- Paperback: 146 pages
- Publisher: Cato Institute (May 9, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1944424466
- ISBN-13: 978-1944424466
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 116 customer reviews
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The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides Paperback – May 9, 2017
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Kling identifies three ideological groups and their dominant dichotomies. Progressives divide issues along an oppressor–oppressed axis. Conservatives use a civilized–barbarous axis. And libertarians, Kling’s camp, use a freedom–coercive axis.
He goes on to say that individuals in each camp use political language divided along these axes to show loyalty, elevate status, and create hostility towards others in opposing camps.
Political debate using these preferred axes is frustrating and endless as each camp talks past the other without communicating.
A debater might either aim to: open minds of those in opposition, open minds of those in their camp, or close the minds of those in their camp. The majority opt for the third option.
Uncharitable discussion focuses on finding an opponent’s weakest argument and denouncing it.
Few participants attempt to be charitable and end up narrowing and reducing their audience’s understanding of the issues at hand.
In the course of argumentation, Kling observes, we suggest we are reasonable and our opponent is not. The only people we are qualified to call unreasonable [or other derogatory terms] are ourselves. Our opponents may be wrong, however, and it is our burden to prove it [which is often hard or impossible].
Kling suggests we treat these ideologies as languages to be understood and not heresies to be stamped out.
Learning the language of other camps enables us to understand how others think about political issues without demonizing their positions or them.
Constructive reasoning weighs the merits of facts and theories to take a stand on an issue. Motivated reasoning filters the facts and theories to legitimate preconceived opinions.
Engaging in motivated reasoning is like arguing a case at law. We present evidence to justify or reinforce already accepted ideas. Openness only extends to those facts and theories that support our views.
Kling concludes that constructive reasoning applies an equal standard to evidence that supports or contradicts our preconceptions. We become open to changing our minds.
I have two minor criticisms: (1) While I - and others - have a primary language/tribe, on certain issues I see the world more from the perspective of one of the other tribes, so am I a hybrid or a centrist? He really does not address those of us who do not march in lockstep and (2) He really does not address how the issue of ineptness and corruption in both major political parties (dominated usually by the party in power) fits into all this. There are many of us from all tribes who feel the system is corrupt and inept in that the views of the majority on many issues do not prevail---I understand in a pluralistic society there is a need to protect the rights of those in the minority on certain issues, but it does not seem like majority rule anymore.
That said, a worthwhile read that will make think...and in the future take time to think before deciding.
Kling is clear that he is offering a hypothesis rather than an exhaustive empirical study. It is a short and easy read, and it is one that (I expect) will help us make sense of political history and the political present.The Three Languages of Politics