Sample Political Science Paper on A Conflict of Vision

A Conflict of Vision

We typically assume when arguing political and economic problems that arguments may be won or lost in terms of the topic at hand. We nevertheless observe “the recurring antagonism of individuals and groups on multiple, unrelated matters” despite the fact that there is a lot of debate that appears to be pertinent and is based on theory and facts (Al-Ars et al, 2019). Thomas So-well examines the philosophical causes of why “the same familiar faces can be observed gazing at each other from opposite sides of the political fence, again and again” in A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggle.

According to Sowell’s theory, the great political conflicts of our day are a reflection of two widely held but opposing conceptions of what it is to be human (Carden, 2021). However, the majority of conflicts are discussed on a different plane without any mention of these visions. Because the exact same terms of discourse represent many different things, “people with different viewpoints often argue past each other, even when they accept the same norms of logic and utilize the same material.”

The two forms of dichotomy focused by Sowell are the constrained/limited and unconstrained dichotomy. Between “limited” and “unconstrained” conceptions of man’s moral and mental natures and capacities, Sowell proposes a contradiction (Earley, 2021). According to Adam Smith’s restricted vision, there are unavoidable constraints on man. Man is morally egocentric, with each person primarily interested in his or her own self-interest. Smith just accepted it as a “inherent reality of life, the fundamental restriction in his perspective,” which is neither regrettable nor changeable (Gray, 2019).

The same can be said regarding the idea that “any individual’s knowledge is utterly inadequate for communal decision-making.” One person may amass expertise in a particular field, but knowledge that is socially useful takes the form of social experience—traditions, habits, skills, and tools, as F. A. Hayek has long argued. Utopia is impossible due to a mixture of human failings. When he described “a basic weakness in all human contrivances,” Edmund Burke encapsulated the constricted political vision (Hsu, 2021).

Man’s moral nature is basically “generous and magnanimous,” according to the unrestricted vision. The intellectual potential of man is also restricted but “indefinite.” According to this perspective, “knowledge is equivalent with articulated rationality,” the kind of enduring armchair knowledge possessed by humanist thinkers, Sowell notes (Sowell, 2020). With these tools at his disposal, Godwin came to the conclusion that “reason is sufficient to regulate the activities of humanity.”

Despite their divergent guiding principles, both philosophies prioritize the general good over private interests. However, their views on how to pursue the common good are wholly divergent.

According to the restricted vision, people pursuing their own self-interests within the parameters established by law and custom have systemic repercussions that lead to communal advantages. Beneficial impacts largely come up accidentally (Sowell, 2021). When males with intrinsic flaws push their overbearing confidence on society, good intentions are likely to be positively deadly.

Man’s moral and intellectual capacities enable him to set aside self-interest and actively contribute to the common good in the unrestricted vision. The current social structure, according to George Bernard Shaw, is “simply an artificial framework susceptible of nearly limitless alteration in readjustment—nay, of practical demolition and substitution at the whim of Man.”

Politically, the contrast between the two views can be seen in the restrained acceptance of “trade-offs” and the unrestrained insistence for “solutions.” For instance, the restricted vision accepts “unmerited” economic disparities in a market economy as a compromise for the market’s systemic provision of the common goods of overall prosperity and freedom, which egalitarian central planning would obliterate. However, in pure, unrestricted imaginations, direct action can achieve equality without compromising freedom or overall success. Inequality is a problem that can be solved.

It is astonishing what these polar viewpoints do not always imply given the broad contours of such disputes. Sowell demonstrates that “the restricted vision [is] not identical with… acceptance of the existing quo.” Smith supported American independence, condemned slavery, and fought for a number of internal changes. Furthermore, the unrestrained viewpoint need not be radical. Sowell notes that Godwin “was at one with Smith, Hayek, and modern libertarianism” in his support for private property and a free market.

It is amazing what these diametrically opposed points of view do not usually mean given the general framework of such disputes. According to Sowell, “the constricted view is not synonymous with support of the status quo.” Smith advocated for a number of internal reforms, backed American independence, and denounced slavery (Zellner, 2019). Additionally, the unrestricted perspective need not be radical. Sowell says that in supporting private property and a free market, Godwin “was at one with Smith, Hayek, and modern libertarianism.”




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Carden, A. (2021). The Future Field of Sowell Scholarship. Regulation44, 45.

Earley, B. (2021). The Cost of the Culture Wars. Available at SSRN 3919179.

Gray, P. (2019). Neema Parvini. Shakespeare’s Moral Compass.

Hsu, J. C. S. (2021). Human Dignity, Human Rights, and Cultural Change in Asia. Human Rights, and Cultural Change in Asia (May 11, 2021). in” Human Dignity in Asia: Dialogue between Law and Culture”(ed. Jimmy Chia-Shin Hsu)(Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming).

Sowell, T. (2020). Charter schools and their enemies. Hachette UK.

Sowell, T. (2022). Knowledge and decisions. Basic Books.

Sowell, T. (2019). “New Racism” and Old Dogmatism. In Race and Ethnic Conflict (pp. 291-304). Routledge.

Sowell, T. (2019). The Vision of the Annointed: Self-congratulation as a basis for social policy. Basic Books.

Zellner, B. B. (2019). Tuition Tax Credits: A Social Revolution THOMAS SOWELL. In Policy Studies: Review Annual (pp. 677-685). Routledge.