I’ve just changed my “political views” on my Facebook profile from “Estonian Reform Party” to “Realservative.” I continue to dearly love the Estonian Reform Party, one of my ten favorites in the North Atlantic community. (I’m also pretty fond of the Piratpartei.) But I’d like to explain “Realservatism” and what it is really about.
(1) Being really, really, really real. This is a bedrock, inviolable principle of Realservatism.
(2) Keeping it really real. Why be real in the first place if you drift away from realness over time? There’s no sense in it.
(3) Being realer than an onion peel. It is useful to have external metrics for one’s overall realness level. I find that an onion peel — already quite real — is a solid one. If you’re realer than an onion peel, you’re doing something right.
(4) Realism. Let’s appreciate the limits of what we can do and what we can know definitively. There are lots of unknown unknowns — another way of putting this is that Knightian uncertainty is important to keep in mind. I had an exchange with a reader recently — he wanted conclusive evidence that I was right to favor decentralized to centralized solutions to problems, which I found odd. Here’s what I wrote:
Anyone who tells you that there is conclusive evidence in the terrain of public policy is not a serious person. Can I point to any conclusive evidence? Absolutely not. Again, there is no conclusive evidence in the realm of public policy because it is not an experimental science. My bias in favor of state solutions and county solutions and town solutions, etc., is a bias in favor of decentralized discovery processes that allow for cheap failure and fast failure. I am under no illusion that free markets always lead to “good” outcomes (good for whom?). Rather, I simply think that small-scale and private failures are easier to wrap up, particularly if you have a decent, transparent regulatory architecture.
In his reply, he suggested that I was suggesting that it is only faith that drives my policy views and not reason, which I found a bit off. I then wrote:
I believe in using the common-law process of gathering a broad body of evidence, expert testimony and precedent. This does involve using reasont. But I don’t believe that there are any ways to settle these disputes in any definitive way. That’s life.
This view reflects the influence of thinkers like Hayek, Keynes, Knight, and, among more contemporary thinkers, Amar Bhide, Edmund Phelps, and, very importantly, our own Jim Manzi and Tim Lee, among others. Maybe that’s wrongheaded of me. It does, however, strike me as really, really real.