they would cope if state spending on higher ed went to zero. The community colleges said they would have to close their doors. A couple of the four-year schools thought they could manage as private schools if the state removed the various statutory restrictions on tuition and admissions policy. A large influx of federal moneys put the decision off, and Colorado’s revenues recovered more quickly than many states.

        Revenues have recovered to the point that even the relaxed TABOR revenue limits are probably going to bind this fiscal year, and the state will have to refund some of what it collects.Report

  10. Avatar James Hanley says:

    modern approach

    For the record, I’m going to quibble with the word “modern,” too. I think it’s stealing a base. It could be argued for, but it appears to be just slipped in as an assumption that gives the position greater normative heft–by definition, then, every other approach is pre-modern, archaic. And possibly so, but it has to be argued for.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley says:

      Replace it with “contemporary” if you like. The point is that I’m looking for an approach that is specific and appropriate to our circumstance.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        Well, many things are contemporary, whether we like them to be or not. As for “approach that is specific and appropriate to our circumstance,” I say with no snark intended that I think most people would agree that’s what they’re looking for. That’s not to begrudge or condemn your search, and I think it’s highly likely I’d prefer your specific appropriates to certain other folks’ specific appropriates. But as with all of us, your specific appropriates are rooted in your values and ideas of the world–they’re no more objective than anyone else’s values and ideas of the world.

        That’s not a criticism of those values, or the specific appropriates that derive from them, understand. There is no way for any of us to avoid having subjective values that form an ideological perspective of some sort. E.g., I can make a lot if empirical claims about the positive effects of markets, and of constraining rent-seeking, but in the end the weight given to those particular effects is based on my subjective values–and another person could agree with all my empirical claims but say, “and yet it comes to nought, for I don’t regard those positives as highly as you do, and I value highly other factors, negatives of markets and positives of rent-seeking, that you, Hanley, find to be of little weight.”Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        Again, I think you’re arguing in support of my point here, that differences in values, and not extra-human, intrinsically-existing ideologies should mark political debate.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        differences in values, and not extra-human, intrinsically-existing ideologies should mark political debate.

        I think that’s a meaningless and garbled distinction. “Intrinsically existing ideologies?” How can they exist intrinsically? They’re sets of ideas, hence ideology–ideas do not exist in the absence of humans.

        Ideologies are collections of values. So saying “let’s have values, not ideologies,” is just self-contradictory. Ideology is not just that which we cling to dogmatically and unthinkingly, although we can do that. This is the point Tod’s making me aware that he’s arguing–that ideology isn’t bad per se, just the dogmatic and unthinking view of one’s ideology as “The Truth” is bad.

        But whatever your set of values is? That’s your ideology. You may not hold it dogmatically, and so I say good for you. But it’s an ideology nonetheless.

        Why do you care if people are misled by large food companies through manipulative advertising?

        Why do you care if people are killing themselves through their own choices?

        Why do you define that as a public health issue?

        Why–given that you are not anti-liberty in general–do you believe liberty arguments cannot outweigh the public interest arguments in this case?

        I’m not asking for you to answer (that would send us off on an unnecessary side path). I’m just pointing out that the answers to those questions are a product of your values, your ideas, how you weigh particular values against each other, and so on. In other words, your view of the world and what’s right, desirable, necessary, legitimate and so on. And that’s your ideology, even if there’s no common name for it.

        You’re not standing outside ideology. You’re not operating without an ideology. You may be looking for pragmatic solutions, but your very determination of what counts as a problem needing to be solved depends on your ideological perspective, and your belief that we need pragmatic solutions that aren’t hindered by inflexible normative principles is it’s own principle, also dependent on your ideological perspective.

        The only person without ideology is the person without values and beliefs. And that’s not you.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        James,
        Ideas can live on after the people responsible for them have died. Values that we find abhorrent are still… values, aren’t they? If we killed the last theocrat, that would still be an ideology, wouldn’t it?

        A more profound idea would be to start thinking about reevaluating your values, as much as possible. How much do people really want freedom? What are the possible bad consequences of my values? How can I retailor them to make them better.

        Difficult questions, no?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        If you define it thusly, then undoubtedly I have an ideology. However, I do not believe most people would use the words “values” and “ideology” interchangeably.

        Regarding your questions on public health specifically, I have a long, comprehensive post in the works on that very topic as part of my T1 medical school series. I’m hoping to get this post out by early January.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        Values and ideology are not exactly interchangeable. Your ideology is, as I said in one of my earlier comments, “in large part” your particular set of values. Another part of ideology is your beliefs about how the world actually functions. I.e., do people act rationally? are people inherently good/bad/mixed? does government service bring out the best in people, the worst, or just the whole mixture of their good and bad? ditto for markets?

