Tyler vs. Ezra

TYLER vs. EZRA….Tyler Cowen muses on human nature:

Let’s imagine that we asked a very smart person, but one who disagreed politically with both Ezra [Klein] and me, to pinpoint how Ezra and I differ. I believe that person would see the two of us as having very different blind spots, in both moral and positive terms, but not holding fundamentally different assumptions about human behavior. If Ezra and I chatted about which are the most insightful movies, whether the Washington Wizards should trade Gilbert Arenas, or the best way to get magazine contributors to deliver their essays on time, I don’t know how much we would agree….But I’d be surprised if we disagreed any more than I would with the average libertarian, or than he would with the average social democrat.

Of course there is a lesson here, namely that our political views don’t stem from our positive views about human nature as much as we might like to think.

But here’s the thing: whether the Wizards should trade Agent Zero isn’t a moral question. Neither is taste in movies or opinions about how to motivate lazy writers. But aside from a few minor bookkeeping issues, politics at every level from neighborhood associations to the White House is almost exclusively about moral issues — and how we view those moral issues is very much a matter of how we view human nature. Are people mostly responsible for their own fate or are they mostly products of their environment? Do they respond more to carrots or to sticks? Is personal loyalty more or less important than impersonal justice? Do you think other people are likely to take advantage of you if you don’t watch them like a hawk? How important is an orderly society? Are we our brothers’ keepers?

On those questions, I’d wager that Ezra and Tyler not only disagree, but that their disagreements feed directly into their political views. I recommend that they get together for lunch someday and blog about it.