It’s Not Policy Disagreements But Wrong-Headed Means That Are Polarizing America
The country is losing the political and personal virtues necessary for "skillful" politics
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Welcome to the first episode of ReImagining Liberty at its new home with The UnPopulist. This is a show about the emancipatory and cosmopolitan case for radical social, political and economic freedom. With every episode, hostexplores and defends liberalism by talking with scholars, activists and others working to build a freer world.
For this first episode at The UnPopulist, Aaron offers a monologue about why America’s political culture seems so broken, and why this has led to rising illiberalism. He traces the problems to what he calls an “unskillful” approach to politics, and to a widespread lack of the virtues necessary for citizens to be good liberal citizens.
The following transcript has been lightly edited for flow and clarity.
Aaron Ross Powell: Welcome to ReImagining Liberty, now a part of The UnPopulist. I'm Aaron Ross Powell.
ReImagining Liberty is a show about the emancipatory and cosmopolitan case for radical, social, political and economic freedom. Typically, on the show I bring on a guest for conversation, but given that this is the first episode at its new home at The UnPopulist, I thought I'd do things a little differently this week, namely today it's just me.
I want to talk a bit about one of the ways that I think about politics and our approach to politics, its role in our lives and society, and the way that it can—and I think has— gone wrong. And a way that's gone wrong such that it has led us towards decreasing liberalism and a rise of not just authoritarian populism, but illiberalism in general. Namely what I have in mind is the question of skillful versus unskillful use. I think a lot of the problems that we see today in our political environment and the way that our government operates and the way that we interact with the state and its politics is that we approach politics unskillfully, and that then has certain cascading effects.
What do I mean by that then? What does it mean to use politics skillfully or, in this case, unskillfully? Well, first I think it's helpful to think of the state as a tool.
The state exists to accomplish something. It is a tool for accomplishing things in the world. Namely the state exists to affect certain kinds of social and economic change, to enforce certain social and economic rules, to perhaps protect rights to achieve a certain state within the world. That's what it's for. It's the mechanism by which we do those things. The way that it does those things, which sets it apart from all the other ways we might try to affect change in the world, is that it applies force. It applies violence or the threat of violence. That's what makes the state different from, say, your volunteer church group that might be trying to help the homeless. Your volunteer church group can give money, it can try to raise money, it can have fundraisers and so on, but what it can't do is it can't use violence or the threat of violence to take from some and give to others. It can't compel people to behave in certain ways and then punish them or lock them up if they don't, and so on.
That is the fundamental distinction of the state from other organizations that we are a part of, that we seek to influence, that have an influence on us, and so on, is that we have granted it this ability to legitimately use coercive force to make changes in the world and to enforce the decisions that it makes or that we have made for it.
To make that a little more concrete, you can pass a law, and the law can say, "You can't use incandescent light bulbs in your home." What makes that law different from me just telling you, "Hey, I don't think you should use incandescent light bulbs in your home," is that if you disobey my suggestion, or even if I state it as a command, if you disobey it, there's not much else I can do. But if it's written as a law, then the state can punish you. It can fine you. If you don't pay the fine, it can try to garnish your wages. If you don't give in for that, it can eventually lock you up. If you try to get out of being locked up or refuse to go along, agents of the state are allowed to beat you up or even kill you. That's the state's fundamental nature, is violence in the service of accomplishing certain ends and a perceived legitimacy to that violence. That's what this tool is.
I think one way we can distinguish the American right frequently from the American left is that much of the right, particularly the reactionary and illiberal right, understands that nature of the tool. They recognize that the state is a mechanism for applying violence to social and economic problems as identified by the people directing it. For many of them, they put it towards what I would consider to be vicious ends. Their goal is to use that power of the state, use this tool to reinforce their preferred social hierarchies, whether that's along gender lines, racial lines, class lines and so on. Or to use it to exclude certain disfavored groups such as immigrants or to punish underprivileged groups or using the power of the state to stop people from giving gender-affirming healthcare, sometimes even to adults. Or to just generally grind down the people who they find culturally disfavorable.
This is what people on the right are constantly calling for. Trump was exemplary of this, telling cops to bust heads and so on. I think the left is generally more noble —the progressive left in terms of the ends that they direct political power towards. They want a society that is generally more tolerant of diversity. They want one where people have more access to basic goods and services. They want one that is generally more egalitarian.
