post by Bill Gardner
Attention conservation notice: The following is, so far as I can tell, without evident policy significance.
I had a twitter discussion yesterday with Avik Roy, who was kind enough to respond to my post here. Avik (@aviksaroy) is someone you should follow if you want to be informed about conservative views on health policy. He tweeted to me that
@Bill_Gardner Human nature is immutable: Core of conservative (small c) philosophy. Also accounts for unintended consequences of lib reforms
and this struck me as a peculiar thing to say.
A bit of googling suggests that the immutability of human nature is an important belief for many conservatives. They get it, I suppose, from the Catholic moral philosophy of natural law. For some (not necessarily thinking of Avik here), it seems to ground a conviction that the Answers are Known and Have Been So for a Long Time.
By 'peculiar', I don't mean to say that this is absurd in some evident way. Rather, I mean that my primary intuition about nature (including human nature) is that it is mutable. 'Human nature' is a stack of dynamic processes: evolution | epigenesis | social institutions | culture. There are principles of explanation that are widely relevant (e.g., physics, some principles of evolutionary theory and microeconomics, etc.). But phenomena -- that is, the circumstances we actually face -- are complex, changing, and shaped by the local historical paths of events that brought them into being. Humanity is just such a phenomenon. There aren't many Known Answers to human questions that can be applied without caution and empirical test.
I think you can get to either a liberal or conservative political view from this intuition. Where you can't get to is a radical position on either wing.