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Extreme moderatism

February 24, 2008

This paper of Bryan Caplan is a fascinating analysis of the so-called Mises Democracy-Dictatorship Equivalence Theorem. Common terms like”conservative” and “progressive” are known to have lost, over time, any connection with their literal meanings. Nobody is surprised by oxymora such as “conservative revolution” or “progressives yearn for the 1960s”, etc… The term “moderatism” however seems to still have an aura of reasonableness to it. Election after election, candidates rush to the center. They promise to get past the bitter partisan divide. They’re uniters. They’re also outsiders, in the sense of (supposedly) stemming from the common populace.

What people forget to check is: how reasonable is the moderate position? History is full of examples where the median opinion is quite awful. The fallacy is again to anthropomorphize society as a whole. If, in everyday life, individuals can act reasonably by choosing moderate solutions to their problems, it does not follow that the same is true for entire societies. If I could choose, I’d prefer a “moderate extremism” to an “extreme moderatism”.

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From → Politics?, Voters

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