Back to Top

The Three Languages of Politics

Anyone interested in understanding the cultural divide that has inflamed our country should read Arnold Kling's masterfully insightful yet simple to grasp work on why progressives, conservatives and libertarians have a difficult time communicating with one another in today's world.

The Three Languages of Politics answers the question "Why can't we hear one another?"  The answer is simple:  we speak different languages.  More to the point, we employ three different mindsets when evaluating virtually any issue.

In a nutshell, according to Kling, the progressive approaches issues from a mindset of oppression.  Who is being oppressed, and who is doing the oppressing.  Correspondingly, the conservative approaches the same issue from a mindset of order.  Which side defends civilization, and which is identified as the lawless barbarian?

Finally, the libertarian sees the same issue on a freedom scale.  Who is trying to be left alone to live peaceably, and who is behaving coercively?

Kling describes how any issue can be seen in three different lights using three different scales of evaluation.  Take drug crimes as an example.  The conservative is apt to see the correlation between drug use and other crimes, and thus lumps users in with other "barbarians", against whom he or she is taking a stand for the protection of law-abiding society.  The progressive is apt to see the disparities in drug crime enforcement as the oppression of minorities or of the poor by the white majority and/or the rich.  The libertarian views the issue in terms of a citizen hurting no one (except, perhaps, him/herself) and being pursued by law enforcement who should be out looking for murderers, rapists and thieves.

When we get into a discussion/argument with someone who speaks a different language, we can soften the disagreement by understanding who is the "heavy" in the debate from their perspective (is it a barbarian, an oppressor, or someone behaving coercively?), and explaining that your disagreement does not constitute advocacy for that negative trait.  For example, in the drug crimes example, a conservative might say to a progressive, "I understand how there is disparate impact on minority communities, and it should be addressed, but that is no excuse for allowing violent criminals to walk the streets."

Great book, and an easy read.  Highly recommended!

Paid for by Bob King for Texas-21
Kristin Abel, Treasurer
Powered by - Political Campaign Websites
Close Menu