Thursday, May 25, 2006

contingent vs. universal

Publius has a post that touches on what I discussed here about why much of red America is so passionate about the immigration issue. He chalks it up to parochialism.

Anyway, the fundamental problem with parochialism is that it tends to make people equate the contingent with the universal. The contingent social norms of your part of the world become elevated into universal moral codes. The contingent social practices of your community become the baseline for “the good.”

This is a view that I share in many ways, and one that you would expect former red-staters who moved to big cities and stayed to find appealing (Publius went from Kentucky to DC (I believe), I moved from Utah to NYC).

But this doesn't explain people who have traveled the world, are highly educated, and still come down firmly on the red side of the culture wars. Maybe my views are skewed by the returned Mormon missionaries I know whose time abroad seems to confirm their pre-existing worldview. But this group does not quite fit Publius's theory, and it's an important exception. How, if the parochialism theory is the explanation for the red/blue divide in the culture wars, do you reconcile the fact that virtually all of a certain community's future leaders travel to far-flung corners of the globe for two years with the fact that that community is consistently the most conservative place in the country? Also, no one can characterize many of the leading lights of contemporary conservative thought--I'm thinking of Brooks, the NRO bunch, Douhat, as being insufficiently well-traveled or under-educated.

Does Publius's theory hold water, or is it just a convenient way of making blue-staters feel better about themselves?

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