The problem with the left then is not necessarily the ends to which they direct the state or that they have in mind when they are directing it, the kind of world they are seeking to achieve. But instead, I think far too many in the left fail to take seriously the nature of the state as a tool. They fail to take seriously that it is an organization for directing violent power against others—or threatening them with the application of violent power. They tend to hand wave that away and instead imagine the state as just this consensus mechanism. It's us working together. Any problems it has are just because we don't have the right people in charge. We don't have good people with the proper motivations. If we did, then it would be this wonderful coordinating mechanism with no moral concerns about it one way or another.
That is typically I think a naive position, but it's also one that both allows the right to grab control of these mechanisms of power because the left doesn't tend to see the mechanisms of power as problematic in and of themselves. But given that the state and agents of the state— people who work within it—have their own interests, it enables them to aggregate more power while convincing the left that they are doing this just to achieve progressive and egalitarian social ends.
Both of these though, both the way that the right takes the tool and applies it often to vicious ends or the way that the left tries to apply it toward more noble ends but misunderstands the nature of the tool are examples of unskillful use of this tool of politics. That unskillful use then causes cascading problems throughout society, throughout our politics. Unfortunately, they're problems that tend to create feedback loops where the way that we use a tool unskillfully encourages further unskillful use and discourages us from embracing a more skillful approach to politics.
Then what is skillful use? What does it mean to use something, use a tool skillfully? Well, let's think about a doctor. Let's think about how a doctor deals with a sick patient who has come to her for help. Because a doctor has a lot of tools at her disposal: medications, surgery, lifestyle changes and so on, but when the patient walks in the door, the doctor needs to figure out which tools to use and how to use them skillfully so as to help with the particular illness. We can think of it—skillful use—as a decision-making procedure, a series of questions that we ask and that we try to get the correct answers to before we move on to the next process. Ultimately, if we have answered all these questions correctly, we end up skillfully using the right tool at the end.
The first question might be, what are the symptoms we're trying to ameliorate? We know the patient comes in and is complaining about pain, but we need to know, the doctor needs to know what kind of pain? Where is it? When did it start? How bad is it? And so on. Because if she doesn't know that, then it's hard to figure out what's going wrong and how to fix it.
In politics, we can think of this as what's the problem we're trying to solve? Here, immediately, a lot of people go wrong in their approach to politics because they talk in these broad generalities without enough specifics to actually nail down the problem itself. They say the problem is poverty, but poverty means a lot of things. There are a lot of different ways to measure it. There are different ways to think about it. There are different ways one can be poor. There are different causes of it and so on. Unless we become more specific, unless we think very clearly about what kind of poverty, what do we mean? Do we mean homelessness? Homelessness might be caused by a lack of wealth — it might be caused by a lack of income. But it might be also caused by, say, a lack of healthcare or mental healthcare, such that even if the person had money, they would still be homeless. We need to drill down.
The second question is, going back to our doctor with the sick patient, what's the underlying ailment causing the symptoms? In politics, this might be what is the cause of the problem? We just talked about this bit with homelessness and poverty. What is the thing that is causing this?
Here's another case where far too often we are unskillful in our approach to politics because we don't tend to either care about the causes of the problem—we just point to the problem itself—or we latch onto causes that are politically or culturally validating as opposed to perhaps being true. We might point to inflation. Someone on the progressive left might point to inflation as a problem and say, how can we fix this? We need to fix inflation. Then immediately jump to say corporate greed is the cause of inflation. It is simply corporations want to charge more and so they are charging more. The cause of the problem with inflation is corporate greed. If you think that because that's not the cause of inflation —for one thing, it lines the question of corporate greed is relatively constant. If corporate greed was the cause of inflation, why does inflation happen sometimes and not others? Do corporations suddenly become greedy and then when inflation goes away, it's because the corporation stopped being greedy? If you're pointing at the wrong underlying cause, then you're not going to be able to solve the problem because whatever you do is going to be directed at the wrong thing.
If the doctor misdiagnoses the disease, the cause of the ailments, the cause of the symptoms, then whatever cure is prescribed is going to address the wrong thing and therefore not actually be a cure. Then skillful use requires asking a third question: This is a hard one to ask because the answer sometimes points in directions we don't like. In the case of the doctor, can the disease be cured?
If we are going to set out to cure this thing, if we're going to set out a course of treatment that assumes that the ailment can actually be cured or that it can be cured with the tools available to us. It might be the case that it can't be, it might be the case that this is terminal, that there's nothing we can do except, say, make the patient comfortable.
