Right > left

Tyler Cowen:

Sometimes political revolutions occur right before our eyes without us quite realizing it. I think that’s what’s been happening over the last few weeks around the world, and the message is clear: The populist “New Right” isn’t going away anytime soon, and the rise of the “New Left” is exaggerated.

Start with Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprising victory last week. Before the election, polls had almost uniformly indicated that his Liberal-National Coalition would have to step down, but voters were of another mind. With their support of Morrison, an evangelical Christian who has expressed support for President Donald Trump, Australians also showed a relative lack of interest in doing more about climate change. And this result is no fluke of low turnout: Due to compulsory voting, most Australians do turn out for elections.

The Liberal Party is the conservative party in Australia, by the way. (I know that because I wrote a term paper about the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis for a UW–Madison class.) Maybe now that they’re back in office the Liberals can discover gun ownership rights for the Aussies.

Or how about the U.K.? The evidence is mounting that the Brexit Party will do very well in this week’s European Parliament elections. Right now that party, which did not exist until recently, is in the lead in national polls with an estimated 34% support. The Tories, the current ruling party, are at only 12%. So the hard Brexit option does not seem to be going away, and the right wing of British politics seems to be moving away from the center.

As for the European Parliament as a whole, by some estimates after this week’s election 35% of the chamber will be filled by anti-establishment parties, albeit of a diverse nature. You have to wonder at what margins the EU will become unworkable or lose legitimacy altogether.

Meanwhile in the U.S., polls show Joe Biden as the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He is one of the party’s more conservative candidates, and maybe some primary voters value his electability and familiarity over the more left-wing ideas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. That’s one sign the “hard left” is not in ascendancy in the U.S. Biden’s strategy of running against Trump is another. It’s hard to say how effective that will prove, but it is likely to result in an election about the ideas and policies of Trump, not those of Democratic intellectuals.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy has remained strong, and Trump’s chances of re-election have been rising in the prediction markets.

One scarcely noticed factor in all of this has been the rising perception of China as a threat to Western interests. The American public is very aware that the U.S. is now in a trade war with China, a conflict that is likely to provoke an increase in nationalism. That is a sentiment that has not historically been very helpful to left-wing movements. China has been one of Trump’s signature causes for years, and he seems to be delighting in having it on center stage.

The Democratic Party is not well-positioned to make China a core issue. Democrats have been criticizing Trump’s tariffs for a while now, and it may be hard for them to adjust their message from “Tariffs Are Bad” to “Tariffs Are Bad But China Tariffs Are OK.” Their lukewarm support for free trade agreements — especially the Trans Pacific Partnership, which could have served as a kind of alternative China trade policy — also complicates matters. The net result is that Republicans will probably be able to use the China issue to their advantage for years to come.

Elsewhere, the world’s largest democracy just wrapped up a lengthy election. The results in India aren’t yet known, but exit polls show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition — and his philosophy of Hindu nationalism — will continue to be a major influence.

Modi’s party won big.

In all of this ferment, I am myself rooting for a resurgence of centrist cosmopolitanism. But I try to be honest about how my ideas are doing in the world. And in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of evidence that a new political era truly is upon us.

Well, in all of this ferment I am myself rooting for a resurgence — or maybe “surgence,” if that’s a word (like “disgruntled” not being the antonym of “gruntled”) — of political parties based on individual rights, liberty and free markets, like the pre-Trump Republican Party, and smaller government.. Readers know Trump has been as he should be in many areas (i.e. the tax cut), but tariffs are not a feature of free markets.

Worldwide electoral success isn’t the only place where the right is succeeding over the left, as Ron Ross claims:

You may have noticed that conservatives are blessed with an impressive lineup of intellectual heavyweights. Liberals have none, literally none. A few of those on the conservative side are Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Dennis Prager, Shelby Steele, Jordon Peterson, and Mark Levin.

Thomas Sowell is an economist, ex-Marine, Hoover Institution scholar, and the author of over 30 books. If you’ve never read one you don’t know what you’re missing. Two of his classics are Knowledge and Decisions and The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. He is well known for his many pearls of wisdom which he terms, “random thoughts on the passing scene.” Those now can be found on Twitter.

Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and Hillsdale College. He is best known for his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Several million copies have been sold. It was even a number-one bestseller in Sweden. If you read that book you will understand life better, and if you follow the rules you will be a better person. The book is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Jordan Peterson is possibly the wisest man alive. Fortunately for the rest of us he shares his wisdom through his books, interviews, podcasts, and seminars. Peterson is despised by the left. That says much more about them than him.

