Saturday, October 24, 2015

Recommended Book - A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell

If there ever was a book that I had wished I had written, it would be Thomas Sowell's book A Conflict of Visions. While not an easy book to read, because of its elevated vocabulary and conceptual approach to political theory, it is nevertheless an important book for many reasons.

I'm not going to write an entire review of the book here, but rather wish to recommend it to you as an important read. I especially recommend it to my friends who think that progressive or liberal ideology is on the right track.

Sowell separates conservative thought and liberal ideology using the terms "constrained" and "unconstrained." He does so to be able to take a look at differing ideologies without using terms that already have too much baggage associated with them. Here are some quotes from the book that outline the basic conflicts between conservatives and liberals. Notice how closely these show the inherent problem with modern liberalism and the current political direction of the US.
The Constitution of the United States, with its checks and balances, clearly reflected the view that no one was ever to be completely trusted with power. This is in sharp contrast to the French Revolution, which gave sweeping powers, including the power of life and death, to those who spoke in the name of "the people," expressing the Rousseauean "general will." 
To those without this constrained vision of man, the whole elaborate system of checks and balances was a needless complication and impediment. 
Adam Smith spoke of the doctrinaire "man of the system" [modern progressive] who is "wise in his own conceit" and who "seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. 
They are, in Burke's words, "endeavouring to confine the reputation of sense, learning, and taste to themselves or their following," and are capable of "carrying the intolerance of the tongue and of the pen into a persecution" of others. 
The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the powers of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. This may well prove a hurdle which man will repeatedly reach, only to be thrown back into barbarism. (Quoting Hayek)
It's an important book for our times and well worth the time to struggle through it.