Politics is a similar thing. We can point to problems—and poverty is one of them. We can make the world wealthier and alleviate a lot of poverty, but there are a lot of causes that we probably can't ever fully address. There will always be people who slip through the cracks. We can always try to do better, but we can never be perfect. Or, take, peace or ending crime. This is one that that showed up a lot in recent years when you had people who called for criminal justice reform, who saw the police as abusive, as a problem that needed to be fixed and so on. But then the moment that there was an uptick in petty crime, the moment that there seemed to be a little bit more social disorder, they gave up on that and went back to wanting cops to bust heads. They wanted more funding for the police. They wanted to ramp up enforcement and so on, because, ultimately, any crime was too much crime. But that's not really right—crime is not a problem that can be cured, it's not a problem that can be ended or solved, it will always be there unless we want to just lock everybody in individualized cages, which would itself be a crime, and we wouldn't be getting rid of crime at all.
We have to ask ourselves, can this problem be cured or do we have available to us reasonably the tools to cure it or even ameliorate it? If the answer is no, even if that's a hard answer to accept, we need to accept it because that means that we can now take those resources, that time and energy that we would have put into solving it, and address problems that we actually can have an impact on.
On the other hand, if the answer is yes, we can cure it, then we're in a much better place to actually accomplishing that because we're very clear now on what it is we're trying to solve and what its actual causes are, and now, yes, it can be solved so we can move on to the next step. In medicine, it would be what is the course of treatment. Should we give this person medicine? Should we conduct a surgery? Should we do physical therapy? What is the way that we can go about doing it? In politics, it's what steps can we reasonably take to solve the problem? What is the policy change we can make? Where is the funding that we can use, and so on.
Then lastly, and this one's crucial, and another one that we tend to forget about a lot or that politics pushes back on is we need to make sure that our treatment or our policy changes are correct and are working. Even if we are right, that this problem can be addressed, we are right in the causes, we are right in the articulation of the problem itself, we might still get aspects of the solution to it wrong.
We might adopt a policy that doesn't work as well as we hoped. So we need a feedback mechanism, we need a way to say, okay, what would it look like if things are moving in the right direction? How are we going to know, how are we going to measure the effectiveness of this and then how are we going to course correct, either by revising our procedure for solving the problem, revising our policies and so on, or by abandoning the solution that we thought was a solution but turns out not to have been. Politics cuts very hard against both of those in part because we invest so much of our identity in our political policies and preferences that we tend to think rejecting them means rejecting the underlying political values.
For example, you might think that people who care about solving poverty believe that you should raise the minimum wage. And your friends might believe that. And the people that you admire and look up to might believe that, but it turns out that the minimum wage increase the minimum wage doesn't actually help or doesn't help as well as other solutions might—if you're embedded in social groups, where support for the minimum wage is simply a signal of caring, it is signal of being the kind of person who cares about ending poverty, then it's going to be very hard for you to actually accept that that policy is either wrong or counterproductive, or that there are better alternatives because you're basically outing yourself as not a member of that group. Also, policies create their own constituencies.
If we set up a new government program to address problem X, that government program now has funding, and it has people who work for it. It has people who are getting paid by it, whose livelihoods depend upon it. It has people who are benefiting from it, even if it's not benefiting as many people as it was supposed to, or it's not benefiting the right people, the people it was intended to or it's not working as well as alternatives. There are people who are benefiting from it in some way or another and those people have a strong interest in continuing it and not revising it, even if it's not working, even if it's counterproductive, even if it's more costly than it ought to be and so on.
Those constituencies become incredibly powerful because the benefits that they get are very concentrated among them, whereas the cost for a lot of these programs is spread out over an extraordinary number of us. All of us are paying a little bit more in taxes in order to pay for this thing, whereas some people are getting a lot of money out of it, then most of us don't have anywhere near as much of an immediate incentive to care about ending it as the people who are benefiting from it care about continuing it. It's hard to get rid of it, and because it's hard to get rid of it or hard to revise it, even if it's not working, these programs tend to continue.
If skillful use means knowing what the problem is we're trying to solve, knowing what its nature or causes are, having a realistic sense of whether it can be solved or can meaningfully be improved based on the tools that we have available to us and the trade-offs that exist in their use, if it depends upon identifying the set of changes or the actions that would solve it and then being realistic about whether that course of action, those policies, those changes, those laws, those regulations are actually working and being willing to stop doing what we're doing or change it if it turns out that they aren't, if all of that is what it means to skillfully use a given tool, in this case the tool of politics, I think it's pretty clear that most of our use is unskillful because most of the time we don't do any of that. We just broadly gesture at things that we think might be problems but actually aren't.
