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Van Jones and Jon Haidt Make the Case for Conservatism


Jonathan Haidt’s essay, Van Jones’ Excellent Metaphors About the Dangers of Ideological Safety, and the sentiments Jones expresses, are in their core essence an argument against liberalism and in favor of conservatism.

Here’s a video clip of Jones’ comments, below which is a transcript of them from the Haidt essay:

Van Jones: I don’t like bigots and bullies. I just want to point that out… But I got tough talk for my liberal colleagues on these campuses. They don’t tend to like it but I think they like me so I get away with it. I want to push this.

There are two ideas about safe spaces: One is a very good idea and one is a terrible idea. The idea of being physically safe on a campus—not being subjected to sexual harassment and physical abuse, or being targeted specifically, personally, for some kind of hate speech—“you are an n-word,” or whatever—I am perfectly fine with that.

But there’s another view that is now I think ascendant, which I think is just a horrible view, which is that “I need to be safe ideologically. I need to be safe emotionally I just need to feel good all the time, and if someone says something that I don’t like, that’s a problem for everybody else including the administration.”

I think that is a terrible idea for the following reason: I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different.

I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym. You can’t live on a campus where people say stuff you don’t like?! And these people can’t fire you, they can’t arrest you, they can’t beat you up, they can just say stuff you don’t like- and you get to say stuff back- and this you cannot bear?! [audience applause]

This is ridiculous BS liberals! My parents, and Monica Elizabeth Peak’s parents [points to someone in the audience and greets her] were marched, they dealt with fire hoses! They dealt with dogs! They dealt with beatings! You can’t deal with a mean tweet?! You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous. I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you in these communities. [applause]

Here is Haidt’s comment, from the same essay:

Jones’ argument and his metaphors are based on the idea that young people are “anti-fragile.” They need exposure to challenges, irritants, and stressors in order to grow strong. If you treat them as though they are fragile by “paving the jungle” for them, or “taking the weights out of the weight room,” you may think you are helping them, but you are harming them. You are actually making them fragile, which will set them up for lives of increased anxiety and decreased political effectiveness once they leave campus and encounter a jungle of ideological diversity, much of it far more threatening than anything Lewandowsky would say. (Granted, the Chicago students were talking about “normalization” rather than “safety.” Chicago students are tougher than most. But the net effect of banning politically unpopular views from campus is the same regardless of the motive.)

The idea of “anti-fragility” is developed at length, and with a great deal of evidence, in Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile. This idea was at the core of my essay with Greg Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind. Jones adds the argument that many universities, by granting demands for ideological safety and purity on campus, are doing things that strengthen the right (by creating a kind of liberalism that offends many people beyond the campus) and that weaken the future leaders and activists of left.

Jones thereby makes the strongest case I have yet seen for why–in the wake of the unexpected Trump victory–progressive students should be asking for more exposure to more political diversity (as Harvard students have), and for why progressive professors should join Heterodox Academy to improve the educational effectiveness and intellectual vibrancy of universities.

Here are my observations about all of this, which I posted as three comments to Haidt’s essay on the Heterodox Academy web page.

My first comment:

Conservatism is Anti-fragile. Liberalism and Progressivism are Pro-fragile.

The all-foundation morality of balance between individualizing and binding, between autonomy and community, between the bees and the hive, is Anti-Frigile.

The three-foundation morality – and of those most just “care” – of all individualizing all the time, is Pro-Fragile.

The core principles of The American Revolution and of the Constitution are Anti-Fragile.

The core principles of the French Revolution and of left-wing government schemes and levelling are Pro-Fragile.

The protection of rights, aka the purpose of government, rightly understood, is anti-fragile.

The protection of people, aka the liberal morality of “care,” is Pro-fragile (and antithetical to the purpose of government).

Negative liberty – freedom from; a core principle of America’s founding embodied in the Constitution –and of liberty itself, rightly understood, is Anti-Fragile.

Positive liberty – freedom to; a core principle of left wing thought since the French Revolution, and the object of practically every left wing scheme ever attempted – is Pro-Fragile, and antithetical to liberty rightly understood.

Process-based liberty, equality, justice, and fairness – another core principle of each of those things, rightly understood, and of the Constitution – is Anti-Fragile.

Outcome-based liberty, equality, justice, and fairness – another core principle of the left-wing version of each of those things – is Pro-Fragile.

The rule of law, again a core principle of liberty and of America’s Founding and of the Constitution, rightly understood – is Anti-Fragile.

