December 19, 2006

I find you strange and you find me odd.

Me and Jonah Goldberg. Everyone's just dying for this Bloggingheads showdown, I'm sure.

ADDED: Mark Raven at TPMCafe weighs in:
Conservative law school professor and blogger Ann Althouse's [sic] recently ventured from her home base of Madison, Wisc. to a rather intriguing - in the way that an automobile accident causes one to pause and gape - event dubbed a Liberty Fund conference in Chicago.

For six and a half hours at a time, Althouse and 15 other Conservatives and Neoconservatives discussed the writings of Frank S. Meyer, libertarian, co-founding editor of National Review, and author of the Conservative tome, "In Defense of Freedom."
Okay, Mark. I'm not going to bother saying I'm not really too conservative (especially in that Liberty Fund group!). And "In Defense of Freedom" is too slim to be called a "tome." But the one correction I want to make is that it wasn't "six and a half hours at a time," it was "six hour-and-a-half discussion sessions," that is: nine hours.

Second, what's with talking about me and cutting and pasting a long passage of my text without linking to the post? That's not too sporting! You go on to slam Jonah for not knowing how to win allies situated to the left of him, but look at you, not doing too well winning over a person to your right.
Poor Mr. Goldberg. After clearing his throat several times and inhaling deeply through his tightly pinched nasal passages, Mr. Goldberg declared "odd" the reaction of Ms. Althouse to her privileged attendance at such a prestigious event with her illustrious Conservative and Neoconservative peers. Mr. Goldberg, of course, predictably employed the old Conservative and Neoconservative standby of attacking the personal background of his critic. In this case, Mr. Goldberg chastised Ms. Althouse's home of Madison as "far from an oasis of empiricism, realism and philosophical skepticism." Next, of course, Mr. Goldberg casually dismissed Ms. Althouse's position with the following:

"But more importantly, the notion that stong conviction — AKA belief — is scary in and of itself can be the source of as much pain and illiberalism as certitude itself. Indeed, it is itself a kind of certitude I find particularly unredeeming."

Mr. Goldberg obviously believes that Ms. Althouse simply fails to believe strongly enough in Conservative and Neoconservative principles. Thus, Mr. Goldberg has decided (or perhaps been ordered) to attack Ms. Althouse's home, demean her beliefs, and just possibly drive her like a pox from the Conservative and Neoconservative tribes of the truly devoted.
Mark, you're pretty tone deaf here. Why would Jonah have thought of me as a Conservative or Neoconservative at all in the first place? There is far, far more reason for him to scoff at you and the likes of you for failing to reach out to me because you obviously believe I simply fail to believe strongly enough in liberal and left-wing principles.


SteveR said...

I am looking forward to it. As much as I agree with him on certain issues, I certainly don't get into the deep conservative philisophical thinking. As you said, very serious. I suppose its good that people want to explore how thinking has evolved, etc. etc. but I find it boring.

S.T. Steiner said...

Bah, Hummer-bug!

Gerald Hibbs said...

I know I am. Jonah is one of my favorite pundity people. I was extremely disappointed last time when the whole thing fell through. The two of you? Two great tastes that taste great together, I'm sure. The only real question is: are you the chocolate or the peanut butter?

Topic to explore: signs of schizophrenia exposed by his relationship to his couch. Further, Cosmo the wonder dog seems to be pushing him towards a pogrom on squirrels. I think David Berkowitz shows this type of delusion is not to be taken lightly.

Gerald Hibbs said...

D'oh! I forgot to sign off as a flying monkey!!! My Goldberg fan credentials are thusly tarnished and clearly the force is not with this young padawan.

Simon said...

The skepticism you have expressed of strong conviction is what I had in mind recommending the Michael Oakeshott essay yesterday. I have some problems with Oakeshott, (as indeed I have with almost every conservative writer), but I think you might identify in his concern about rationalism the certitude of the idealogue that you've said troubles you. Oakeshott regarded as hugely arrogant and misguided the rationalist who believes that every problem will yield to the force of his own intellect, which seems to play into your concerns. I don't endorse it, but I do strongly commend it to your attention.

Simon said...

