Why Mislabeling Keeps us Stuck in Partisan Politics

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

The biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote that “[c]ategories often exert a tyranny over our perceptions and judgments,” adding that “[w]e do not ponder the bases of our classifications with sufficient scrutiny.”

Popular political debates have yet to fully appreciate this vital insight. Our political categorizations facilely conflate questions of fundamentally different kinds, leading to a conceptual confusion that hobbles constructive discourse. Clarity in this discourse requires a separation between two kinds of questions, those about means and those about ends.

Debates about the goals themselves are values questions, premised on our normative judgments, that is, our views on what ought to be—what makes a good society or political system.

These questions and our answers to them are importantly quite different from our arguments about the practical question of how to arrive at those goals once we’ve settled on them. And at a sufficiently general level of abstraction, there is actually a rather broad consensus as to ends, the goals at which public policy should aim.

Read more at The Hill.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan
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David S. D’Amato is an attorney and adjunct law professor whose writing has appeared at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Future of Freedom Foundation, the Centre for Policy Studies, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Law and Liberty, the Foundation for Economic Education, and in major newspapers around the world. D’Amato is on the Board of Policy Advisors for the Heartland Institute and he is the Benjamin Tucker Research Fellow at the Molinari Institute’s Center for a Stateless Society. He earned a JD from New England School of Law and an LLM in Global Law and Technology from Suffolk University Law School.