Paradox Watch: Mansfield on Political Liberty

In a forthcoming post on rational behavior, I will describe a dilemma in which the right choice may surprise you.  Choosing virtue and truth does not always mean choosing the most obvious or palatable option.  Ironically, the preceding sentence itself may be obvious.  Sources as varied as the Book of James and the lyrics of The Fray tell us that “sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

Harvey Mansfield, writing on Obama’s postpartisanship, describes this paradox in the political realm:

An analogy of partisan politics to athletics may be helpful. A Harvard fan like me always wants to defeat Yale but at the same time always wants to defeat a worthy opponent. It’s a contradictory desire in principle because a worthy opponent will sometimes win. But in practice one learns to lose. Someone might object that to win an election is more important than to win a game. To which I respond: Maybe so, but it is more important to continue to have elections than to win one of them. Next to liberty of the mind, there is no more important liberty than political liberty. This means that no partisan victory is permanent and that we shall always return to different versions of the same questions. Progress can never make political liberty obsolete by solving the problems that we contend over. Those who want to put an issue like health care “beyond politics” simply want an imposed political solution to their liking.

After the jump get the link to the rest of the article and watch a 3 minute video from a TED Talk that kind of relates.

You can read the rest here.

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