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"who are hostile to abortion, gay marriage"

The denial is SO freaking deep. So-called social conservatives don't oppose same-sex marriage, they oppose same-sex ANYTHING. It's cowardly not to face the facts. That cowardice is what has put your party where it is. You richly deserve the wilderness.


"the appearance of being mean-spirited, out-of-touch" Appearance? see above


But it is important to distinguish between the Republican Party and conservatism rather than to equate them.

cling to that life raft you two.

The GOP hitched it's wagon to conservatism and you don't get to un hitch it when the times get tough.


I agree with BobN. Wrapping it up in a lot of pretty words and calling yourself an intellectual to get yourself out of a jam -- a jam you got yourself into -- doesn't mean you know what you're talking about.

take the obligatory knee-jerk shot at unions, for example. when it's you taking power where power presents itself it's heaven-ordained by lord knows what. when it's others whom you oppose it's stalinism and the end of life as we know it.

conservatives are hypocrites, pretty words or no.


A truly thoughtful and intellectually insightful analysis, Judge Posner.

Isn't it interesting that the genius of America has now produced timely, a new leader who truly personifies this "post-ideological era in which policies are based on pragmatic considerations rather than on conformity to a set of preconceptions rooted in a rapidly vanishing past."

For nearly three hundred years this great nation was shaped by the WHITE men, who at their roots which traces back to European ancestries, are ideological inclined. Mr. Obama is mixed and so is not genetically "chained" by his predecessorial disposition. Moreover, his part black/african influence is one which traditionally non-ideological, hence "freeing" him to be a new era type of leader: pragmatic, non-ideological.


"The Republican Party seemed to have descended to anti-intellectualism--to deriding highly educated people who speak in complete sentences as 'elitists'..."

The GOP made this descent some time ago, as Neal Gabler observed in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed piece:


(cf., Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," cited by Gabler.)


""The financial crisis has hit economic libertarians in the solar plexus, because the crisis is largely a consequence of innate weaknesses in free markets and of excessive deregulation of banking and finance, rather than of government interference in the market.""

***Uhhhh, FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC AND THE "COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT ACT" had ZERO to do with "free markets". Repeat: ZERO. Nice try though prick.


"The financial crisis has hit economic libertarians in the solar plexus, because the crisis is largely a consequence of innate weaknesses in free markets and of excessive deregulation of banking and finance, rather than of government interference in the market."

I don't get it. How is this in any way "a free market failure"? The price of capital was blatantly manipulated downward by government entities to encourage lending and "stimulate" the economy. This distorted the market, and caused risk to be mispriced. The solution is said to be manipulating the price of capital to encourage lending and "stimulate" the economy. One good distortion always begets a bigger badder distortion. This bears no resemblance to a "free market". Who is the prescient "regulator" who saw this coming and would have stepped in to put on the brakes? Fannie and Freddie had an oversight agency with 200 employees. A lot of good that did!


"I would like to see us enter a post-ideological era in which policies are based on pragmatic considerations rather than on conformity to a set of preconceptions rooted in a rapidly vanishing past."

In other words, the fix-problems, pragmatic position of Franz Von Papen. That really worked out well, didn't it?


"A pragmatist . . . turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power." - William James

At rock bottom, partisanship is as boring and mindless as rooting for your alma mater against an arch-rival school. Or chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A!" at the Olympics. As Mr. Scrooge (and Mr. James) would say, it's all humbug.

And it's all very, very MALE. Where the heck are the female posters on this blog anyway?


"I would like to see us enter a post-ideological era in which policies are based on pragmatic considerations rather than on conformity to a set of preconceptions rooted in a rapidly vanishing past."

Interestingly enough, we could be entering such an era, if conservatives and the GOP choose to come along. Obama has been explicit in describing the problems his administration intends to address, and been careful to emphasize that his appointees “share a core vision” but are likely to disagree on solutions. Liberals focused on ideology as an end-goal itself have seen their influence dwindle for a couple decades, and appear to have reached a low point with Obama’s election.

This stands in stark contrast to today’s conservatism. Ideologically-focused conservatives, including our current president (and yes, to most of the country he is still our most prominent conservative), have seen their influence skyrocket over the past two decades, at the expense not only of results, but of an apparent desire to even achieve them. Instead, they have focused on the same precise “conservative” solutions for all potential problems: lower taxes for the wealthy and less regulation of finance and industry.

This has been so consistently presented as the goal, instead of simply as a means, that much of the public now simply sees it as one of the two purposes of conservatism.

The second purpose, of course, is the government enforcement of religious fundamentalism.