Gerald Hibbs said...
"The only real question is: are you the chocolate or the peanut butter?

I think marmite would be a better culinary analogy for Althouse, in this sense: people either love marmite or they hate it. People seem to have the same reaction to this blog and its hostess.

Gerald Hibbs said...

I will make one serious point re: certitude. Part of the conservative and libertarian philosophy (at least mine) is that the facts and evidence are central in determining optimal policy. In fact, this is a central tenet underlying federalism. Different states can adopt different polices and thus have different outcomes. Upon seeing great results in one state and terrible results in another you essentially have a scientific study and can apply the data to the best course for your state.
My point being that on many issues conservatives have certainty because the data inspires confidence that they are in fact correct. Conversely, a major criticism of the left by the right is that outcomes apparently have no place in whether or not the left supports a policy. Which is why you will often hear statements that we think the Left cares more about intentions than results.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

So Jonah feel that fearing, or standing against strong conviction (belief) is unredeeming, but also finds it odd because Ann must obviously believe in things too...well Jonah let me briefly explain why I agree with Ann.

Yes, I do have beliefs and I have strong convictions. I believe that we should never stop educating ourselves and we should understand that sometimes there is never the correct answer to solving a problem, especially when dealing with human systems. I am reminded of a metaphor that goes something like this, "To successfully navigate a rushing river one must paddle a little to the right and a little to the left and essentially stay in the middle, while being prepared to negotiate dangerous obstacles." I find it disconcerting when others are so convicted that their way is the right and prudent way and that other beliefs do not hold any answers in combating human insufficiencies. If your convictions do not allow you to be open to other ideas and they do not allow you to open yourself to other conflicting views (which btw may even strengthen some previously held beliefs) then, yes I am concerned.

I see no different between the ideological left and the ideological right.

Goesh said...

Vegemite or Halva...but I swear I have detected the faint odor of willfully burnt chocolate after reading some of her Posts

Paul Zrimsek said...

I would note that Ann really believes some things too.

A number of us had already raised this point in comments. Perhaps Goldberg will have more luck than we did getting an answer.

VICTOR said...

people going crazy on em dashes, or whatever they are called

Salamandyr said...

Furious George,

I'm gonna call the first little pig. He can build a whole new wing with the man you're building there.

Gerry said...

I am thinking that if you want to get the same sort of reaction from the right that you get from the left, you are going to have to come up with sharper sticks and grander threats than being vigilant.

After all, while I am not particularly fond of having a person characterizing my beliefs in a negative manner, I am not overly dismayed by the idea of anyone being vigilant about me or anyone else. Vigilance, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you can technically do a spanking on a flabby sophmoric freeloader like Goldberg on bloggerheads, but he sure could use one.

Ok ok ok 'The Cowboy Way' was the supidest op-ed ever printed!

Yes I got my start from a box of sex tapes from my mother, and I really don't know anything about anything!

Yes Juan Cole knows more than I'll ever know about the Middle East, and I won't offer anymore Battlestar Galactica analogies anymore. Promise!

I really didn't mean we needed another Pearl Harbor to cement Bush's legacy as Churchillian!

But I don't think he'd make it past the first paddle, before he put his hands on his butt.

Der Hahn said...

Shorter Furious George : I just don't understand why you people don't bow down to my superior intellect and Elect.Me.God!

Many people on the Left like to play this faux-moderation game. Re-read Mr Hibbs excellent comment re: certitude @ 11:12.

Anonymous said...

...a major criticism of the left by the right is that outcomes apparently have no place in whether or not the left supports a policy.

Wow. Devastating critique. Stands on its own just fine without any examples.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typo, that is "stupidest" of course, and I can't delete it.

Anonymous said...

I find the potential of a Althouse/Goldberg discussion fascinating because I think I share Ms Althouse's concern about the danger of true believers. Of course Andrew Sullivan, who has written a whole book on this phenomenon has unfortunately pissed off Ann. It would be wonderful if the debate discussion would involve Althouse/Goldberg/Sullivan if only truly explore the whole topic.

