Posts Tagged ‘Ideology’

Ross Tilchin writes up the results of a Brookings study on libertarians in the Republican Party, citing some of the research I have done here on Pileus. The main point Tilchin argues is that libertarians are at a severe disadvantage nationally within the Republican Party, relative to competing constituencies like moderates and the religious right. However, see also David Kirby’s rejoinder at Cato@Liberty. He argues that the Brookings study seriously underestimates the proportion of libertarians in the general population and in the Republican Party. The debate seems to turn on how strictly one wants to operationalize the concept “libertarian.” If weak libertarians are included, there are many more of them. Regardless, I echo Kirby’s appreciation of growing scholarly attention to the political role of libertarians in the U.S. polity.

For more on figuring out where libertarians are, also check out an interesting paper on two-dimensional ideological preferences at the congressional district level by Warshaw and Rodden. (Americanideologyproject.com is an interesting site for data on one-dimensional preferences at the subnational level in the U.S.)

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I have just posted a couple of my working papers to SSRN for those who are interested. They are as follows:

  1. Public Policy and Quality of Life: An Empirical Analysis of Interstate Migration, 2000-2012
    Individuals and households choose their political jurisdiction of residence on the basis of expected income differentials and jurisdiction-specific characteristics covered by the general term “amenities.” In addition to fixed characteristics like climate and terrain, amenities may include public policies, as in the well-known Tiebout model of migration. Do Americans reveal preferences for certain public policies by tending to migrate toward jurisdictions that offer them? This article tests whether state government involvement in fiscal policy, business regulation, and civil and personal liberties more often reflects an amenity or a disamenity for Americans willing to move. As identification strategies, the article estimates spatial, matched-neighbors, and dyadic models of net interstate migration for all 50 states, covering the years 2000-2012. The evidence suggests that cost of living, which is in turn strongly correlated with land-use regulation, strongly deters in-migration, while both fiscal and regulatory components of “economic freedom” attract new residents. There is less robust evidence that “personal freedom” attracts residents.
  2. Civil Libertarianism-Communitarianism: A State Policy Ideology Dimension
    This paper investigates the existence of a second dimension of state policy ideology orthogonal to the traditional left-right dimension: civil libertarianism-communitarianism. It argues that voter attitudes toward nonviolent acts that are sometimes crimes, particularly weapons and drugs offenses, are in part distinct from their liberal or conservative ideologies, and cause systematic variation in states’ policies toward these acts. The hypotheses are tested with a structural equation model of state policies that combines “confirmatory factor analysis” with linear regression. The existence of a second dimension of state policy essentially uncorrelated with left-right ideology and loading onto gun control, marijuana, and other criminal justice policies is confirmed. Moreover, this dimension of policy ideology relates in the expected fashion to urbanization and the strength of ideological libertarianism in the state electorate. The results suggest that the libertarian-communitarian divide represents an enduring dimension of policy-making in the United States.

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Is federalism for progressives? Libertarians, who are generally enthusiastic about the competitive federalism model, have tried to argue that the model provides, at the very least, a kind of modus vivendi for all ideological camps, allowing citizens in each state to have roughly the kind of government that they want. Relative to a single national standard on every policy issue, everyone is better off, right? Some progressives have agreed, to a point.

The problem is that status quo U.S. federalism is a long way from the competitive federalism model that scholars like Michael Greve favor. (I have contended that competitive federalism is still alive in the U.S. to a much greater extent than just about any other country excluding Switzerland and Canada.) The federal government establishes a firm national baseline on both economic and social policies. First, the U.S. Congress has authorized federal matching grants that incentivize state and local governments to spend their own taxpayers’ money on federal priorities. Even conservative politicians often have political trouble turning down “free” (better: “highly discounted”) federal money. Second, the U.S. Congress has authorized extensive federal regulations intruding into areas previously considered state prerogatives: securities and exchange regulation in the 1930′s (a provincial-only responsibility in Canada), occupational safety and health regulation in the 1970′s, mortgage originator licensing in the 2000′s, and health insurance regulation in the 2010′s, to name just a few examples. Third, the federal judiciary has established a firm baseline on civil rights, civil liberties, and “social” policies, repeatedly striking down laws regulating or criminalizing abortion, sodomy, contraception, and free speech, and, more recently, laws prohibiting gun possession and carrying, enacting public election financing, and authorizing certain regulatory takings. While some of these examples suggest that progressives might have reasons to favor a looser “baseline” from the federal judiciary, the overall historical trend has been for the judiciary to constrain conservative policies. (Note that libertarians typically favor judicial engagement on all or almost all of these questions, distinguishing their kind of limited-government federalism from the old “states’ rights” variety.)

