How we choose to talk about politics can explain a lot about what motivates our reasoning toward political issues. Arnold Kling is author of The Three Languages of Politics.
United States


00:00:00this is the key to a daily podcast for Wednesday may twenty fourth two thousand seventeen and give the brown how does the language we use factor attempts to influence each other and are we really trying to influence each other or merely earning status within our own ideological groups
00:00:17Arnold Kling is author of the new revised edition of the three languages of politics published by the were tearing his daughter work in the Cato Institute we spoke last month we've discussed this issue before about how to be essentially compassionate when other people present their views to you
00:00:35and try to seek first to understand as were often told but %HESITATION Arnold let me hit you with this one I cannot be pigeon holed on the basis of your wrist X. I arrive at my political beliefs through careful reasoning and consideration of the evidence %HESITATION it is
00:00:56a characteristic of the people who share my political beliefs that we carefully weigh the facts and arrive at realistic sound conclusions and it's a characteristic of the other side essentially that they are slaves to dogma and impaired in the use of reason yes that's what everyone believes and
00:01:16it's so but I put it but for me it's really true are so every every progressive believes that they're the reason that progressive views are reasonable and and that other people arrive at their views from for irrational reasons of one sort or another libertarians believe that they are
00:01:36the rational ones and then other people arrive at their views from irrational reasons and conservatives do the same things so that's that's PA %HESITATION gives you a flavor of of how the book is what it looks like it tries to I'm afraid draw moral equivalency between these three
00:01:56viewpoints although I myself lean much more to libertarian side I think that in the way that we fight one another and engaging tribal rhetoric unfortunately there is so little bit of a moral equivalency so I I'll pay you a compliment and that is when I want people to
00:02:17understand what I think about things but I don't want to talk to them about it in the way that I %HESITATION when I in other words I think I would fail to convince them I will bore for them to something written by Arnold Kling quite often because I
00:02:30CQ you present things in a way that is very %HESITATION very pleasant and easy to understand and you don't use a lot of jargon or inside a re language %HESITATION among lip that libertarians tend to use in your book and this is something that stuck with me hear
00:02:50you say you are qualified to tell other people that they are wrong you are just not qualified to tell other people that they are on reasonable only they can be the judge of that and I think that's a really important thought to keep in mind could you unpack
00:03:02that just a little bit yeah that's %HESITATION there is a very interesting psychological observation and actually spent a lot of time in the book trying to talk about the psychology of how people %HESITATION express their beliefs and how they feel about their own beliefs and one of the
00:03:20interesting findings is sky dubbed the law of asymmetric inside which is you believe that you understand other people's motives better than they do so if you read any Paul Krugman column just about he will be talking about the motives of conservatives as if he knows their true motives
00:03:40and they are hiding their true motives from you I think if you listen to a Rush Limbaugh you'd probably get the same thing about the left well what the left really wants and so this long of asymmetric inside is I think is a yeah is valid in and
00:04:01it's part of the process by which people delegitimize opponents and so if you can just get to the point where you don't think you understand the other side secret motives better than they do you're you're already being more charitable them than most people would pay so can we
00:04:20run through an issue and %HESITATION run it through your test are I guess not really an ideological touring test for us but just sort of it see how people would examine it well I'll I'll take an issue that came up after the book I I look at it
00:04:39we're talking about the second edition the book is forthcoming and the original edition was about four years ago and %HESITATION so I've been tracking issues that have come up since then and to see how well they fit and let's take something like the whole black lives matter movement
00:04:55and so the theory of the three languages is that the progressives will %HESITATION try to frame it as a press services oppressed conservative will try to flame into civilization verses barbarism and a libertarian will try to frame it is liberty verses coercion and and that sets up sort
00:05:16of natural alliances on given issues yeah but it's but the alliances are shaky because they're sort of you know that that they're thinking sort of differently so that let's say on the black lives matter %HESITATION yeah sure enough progressives will say well it there's racism in society blacks
00:05:37as a class or oppressed gnats really is %HESITATION you know that that's what's going on when when police shoot unarmed black people %HESITATION conservatives will say wait no some of these unarmed black people were really or me really attacking or threatening policemen and even if %HESITATION regardless of
00:05:57that the riots and destruction were barbaric and the libertarians will say well you know the police are just so heavily armed and so prone to shoot first and ask questions later and they're arresting people for trivial reasons there too many crimes being to find so as you say
00:06:17you get an alliance kind of between the progressive in the libertarians on that particular issue because of the libertarians and the progressives are more willing to go against the police where is a conservative civilization purses barbarism the police represents civilization even on that issue libertarians in progressives would
00:06:37%HESITATION assign motive very differently absolutely the progressive thinks that the problem is in the %HESITATION institutional racism are historical racism and the libertarian thinks the problem is that the government has too many petty laws at her a it it it needs to back off on %HESITATION passing laws
00:07:00that %HESITATION allow police to harass people and also that the police are two militarized and that it's it's it's about power it's about control it's not about some sort of race animosity right exactly so I remember at eight in reading your book initially that you were very careful
00:07:23to say look this is not a book that is like how to use how to pick up more checks at the bar %HESITATION how to convince people who disagree with you using these five key words this is not a %HESITATION this is not a course in convincing your