Immigration. The right loves to see immigration as a problem, but in fact all of the reasons that they identify it as a problem, they take our jobs and so on turn out to be wrong. Immigrants don't take our jobs. Immigrants don't increase crime. Immigrants largely make the society they come into better and so on. They have concocted a problem where there isn't one. They have misdiagnosed the causes of the problems they are pointing at. Unemployment they see is caused by immigrants, it's not. Crime they see is caused by immigrants, it's not. Then they attempt to institute policies that would in their minds solve it but won't. Closing the border won't bring back jobs and so on.
Then, of course, they're not willing to change their views based on feedback because opposing immigration is such a strong cultural position of the right. What are the results then of unskillful use of politics? As I said, if we don't carefully define the problem, then we're going to push our resources towards solutions that are either inefficient or ineffective or create more problems than they solve.
If we don't have a clear picture of the causes, then our legal and regulatory measures won't actually attack the underlying catalysts for the social and economic problems we see. If we put effort into solving something that can't be solved, then we're not putting effort into solving things that can be solved. Or if we're not paying attention to which tool is the right one, if we are simply saying politics is the solution to all problems, then we are overlooking other possible tools, other possible mechanisms by which we could address these problems that would be more effective, more efficient, less dangerous and so on.
If we get the solution wrong and we don't revise, then we're dumping more and more and more resources into not solving the problem or making problems worse. All of this becomes particularly acute in politics because given the nature of the state as a tool, given that it is ultimately the application of violence and threats of violence, of coercive force, when it is used wrong it can do an extraordinary amount of damage. States have caused untold harm and death and created poverty and immiseration and so on when they are used in the wrong ways—either when the tool of politics is applied in the wrong ways or when it is used too much. It would be better if we all used politics more skillfully, but that depends on us. Another way of thinking about this is that in order for politics to be used skillfully, and I would argue that a skillful use of politics is ultimately a liberal use of politics—one that is identifying actual problems, not manufactured ones; onne that is using politics, using the state for the things that it ought to be used for and not the things that it ought not to be; one that is clear-eyed about the nature of the tool and so willing to accept the dangers in its use and mitigate against them as opposed to just hand waving away the dangers of this system. I think all of that requires a certain kind of person with a certain set of traits, a certain set of character traits and preferences.
Unfortunately, politics and particularly unskillful politics push against those traits. They make it harder to develop them and they incentivize against that development. They encourage us to behave in ways that are opposite to them. I think the kind of person who can use politics skillfully will first approach its use ethically. They will not use politics unethically. The basis of ethics like if we're going to have a simple statement say like, "Don't hit people and don't take their stuff." Most of us would agree that it is unethical to hit people, it's unethical to take their stuff. This immediately causes a problem for politics. Because as we said, the way that politics works, the way that the state operates is by hitting people or threatening to hit people and it is by taking their stuff. Like enforcement of a law requires hitting people or at least threatening to. Basically, the government doing anything, whether that's funding or paying for its own agents and so on means taxation, which is taking people's stuff against their will.
That's not necessarily a reason to say jump to the conclusion that ethical person would just reject the use of the state entirely. Would reject the use of politics and political means entirely. It might well be that there are certain problems and there are problems that are important to solve, important to address that can only be solved, can only be addressed through the use of this particular tool, through the use of coercive force in the hands of the state. That if we didn't solve them, we would live in a world that was unacceptably bad in various ways. One where there was, say, constant violence, one where there was, say, dramatic and widespread poverty and lack of security and so on.
It might be that the state is the only tool we have for actually addressing or solving those problems. If that's the case, it still means that we should be aware of what this thing is and we should try to use it in the most ethical way possible rather that saying any and all use of state coercion is acceptable, is morally neutral, is something we shouldn't concern ourselves with. The only question we should ever ask is, “Will this work to solve the particular problem I have in mind?”
Because it might be that that problem is not one that should be solved, that it's not actually a problem or that the use of state power, the granting of more power in the state, the application of its fundamental nature outweighs the particular problem that we are solving. I think a good example of this would be like large soda bans. You might argue people drinking too much sugary soda has health problems and we should try to limit it and say so maybe okay, we can maybe accept that.
If your answer to that is we should criminalize sodas and bodega owners and food cart t owners who are putting soda in cups that are too large should be locked up, should be heavily fined, their businesses destroyed, I think that's an unethical use, because the application of force in those things outweighs the benefits of getting some people to drink a little less soda. It's the kind of problem that it is wrong to use violence to solve.