Is there evidence that U.S. federalism as it already exists is tilted toward progressive priorities? I believe I have found such evidence in the distribution of state policy priorities.

Using the Ruger-Sorens database of state policies, which covers the years 2000-2010 (year-end), (more…)

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Jonathan Haidt is everywhere these days, giving interviews and TED talks, promoting his working papers in the media, writing for the websites yourmorals.org and civilpolitics.org, and publishing The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012). A moral psychologist by training, Haidt has successfully cleared the jump to public intellectual, now dispensing didactic advice to Americans about what ails their politics. The Righteous Mind reflects those aspirations, not just summing up his own original research on the psychological foundations of political ideology for a general audience, but also shoehorning in some surprising interpretations of moral philosophy and conjuring out of the whole stew some advice for American politicos (and what could be more important than that?).

Did you know that moral philosophers do not believe in intuition? Did you know that David Hume thought that reason was weak and ineffectual against the tide of passions? Did you know that Bentham and Kant were probably on the autism spectrum, and that that fact explains their moral philosophies? Did you know that Kant was a philosophical rationalist, and that philosophical rationalists think that morality is all about justice and fairness? Philosophical rationalists also think that children learn about morality through experience, just like Lawrence Kohlberg, Haidt’s nemesis in moral psychology — and totally not like Hume.(*)

If you did not know these things, which might especially be the case if you are a moral philosopher, Haidt is here to enlighten you. As he helpfully informs us, he took a couple of philosophy courses as an undergraduate, before he realized that it was all bunkum.

Haidt begins (more…)

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In his book The Righteous Mind (review coming soon) and in a coauthored paper with Ravi Iyer and others, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt claims that libertarians are essentially amoral(*): they care less about care, fairness, authority, loyalty, and sanctity than conservatives and liberals and care most of all about liberty. (I blogged the latter study here.)

But it turns out that one of the chief surveys on which most of this research rests looks geared toward generating biased outcomes for libertarians specifically. The “Moral Scenarios” survey asks respondents to judge the morality of certain actions, all of which involve the exchange of money. Here is one example:

A professional sports player has played for his hometown team for the past 10 years and has never played anywhere else. Recently, he was offered a lot of money to play for his hometown team’s rival in a different city. Losing their best player to a rival team would upset many people in his hometown. However, he decides to take the offer and play for the rival team.
How morally offensive is this?
Not at all offensive Extremely offensive
How upsetting is this?
Not at all upsetting Extremely upsetting
How angry does this make you feel?
Not at all angry Extremely angry

You can give your reaction on a 1-7 scale.

Now, two things are peculiar about this survey. First, all the questions are about the exchange of money. Other questions are about the morality of a manufacturer’s making a less safe car to save money, auctioning off a place in the liver transplant queue, and so on. Thus, the questions seem almost calculated to elicit defensive responses from libertarians, who more than conservatives and liberals tend to be committed to the justice of market exchange. It’s therefore no surprise that libertarians are less likely to answer that these actions are “morally offensive” than are liberals and conservatives. If the survey consisted of moral dilemmas in which the pursuit of equality (sanctity) had perverse consequences, then liberals (conservatives) would likely be the defensive ones with lower average scores on “moral offensiveness.”

Second, the questions are overwhelmingly tilted toward eliciting an emotional, intuitive response rather than a reflective one. I don’t think of morality as a sliding scale of “offensiveness,” but Haidt does, and he forces his respondents into that philosophical straitjacket. My own response to almost all of these scenarios was “it depends.” There was no option for that, of course. So I chose an answer right in the middle of the scale. It turns out that middling answers on these scenarios puts you well below the typical liberal and conservative responses. Again, since libertarians often tend to elevate reason (possibly excessively) and denigrate emotion as a guide to moral judgment, they are less likely to take extreme positions on these questions. That tendency alone further biases the results toward libertarians’ appearing comparatively amoral.

(*) “Essentially amoral” is my gloss on his findings. He criticizes libertarians as being extreme exemplars of so-called “WEIRD” (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) morality, caring only about rights and not about other moral dimensions.

This post has been updated to add the footnote above.

