Re: Sowell's "Conflict of Visions" in audio format

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Feb 18 2001 - 01:38:43 MST

On Saturday, February 17, 2001 7:54 PM Michael M. Butler
[quoting himself:)]
> > Though the blurb at this page (and to some degree, Sowell himself)
> > frames it as conservative vs. liberal, it's really more about
> > zetetic-pragmatist vs. idealist (yes, Virginia, there are
> > Objectivist/conservative/materialist idealists).
> To clarify, since it seems I sometimes go too fast for some people:
> "it's really more about..." refers to the conflict of visions itself,
> not the book. And government involvement is a side effect, not an
> intrinsic, of said conflict.

Well, the subtitle of the book is "Ideological Origins of Political
Struggles." This kind of gives the idea that it's about ideologies and not
purely governmental stuff.:)

Also, the problem I found with the book, for all its keen insights, were
similar to those I found to Hayek's _The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of
Socialism_. Both books assume morality is supposed to be antithetical to
the market and a clean separation between morality and prudence. Actually,
the latter is, for both thinkers, IMHO, responsible for the former. This is
because they assume that morality means conventional morality -- i.e.,
roughly the Judeochristian morality of Western societies.

Adopting a morality that is more this-worldly, such as that of
neoAristoteleans (e.g., Douglas Den Uyl, Eric Mack), neoStoics (e.g.,
Lawrence Becker), and Objectivists (you know who:) would lead to no conflict
between morality and prudence -- or between being moral and living in real
world societies. Integrating such moralities with a wider social vision --
as all the aforementioned thinkers attempt -- seems to lead to similar
conclusions about social engineering but fall just short of the kind of
total conservatism some of Sowell's and Hayek's thought seems to lead to.
(I mean the kind of line that if it's a designed institution it must be
socialist. It would seem to me that all social institutions are a
combination of both design and unintended consequences.)

Nonethless, Sowell's book is worth the read. (I'm not sure about the
listen, since that depends on the speaker.:) So is Hayek's. I also
recommend Sowell's _Preferential Policies: An International Perspective_.
That book covers government mandated favoritism programs around the world.
It is especially recommended to those who tend to view all policy matters
merely in terms of their society and its history.

Side note: the Summer 1995 issue of _In Principle_ contained a review of
the book by Robert Knapp. Sadly, I don't have Knapp's permission to place
this review online... See for
the tables of contents of that and other issues of _IP_.


Daniel Ust

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