As for the discussion about the belief that rationalism can solve every problem, I think that no one can rationally believe that all problems are solveable, some we just have to muddle our way through, others we just have to allow to explode while seeking cover. However, the one thing that rationally does that strict ideological belief tends not to is allow for doubt. Not being absolutely sure keeps us humble. It's much harder to act incautiously, and disrespectuflly toward another if you carry with you a reasonable degree of doubt. Lose the doubt and about the only thing that remains is arrogance.

Daryl Herbert said...

I think Jonah misread you--I got the impression you weren't scared by strong beliefs, in and of itself, but by strong beliefs in ideas you find coldhearted/repulsive/thoughtless or otherwise bad.

Why might you think libertarians have the wrong priorities? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you're a liberal.

Or maybe you really don't like strong beliefs, in a more general way. Jonah would be correct that it's a belief in and of itself.

I'm fine with strong beliefs, when having them doesn't get in the way of free inquiry. Often, having strong beliefs increases free inquiry--if nobody cared, nobody would be doing any research. And if nobody cared much about freedom, we wouldn't have any.

LarryK said...

There should be a ring announcer to kick off the bloggingheads smackdown, something like..

In this corner, wearing a yellow blouse and open-toed shoes, lolling about on a red settee, representing the University of Wisconsin Law School and her lonely outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, the centrist-blogress-diva-artist with a law degree, Ann Althouse! (cheers and thunderous applause, with a smattering of boos from the left side of the auditorium).

And in this corner, representing THE Corner, wearing a Cosmo the It Dog T-shirt, Kleenex boxes for slippers and a three day old beard, perched precariously on the world's only talking couch, the living large Editor of National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg! (even more applause and cheers, but also more audible boos, hisses and catcalls coming from the left side of the aisle).

The standard rules will apply i.e. no hitting below the belt, standing eight counts to begin only after one fighter has moved to a neutral corner, etc. If Don King is busy, someone on this thread should volunteer their services to promote...

JohnK said...


I found your comments pretty puzzling until I remembered that you are an academic living in Madison and probably don't get out much. To think that you could be in a group of yuppie libertarians and to find the intensity of their belief "frightening" is pretty damned funny when you think about it. That has to be the most unintentionally hilarious thing you have ever written. I mean really, do you ever get out of the house? Why don't you go to Kosovo or Iraq or Israel and talk to the folks in those places and then come talk to us about how "frightening" those yuppie conservatives are.

Ann Althouse said...

JohnK, you didn't read my original post too well. Try again. Now, what did I say was scary?

Gerry said...

My goodness. The good prof. posts pictures all the time of her out and about, and of her traveling all over God's creation.

I keep going back to Ann's comments that started all of this. It included... "And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe."

It is funny, because I keep wondering if Ann really believes that the strong beliefs of conservatives and libertarians are that alarming, even if she does not share those beliefs and even thinks them strange at times. My first reaction has been do doubt that this is what she truly believes.

That's ironic, I think.

Gerry said...

And now I'll turn around and defend JohnK a bit. I think it is a fair extrapolation for someone to think that one only feels the need for extra vigilance if one finds something threatening or frightening.

Anonymous said...

It appears that Mr. Raven does not link to anyone, including his friends (like Josh Marshall). One could assume that he fears that, if he did, his readers may not return. He could be right.

Anonymous said...

Of course Andrew Sullivan, who has written a whole book on this phenomenon has unfortunately pissed off Ann.

Andrew Sullivan is the very definition of a "true believer." Add in his narcissism, and you get a lonely voice in the void of the other ideas that St. Andrew-of-the-Cape must put up with daily. It's pretty clear that's how he views himself, anyway.

Now, you might argue that St. Andrew's ideas have changed markedly over the years, so he can't be a "true believer." Not so! His true belief is that disagreement with him isn't mere disagreement, but marks the disagreer as one that is unjust, uncouth, depraved, and unworthy of consideration.

The partisan moderate said...

The National Review is headquartered in New York. Am I not correct, that Jonah either works in New York City or Washington D.C. neither of which can be depicted as Conservative bastions (although both are probably to the right of Madison politically).

In fact, most of the conservative intelligensia lives in "blue America". While living in a politically homogenous place can definitely skew one's frame of reference (especially it seems in academia), the problem seems to exist to a much lesser extent in this day and age with the advance of technology (especially in the Internet and 24 hour news networks).

