Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Opus 2011-7, Book Notes: A Conflict of Visions

Notes from
A Conflict of Visions

by Thomas Sowell

p. 4, “A vision is our sense of how the world works.”

p. 9, “Social visions differ in their basic conceptions of the nature of man.”

p. 10, “...two broad categories – the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision.”

pp. 11ff, people with a constrained vision
    Adam Smith
    Edmund Burke
    Alexander Hamilton
    John Randolf

pp. 12-13, “Instead of regarding man’s nature as something that could or should be changed, Smith attempted to determine how moral and social benefits desired could be produced in the most efficient way, within that constraint.”  (EO)

p. 14, “one of the hallmarks of the constrained vision is that it deals in trade-offs rather than solutions.”

pp. 15ff, People with an unconstrained vision
    William Godwin,
    Thomas Paine
    John Stewart Mill
    Harold Laski
    Thomas Jefferson

p. 16, “Unlike Smith, who regarded human selfishness as a given, Godwin regarded it as being promoted by the very system of rewards used to cope with it.”

p. 27, “The unconstrained vision promotes pursuit of the highest ideals and the best solutions.  By contrast, the constrained vision sees the best as the enemy of the good – a vain attempt to reach the unattainable being seen as not only futile but often counterproductive, while the same efforts could have produced a more viable and beneficial trade-off.”

p. 40, “It was the eighteenth century exemplars of the unconstrained vision who created ‘the age of reason,’ as expressed in the title of Thomas Paine’s famous book of that era.  Reason was as paramount in their vision as experience was in the constrained vision.”

p. 40, “Therefore, the wisdom of the ages was seen by Godwin as largely the illusions of the ignorant.”

p. 41, “Implicit in the unconstrained vision is a profound inequality between the conclusions of ‘persons of narrow views’ and those with ‘cultivated’ minds.”

p. 41, “ the unconstrained vision, the best conduct of social activities depend on the special knowledge of the few being used to guide the actions of the many....Along with it has often gone a vision of intellectuals as disinterested advisers.”

pp. 47-48, two types of reason

p. 47, “The power of specifically articulated  rationality is central to the unconstrained vision.  The power of unarticulated social processes to mobilize and coordinate knowledge is central to the constrained vision.”

 p. 49, In economics the constrained vision admits there are reasons for change, but the reasons “...cannot be specified in such concrete detail as to make it feasible for any individual or group to plan or control the actual process.”  The relates to what is happening in education.

pp. 50-51, insight:  common law based on the precedent is constrained vision

p. 54, “Yet those who argue for deliberate law making through judicial activism do so not on the basis of having a democratic majority, even in a given generation, but rather on having an intellectually and morally superior process for decision making.”

p. 56, “The clash over judicial activism reflect a much more general clash over the best way to contribute to the social good.  In the unconstrained vision, wise and conscientious individuals should strive to shape the best outcomes in particular issues that come within their jurisdiction.  In the constrained vision, the inherent limitations of individuals mean that each individual’s best contribution to society is to adhere to the special duties of its institutional role, and let the systemic processes determine outcomes.”

p. 56, “Just as the unconstrained vision urges judicial activism on its judges, it urges ‘social responsibility’ on businessmen– that they should hire, invest, donate and otherwise conduct their businesses with an eye to producing specific benefits to society at large.”

p. 57, “It is the systemic effect of competition rather than the individual intentions of businessmen which this vision relies on to produce social benefit.”

pp. 58ff, contrast between sincerity and fidelity
    sincerity - doing what you judge best for society as a whole
    fidelity - doing your duty as expected by those you serve

p. 59, “Sincerity is so central to the unconstrained vision that it is not readily conceded to adversaries, who are often depicted as apologists, if not venal.”

p. 60, “Within the unconstrained vision, sincerity is a great concession to make, while those with the constrained vision can more readily make that concession, since it means so much less to them.  Nor do adversaries need be depicted as stupid by those with the constrained vision, for they conceive of the social process as so complex that it is easy, even for wise and moral individuals, to be mistaken – and dangerously so.”

pp. 63-64, The unconstrained vision trusts youth, the constrained vision trusts age

p. 67, “The common man, according to Hobbes, seldom engaged in meaningless words, which he saw as the hallmark of intellectuals.”