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Why do “red” states that tend to vote Republican in presidential elections take more federal money than do Democratic-leaning, “blue” states? This surprising correlation between ideology and federal dependence has been often noted (see for instance here, here, and here). Indeed, this fact seems to be trotted out whenever we hear “what’s the matter with Kansas/Connecticut” arguments from the left/right, respectively. Are conservative states hypocritical and liberal states self-abnegating, or is there some deeper explanation?

First, let’s take a look at that correlation. In the chart below, I’ve plotted each state with federal grants to state and local governments in that state, as a percentage of personal income, for fiscal year 2007-8, on the Y axis, and percentage of the vote for Obama, McKinney, and Nader in the 2008 election on the X axis. The line through the points represents the least-squares line of best fit. As you can see, there does indeed appear to be a negative relationship between liberal ideology and acceptance of federal grants.

Is the correlation statistically significant? To see this, I (more…)

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Many electrons have been spilled over that Pew survey showing that atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons know more about world religions, including Christianity, than Protestants and Catholics (I got 32/32!). Even after controlling for education, these four religious groups know more about world religions in general (however, white evangelicals know more about Christianity than Jews, agnostics, and atheists, but not Mormons):

[E]ven after controlling for levels of education and other key demographic traits (race, age, gender and region), significant differences in religious knowledge persist among adherents of various faith traditions. Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons still have the highest levels of religious knowledge, followed by evangelical Protestants, then those whose religion is nothing in particular, mainline Protestants and Catholics. Atheists/agnostics and Jews stand out for high levels of knowledge about world religions other than Christianity, though they also score at or above the national average on questions about the Bible and Christianity. Holding demographic factors constant, evangelical Protestants outperform most groups (with the exceptions of Mormons and atheists/agnostics) on questions about the Bible and Christianity, but evangelicals fare less well compared with other groups on questions about world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Mormons are the highest-scoring group on questions about the Bible. (emphasis original)

Why do atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons outperform Christians?  (more…)

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Note:  This is the second in an ongoing series of posts on NIB (Natural is Better) ideology.  The first can be found here.  More to come.

In 1992, JAMA published an article that began with the following statement:

A new paradigm for medical practice is emerging. Evidence-based medicine de-emphasizes intuition, unsystematic clinical experience, and pathophysiologic rationale as sufficient grounds for clinical decision making and stresses the examination of evidence from clinical research. Evidence-based medicine requires new skills of the physician, including efficient literature searching and the application of formal rules of evidence evaluating the clinical literature.

Many people are surprised to learn that  “evidence-based medicine” (EBM) is a relatively new and controversial approach in modern medicine.   Hasn’t medicine relied on evidence for a long time, certainly long before the end of the 20th century?

It depends on what one means by evidence.  The EBM movement stresses using research from randomized controlled trials (RCTs), but a lot of what the best-trained doctors routinely do is founded in tradition, custom, personal experience, intuition, and scientifically-grounded logic – not on RCTs.  RCTs are not the only scientific pathway to evidence, but they are the best.    EBM defined more broadly is using procedures that are supported by the best available evidence.

There is an awful lot that scientific medicine does not know and surely a lot of what we think we know will be proven wrong in time.  Furthermore, many sick and suffering people fail to find the help they are looking for from scientific medicine.  When this happens, many people turn to “alternative medicine” (AM) for help.  AM encompasses a huge number of approaches and techniques.  Some of these approaches are based on ancient techniques and folk remedies, but what almost all of them share in common is any lack of scientific evidence.  AM is a (probably too kind) euphemism.  A more accurate term might be “non-scientific medicine,” “non-evidentiary medicine,” or even more appropriately, “people making stuff up to take other people’s money.”

Sometimes AM is couched in a scientific sounding language, and sometimes it appeals to spirituality or religion (however, your priest probably won’t charge you for a blessing—which is a crucial distinction).   But probably the most common draw is an appeal to nature.  A large part of AM is naturopathic medicine, which is based on two main ideas: first, that the human body has been endowed by nature with the ability to heal itself of disease and injury (true to an extent, for sure); second, that the cause of much disease is the result of humans creating toxic environments that cause disease to develop (certainly some truth there).   When naturopathy is reduced to concepts such as eating whole foods instead of processed ones, getting exercise, reducing stress, getting sleep, maintaining strong personal relationships, and acting in a moral fashion, it has a lot to add, since conventional medicine often ignores these ideas and is too quick to jump to medication, surgery and treatment (that is what they do, after all).

