Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The presidential election has spawned an effusion of interesting essays - a sampling

A rich trove of Op-Ed pieces and essays has emerged during the recent presidential campaign. I’ve accumulated a list of links, thinking each article might merit an individual blog post, but the list has become overwhelming, like everything else in the campaign. Instead of letting the list entirely fade away, I thought I would pass on selected links, with a brief note on the content of each article:

Behind Our Anxiety, The Fear of Being Unneeded. An interesting collaboration between the conservative president of the American Enterprise Institute and the Dalai Lama. It's message is that our current anxiety and malaise stems not from material needs, but from the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies. What is needed is the building of a compassionate society that creates a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work in the service of others, so that everyone who is capable of contributing can do so.

Hillary Clinton’s Juggling Act. Hillary Clinton must juggle three competing interest groups: her party’s upscale pro-trade, globalist wing; its underdog minority wing; and organized labor. She is paying a price for her triple allegiance.

The Ethics of Globalism, Nationalism, and Patriotism. A thoughtful article noting a fundamental cause of the division between globalists and nationalists: their underlying theories of human nature, the “unconstrained vision” and the “constrained vision.” If you really believe that the world is “full of good people,” then why not lower the drawbridge and leave it down? But if you have a darker view of human nature and are inclined to see more threats in the world, then you’ll want to retain full control of the drawbridge, lower it selectively, and check people’s papers before you let them in. He quotes from a David Brooks essay "The way out of this debate is not to go nationalist or globalist. It’s to return to American nationalism—espoused by people like Walt Whitman—which combines an inclusive definition of who is Our Own with a fervent commitment to assimilate and Take Care of them."

The Price of Certainty. A piece, with a video, on the work of social psychologist Arie Kruglanski, and his theory of "cognitive closure." Closure is the moment that you make a decision or form a judgment. You literally close your mind to new information. If you have high need for closure, you tend to make decisions quickly and see the world in black and white. If you have a low need for closure, you tolerate ambiguity, but often have difficulty making decisions. All of us fall naturally somewhere on this spectrum...But during times of fear and anxiety — like, for example, right now — everybody’s need for closure increases. We tend to make judgments more quickly, regardless of the facts. We’re also drawn to leaders who are decisive and paint solutions in simple terms.

The Case Against Democracy. An interesting essay Caleb Crain in The New Yorker on the history of the idea of “epistocracy,” meaning “government by the knowledgeable.”

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