Optimism or Pessimism?

How to interpret the following 3 items?


http://pajamasmedia.com/eddriscoll/2010/10/30/video-riding-the-peace-train/

The Democrats continue to embarrass themselves and alienate ordinary Americans — discouraging that they’re so awful, encouraging that they’re so clueless. The ironies are rich here as Driscoll points out.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TSiJ2Gp058

Bill Whittle explains Natural Law and the foundation of the American Constitutional system. He makes the case for a “propositional nation” from the legal point of view. The question of what kind of population such a system will work for is not addressed: the whole point of “Natural Law” is that it is good universally, and if you boil it down, as Whittle does, to the Libertarian view that the role of the law is to prevent encroachment on persons or their property and to enforce contracts, and anything else is suspect, I can get behind that. The problem is that the law is created through the process of politics, and there must be procedural laws governing politics which cannot be derived simply from “natural law”. The idea of a state where “citizens” have voting rights and elect lawmakers has become the norm, and I can get behind that too, but somehow that is still not enough, something goes wrong even in a place like the USA where Natural Law is strongly embodied by the Constitution and Bill of Rights (Whittle is particularly good on the distinction between positive and negative “rights” and the fundamental nature of the latter kind, and the role that disrespect for Natural Law has played in our current economic crisis).

What’s wrong is partly technical having to do with the dysfunction of the political and legal systems, and partly social having to do with the non-unity of the polity and the contention of subgroups for advantage and supremacy, which may well be an inevitable consequence of enfranchising groups which are socially at odds when no group is politically large and cohesive enough to dominate.

So the question is, is there any hope of getting back to the kind of Natural-Law based state that Whittle envisions, and even if we could, and somehow keep the law from metastasizing unhealthily, would that solve our problems? I am optimistic that the next few years will see a strong attempt to accomplish the former, but somewhat pessimistic that it will be enough.


http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Optimist-How-Prosperity-Evolves/dp/006145205X

This is an important book, which reminds us how much better things continue to get materially (wealth, health, knowledge, and leisure increasing) even as they get crazier and stupider politically. The author, Matt Ridley, appears to believe that the process by which these improvements occur is sufficiently entrenched to survive the kind of political and economic turmoil we are facing. It’s helpful, I think, to try to distinguish between material and non-material factors affecting human happiness: whether we are better off morally, or truly happier, is worth asking, but the book provides grounds for optimism in some important ways.

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One Response to Optimism or Pessimism?

  1. rebelliousvanilla says:

    First of all, there is no natural law. All rights are social constructs inside a sovereign nation. Also, I’d like to point out that all the natural rights in the US constitution didn’t apply to slaves and nonwhites couldn’t be citizens.

    You can debate cool things like law and so on when you’re not doomed to lose your own country and hence how ironic so called conservatives are in America. It’s really farcical to fight a social war like this – with an arm tied behind your back. And anybody who does deserves to lose.

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