When Rise of the Creative Class was published I was shocked by the vehemence of personal attacks – some of them quite vicious and insulting – that came my way. I was said to have a gay agenda, to be anti-family, and of attempting to undermine the precepts of Judeo-Christian civilization. I took this quite hard at first, and it took some time to develop a thicker skin. I`m told that great public intellectuals like Robert Putnam also were surprised and hurt by the vehemence of personal attacks that came their way. Having faced this this made me considerably more sensitive when writing about others.
So this post by Tyler Cowen resonated big time with me.
I’d like to propose a new research convention. Anytime a writer or
blogger talks about what The Right or The Left (or some subset thereof)
really wants or means, I’d like them to list their personal
anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration. … Tell us how much field work you did, who you did it with, how much they trusted you, and what you wish you could have done but didn’t.
Bryan Caplan adds:
Since the publication of my book, I’ve been meeting a much wider range of people.
I’ve talked to an elite Republican book club, a room full of vaguely
Marxist academics at the New School, retirees, Cato, Heritage, a
conference of largely leftist philosophers, the State Department (!),
the Yale law school, DC economists, and UVA social scientists. I’ve
also spoken on a wide range of radio shows and podcasts, left and right.
What have I learned? Primarily, I’m more convinced than ever that virtually everyone is sincere. The legions of people who imagine that their opponents secretly agree
with them are utterly deluded. Even when you’ve got undeniable facts on
your side, your opponents probably think that those facts don’t matter;
you’re missing the deeper picture.
The lesson I draw: Sincerity is greatly overrated. It’s an easy and
widely distributed virtue. So what is in short supply? Common-sense. Literalism. Staying calm. Listening. Sticking to the point. Accepting and working through hypotheticals.
If you’ve got these, I’d like to meet your tribe.
I could not agree more. In the age of attack journalism, these are words to live, and work by. I will do my best to abide by them.