Gut Reaction

President Obama is a bully and a show-off who thinks that he is the only one who knows how to make tough decisions.

Governor Romney has a pleasant voice and kind eyes, and he listens when other people are talking.


  1. Wow, lots has happened over here. I just cannot agree with your politics at all, but I hope we can still be virtual interlocutors. I will let someone more eloquent than me make the political case for my side: Elllen Painter Dollar's "Why I am a Christian Democrat" pretty much says it all. I can't link on my phone, but a quick google will turn it up.

  2. Why couldn't we still be virtual interlocutors? It seems to me that it is a choice you need to make, since I can't tell who you are from your comment.

  3. Yes, A LOT has happened over here lately. Virtual interlocution is never as pleasant as having a real friendship. I am trying to put into practice the idea that if I wouldn't say something to someone face to face or real friend, I wouldn't comment on the Internet either.

  4. I'm a little curious about why you believe that having a pleasant voice and kind eyes makes up for not having a fiscal plan that makes any sense.

  5. Because I was recording my gut reaction, and my gut doesn't think about fiscal policy? Perhaps it should, but I prefer using my brain for that.

  6. Does your brain read anything that's not the National Review? It might want to start. If you click through to the highly enlightening Cato institute debunking, I find it interesting that in the last two periods income tax revenue increased as a percentage of GDP when top marginal rates increased. Funny that. And it's also funny how they stop ten years ago. Ten. Why? It might be because that's when we got our lovely Bush tax cuts. And what has happened to income tax revenue as a share of GDP since then? Why, it's declined. I, for one, am shocked. Shocked! You're an academic. Read broadly. Search deeply.

  7. And here's what makes me think my gut was right: The Decency of Mitt.

  8. This is getting a little personal. Aren't you going to introduce yourself? I have posted a list of some of the books I've been reading in "Summer Reading", and the ones that I recommend are on my "Recommended Reading" pages.

  9. Perhaps the sarcasm was a bit much. It is the death of wit, I suppose.

    The linked article describes Willard's private charity. That's nice. But I care more about his public compassion and competence. I don't think his commitment to repealing a law that provides health insurance to tens of millions of people on the pretext that they can get care at the emergency room demonstrates either compassion or competence.

    And your reading list is not particularly balanced. It wouldn't hurt to include some perspectives that don't come from the National Review or the Hoover Institute.

  10. "And your reading list is not particularly balanced." You forget I've been in academia for almost 30 years now. The reading that I've been doing for the past few months is the first time I've read anything on the other side. I'd say 30 years of being surrounded by liberals and subscribing to Harper's has given me sufficient time to understand the liberal position. If you doubt me, have a look at the wrangle that I got into last presidential election season (you can start with the "Joe the Plumber" post).

    No introduction? I'm sad.

  11. Oh. I know.

    I have to admit that I don't think much of the sort of sentiment that crawls around some parts of the University of Chicago does a very good job of reflecting the pragmatic liberalism that exists outside the quad. So I do understand the reactionism. But the Hoover, Cato, AEI, Heritage etc are the exact analogue on the right. The major difference is that I think a lot of the problems with ivory tower liberalism stem from idealism mixed with naivete. Conservative think tanks are often established and funded with the explicit mission of promoting certain ideology and policy without regard to empirical evidence.

    I just think it's a little odd to jump all the way to the other extreme without searching for the middle.

    Without going too far, since I don't want to embarass her by discussing politics with her former advisor, my wife was a student of yours. We've met once. You said something about the relation between the academy and the bazaar that made it seem clear why the public may never take medieval history very seriously. But I kind of get the impression that you may not think that any more.

  12. "Conservative think tanks are often established and funded with the explicit mission of promoting certain ideology and policy without regard to empirical evidence." They say exactly the same thing about liberal institutions, too. As I am sure you know.

    I'm not sure anymore whether there is this famous "middle" which we hear so much about. I hope you appreciate I am not calling for an end to government (assuming you are the one who has been commenting on my "Robin Hood" post), but it has been very instructive these past few months reading about the ways in which our political conversation has developed over the past century. This was my original interest in the reading I started doing this summer so as to get some idea about how I would vote this autumn. Much of the reading that I have done has resonated as strongly as it has precisely because I have the background that I do in teaching the history of European civilization; I can tell when people are telling historical whoppers and when they have done their research. Amazingly enough, at least when they touch on events that I have taught, the authors whom I recommend on my blog seem to know their stuff--shocking, I know, given everything we are always told about "conservative bias." Liberals have a bias as well, they just pretend that they don't.

    Well, I'm happy that we have met at least. Say hello to your wife for me! I don't remember saying anything about the academy and the bazaar, but I live in hope that one day the public will take medieval history seriously again. It once did, as I am sure you know.

  13. Um. They can say whatever they want. But, if you are going to believe them, it would be nice to have evidence. Cato was founded by the Koch brothers and was originally named after them, heritage was founded explicitly to counteract the creeping liberalism of the nixon administration.

    I read your coming out blog. I honestly don't see why you believe those principles are particularly conservative per se. That you do really makes me wonder what you think liberalism is (maybe you could post on this). I also wonder about your party commitment since few of those principles are well reflected by the policy positions of the republican party. More explanation would be appreciated.

