One odd empirical regularity is that hard-nosed, pessimistic, realist, free-market guys like myself seem to spend more time agreeing with soggy Liberals than with the Conservatives who supposedly share our worldview.
Part of that has to do with the success of the general Libertarian project, as Scott Sumner outlines here. Many free market ideas have now simply become conventional wisdom among wonks of all stripes.
Partially , however, I think it is that many modern Conservatives intuitively base their analysis of the world on a philosophy is that anathema to my worldview. Their view is that if you take a responsible, measured, well-reasoned approach to the world things will work out. Failure is thus a sign that you have not done that.
My sense is that this is fundamentally crap.
First of all things are not going to work out. You are going to die. Your friends and family are going to die. Everything you care about and everything you ever worked for will be destroyed. This story, our story, only has one ending and it is death and destruction.
If you don’t recognize that, you are living in a fantasy world.
Second, even in the short term your plans almost certainly won’t work out. Most ideas are bad ideas and there are infinitely more ways to fuck something up than to get it right.
To wit, clean living is not some form of salvation. Nor, is prudence assurance that that you and your loved ones will be okay. Suffering is inevitable and the best one can say is that it hasn’t happened to me – yet.
Bad things happen because badness is the natural state of the world. If something good ever happens count yourself lucky and be aware that this too shall pass.
Thus, I see our proper mission as easing pain, where we can, to the extent we can, the best we can. This is best done up close and personal where you are mostly likely to quickly notice if your efforts to help are actually doing harm.
It is best done with a respect and reverence for the power of self-organizing systems, spontaneous order and the resilience of natural equilibria.
Its best done slowly, and in baby steps, building upon the wisdom of the past.
And, most importantly it is best done with humility, knowing that in all cases that, “but for
the grace of God pure heartless luck, there would go I”
Its this last part that I think many modern Conservatives miss in their conviction that everything would be okay if it were for those meddling Liberals. Everything would not be okay. It never will be. If we do our best it might, and I mean might, be a little bit better.