The rule of man, via levelling schemes like affirmative action, the nanny state, Social Justice in all its forms, is Pro-Fragile.

Haidt’s First Story About Capitalism – Capitalism is Exploitation – is Pro-Fragile.

Haidt’s Second Story About Capitalism – Capitalism is Anti-Fragile.

My second comment:

Obama, and the Obama Administration, with its eight year world apology tour, and left-wing thought since forever were, and are, Pro-Fragile.

1) Being Pro-Fragile is a practically self-evident defining characteristic trait of the left-wing righteous rind, for which morality starts and ends with “Care.”

2) It is the Pro-Fragile mentality of the Platonic idealism and epistemic arrogance of WEIRD rationalist Western liberal/progressive culture that is tearing that culture apart.

The reason this isn’t common knowledge is described in “Is Social Science Politically Biased?” in Scientific American, which in turn summarizes ideas from a paper written by some members of HxA. In short, the answer to the question posed in the article’s title is an unequivocal “Yes.”

I am highly confident that if honest, open minded, thinking and studies of the sort suggested by “Is Political Science Politically Biased?” were to be done then both of my numbered assertions above would be found true.

Such studies might follow the “Nomological Network of Cumulative Evidence” used and described by Gad Saad, here:

and described in the paper “Evaluating Evidence of Psychological Adaptation” by David P. Schmitt and June J. Pilcher.

A few sources of data and evidence to get started in this effort include:

1) “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,” by Jonathan Haidt,

2) “Pathological Altruism” by Barbara Oakeley

3) “The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion” by Wialliam Voegeli

4) “Against Empathy,” by Paul Bloom

5) Practically anything by Thomas Sowell, for example “A Conflict of Visions,” and “The Quest for Social Justice”

6) “The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization,” by Arthur Herman.

My Third Comment is a cut and paste excerpt from What Steve Bannon Wants You To Read, in Politico:

“Antifragile…reads like a user’s guide to the Trump insurgency.

“It’s a broadside against big government, which Taleb faults for suppressing the randomness, volatility and stress that keep institutions and people healthy. “As with neurotically overprotective parents, those who are trying to help us are hurting us the most,” he writes. Taleb also offers a withering critique of global elites, whom he describes as a corrupt class of risk-averse insiders immune to the consequences of their actions: “We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.”

“It might as well have been the mission statement of the Trump campaign. Asked in a phone interview this week whether he’s had meetings with Bannon or his associates, Taleb said he could not comment. “Anything about private meetings would need to come from them,” he said, though he noted cryptically he’s had “coffee with friends.” He has been supportive of Trump but does not define himself as a supporter per se, though he said he would “be on the first train” to Washington were he invited to the White House.

“They look like the incarnation of ‘antifragile’ people,” Taleb said of the new administration. “The definition of ‘antifragile’ is having more upside than downside. For example, Obama had little upside because everyone thought he was brilliant and would solve the world’s problems, so when he didn’t it was disappointing. Trump has little downside because he’s already been so heavily criticized. He’s heavily vaccinated because of his checkered history. People have to understand: Trump did not run to be archbishop of Canterbury.”

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Van Jones and Jon Haidt Make the Case for Conservatism

  1. Watch for Jones’ profile increasing toward 2020.

    Interesting in that to be “anti-fragile”, you need to first believe/perceive the people/students aren’t fragile.

    Like

    Posted by Triggering Liberals (@alinskyrocks) | March 3, 2017, 12:59 pm
  2. If we were having a strictly philosophical conversation, you may be correct, but since we are no longer in the metaphysical stage of society, I think it is more useful to look at reality.

    In reality, because we all share the same trait of being humans with fallible minds, Conservatives today are just as constrained in their ability to improve the way we govern ourselves by embracing a whole host of Utopian ideals and every one of the cognitive biases that Liberals have – confirmation/disconfirmation bias, halo effect, group think, etc…

    Today’s Conservatives are nothing more than hypocrites, masquerading as problem solvers. Every one of the major Conservative policies are warmed-over versions of failed ideas. So, contrary to being Anti-fragile (love Taleb), contemporary Conservatism is just another example of Dogma gone wild, complete with historical revisionism and ideological assumption without evidence.

    There is a reason that Max Planck said ‘Science advances one funeral at a time’ – the human mind makes it very difficult to objectively evaluate ideas and information without the heavy influence of narrative bias, and BOTH left and right have so much narrative bias, it is entirely understandable why Washington is so dysfunctional today.

    Like

    Posted by tomrossman2017 | March 4, 2017, 3:12 pm

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A politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

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