Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Questioning Myself

The Antiplanner has a great post in which he discusses the value of dissenting opinions:
As the Economist points out in its review of the book, “Because Americans are so mobile, even a mild preference for living with like-minded neighbours leads over time to severe segregation. . . . When a group is ideologically homogeneous, its members tend to grow more extreme.” This is why we are becoming more polarized...

...we each need to make more efforts to communicate with others who are different from us. The Antiplanner has always appreciated the fact that DanS, D4P, MSetty, and other loyal opponents so frequently comment on this blog so that everyone can be exposed to other views. I frankly admit that I have often learned from their comments.
This attitude is impressive and something that I wish to emulate. But not having a lot of commenters, it's hard to get very many dissenting points of view. So I decided to start visiting blogs of people who stand in opposition to some of my favorite blogs. And I'm entirely discouraged.

Megan McArdle is one of the most reasonable, and intelligent bloggers around. I don't always agree with her, but even in disagreement, I find myself concluding that her views are reasonable, even if I don't hold them. Lately she's been critiqued by Kathy G. The critique is that McArdle isn't really a feminist, despite McArdle's claims that she is. She agrees with most of the problems that the feminists say exist. She disagrees with the solutions proposed. Kathy G wrote a post describing why McArdle is not a feminist.

It was horrible. It was riddled with ad hominem attacks. In it, Kathy G did exactly the things she accused McArdle of doing (making claims without citing any sources). In short, it was a nonsensical rant. Now there are times when rants are useful, and I enjoy reading them. But rants that try to cloak themselves as rational argument are, in short, horrible. They're horrible because they remind me too much of myself at my worst.

But the horror didn't end in the main article. The commenters were even worse. In the post, McArdle wrote a somewhat snarky comment, but IMHO it was rational and went to great lengths to address all of the complaints that Kathy G laid out. In response to this, McArdle was called "full of *hit" and a liar. I'll grant that the McArdle defenders (including McArdle herself) did not behave entirely professionally. That would require no snark. But their snark was a whole lot less distracting than the all out immaturity and insolence on the other side.

This is, of course, a discouraging journey into the world of the opposition. And previous forays into this world have seen similar results. Still I'm hopeful that there exists rational dissent.

McArdle has her own post on the subject of humility. I'm pretty sure that I'm in the graduate school stage that she describes - despite not actually being in graduate school. I really don't have a very deep understanding of economics. I want one, but when it all comes down to it, the best I can say is "Mr A says Mr B is wrong". Still, I'd like to think, that since I'm quite a bit older than the typical grad student, I've had a bit more life experience to lead me to more humility. But my meager attempts at viewing the other side have been thoroughly discouraging.

Are there rational liberal blogs out there?
Are there better ways to seek out rational dissent?
I'm discouraged.


John said...

You're on a blogging binge lately. And it appears that you are posting mainly from work.....what exactly do you do there?

mjh said...

2 things: First, I do most of my writing at home, and publishing when I get to work. I have a whole bunch of things that are sitting unpublished because I don't think they're ready. I don't know why I do it this way, but that's what ends up happening.

Second, it's a *VERY* slow week at work. Almost no one is here in my area. So, I've had a bit more time to let my mind wander. I don't think that this will continue for long.

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