Friday, October 31, 2008

Thomas Sowell on a Conflict of Visions

I have not read all of Thomas Sowell's book entitled A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles--but from what I have read thus far, it is a profoundly important, paradigm-shaping and -clarifying book.

Sowell's main idea is that the ideological origin of political struggles and worldview is a conflict of competing visions about humanity. These visions provide the answers to our worldview questions: e.g., whether or not we are generally selfish, the value and limits of human reason, the role of planning in societal growth, whether we should prefer "trade offs" or "solutions," whether we should prefer "procedural fairness" or "results-based fairness," etc.

Peter Robinson at Uncommon Knowledge recently did a video interview with Sowell about these matters, as applied to the current election. The five parts of the interview are linked below:

Part 1
Thomas Sowell describes the critical differences between interests and visions. Interests, he says, are articulated by people who know what their interests are and what they want to do about them. Visions, however, are the implicit assumptions by which people operate. This idea elevates to politics, where visions are either “constrained” or “unconstrained.”

Part 2
Sowell describes the constrained and unconstrained visions of the law, noting that the former applies to John McCain and the latter to Barrack Obama.

Part 3
Speaking of the differing visions of war, Sowell says the constrained vision is never surprised by war, while the unconstrained vision almost always is.

Part 4
Is John McCain’s the constrained vision of the economy, and is Obama’s the unconstrained? According to Sowell, the distinction is sadly not that clear.

Part 5
Thomas Sowell discusses the dangerous unconstrained vision of Barack Obama and other elites. And what will happen if this vision scores a three-house sweep on Election Day? Sowell says we may have reached “a point of no return.”