JC, Duhh... If I remember correctly, the Preamble to the Constitution talks of "Promoting the General Welfare", How does "Redlining" promote the general welfare? Unless of course you happen to be free, white, protestant, twenty-one and more than finacially stable. Perhaps we need to destroy the Constitution to protect our God given rights and wealth.


Liberals are wrong to promote unions? As opposed to passively accepting conditions where their low wages qualify them for food stamps, a taxpayer funded anti-poverty program? Or accepting unsafe working conditions that literally put their lives at risk?


Hi Friends iam Ammy ...and i am new to this blog and it is nice i like to post more in the blogs ...


Judge Posner - to assert that we should favor pragmatism to ideology is itself an ideological claim.

The only way we can determine what value we wish to uphold/maximize/etc. is to adhere to some sort of ideology; there is no "pragmatic" way to go about determining whether we should be governed by ends-based or means-based ethics when determining our policy. Your economics background leads you to favor an underlying utilitarian normative theory - one that I and perhaps even most others do not share.

Take the case of libertarian blindness to excessive deregulation of financial markets. Even if we assume that this was the cause of the crisis, one might still argue that it is a necessary price to pay in order to advance the liberty accessible only in a free market environment. To assert that we should only care about some metric like GDP or the Dow Jones averages already presupposes a certain controversial ethic.

Scott Smaller

Could the reality behind differing ideologies be as embarrassingly simple as self-interest rationalized into belief systems? I’m sorry if this is too obvious, but ever notice that a poor person truly believes taxing the rich more is morally right, and elderly people truly believe that commitment to the retirement entitlement programs is paramount, and plantation owners honestly felt that slavery was ok with god? Nothing wrong with self-interest. It’s stupid to deny it. But who is intellectually honest enough to differentiate this from his ethical holdings? Could ideologies and party affiliations be as simple, predictable and unavoidable as that?


Ahh Yes ...! Ism's and ologies. The last refuge of all "insipid muddleheads"!


Great first paragraph. Wow, Posner tackling a big issue, this will be memorable, I figured.

Then the post was apparently hijacked by the hearts and minds of MSNBC programming directors. How else to explain sentences like; 'As the campaigns progressed, a surprising number of conservatives switched their support to Obama.'

If the post wasn't hijacked, a typical Posner post would have quantified either by number or stature the conservatives he was referring to and noted how many would have constituted an 'unsurprising' total. C'Mon fess up Richie, did you include Christopher Buckley to pad your 'surprising' tally?

I hope, because invoking a deity on this blog is clearly out of bounds, that Posner has not tired of the middle of the road rational approach. The fear is that like Sally Fields and David Souter, he just wants to be liked now.


My concern is whether Posner does any of this writing using government resources at his judge office or if he uses the phone at the judge's office. judging is a full time job perhaps he should quit the sinecure and become a commentator full time.


@ Neilehat:

Neilehat... Nietzsche... Do all philosophers start with an "N"? :-)

Nietzsche's greatest contribution is his belief that the reabsorption of unused sperm is vital to intellectual performance. Probably explains why I became a lawyer instead of a doctor.

@ stevelaudig:
Lay off Judge Posner's internet hobby. Federal judges are entitled to post on the Web in their down time, too. Just ask Judge Kozinski.


Dan, Philosophy was my major, with the intent of going into Law School. Somehow I got diverted and ended up an Engineer. Go figure. Life is strange Huh? ;)


Lawyers? Engineers? Unused sperm? What is the world coming to? I need a drink!!!


It just occured to me that Judge Posner is an appellate judge. He reads, thinks and writes. just like blogging and he doesn't have to put up with oral arguments most of the time. Great!!!


I completely agree with Alex when he says "The financial crisis is "largely a consequence of innate weaknesses in free markets"?" and I also equally agree that Fed has hands may be indirect in this economic downturn

Jeff Wilkerson


I agree with the great majority of your post, but I have to agree with many of the other commentators that your "pragmatic" approach cannot be applied without some level of ideology. At some point the ends we are reaching for must be decided upon. You often advocate for legal experimentation. But if we allow such experimentation, how will we measure whether it has been successful or not without the benefit of an ideological framework? However, where I think some of the above posters have been too harsh is in their assumption that there are not already a great number of goals that the majority of Americans share. Effective health care, national security, a high and sustainable standard of living.

Those on capital hill are not arguing about whether or not we should strive for these goals but how best to reach them. Yet rather than look at the great weight of empirical evidence on how to achieve these ends, or looking to the success of failure of state programs, they instead yell from across the aisle in different languages.

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