p. 70, “The constrained vision puts little faith in deliberately designed social processes, since it has little faith that any manageable set of decision-makers could effectively cope with the enormous complexities of designing a whole blueprint for an economic system, a legal system, or a system of morality or politics.  The constrained vision relies instead on historically evolved social processes and evaluates them in terms of their systemic characteristics- their incentives and modes of interaction- rather than their goals or intentions.”

pp. 80-81, From this perspective, loyalty, promises, patriotism, gratitude, precedents, oaths of fidelity, constitutions, marriage, social traditions, and international treaties are all constrictions imposed earlier, when knowledge was less, on options to be exercised later, when knowledge will be greater.”

p. 86, “Patriotism and treason thus become a meaningless distinction at the extremes of the unconstrained vision, while this distinction is one of the most central and most powerful distinction in the constrained vision.”

p. 96, “According to the unconstrained vision, the patterned behavior of society is successful, just, and progressive insofar as it reflects the articulated rationality of man in general and of the most intellectually and morally advance people in particular.”

p. 96, “In the constrained vision, where man - individually and collectively - lacks both the intellectual and moral prerequisites for such deliberate, comprehensive planning, order evolves historically without design, and more effectively then when it is designed.”

p. 97, “The unconstrained vision tends to judge processes by their results - ‘is it right? Is it good?’ in the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren,  The constrained vision judges rightness and goodness as process characteristics rather than as results:  A foot race is fair if it is run under the proper conditons - regardless of who wins or loses, or how often the same person win.”  (EO)

p. 98, “In the constrained vision, freedom is a process characteristic - the absence of externally imposed impediments.”

p. 126, “Adherents to both the constrained and the unconstrained visions each see fascism as the logical extension of the adversary’s vision.”  (EO)

p. 133, “A social process which assures equal treatment thus represents equality, as seen in the constrained vision, whether or not the actual results are equal.”

p. 135, The unconstrained - “To them, equality of opportunity means equalized probabilities of achieving given results, whether in education, employment or courtroom.”  (EO)

p. 144, “The moral justification of the market process rests on the general prosperity and freedom it produces.”

p. 150, “The view that races, classes or sexes innately differ greatly in capabilities would be a conclusion for which a constrained vision would be necessary, but not sufficient, and is in fact rejected by many for whom intellectual or moral constraints apply to all human beings, without group distinction.”  (EO)

p. 159, “Like other evils, war was seen by those with the constrained vision as originating in human nature and as being contained by institutions.  To those with the unconstrained vision, war was seen as being at variance with human nature and caused by institutions.”

p. 173, “The unconstrained vision argues that this in not how the economy operated, that it is currently obeying the power of particular interests and should therefore be made in future to obey the power of the public interest.”  (EO)

p,. 181, Term “the locus of discretion” means who will decide

p. 197, “Here, as in other areas of the constrained vision, it is the experience of the many rather than the brilliance of the few that is to be relied upon,...”

p. 207, “From the standpoint of the constrained vision, the scope of those boundaries of immunity from public authority are the scope of people’s rights.”

p. 214, “Whatever its mechanisms or details, social justice has been the dominant theme of the unconstrained vision from Godwin to Rawls.”

p. 215, “The concept of social justice thus represents the extremes of the conflict of visions – an idea of the highest importance in one vision and beneath contempt in the other.”

p. 225, Discusses difference between “rights” and “interests”, “Interest therefore give way to rights, which are ‘trumps.’...Once again, in this vision, rights take precedence over interests.”

p. 226, “Much of what the unconstrained vision sees as morally imperative to do, the constrained vision sees man as incapable of doing.”

p. 231, “The fundamental difference between science and social theory is not at the level of visions, or even paradigms, but at the point where theories produce empirically testable hypothesis.”

p. 233, “Evidence need not be falsified in order to be evaded.”

p. 239, “The ability to sustain assertions without an evidence is another sign of the strength and persistence of visions.”

p. 244, “People with the same moral values readily reach differing political conclusions.”

p. 256-7  The unconstrained demonize those who disagree, the constrained consider opponents well meaning but wrong.

p. 260, “All these issues turn ultimately on whether or to what extent, surrogate decision-makers can make better decisions than those directly transacting.”

(EO) emphasis in original

Sowell, Thomas, A Conflict of Visions, New York:  Basic Books, 2007.

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