My politics is right and yours is wrong! Right? Maybe not…

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My politics is right and yours is wrong! Right? Maybe not…

Why do those with firm political convictions so passionately disagree with each other, often labelling opponents as unreasonable and even demonising them? Could it be because they interpret the world along different lines and language?

The three languages of politics, by Arnold Kling, looks at this question. It’s a short read and it took me about an hour and a half to get through – but it really got me thinking. In the book, Kling describes how conservatives, progressives and libertarians all interpret the world through different opposing forces. Kling argues that these differences in interpretation result in each group speaking different political languages to illuminate their interpretation of political issues – which is why they so often talk over each other, feel like they are not being listened to, and get angry with each other when they disagree.

According to Kling, progressives interpret politics as a struggle between oppressor and oppressed. Conservatives interpret politics as being a struggle between civilisation & order versus chaos and anarchy. Libertarians see politics through a freedom vs coercion dichotomy. Kling refers to a person’s natural interpretation of issues, as their dominant heuristic. The book includes some great examples of current issues and how these three groups interpret them and the evidence in line with their dominant heuristic, which lead to clear differences in each groups policy prescriptions.

Crucially, Kling believes that no one arrives at their political views from a position of neutrality. Acknowledging that interpretation of an issue may be more to do with having a dominant heuristic, as opposed to a rational unbiased consideration of the evidence, could lead to a deeper understanding of each groups concerns and an improvement in the quality of political debate, with less name calling and demonization of opponents. Wouldn’t that be interesting!

At £1.56 on the kindle and only about an hour and a half to read, I would definitely recommend this book to everyone!

By Grant Fisher, Director of Model Westminster

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