        So values are components of your ideology. But as long as you have values and beliefs about the world, you do have an ideology.

        I have no doubt that most people misuse the term ideology. I suspect most think that other people have ideologies, but don’t define themselves as having an ideology–they just believe what’s true and right. That doesn’t lead me to respect their use.

        Of course by thinking of yourself as not being motivated by ideology, you’re really doing no different than those folks. Sure, it seems different to you. It also seems different to them.

        Look, once again, this argument is not about criticizing your set of values and beliefs about the world. Even if I might disagree, they’re well within the range of what I would consider legitimate values and beliefs. It’s just about criticizing what I see as the conceit of pretending you’re not being driven by your values and beliefs as much as others are, of pretending you’re just being driven by facts in a totally pragmatic way. It’s a nice snide condescension toward the unenlightened masses caught in the fervor of cheering their ideological teams.

        And, yes, some of that deserves to be condescended to. But you’ve chosen a team–it’s just a different one, whose name is not commonly known to the public yet. I guarantee, if it grows, it will get a name (perhaps the name Tod has chosen for it). And if it grows it’s own particular rigidities and conceptions of Truth will become increasingly apparent.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        The point is that I’m looking for an approach that is specific and appropriate to our circumstance.

        Always historicize!Report

      • If we historicize it, I’m stuck wondering whether CC would have been hammering the table in the 1970’s that we switch to healthier trans-fats and abandon animal fats and criticizing people for wondering if maybe we shouldn’t use to government to nudge people to be healthier is to criticize them for having admirable goals.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        @jaybird @chris

        The history: trans fats were new and obscure in the 1970s. In the late 70s and early 80s there was a rising scientific consensus that excessive intake of saturated fats contributed to coronary artery disease. Several scientists/activists urged McDonald’s to switch to vegetable oils for its fryolators. McDonald’s – a perennial turd in the punchbowl – switched to trans fats for its fryolators and several other large corporations started incorporating more trans fats into their food production as well. This trend generally occurred throughout the 1980s. After this, more research went into trans fats, and their dangers became known starting in the early nineties. Since then there has been a rising scientific consensus that trans fats, despite being at one point in their chemical lives real live vegetable oils, are considerably more dangerous than the saturated fats that they replaced. They do not exist in nature except in trace amounts.

        I’m not seeing anywhere my argument being undermined by history. And that’s all I’ll say on this topic for now. You’ll have to prepare yourself for my Third Punic War -esque assault on this topic in a few weeks.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        After puzzling it over for a day, @chris’spoint is still going over my head. A lttle help for the dim witted, please?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        @james-hanley Christopher’s quoted passage suggests that we should look for a solution that fits the time, place, and situation, which sounds a lot like Jameson’s radical historicism, and the phrase “always historicize,” which though raised in the context of culture is used by Jameson and others as critical guide more generally.

        And of course, Jameson is as Marxist as late 20th century Marxists get, which was my real point: when your pragmatism looks a lot like someone else’s Marxism, it’s probably not as ideologically-agnostic, or nihilistic, as you think.Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    @james-hanley @michael-drew @gabriel-conroy

    Down here…

    Since, you all have questions/points that (I think?) can be answered simultaneously, I hope the three of you don’t mind if I combine my responses to you.

    As GC correctly (but incompletely notes), part of my issue is with tribalism. (Though, obviously, I would suggest tribalism can be benign as well as problematic, but I’ll perhaps save that nettle for another day.) But that summation still let’s ideology — any ideology, even my own — too easily off the hook.

    I might suggest that the reason you are confused by my position, James, and that you are frustrated by it, Michael, is that each of you is looking for a level of absolutism — does Tod believe that ideology is Good or Bad? — that (I believe) does not exist when it comes to ideologies.

    I put it to each of you that there is no ideology that is even semi-commonly practiced and/or advocated today in democratic societies is inherently evil, especially on paper. However, all ideological paths — when that ideology is fully embraced rather than kept at arms length — eventually and increasingly demands a level of fealty from us that leads to the degradation, demonization, and worse of those who practice or advocate an ideology that competes intellectually with our own. Part of this is the way human nature works, obviously, but part of it is the inherent demands of a system that purports to separate not just the wheat from the chaff but also the Good from the Evil.

