The Corner

Althouse’s Shock

Ann Althouse attended the same Liberty Fund conference I attended last week. She has an…interesting conclusion about the whole thing: belief is bad or scary. She writes:

Sitting around a big table, with no audience, there were 16 of us, including Meyer’s son, Eugene S. Meyer (the President of the Federalist Society), several journalists (two from Reason magazine and Jonah Goldberg from the National Review), and various academics all of whom seemed to feel well at home in the libertarian/conservative environment. Would you have imagined that your humble blogger felt cozy and comfortable there? Oh, no, no, no, no. Virtually every word out of my mouth was an observation about something no one was talking about and that would — back in Madison, Wisconsin — have been said at the earliest possible moment. So there I was, the resident liberal.

I am struck — you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this — but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I’m used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and — if they have power — frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe.

One of the reasons 9/11 had such a big impact on me is that it was such a profound demonstration of the fact that these people are serious. They really believe.

I need to be more vigilant.

Me: We will be chatting for bloggingheads in the near future, so I will ask her about all of this soon. But I will say here I find this — to put it in as civil terms as I can — odd. I would note that Ann really believes some things too. Moreover, so do those people in Madison, Wisconsin — which is, I might add without fear of contradiction, far from an oasis of empiricism, realism and philosophical skepticism. But more importantly, the notion that stong conviction — AKA belief — is scary in and of itself can be the source of as much pain and illiberalism as certitude itself. Indeed, it is itself a kind of certitude I find particularly unredeeming. Anyway, more soon, I am sure.

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