Mandatory PPE

Trust in a Polarized Age
Trust in a Polarized Age By Vallier, Kevin

According to a certain t-shirt slogan, “Politics ruins everything.” Yet it somehow still manages to insert itself into conversation almost as frequently as the weather. And like the weather, it’s the conditions of our politics that dictate whether not it does indeed "ruin everything "or, instead, support other activities of a healthy society.

Kevin Vallier is a Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University, a Bleeding Heart Libertarian, and a student of diverse thinkers from F.A. Hayek to John Rawls. He joins me this Sunday to discuss the “Mandatory PPE” needed for engaging in any political conversation in the coming weeks of Total War between the two dominant factions of the American political landscape. No masks or gloves are required. Rather, we will be discussing a different kind of PPE – the interdisciplinary study of Philosophy, Politics and Economics – which seeks out a higher caliber of discussion, and better ways to disagree.

Vallier, whose previous book asked "Must Politics Be War?," has a new treatise: Trust in a Polarized Age. His research, combining philosophical rigor with observational data on the body politic, aims to reverse the decay resulting from an across-the-board decline in social trust. Divergent norms and bad-faith dialogues have split Americans along tribal party lines. In a sense, Vallier argues, we are wired for war against the political other. More optimistically, however, he explains how awareness of this fact can lead to the creation of institutions that allow for healthy disagreement on ultimate values.

Some say that we are already in a kind of civil war. If our national politics is this broken, we might think that a pluralistic society is impossible. However, Vallier affirms that political peace and a broad consensus on basic liberal rights is still possible if we elevate the values of reason, liberty and freedom of association above war, tribalism, and the desire to dominate those we disagree with.

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."