Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Blindsided by the Truth

In the preceding post I got carried away with my critique of Jeff Jarvis's post about presidential character. Actually, there's a classic book on the subject, Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House, by James David Barber. I haven't read it in years, but I recall finding it quite insightful -- well, as insightful as hindsight can be. Barber makes a good case for the influence of a president's character on his execution of the office.

Anyway, I think Jarvis may have had another point, to which I do subscribe. That is, most of the yelling and screaming that's associated with political campaigns these days simply does no good. The yellers and screamers are simply convincing themselves, and those who already agree with them, that they're right. Their main accomplishment is to provide blog-fodder for their political allies and opponents.

Yelling and screaming doesn't change anyone's mind. Being yelled and screamed at only makes you hate your political opponents and their politics all the more. Yet, some people do change their minds, in time. Why is that?

It's said that people tend to become more politically conservative (or libertarian) with age. If that is so, it's because age is a proxy for experience. Many people learn, from experience, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, that the law of unintended consequences often prevails, that there is no such thing as a free lunch (unless you happen to belong to the right interest group), and that negotiating for peace is a fool's undertaking.

Experience blindsides people with the truth. Of course, not everyone is susceptible to the truth. Those who have taken a firm, "principled" stand in favor of government intervention in our lives and economic institutions are unlikely to back down from that stand. They have too much ego at stake.

But "average" people -- John and Jane Public -- can and do learn from experience. That is why I have hope for the future of freedom in the U.S. and for our ultimate victory over Islamism.