But naturopathy and AM more generally can be pernicious.  Much of what is going on in AM is simply just complete crap.  Nonsense.  Fraud.   A multitude of examples abound.  One particular example goes by the name of “therapeutic touch,” which is a pseudo-scientific attempt to manipulate the patient’s “energy flow” by waving one’s hands near the surface of the skin, but not actually touching them (I kid you not!)  A word of advice: if any AM practitioner mentions “energy flow” to you, you should grab tight to your wallet and run away fast.  My favorite medical article of all time appeared in JAMA several years ago (April 1, 1998) and contained the result of an elementary school science experiment done by a young girl named Emily (I use this study in my statistics classes, since it is so fun and simple to grab on to).  Emily tested a group of experienced practitioners to see whether they could detect her  energy field by placing her hand over one of the practitioner’s hands and them asking the practitioner if he/she could tell which hand she was near (they all thought they would be able to).  You can guess the result.  They made the right choice about 50% of the time, a little less actually, and their rationalizations were hilarious.

All this would be quite amusing if people weren’t spending loads of money on this nonsense.  It has even being taken seriously by nursing schools, and many practitioners are certified RNs.  Emily’s study dealt a blow to the practice, but it continues to thrive.  At least having someone manipulate one’s energy flow doesn’t do any damage other than to one’s pocketbook.

Another very popular claim these days in the AM market are substances which are supposed to do “detoxification.”  Colonics, in which the large intestine is flushed out (I won’t describe how), have been in use a long time, though they have never shown any medical benefit in controlled studies.   The sale of these products relies on two key elements of the NIB ideology.  The first is that modern society produces vast amounts of un-natural toxins that need to be removed to restore health.  The second is that whatever “natural” substance one takes into one’s body will be healthy, which is a clearly unfounded and potentially dangerous assumption (hemlock, anyone?).

Many hawkers of “natural” products and services make claims of effectiveness,  but it is the rare case when legitimate research verifies these claims (Quackwatch.com is an excellent web-site for the public).   The reason that AM doesn’t have evidence is that this multi-billion dollar industry does not want to look for evidence.  One might think that companies making nutritional supplements, for instance, would divert part of their huge marketing budget to doing RCTs that could be peer-reviewed and published in legitimate scientific outlets—just like the drug companies do (partly because they are forced to).    But when you can make billions of dollars just making stuff up, why spend the money to prove your claims? Is any industry going to do research that will drive it out of business?

But the main downside of the AM movement is that it leads some people to eschew proven, effective medical treatment and others to miss out on correct diagnoses that a competent medical professional can make.  I have a good friend who lost his mother because she refused to receive cancer treatment that would very likely have resulted  in her being able to spend a lot more time with her grandchildren.  She chose a “natural” approach instead.  That is the real tragedy that AM practitioners don’t want people to know about.  Modern medicine doesn’t know everything by any means, but it knows some things, and it can increase life expectancy and well-being for many sick people.

How do I know this?  Because there is a lot of evidence for it.

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The comedian Michael Feldman wrote a funny and informative piece this week in the NY Times on the raw milk controversy in Wisconsin.  Many small dairy farmers are clamoring for legislation making it easier to sell raw milk.  Interest group politics infuse this issue, but the underlying ideology is the point of this post.

Raw milk is part of the larger raw foods movement afoot in the land.  And the raw foods movement is part of an even larger ideological movement that I call “natural is better” (NIB).   NIB has followers across the population and appeals to people of varying educational levels and social classes.  Although many advocates of NIB are normal folks just interested in being healthy and happy, I argue that the underlying sentiments that animate this movement are strongly anti-capitalist, anti-modernist, and anti-scientific.

From an evolutionary perspective, there is a certain (naïve) logic to NIB ideology.   Because evolution happens very slowly and modern technology developed very rapidly, our bodies are adapted to live in a very different environment than the one in which we now reside.   Thus, if we want to live the life our natural history intended for us, we should consume natural products.  However, from a strict naturalistic perspective, everything in the universe is natural; thus a beaver dam is not substantively different from a DuPont chemical factory.  Since everything is natural, everything produced by natural things must also be natural.  NIB, therefore, is not as much a naturalistic ideology as it is a highly reactionary one.  To adopt an NIB view is to say two things that are hard to reconcile: first, that nature is best; second, that humankind  is somehow outside of (and inferior) to nature.

