Is Will Wilkinson a smart guy or just an ideological brawler?

I put WW into my browser tabs as he’s a pretty sophisticated commenter on a range of philosophical issues. I liked the way he gnawed on that bone of Layard on Happiness till he’d got something he wanted to say said. It was interesting, stimulating and rigorous stuff even if I didn’t agree with some of it.

I’ve gradually been losing faith in him as I’ve read more. In any event he wrote a silly attack on various articles by liberals on Hurricane Katrina. While some of the people he attacked might deserve it, the form of his attack is a particularly common way to waste your own and your readers’ time. You pick some expression, and explain why the person didn’t use it properly – and why that’s because they’re such an ideologically blinkered dill.

He makes some points criticising Maureen O’Dowd and then uses the same technique on Paul Krugman. Trouble is Krugman is not making the same mistakes as O’Dowd. He’s using the language in a particular way and if you don’t want to read it in context, don’t bother.

I liked the one comment the post attracted from Bill Korner.

Libertarians and their opponents need to enter into a non-proliferation treaty of sorts.

Lets call it the IGLT —

Ideological Generalization Limitation Treaty.

Right wingers will agree to stop talking about “free markets”, “limited government”, and “individual freedom” IN THE CONTEXT OF SERIOUS POLICY DISCUSSIONS. In return, liberal columnists will stop trying to score points by irrelvantly degrading these to-vague-for-use concepts.

Then in the face of the Katrina tragedy we can focus on real questions such as Hillary Clinton’s:

“Would FEMA have performed better if it were an independent agency as it was before it was subsumed in the Department of Homeland Security?”

Hell, we can even consider absurd libertarian rhetorical bromides such as:

“Would there have been poor people without cars in New Orleans if it weren’t for welfare?”

Let’s just leave sickly vague rhetoric about the “free market” to philosophico-economic analysis.

My sentiments entirely Bill.

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2024 years ago

I’ve actually moved the other way, they have completely infected my commentary, they don’t want peace they want ongoing meaningless ideological war,

reasonable calls for reasonable debate are currently meaningless


because perfectly reasonable people were conned into the iraq adventure by extreme ideological bullshit, the only way to counteract this spin is by vomiting out its opposite, stupid as it may be, as marginalising as it will be to my voice, i am so unimportant that stupid comments is my only power, even as my use of effaces me…

…its a drug…

recently there has been some critique of “beyondism” among leftists/progressives, people who use to be idelogically constrained and now feel above all that gunk

but if the right wing morons are not ‘above’ it you get unreasonable actions like the iraq idiocy, because reasonable people work out their reasonableness by looking at the extremes, except of course, a whole swathe of unreasonable extremes has disappeared into the beyond…

i did call for an appreciate of bias, but it was too beyond for most people, they though it was some sort of ‘relativistic tolerance’ in thier rreasoanable mediocrity

i just cant be bothered anymore being beyond

troll on!!!

2024 years ago

Nicholas, as a master of The Straw Man myself, I’d like to acknowledge your own mastery of this much revived artform. I doffs me lid…

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago

“Is Will Wilkinson a smart guy or just an ideological brawler?”

The bio sketch at Wilkinson’s blog says: “I work as a Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. Until November 2003, I was Academic Coordinator of the Social Change Project and the Global Prosperity Initiative at The Mercatus Center at George Mason University.” His blog also reveals that he writes for that notorious website for RWB ideological brawlers Tech Central Station. So I didn’t have to waste too much time puzzling over the rhetorical question in Nicholas’s post title. If it quacks like a duck …

Stephen Bounds
Stephen Bounds
2024 years ago

People have often hailed the blogosphere as the ultimate “circuit-breaker” that allows informed debate without the crippling bias of mainstream media. Unfortunately, it appears that if anything, most blogs encourage people to reinforce blinkered and entrenched viewpoints rather than questioning their beliefs.

Here’s a test: Take 100 blogs at random that maintain some sort of sociological or political commentary. I would bet that 90% of these blogs have 90% of comments that just say “i agree”, “right on”, or “you rock”. Any dissenting views are hounded and ridiculed mercilessly. Predictably, everyone wishing to engage in productive dialogue disappears and only the most provocative antagonists remain out of sheer perversity (like you apparently, meika).

This combination of self-congratulatory praise with the presence of “known idiots” that act as the common enemy encourage the development of a zealot-like ideology which is the enemy of reflective thought.

However, I think that the only way to counter “extreme ideological bullshit” is to foster online spaces where it is not tolerated, and to ignore the sites that foster zealotry. In other words, ‘don’t feed the animals’.

This is one of the main reasons why I stick with Troppo. I value that it’s one of the few sites out there where opposing ideological views can debate in relative civility. I hope it stays that way for a long time to come.

2024 years ago

Right on Stephen!

2024 years ago

Nick: You rock!

Rafe: I agree.

David Tiley
2024 years ago

Our loonies aren’t as bad as their loonies. Our loonies might have scared their school teachers, but their loonies scared their mothers.

Besides, when our mob gets into power, our loonies never scare them into doing completely stupid horrible vicious things.

Their mob … insert relevant horror here____________.

Trouble is, our mob has gone over to their loonies. The ALP has just accepted a secret briefing from the department and accepts Scott Parkin’s deportation.

Sheesh. Shakes head. Does the fact that this bothers me make me a loony?