Likewise, it might be that some people on the right don't really like it when the nature of their neighborhood changes because people who are different from them move in, or they don't really like it when their particular business shuts down because those jobs move to another state or moved overseas, and so they want to use violence to stop it from happening. But that is an unethical use because your preference for your neighborhood staying the same or your desire for the economy to never shift is not a legitimate problem for the application of state force.
Another trait I think is mindfulness. A person who can use this tool skillfully is one who is going to use it mindfully, who is going to be aware of everything we just discussed, is going to be paying careful attention to how it's actually being used, as opposed to saying, this politician says vote for this law and it's going to solve this problem. I voted for the law, now I'm never going to think about it again. I'm not going to keep it in mind enough to go back and check on if it's working or if it's working the ways that I was told it was working, or if it's causing problems that it was intended to solve and so on, that you need that degree of mindfulness, of continued attention on the problems and the attempts at solving them.
Here, too, I think politics discourages this particular trait because the way that our political environment works, it inundates us with nonstop stories of bad things other people are doing somewhere that we should be paying attention to. Now, it wants us flipping between certain concerns and culture war flareups. It does not encourage the careful, thoughtful approach that a good citizen needs in order to practice politics skillfully—in order to vote well, in order to engage in an admirable way.
We also need wisdom helping us with both ethics and mindfulness in this case. Wisdom is the way that we know how to weigh different ethical considerations against each other, how to accurately judge the ethics of a given situation, at a given use, and what we should be paying attention to, what sorts of things matter or don't when we are critiquing a given problem. Politics causes problems for wisdom as well.
It encourages us instead to view politics not as a way of solving agreed upon social problems, but instead as a way of punishing our enemies, punishing out-groups, or it encourages us to see disagreement with policies or political solutions, not as disagreements about their effectiveness or differing assessments of their efficacy, but rather as signs of underlying morality or values and so on, and then obfuscates when there are actually underlying morality or value differences at stake.
If every single time there is a policy disagreement, it's because someone is a bad person, or they're lazy, or they're stupid, then when there are actually people who are using politics for bad ends, who are motivated by vicious preferences and so on, that gets lost in the noise of a lack of general political wisdom, it gets lost in the noise of everyone is either a potential enemy or a friend and so on. Motivations matter here too. I think that our approach to the skillful use of a tool needs to be motivated by benevolence because keep in mind that this tool is ultimately being used to enable all of us to live together prosperously in peace.
It needs to be motivated by goodwill, and it needs to be motivated by compassion. There's a real tendency to use politics as almost an anti-compassion tool, as a way to simply punish the people that we don't like and then to delight in their suffering. The way that the right often talks about the people who are on the receiving end of a lot of police brutality comes across as they actually delight in the application of this brutality. They cheer on the busting of heads, but if you don't have that compassion, if you don't have that benevolence, if you don't have that goodwill, then this extraordinarily powerful and dangerous tool will inevitably be put to vicious ends. It will be directed to the wrong things. It will be directed to harm rather than help. We need to be careful about that because if the state slips into harming, if it slips into punishing out-groups, the underprivileged, it can be very hard to rein that back in.
The history of the last hundred years is one of horrors. When a state is not reined back in, when a state decides to direct the awesome violence at its control for nefarious and repugnant ends. Also when we're applying this thing in a messy world with a lot of disagreement, we need a baseline of equanimity.
We need calmness and composure. We need evenness of temper, because we face a lot of real challenges in the political sphere. If we're constantly flying off the handle, if we're constantly angry, then we're not going to be able to think clearly enough to skillfully engage and skillfully direct the power of the state.
I don't even think I need to point to the problems in contemporary politics because what immediately jumps to mind is the nonstop anger of cable news, the way that particularly the conservative media ecosystem encourages fear if not panic on the part of the people who listen to it, who tells them that their lives are always threatened by people who are different from them, that anyone who is different from them is a potential criminal, a potential rapist, a potential groomer and so on.
That state of fear and confusion and aversion to difference and seeing any difference or any diversity as fundamentally a threat makes it basically impossible to engage in politics skillfully because you cannot see anything clearly at all. It also just seems like a miserable way to go through life.
Lastly, and I think this is central to the way that I would argue we need to defend liberalism, the way that we need to make liberalism sustainable is sympathetic joy. In ancient Indian philosophy, this is called mudita. The idea here is in a lot of cases we tend to say that liberalism depends on tolerance. That what you need for a pluralistic society is tolerance of difference. I don't think that's quite right. I think you have to start with tolerance. If you don't have tolerance for difference, then you are not going to be able to have a functioning liberal, pluralistic, dynamic society.