The raw milk people claim that pasteurization kills all the “healthy bacteria” present in milk.  They do not want to talk about the unhealthy bacteria.  Unfortunately, the healthy bacteria advocates frequently overstate evidence for these supposed benefits and minimize the risks.  Scientists at the CDC summarize the evidence as follows:  “There are no health benefits from drinking raw milk that cannot be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk that is free of disease-causing bacteria. Drinking pasteurized milk has never been found to be the cause of any disease, allergy, or developmental or behavioral problem.”  (See here for more.)

This raw milk movement should give pause to anyone with even a passing familiarity with public health history.  For decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, public health reformers fought against farmers, transporters, retailers and public ignorance to clean up the milk supply in this country (pasteurization was the most important part of this effort, but by no means the only component).  Most historians of public health view clean milk as one of the primary causes of the dramatic reductions in infant and child mortality that occurred in the early 20th century (and one, incidentally, that would likely not have occurred without the hand of government).   When you think about raw milk, instead of imagining healthy bacteria doing magical work in your intestines, you should think about the following:  Brucella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Shigella, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Yersinia enterocolitica—dangerous bacteria that can be present in unpasteurized milk products today.  While it is true that even without pasteurization, milk production is vastly cleaner and safer than it was in the 19th century, significant risks from raw milk persist, especially to infants and small children.  Giving raw milk to an infant or toddler is a form of child abuse.

Another realm in which we see NIB affecting daily life is in the area of so-called “natural childbirth.”  Most of my own children were delivered by midwives (at hospitals), so I’m not opposed to midwifery or trying to make the birthing process simple and as non-medical  as possible.   Nature prepares women and infants very well to go through the traumatic ordeal of childbirth.   Mother Nature knows her stuff!

But let’s poke a little deeper into natural childbirth.  One of the things that truly natural childbirth means is a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of about 1 in 100 births.  That is a reasonable estimate of maternal mortality in the United States before modern medical advances of the 20th century.  Several developing countries have MMR today even higher than that (between 1-2 maternal deaths per 100 live births).  Contrast this with the MMR of the U.S. today, which is a little more than 1 in 10,000 births.  In other words, natural childbirth is about 100 times more risky to the mother than modern childbirth.  It is also vastly more risky to the infant.   As long as the birth happens in close proximity to a modern operating room with a trained medical staff,  I say let these natural birthers scream their lungs out, deliver their babies underwater, eat as many silly herbs as they want, and do whatever hocus pocus they learn on the internet.  But what is spooky is the trend towards at-home births, with the idea that being at home is preferred to a medical delivery because “nature knows best.”

We live in a world where modern, educated women are choosing to have their babies at home, feed their children unpasteurized milk and then fail to get them immunized against potentially fatal diseases because a bimbo like Jenny McCarthy has convinced them that immunizations cause autism (They Don’t!).   A common consequence of NIB as it plays out in society is that it can lead unwitting individuals to believe ridiculous things that, ironically, could not be further removed from true nature.  I believe in letting people live their lives, but I also believe the State has some role to play in protecting children.   How to craft policy in this area is one of the great challenges of our day.

This is the first of what will hopefully by several posts on NIB – where it comes from, how it manifests itself, what the implications are, how it shapes our politics, and what the State role is, and possibly other questions of importance.  I look forward to reader feedback.

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Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz has done two studies of how voting ideology affected the electoral fortunes of Republican and Democratic senatorial incumbents over the 2000-2008 period. The study on Republicans is here, and the study on Democrats is here. Over this time period, 57 of 61 Democratic incumbents won their re-election campaigns, while just 52 of 69 Republican incumbents won theirs.

Using DW-NOMINATE ideology scores, which are based on congressional roll call votes, Abramowitz finds that for Republican U.S. Senate incumbents every additional point of conservatism correlates with a three-point decline in electoral performance relative to the Republican presidential candidate. However, for Democratic senatorial incumbents, there’s no such effect.

Does this mean that insurgent Tea Party candidates that want the party to “move right” will actually cause more Republicans to go down to defeat in November, while Democrats can afford to indulge their liberal wing? I doubt we can draw those inferences. It seems to me that there are two caveats about Abramowitz’s results.