    If you want a good example of what I’m talking about, go back to our own symposium on Liberal Democracy — where we collectively asked the very question, “Is allowing a society the ability to have a say in their governance and have their rights enshrined by law a good thing or not?” Read the posts and see where people here — good, dispassionate, and far more intelligent than I to a man and woman — ended up thinking about giving people who disagree with them the rights and sovereignty a liberal democracy grants.

    I would bet that there isn’t one of those people (excepting perhaps Murali) who, if you just asked them that question above straight up in their homes over dinner, wouldn’t have answered, “Well of course it’s liberal democracy is good. What are you, high?” But look what happened when they put themselves in a crucible defending and trumpeting their own really, really benign ideologies to tackle things like the troublesome Patriot Act. Suddenly letting people have a say over their own affairs is a kind of an Orwellian despotism, and the best implied solution is to take that power of self-governece away from those who react differently to stressful situations than we do.

    That symposium, I believe, didn’t go the way it did because the people involved with the posts and thread are bad people. They’re not; they’re salt of the Earth, every one. (Well, maybe almost every one.) Where and how quickly they came to downgrading one of their own bedrock principles that was pushing back against their chosen ideology is simply what ideologies demand of us when we embrace them too tightly.

    Look, there’s nothing wrong with any of today’s ideologies when you keep them at arms length, use them as a tool rather that The Truth, and hold a certain amount of doubt in their overall abilities over other ideologies. But that doesn’t make them safe under all circumstances. And in this age of segmentation and ability to increasingly not have to be challenged by non-corroborating data and thought, ideology itself has *is* rapidly becoming the enemy.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      “I put it to each of you that there is no ideology that is even semi-commonly practiced and/or advocated today in democratic societies is inherently evil, especially on paper. ”
      I have not found this to be the case, though I find that most such ideologies tend to drape themselves in nicer clothing.

      Examples provided upon request.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I might suggest that the reason you are confused by my position, James, and that you are frustrated by it, Michael, is that each of you is looking for a level of absolutism

      For my part, no. Really not even close.

      I think I was confused by your position for the very same reason you demonstrate here. It’s others’ ideology you’re critiquing (while saying that of course on paper, and if kept under control, the ideologies themselves aren’t inherently evil), but you still seem to be seeing ideologies as what others have. Your principled pragmatism appears as an alternative to ideology per se, rather than as one more ideology that is an alternative to all the other ideologies.

      And if your position is that principled pragmatism isn’t subject to being held as “The Truth” like other ideologies are (I’m not sure that’s your position, but given that you’re using your position as a contrast to positions with the “The Truth” problem, it seems a plausible interpretation), then I think you’re definitely treating it–even if not purposefully–as non-ideology. Because ideology is that which is susceptible to the “the Truth” problem, and principled pragmatism is not. Again, that’s if you see PP as not being subject to the “The Truth” problem. I’m not asserting that you actually do see it that way.

      Overall, I’m not saying that the distinction of PP from ideology is what you mean to say, just that from my perspective it’s what you often appear to say, even if inadvertently.Report

      • @james-hanley ” then I think you’re definitely treating it–even if not purposefully–as non-ideology”

        I don’t believe that I am, but as always I am open to a counter-argument. And for the record, my principled pragmatism is just as capable to being held up as The Truth and taken to a dark, dark place as is communism or libertarianism.

        Pragmatism — any pragmatism, even my own principled version — absolutely can be taken to the ugly place place conservatism is now. In fact, it is — right now, as we speak — with developmentally disabled adults, whose social service $ are being taken away from them to fund all kinds of more politically expedient things, including O-care. And every argument I have seen to justify it (from anyone who even bothers) is clearly an appeal not to liberalism or conservatism, but to pragmatism.

        And yes, it is absolutely true that I believe in… well, in what I believe in. And, yes, it’s equally true that as a result I argue for it both passionately and repetitively. So, too, do you — and everyone else here who wears the stripes or liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, or whatever. So I guess I’m not sure I get how I alone am asked to… I dunno, not articulate nor defend my beliefs in order to make them somehow count.

        FWIW, I wrote that first post here with the hopes of getting pushback that would help me hone my belief system, revise or abandon it, and at the very least be able to articulate it more clearly outside of my own head. What I had assumed was that I would get serious pushback to my crazy idea that you can use the strengths of different ideologies in different settings — like a woodworker uses different tools for different jobs, all of which creates a beautiful and functional armoire at the end of the day. I’m still interested in that pushback, but I never get it. Instead, I get banal statements that “Tod has an ideology too!,” or “You think you’re so much better than everyone!” And I get that most of that’s on me, since I am the one writing the posts.