But tolerance doesn't go far enough. If that is your baseline, if all you have is mere tolerance, then at some point a dynamic society is going to change enough that it's going to be too much for your tolerance to handle. People are going to make choices that you can no longer be tolerant of. Even if those choices remain peaceful and non-harmful, they're just going to be too weird, too different.
We see this now with a lot of the people who were on the front lines of the struggle for gay rights are buying into terrible anti-trans arguments, and often arguments that parallel the same ones that were debunked, that were clearly wrong about gay people. That it's a social contagion; that they're trying to convert our children; that it's a mental illness. They're buying into that because while it was one thing they could be tolerant of homosexuality, transgenderism for them is just a bridge too far. It's too weird.
This is why I think that we need this sympathetic joy, this mudita. We need to go beyond tolerance to actively taking joy in other people's ability to live lives of their own choosing, to live in the ways that they choose, to live in accord with their preferences. Even if those are different from our own, even if they're different from what we would choose for ourselves, we need to take delight in the very possibility of dynamism, the very possibility of lifestyle pluralism, to look at someone else and say, that's not how I want to live my life. But it is actually awesome— it actually makes me happy that they are able to live the life in the way that they choose. I'm not going to simply tolerate that, but I'm going to celebrate it. I'm going to find joy in the possibility of difference and diversity.
Now, if we don't have those traits, then on an individual level, it makes it harder for you specifically to use politics skillfully. For all the reasons we just discussed, it is likely that you are not going to then follow that decision-making procedure in a clear-eyed, comprehensive way to arrive at good political decisions. Instead, your vote's going to go to harmful or perhaps unhelpful things. But there's also a social cost to this and this brings in that feedback loop that I mentioned earlier, namely unskillful use of politics leads to a worse political environment. It leads to an environment that is poorer, less safe, less free and so on. That kind of environment then further discourages the development of the very traits we just discussed that are necessary for skillful use.
Basically, the less skillfully we use politics, the harder it is to use politics skillfully in the future. That means more unskillful use, which means it's even harder to use it skillfully. We end up in this feedback loop where our use of politics just becomes worse and worse and worse and it becomes harder and harder for us to be, at least in the political sphere and I think it's impossible to keep things compartmentalized with this bleeds into the personal sphere, it makes it harder and harder for us to be ethical and mindful and wise and benevolent and compassionate and equanimous and possessing of sympathetic joy.
We have to somehow break that feedback loop. And I think defending liberalism then is ultimately about defending liberalism in the society that we find ourselves in and the ways that a liberalism is rising on the right and on the left— we need to figure out how to bring skillful politics back into this to remind people of the fundamental nature of the state as a tool, it's purpose, how it can be used, where it should be used, where it shouldn't. This is the limited government that liberals embrace is saying there are uses for politics, but there are also things that are not uses of politics.
There are things that ought to be beyond its use, either because for moral concerns like this is simply none of our business as citizens, as agents of government, as democratic decision makers or for practical reasons, where we say emergent voluntary processes are much better suited to solve these kinds of problems than the centralized technocratic planning of the state or where just voluntary interactions and market signals and incentives will lead people to solve these problems in a way that the application of force or threats of force can't.
It means pushing back hard against those who would undermine skillful use, those who would actively discourage social use and those who would actively discourage the development of these traits of character that I think are necessary for using politics well and ultimately for a healthy liberal society. And there are those who are committed to undermining both. I think when you look at national conservatives, you look at the Trumpist right. Their entire political project is rejecting everything that I just argued for. It is rejecting ethical use of the state. It is rejecting a benevolent approach to fellow citizens. It is rejecting goodwill. It is absolutely rejecting sympathetic joy in difference and instead saying you should feel threatened and angry when you see difference.
It is totally necessary for us to fight back hard against those fundamentally illiberal, unskillful, anti-ethical positions. That's what ReImagining Liberty is for. That's what this podcast for the year it's been running so far is for. And now as a member of The UnPopulist family, I want this to be a show about setting out the core ideas of liberalism, of liberal values of what liberal politics ought to look like, defending them and critiquing those who would seek to undermine them and replace them with something far worse.
I very much look forward to discussing these ideas and having these conversations with you in the months and years to come, so thank you. If you're a new listener, welcome to ReImagining Liberty. I'm excited to be a part of The UnPopulist, and I'm excited for what comes next.