Just some food for thought.

Anon Y. Mous said...

Althouse: "JohnK, you didn't read my original post too well. Try again. Now, what did I say was scary?"

Althouse (original post): "I am struck -- you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this -- but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I'm used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and -- if they have power -- frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe.

My reading tells me that you are scared of true believers (of any stripe liberal, conservative, or libertarian) in power. So, who does that leave to lead us? People who aren't in it because they believe in something, but rather those who are just out for themselves? I'm with Jonah. For someone to be fearful of power being held by those with principled beliefs is odd.

Gerald Hibbs said...

"...a major criticism of the left by the right is that outcomes apparently have no place in whether or not the left supports a policy."

Wow. Devastating critique. Stands on its own just fine without any examples.

I didn't give examples because this is not my blog. Were I to often write multi page posts here I worry that quickly I would wear out my welcome. If you have intellectually engaged the right you would not require further examples as you would already know. I will have mercy, though, and give you a few examples off the top of my head.

1. Welfare and welfare reform. Welfare did an incredible amount of damage to poor people while not reducing poverty at all. Democrats said welfare reform would see an exponential increase in children dying in the streets. In fact, child poverty decreased as conservatives predicted.
2. Concealed carry laws don't turn the streets into Mad Max situations but in fact reduce violent crime. Conversely, conservatives predicted a huge rise in violent crime in Australia and the UK after gun ownership bans and have been proven correct.
3. Capital gains tax cuts actually increase revenues while helping economic growth. Do you care more about revenue or just want to make sure to stick it to rich people?
4. Affirmative action at the top/most difficult universities actually increases failure/dropout rates by black students who are admitted by race rather than qualifications. Thus it is damaging toward them rather than helpful. Meanwhile, ending affirmative action increases enrollment at second tier schools that their grades and records actually qualify them for and we see a large increase in graduation rates.

This all reminds me of the last column of New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis who wrote, "I know that universal health care won't work, but I'm still for it."

Justin said...

You know, if Jonah Goldberg called himself a communist, I still don't think the Nation would have him around all that much.

Look at the company you keep, Ann, and maybe you'll eventually get tired of calling yourself a moderate.

Ernie Fazio said...

Methinks the commenters take themselves a little bit too seriously as l'Althouse tweaks their fancies with her tongue firmly in cheek and her pen dripping with irony. L'Althouse has become a conservative blogger overnight, after I voted time and again to elect her a moderate. A moderate at Madison probably has the field to herself. A conservative has every UW campus even Green Bay. L'Althouse is a breaking out phenomenon. Go you ....!!!

Gerry said...


Are you stating that liberal magazines like The Nation actually are supportive of Communists?

It is refreshing to hear someone from your side of the aisle admit it.

hdhouse said...

"Mr. Goldberg obviously believes that Ms. Althouse simply fails to believe strongly enough in Conservative and Neoconservative principles"

wait wait wait...stop the bus. two big jolting errors..1. cap C on conservative? 2. cap N on Neocon?

am i forgetting the oxymoron of these adjectives in the same sentence as "principles"?

oh you guys are so funny.

Simon said...

hdhouse said...
"two big jolting errors..1. cap C on conservative? 2. cap N on Neocon? am i forgetting the oxymoron of these adjectives in the same sentence as "principles"?"

He's using them as proper nouns, hence the capitalization.

Patrick J. Shea said...

There's a big difference between believing in things, even passionately, and being a "true believer". It's the difference between reaching a conclusion based on honest analysis while retaining an open mind toward new data, on the one hand, and adopting a position or doctrine wholesale without any commitment to ongoing critical analysis.

In practice, public policy is, by necessity, the science of pragmatism. That's not to say it's not great to have underlying, guiding principles, but each of the major politcal -isms has at its core its very own dangerous certitude that would lead to absurd results. I like to think about them like scientific models -- each is just a working hypothesis, more or less effective at describing and predicting the way the world works in their own sphere, but still incomplete in the global sense.

Those who adopt any political philosophy as ~Truth~ certainly give me pause. Sometimes it's scary, but more often, it's just silly.