Reflections on the intersection of economics, history, politics, psychology and science

In our current political climate, it seems like both policymakers and ordinary citizens are prone to use a label for something that sounds intelligent or interesting on the surface, but often masks a lack of substance or critical thinking. 

These could be simply gestures that are hollow, reasonable-sounding statements that – in many circumstances – have little or no substance behind them. Whether it is invoking “America First,” “I Support the Troops,” or even “Patriotism,” these gestures often lack context, expose a potential hypocrisy, and may even serve to distract from substantive discussions around issues.

Patriotism as an idea and argument is particularly subject to misuse, as it is a complex and nuanced concept prone to reductionism and corrupt use. Despite the fact that we are all simultaneously members of concentric circles of communities, many will exaggerate the differences among these layers and pit them against each other. In addition, this reductionist thinking regarding patriotism tends to lead to jingoism.

Similarly, there is a category of grandiose-sounding philosophies that may be situationally shoehorned to fit a specific argument, even though the invoking of such philosophy may expose an inconsistency, or even an insidiousness, in its use. On this podcast, we explore the meaning and applications of terms such as “Originalism,” “States’ Rights”, and “Judicial Activism.”

Of course, abstractions – political and otherwise – are important as they help us deal with the complexities of the real world. But when these gestures and philosophies are taken out of context, used to divide us, or worse, used as a smokescreen to hide real issues or otherwise distract us from doing something substantive, that’s a problem. 

We’ll discuss how to recognize these empty gestures and reverse-engineered philosophies as well as how to ensure one’s own actions are substantive and meaningful. 

Key Terms Used

Externality, Free Rider, Jingoism, Judicial Activism, Libertarianism, Originalism, Prisoner’s Dilemma, Reductionism, Starting Point Bias, Tautological Externality, Textualism