Very good sentences

This raises an interesting, tangentially related question. Liberals fulminate constantly against outrageous conservative obstruction, yet often seem nevertheless surprised by its effectiveness. Why is that? My guess is that liberals are sometimes deceived by assumptions about the scope of liberalising moral progress. Modern history is a series of conservative disappointments, and the trend of social change does have a generally liberal cast. The surprisingly rapid acceptance of legal gay marriage is a good example. Liberals are therefore accustomed to a giddy sense of riding at the vanguard of history, routed reactionaries choking in their dust. But all of us, whatever our colours, overestimate the moral and intellectual coherence of our political convictions. We’re inclined to see meaningful internal connections between our opinions—between our views on abortion and regulatory policy, say—when often there’s no connection deeper than the contingent expediencies of coalition politics. For liberals, this sometimes plays out as a tendency to see resistance to all liberal policy as an inevitably losing battle against the inexorable tide of history. This occasionally leads, in turn, to a slightly naive sense of surprise when a hard-won political victory isn’t consolidated by a decisive, validating shift in public opinion, but instead begins to be ratcheted back.

That is from Will Wilkinson.


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