        Still, just once it would be nice to have someone argue, “you can’t use a libertarian answer for this and a socialist answer for that in the same society, because if you do [insert random armageddon scenario her] will happen” rather than “proving” I think things that I admit I think every freaking time I talk about this stuff.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to James Hanley says:

        Pushback? I’m probably not the best choice but have no fear in dancing a couple rounds.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I am an environmentalist; I believe (ideology, no?) in protecting natural resources, preserving habitat, and conserving wilderness. I think water and air quality matter. I think climate change a huge problem. I think much of our industrial food system a huge problem.

      But whenever I hear the buzz words from environmental ideologues, I get that they’re signaling tribalism most of the time, too; they don’t really comprehend what they’re discussing. GMO’s might be my favorite example right now; something I’ve discussed at length here repeatedly — it’s not the GMO’s, it’s that some genetic modifications allow excess use of what I suspect to be a highly damaging thing (glyphosate), particularly when used in excess, which is what’s currently happening in some applications. There’s similar ideology on the right; climate-change denial and guns are both prime examples. Lacking knowledge about actual things, the discussion is about signaling, not about reality; and the signaling only approximates reality.

      We’re probably going there with torture, too.

      I don’t have much problem with people signaling, either; the world is too complex to have in-depth knowledge on all topics any given individual might be concerned about; we’ve got to trust signals to some great degree. The problem, then, is how to select signals that are real and not just ideology; and that’s where pragmatism might matter most. It’s pragmatic to recognize that fear makes us irrational; and that change makes us afraid. Very afraid.

      And when you’re afraid, it’s hard to push the off button on the cable news and the internet; it’s hard to get real perspective when fear mongering gets looped into your favorite song on repeat.Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to zic says:

        “We’re probably going there with torture, too.”

        Can I ask you to elaborate there? That comment piqued my curiosity.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic says:

        “It’s pragmatic to recognize that fear makes us irrational; and that change makes us afraid. ”

        … pragmatism when it comes to this is understanding exactly how perilous our society is, at any given point in time. Screw it up, even just slightly, and people’s faith wavers. If people’s faith wavers, they stop doing all the things they do on faith — “I go to work, I get paid next Tuesday.” Most people are sheep, and chaos is really not as far away as people like to pretend.

        You’re up in Maine, you’ve got less to worry about than I do here, in Pittsburgh (cities are far more dangerous because mob behavior… If you’re really out in the country, you can gather your neighbors).

        Pragmatism sometimes comes down to having enough guns and friends, and enough space to put both to good use.

        If you haven’t had a glance at what happened in Argentina, it’s worth a look.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic says:

        zic,
        from the bright-eyed and bushytailed, inquisitive people I know, it’s less about the glyphosate, and more about “potential problems” down the road.

        But you don’t cast “summon army of protestors” by using “potential bio-engineered plagues down the road.” You (apparently) cast “summon army of protestors” with some demagogery about GMOs being a bad idea In General. (and then you use your safety whistle to call them off the scientists working in the 3rd world, because they’re not going to make a plague).Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

        I would suggest that Zic has hit the magic word. It isn’t ideology, it is tribalism.

        Ideology can be a useful heuristic. Tribalism* risks sacrificing pragmatic consequentialism for signalling loyalty to the in group.

        *tribalism and group signalling of course have their uses tooReport

    • The only reason I was looking for absolutism on the subject of ideology (in fact, I was looking against absolutism on it I thought I was finding, even though in general I’m probably even stronger than is James on the point that it is pervasive, inescapable, and (given humans being humans) inevitable in social thought, and not in itself bad, but in fact on net good because it really enables so much of the analysis that has gotten us to our present understanding of ourselves), is purely because of this framing of “ideology is the enemy.”

      I’ve spent some thinking about that, thinking that someone actually believed it. I regret the wasted time, is all. I didn’t find much to disagree with in the body of what you wrote, and I agree that the way we relate to ideologies can be really problematic. But I didn’t see the statement that was telling me you didn’t also really think that ideology itself is therefore the enemy. I thought all the points you were making were meant to be adding up to that conclusion, because of the title of the series.

      Since we apparently don’t think that anymore, I’m not frustrated anymore.Report

  12. Avatar Citizen says:

    @ Christopher
    What were you looking to achieve out of a suggested effort to reconcile the liberal, libertarian dichotomy?Report