Peggy Noonan discovers something Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell has known for a long time. In her column in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Noonan writes about her thoughts and experiences with Andrew Breitbart. After getting the chance to speak with Breitbart in person and softening her opinion of him, she writes:
Afterward I thought again of something that has been on my mind the past five years or so. Longer, actually, but more so with time. In a way the argument between conservatives and progressives is that for the left, everything is about politics. Because they seek to harness government and the law in pursuit of what they see as just and desirable ends, everything becomes a political fight. Conservatives fought that narrow, constricted, soulless view of life: “We are not only political, we have other spheres, we are human beings.” But in their fight against liberalism and its demands, too many conservatives have unconsciously come to ape the left. They too became all politics all the time. Friendships were based on it, friendships were lost over it. “You agree with me? You’re in. You don’t? You’re out.” They became as good at ousting, excluding and anathematizing as Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, as Jacobins. As self-righteous, too, and as adept at dehumanizing the enemy.
I wrote about Williams’ and Sowell’s explanations of this here. And Williams’ column, Conflict and Cooperation explains why, if we put anything into political sphere, we’ll fight about it. We all have different preferences because we value things differently. What’s right for you may not be right for me.
Economists call it public choice economics. You may recognize it as you and your friends deciding where to eat for dinner or what movie to see. In the process, most people compromise to please the group, but nobody ends up getting what they really want. The difference, however, is that you don’t always have to eat with your friends. You can choose your preferred restaurant next time.
But, when we shove anything into politics (i.e. categorical decisions made by crowds) we’re stuck with what the crowd wants and we end up creating major political divides over who’s going to pay for $9 prescriptions. More on that in an upcoming post.