    And to go back to issues brought up in the robin hood thread, whether your recommended authors show an understanding of european history or not, you haven't dealt with the fact that what pass for conservative economic policies have a rather poor track record and there is no empirical evidence that they provide a plausible fix to the current situation.

  14. "I honestly don't see why you believe those principles are particularly conservative per se." I don't--that was part of the joke on those around me who were reacting so hysterically to my reading over the summer and who were convinced I was becoming a right-wing lunatic (the only thing one can be as a right-winger, apparently). They are, however, the ground for what I have found in the reading I have been doing about the philosophical claims of conservatism. So perhaps the "right-wing loonies" I've been reading aren't as loony as those who haven't read them think.

    As for what I think liberalism is, I think that it is a moral stance more than a practical one that tends to see the government as the answer to evil (a.k.a. poverty, discrimination, ignorance). I posted a list of its main tropes here. Its dangers as a philosophy were recognized by Tocqueville. But if you really want to know where I'm coming from, read some of the books I have recommended.

    I don't think of myself as having a party affiliation; it's just that we only get two choices in our national elections (two that actually matter, that is). I recognize now that I am more in sympathy with the position that the Republican party tends to take, but politically (as I say on my Facebook page), I am still Entish.

    I am not going to argue with you about the track record of conservative economic policies. I have been reading in the history of ideas, not economic analysis. I will leave the economic arguments to my colleagues in the newly-founded Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, of which I am sure you have heard.

  15. Okay, this is one of those frustrating times when I wrote a response, and Blogger dropped it.

    On liberalism, I think it is a moral stance, not a practical one, thus its tendency to label its opponents "evil" and to define those who disagree with its conviction that the State is the answer to all our social ills as "reactionary," "right-wing" (the label comes from the French Revolution), and so forth. De Tocqueville pointed to its dangers in his Democracy in America. See the posts that I did back in July, but if you really want to know what I mean, read some of the books that I've recommended.

    I am not going to argue with you about conservative economic policies. That's not what I've been reading about. I will leave it to my colleagues in the Becker Friedman Institute for Economic Research to hash those questions out with you.

  16. Oh, no, the first one did get published. Whew. Apologies for repeating myself.

  17. No no. Not a problem. A few things jump out at me from this response and the linked posts.

    I'm not sure what leads you to believe that liberalism is moral when it doesn't seem that you conceive of conservatism in those terms. I have to admit that I find De Tocqueville no more convincing than, say, Hayek. To paraphrase Feynman, this is a beautiful line of reasoning, the only problem is that perhaps it is not so. Your other post makes me wonder what kind if wacko 'liberals' you've been hanging out with all these years.

    And glancing over the current institue faculty, I don't think we'd have all that much disagreement. now, the econ department faculty, that might be a different story.

  18. "Your other post makes me wonder what kind of wacko 'liberals' you've been hanging out with all these years." Heh. Don't tell me you haven't heard the phrases I cite there used to justify the kind of spending that we've done through our government. Conservatism is a political philosophy grounded in history, Judeo-Christian doctrine, and reason. Liberalism as it has developed over the twentieth century, via Progressivism, makes a claim to supplant all three of these grounds.

    The Economics department is going to have its offices in the same building with the BFI; I doubt there is going to be that much daylight between them.

  19. Here you go. My fellow medievalist and blogger Prof. Mondo summarizes it better than I could:Totalitarianism and the Second Deadly Sin.

  20. Honestly, I hope you would be able to do a better job than that.

    Imposing a negative emotional motive on those who disagree with you is not legitimate analysis, even if it has the imprimatur of Rush Limbaugh. I'm pretty sure I could get some traction with the assertion that conservatism is the ideology of greed and pride (which I believe are also deadly sins) but I don't believe that all conservatives are necessarily either greedy or prideful though it may sometimes seem that way.

    And fascism is not liberalism. It's not even liberal. Heck it doesn't even self-identify as liberal. It's nationalistic. It builds identity by reference to shared historical culture (sounds conservative to me, actually). It's undemocratic. It doesn't recognize the rights of labor. It's ethnically exclusionary. I would argue that this is generally true of totalitarianisms.

    The only way that you can argue that the two are related is if you believe that the end result of any state involvement in public life (including such things as provision of public goods and regulation) is totalitarianism. This is a slippery-slope argument that has no empirical support. It's the same logic that objects to comprehensive sex education on the grounds that it leads to dissolute behavior (which it empirically does not). In case you didn't notice, progressivism, the new deal, the great society, none ended in totalitarianism. One could argue that each actually improved the overall quality of life in American society.

    If this is starting set of assumptions to take to approaching liberalism, it's no wonder you have encountered some difficulty. The form of analysis displayed here is just plain lazy.

  21. Is this a test or something? Exactly why have you made it your goal these past couple of days to challenge me in quite this way? I will say it again, read the books I have recommended and you will have a better idea of where I am coming from. I cannot give you a book-length argument in a blog post comment. Perhaps you want me to persuade you against liberalism and are disappointed that I can't do it better? Seriously, this is a blog, not a graduate course in political theory.


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