00:07:41opponents to agree with you write it as an example of sort of people trying to use somebody else's language you have conservatives talking about how oppressed conservatives are on college campuses that just not going to do it %HESITATION just trying to use the other person's language and adapt
00:07:58their language it is just not a trick that works and that I think as you said that wasn't the goal of book the goal the book is to recognize your own kind of instinctive responses to language based on where you stand and to sort of get you to
00:08:16back off of that so if you hear a let's say your libertarian and you hear the you know this is a problem this is but problem all caused by state power you realize all of that that's naturally going to appeal to me the Milanese step back and think
00:08:31about it consider other perspectives but Arnold I am like correct about all these things it's those other people who are wrong and they need to be convinced so I would like to take your book and just use it as a tool and make other people adopt my way
00:08:49of thinking yeah I unfortunately I can't sell the book that way and I really I I will it would sell it and it's a whole I think it's a horrible time to try to sell it but to try to get people to approach political discussions differently I imagine
00:09:09three things you could try to open the minds of the other side you could try to open the mind of your own side or you could try to close the mind of your own side and I think a lot of political rhetoric is designed really to to try
00:09:25to close the mind of your own side convince your side that for the other side is really really wrong and they're evil and their motives are bad Arnold the president of the United States for years refused to say the words radical Islamic terrorism and that prove something very
00:09:42important and from a conservative point of view that shows that you know he doesn't understand barbarism yeah %HESITATION but %HESITATION that test that that doesn't help me saying that as you know doesn't help persuade either a libertarian or progressive that that there's something wrong with the president and
00:10:01so these %HESITATION unfortunately so I really I I read the first edition this book in two thousand thirteen and there's all this hostility in the political discussion and people trying to close their minds of their own side and I look at the back of that and that's like
00:10:18the era of good feelings I mean now it's it's we've moved beyond hostility to outrage so we're not just sort of cultivating that the other side is bad it's as the other side is outrageous and so it's I don't know whether this book is hitting the right time
00:10:37or not there are different ways of looking at this sort of attenuation are because of their different ways of looking at how our minds are tuned based upon our ideological sort of priors at Robert Anton Wilson called it reality tunnels that is we begin forming them as small
00:11:01children and they continue to sort of know if we allow it to happen continue to sort of narrow until we think we understand everything %HESITATION but we're constantly seeking information that supports our view and dismissing or tuning out others who don't share those fears yeah well and the
00:11:20research on that is quite depressing the this the confirmation bias experiments where people are with particular point of views are given exactly the same facts and each one walks away saying those facts confirm you make my few stronger so that's that's quite frustrating so I guess what do
00:11:44you say specifically to libertarians of do which are the group most likely to listen to this conversation about how to open themselves up to the possibility of being convinced or at least have more regard for deeply held views based upon a set of facts that we value differently
00:12:10I would say first of all %HESITATION there's a great phrase assume positive motivation so don't assume that conservatives are what are authoritarian by design by nature don't assume that progressives want to run your life were really I haven't as a nanny state by nature assume that there's some
00:12:39positive motivation there and then say well given that bottom of some of Asian yeah that's still wrong of course but %HESITATION you know they they they probably won't be they probably won't achieve what they what what they are motivated to achieve but you don't but I I think
00:12:58that would be the first thing assume positive motivation okay so at that at that point we have moved our ideological opponents from the category of evil to the category of very likely confused yes or mis guided or not seeing all of the %HESITATION all the nuances and on
00:13:18down ballots that would be a huge improvement if everybody did that yeah and and if if one approach things that way you know %HESITATION many years ago I sat on a jury and was a very tough case and we argued respectfully people change their minds along the way
00:13:38and we ended up unable to reach a verdict was actually a six six deadlock so it's not like it you know anyone caved in to anyone else but the nature and tone of the discussion was completely different than what you see in politics if we could somehow capture
00:13:51that kind of you know respectful trying to come to a meeting of the minds approach that would at least make our rhetoric better in sort of the the risk of yeah I I think there is some risk of political violence in this country maybe not certainly not as
00:14:10much as you know and historically and in other countries but %HESITATION some some ways people are kind of priming themselves to for to get %HESITATION him to break laws or engage in violence on behalf of political classes and I think that does anyone any good so yeah either
00:14:29a a political discussion on issues of the day %HESITATION I suppose I felt this myself which is high and prepared to deal with someone who's very angry and will get lab very loud and very animated very quickly and so and so even just in the process of guarding
00:14:49yourself for that discussion it changes your expectations going in yet said it feels like you know you're you're about to walk into a bar fight and you know what do you do it I think if you read this book in addition to serve whatever self help aspects I
00:15:07I think it would provide an interesting framework as you read through editorials I think you'll find yourself nodding your so your head and saying I yeah this is another progressive and look they can't get out of the oppressor oppressed paradigm and here's a conservative and they can't get
00:15:24out of the %HESITATION civilization barbarism paradigm and here's the libertarian and they're stuck in the liberty coercion paradigm is just it just live nothing else gives you a a way to to look at and predict in some sense how the commentary at will respond to various issues Arnold
00:15:45Kling is author of the three languages of politics available at libertarianism dot org subscribe to it rates the cater daily podcast in iTunes and Google play and follow us on Twitter at Kato podcast

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