First, Tea Party-ism focuses on fiscal issues, one area where most Republicans did not vote “conservatively” during the Bush years. DW-NOMINATE scores are not an absolute measure of ideology against some fixed scale (like the Nolan Chart), but a description of how often a senator tended to vote with other senators of his or her own party. It’s really a measure of partisan polarization. If you voted with leadership 100% of the time (including in favor of Medicare Part D, for instance), you would end up looking 100% conservative. By this standard, some Tea Party Republicans might have looked moderate during this period by this measure. It’s not surprising that Republican incumbents were punished by voters for sticking with the party line on issues such as Iraq, where the “party line” eventually became deeply unpopular.

Second, if politicians are strategic, there should be endogeneity in these voting-ideology models that biases the coefficients on ideology toward zero. If you expect to have a close race, you will modify your voting record in a moderate direction. Abramowitz does include state presidential vote share as a control variable, but the best thing to do would be to find some instruments for ideology – factors that cause candidates to become more partisan than their state is willing to support. A more sophisticated analysis might indeed find that, like Republicans, Democrats are hurt by party-line voting.

HT: Ed Kilgore.

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Most conservatives/libertarians I know are not fans of David Brooks.  I must admit that I am a big fan, though I disagree often.  In a recent post I classified him as a centrist.  In his column today, he says he is a centrist.

My question is this:  Are  he and I are right?  Is it useful to think of him at the center of American politics?  The MSM thinks of him as a conservative, which reveals more about the MSM that it does about Brooks.

More generally, many people don’t find common political labels very informative.  They can, however, be useful heuristics in the public debate, and they certainly are not going away.

One of my political philosopher colleagues likes to argue that in terms of ideology, there aren’t really any American conservatives; we are just different types of liberals.  He is right, in a sense, but not very helpful (unfortunately, this is often true of philosophers–and I apologize in advance for maligning philosophers yet again!).

I call myself a libertarian, but the  label I prefer is “true liberal.”  And I refuse to use the “progressive” or “liberal” labels to describe the political left.  “Welfare State Authoritarians” is a better term.

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While reading an interview of macroeconomist (and rational expectations theorist) Thomas J. Sargent in Arjo Klamer’s interesting book, Conversations with Economists (1983), I happened upon this notable passage:

I went through ROTC, was commissioned, and then worked in the systems analysis office of the Pentagon.  It changed me in some ways, made me more conservative.  I came to understand more clearly the limitations of government actions.  It was a learning experience.  My conclusions came from seeing the whole decision-making process by which the US got into the war: how we evaluated the situation, how we processed the data from the war, how we understood our options, what we saw as the resources and costs in Southeast Asia, and what we thought was the likely outcome.  We didn’t do a very good job.  There was an incredible volume of inefficient and bad decisions, which one must take into account when devising institutions for making policy [emphasis added]. 

This passage made me wonder how current veterans – many of whom will become our country’s future leaders - will think about government following their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Will they, like Sargent, become more conservative after seeing up-close the frequently ugly way in which policy is made and implemented?  Or will they have a different reaction because of the kind of war they are fighting and the strategy/tactics the U.S. is employing (or at least stressing)?  In particular, will soldiers trained to think that they can win over the “hearts and minds” of the population largely through government directed or guided activities (in the parlance of counterinsurgency, Civil-Military Operations) have more faith in central planning and the use of the government to direct economic and social change at home?    

Of course, this entire discussion is prefaced on the notion that one’s political views aren’t very sticky. 

It is also important to note that soldiers aren’t tabula rasa – the majority of officers are conservatives already (see Peter Feaver and Richard Kohn’s work on this), and thus one could assume that they already have at least some skepticism about the government.  However, as soldier-scholar Jason Dempsey shows in his new book Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations, it is a mistake to see the entire military as a single mass of conservatives.  Instead, as Dempsey highlights, “while army officers are likely to be more conservative, rank-and-file soldiers hold political views that mirror those of the American public as a whole, and army personnel are less partisan and politically engaged than most civilians.”  I would also add that the conservatism of soldiers might not be representative of American conservatives in general.  Many Americans who call themselves conservatives are really classical liberals by another name who are trying to conserve the ideals of the very libertarian American Revolution.  However, many soldiers are only conservative in the realist, Teddy Roosevelt, neoconservative, or New Right sense – none of which have been all that skeptical about the growth of government or fully appreciative of the difficulties inherent to government “solutions.”

Lastly, this is not necessarily a criticism of COIN a la FM 23-4.  It may be the best way to win at counterinsurgency.  However, it would be surprising if doing COIN didn’t have some impact on those tasked with carrying it out.

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