Besides his columns, daily radio show, and books, Dennis Prager is the founder and frequent contributor to Prager University. Prager U presents concise, thoughtful five-minute lectures on a weekly basis, and recently reached a milestone of two billion views. His latest book is The Rational Bible: Genesis.

Victor Davis Hanson is a former professor of classical Greek history and is also a scholar at the Hoover Institution. He writes columns usually once or twice a week and appears on Fox News about as often. The amount of logic and historical perspective he includes in his columns is mind-boggling. His latest book is The Case for Trump.

Mark Levin is founder of the Landmark Legal Foundation, the author of several best-selling books, host of a daily radio show and a weekly hour-long interview show on Fox News. His just published book, Unfreedom of the Press, is the number one best seller on Amazon. Levin never leaves you wondering what he believes.

Shelby Steele is another scholar at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, and Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country. His essays appear regularly on the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages.

You cannot name a single liberal who has anything approaching the above credentials or intellectual output. Why? There are a number of reasons.

Liberalism is fundamentally about feelings rather than thoughts. Also the left focuses on intentions, the right focuses on results and the ways by which results are achieved.

An advantage of making intentions your goal is that once you choose and announce them, you’re done. No need to follow up to see if your intentions were realized. No need to consider second or third order effects.

Leftism is about force, conservatism is about freedom and voluntary exchange. The use of force needs no theory or ideology. Anyone willing to rely on force to accomplish his or her objectives doesn’t really need to understand how the world works.

The mindset of the writers listed above reflects what is written in Ecclesiastes, “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven… and I gave my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.”

The foremost source of the left’s intellectual poverty is arrogance. Arrogance kills curiosity. Those on the left feel they already know all they need to know. They have nothing left to learn or to bother thinking deeply about. Ironically, they feel intellectually superior to conservatives.

A prerequisite for being a serious thinker is curiosity. It requires being curious about how things work — society, the economy, human nature, for example. Curiosity is the incentive for doing the hard work of study and serious thought.

The left also feels morally superior to any of our predecessors. Conservatives, on the other hand, possess a deep respect and reverence for the wisdom we’ve inherited from, for example, the Greeks, the Bible, Shakespeare, and the Founding Fathers.

Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Even Newton needed to know what those preceding him had discovered. On the left there’s no gratitude for the wisdom endowed to us by our forebears. Rather than gratitude there’s disdain, another reflection of their arrogance.

The opposite of arrogance is humility. As Isaac Newton also recognized, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

A 2018 study reported in the Journal of Positive Psychology entitled “Links Between Intellectual Humility and Acquiring Knowledge” found that Intellectual humility (IH)

was associated with a variety of characteristics associated with knowledge acquisition, including reflective thinking, need for cognition, intellectual engagement, curiosity, intellectual openness, and open-minded thinking.… These links may help explain the observed relationship between IH and possessing more knowledge.

The entire study, by Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso, Megan Haggard et al., is worth reading.

As long as the left holds on to its arrogance it will never match the richness of the right’s intellectual offerings. It’s another reason why being a conservative is a whole lot more fun than being a liberal.

Liberals think having more college degrees and postgraduate degrees makes them smarter. The People’s Republic of Madison is full of taxi drivers and waiters with master’s degrees and doctorates. There is nothing wrong with taxi-driving or the restaurant industry, but intelligence is not necessarily measured in level of education. Two of the most wise people I knew, my grandmother and my father-in-law, got no farther than the eighth grade in school.

Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying that the facts of life are fundamentally conservative. Dennis Prager expands on that:

At the core of left-wing thought is a rejection of painful realities, the rejection of what the French call les faits de la vie, the facts of life. Conservatives, on the other hand, are all too aware of these painful realities of life and base many of their positions on them. …

Liberals find it too painful to look reality in the eye and acknowledge that human nature is deeply flawed. This is especially so since left-wing thought is rooted in secularism, and if you don’t believe in God, you had better believe in humanity — or you will despair.

Another fact of life that the Left finds too painful to acknowledge is the existence of profound differences between men and women. There is no other explanation for the rejection of what has been obvious to essentially every man and woman in history. It is certainly not the result of scientific inquiry. The more science knows about the male and female brain, not to mention male and female hormones, the more it confirms important built-in differences between the sexes.

Why then would people actually believe that girls are as happy to play with trucks as are boys, and boys are as happy to play with dolls and tea sets as are girls?

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