Friday, March 2, 2018

Autistic classical liberal responds to MacLean

No, Libertarians Don’t All Have Autism - WSJ - Matthew Vaillancourt, letters, Wall Street Journal:

February 28, 2018 - "Nancy MacLean is a historian at Duke University and an opponent of libertarian and classical-liberal political philosophy. Critics have called her 2017 book on the subject, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, biased and inaccurate. I don’t know enough about her work to judge its quality. But I’m angry about something she said recently.

"'It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause seem to be on the autism spectrum,' Ms. MacLean said during a February talk at New York City’s Unitarian Church of All Souls. 'You know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others and who have difficult human relationships sometimes.'

"I consider myself a classical liberal. I believe in the power of free markets and sound money to generate prosperity. Trade and technological progress allow us to live longer, healthier, easier lives. I believe in a social policy that leaves people alone to make personal decisions as long as they don’t hurt others. I see my political ideology as a consistent defense of freedom, and I regard both prosperity and tolerance as noble values.

"I also have autism, and I would like to set the record straight about what that means. Specialists in the field long ago debunked the simplistic stereotype that people with autism have no feelings or compassion. We can be empathic and express feelings, but we tend to do it in a different way.

"I have trouble making eye contact, for example. But that doesn’t mean I am not listening to you when you talk. In fact, I tend to listen better when I’m not trying to make eye contact, because my brain is more focused on processing the words I hear....

"MacLean is equally wrong in stereotyping people with autism as libertarians. Like everyone else, we believe in different political ideologies and vote for different political parties. We’re humans, not robots.

"Nor are classical liberals and libertarians emotionless, compassionless people. The vast majority of us believe in helping the needy; we simply think aid is better given in a bottom-up, voluntary way than dispensed by a centralized government. We disagree among ourselves on how to achieve social goals. But it’s outrageous to suggest that we don’t care.

I don’t think Ms. MacLean is necessarily a bad person. I admire her for writing a book, which takes courage and willpower. I hope that she will take some time to educate herself about autism, because ignorance is not a good look for a scholar. Sometimes it’s better — and more compassionate — to say nothing."

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