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Dr Thomas Sowell's "a Conflict Of Visions"

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George Hatch

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From wiki

A Conflict of Visions is a book by Thomas Sowell. It was originally published in 1987; a revised edition appeared in 2007.[1] Sowell's opening chapter attempts to answer the question of why the same people tend to be political adversaries in issue after issue, when the issues vary enormously in subject matter and sometimes hardly seem connected to one another. The root of these conflicts, Sowell claims, are the "visions", or the intuitive feelings that people have about human nature; different visions imply radically different consequences for how they think about everything from war to justice.

The rest of the book describes two basic visions, the "constrained" and "unconstrained" visions, which are thought to capture opposite ends of a continuum of political thought on which one can place many contemporary Westerners, in addition to their intellectual ancestors of the past few centuries.
 
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George Hatch

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The Unconstrained Vision
Sowell argues that the unconstrained vision relies heavily on the belief that human nature is essentially good. Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection. Sowell often refers to them as "the self anointed." Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, they believe that there exist some people who are further along the path of moral development, have overcome self-interest and are immune to the influence of power and therefore can act as surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.

The Constrained Vision
Sowell argues that the constrained vision relies heavily on belief that human nature is essentially unchanging and that man is naturally inherently self-interested, regardless of the best intentions. Those with a constrained vision prefer the systematic processes of the rule of law and experience of tradition. Compromise is essential because there are no ideal solutions, only trade-offs. Those with a constrained vision favor solid empirical evidence and time-tested structures and processes over intervention and personal experience. Ultimately, the constrained vision demands checks and balances and refuses to accept that all people could put aside their innate self-interest.[4]
 

Big ole Boy

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Piety becomes smelly on its own.

Meritocracy continues to re-examine all things.
 

hastalavista

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Sowell's "Basic Economics" and Friedman's "Freedom to Choose" should be must-reads for anyone who wants to engage in serious economic discussions. On the same necessary reading list as Keynes, Marx, or A. Smith. The big difference is that Friedman and Sowell have more current and easier-recognized examples to us contemporaries. But the underlying logic of their arguments are timeless.
 

Bobby Bucks

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It's been a while since Uncle Milton has been mentioned here. I miss a particular AF poster
I also miss Roger, I often wonder what he would have posted about last year's election and the current political climate.
 

Big ole Boy

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The OP (George) - constrained verses unconstrained - if a body (such as mine) that is loaded with physical addictions and weak mental decision making processes .... certainly it gives me a large blind spot - the aesthetic, on the other hand, has gained mastery over oneself and I can see why the constrained view makes more sense .... the sharpest tools are made by the hardest metals .... so the constrained would be much more inline with a Darwinian view of the world (albeit, a spiritless machine).

The hermetic view on the other hand, allows for a much more magical view of the world (Terrence McKenna) and would tend towards the "unconstrained" narrative. In my opinion with all my defects.

I miss Roger -he was so patient with me. I think however, I am not quite sure about Freedman.
 

EddieB

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I don't follow the compromise aspect of the distinct visions. Seems like compromise is in essence the belief that both visions hold validity. Maybe I should read his book.
 

George Hatch

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If your biases run toward the unconstrained vision you would favor a system that's aspirational and is based on the idea that we're better than that.

If your biases run the other way toward the constrained vision - also called the dark vision - then you would favor a system that acknowledges that there are always going to be some people who will actively seek to take advantage of loopholes, and that the law of unintended consequences will always be in effect. Because you think that we are actually not better than that.

Rehabilitating crooks in prison, because inside every crook is a citizen who is trying to get out if only we give them another chance.
vs
Punishing crooks in prison because they deserve it and will likely re-offend again anyways unless/until they get tired of getting caught and punished.


Giving social welfare to everyone who needs it on the no-strings attached entitlement because we're compassionate and because we don't believe anyone actually *wants* to be dependent
vs
Giving social welfare only to the "deserving poor", with strings attached that are intended to modify the behavior of any slackers among them so they'll get off the dole ASAP and take care of themselves
 
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