Over two million people have fled blue states for red in the last several years. But, why? Is it just a bunch of 24/7 Fox News watching, overly devoted Republicans? Some, perhaps, but definitely not the rational majority. Uprooting a family to replant in another state is a lot of work. People do not take on a project like this just to spite a man on their TV who they will never meet!

And yet, when I ask people at church or in our neighborhood why they moved, every single one of them tells me “Politics.” When I press them a little, reasons like “better quality of life for my family”, “likeminded people as my neighbors”, “freedom from the government” are given as the true motivators. But if we broke it all the way down to its root, we would discover people are leaving because of a conflict of visions.

It remains an important and remarkable phenomenon that how human nature is conceived at the outset is highly correlated with the whole conception of knowledge, morality, power, time, rationality, war, freedom and law which defines a social vision.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions
Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

I, a simple homemaker with a mere undergraduate degree from a state university, decided it might be a good idea to listen to some Thomas Sowell on my library app while attacking our well loved home with my Bissell Crosswave. (I’m telling you, that thing is my best friend these days.) I was intimidated. Thomas Sowell is brilliant. He is most well known for his economic research, but his work on ideologies and how they trickle down to affect every nook and cranny of culture is fascinating.

In “A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles,” published in 1987 and yet dreadfully applicable today, Sowell makes the claim that throughout history there have been two distinct views of humanity. He calls them the constrained view and the unconstrained view. In the constrained view, mankind is seen as having human constraints such as immorality, laziness, weakness, heartache, confusion and a host of other flaws. In the unconstrained view, mankind is seen without having any inherent flaws at all. According to the unconstrained view, any flaws which exist are a result of societal factors, not intrinsic in humans themselves. Does this sound boring and totally non-applicable to you? If you hang with me, you’ll see it affects literally everything in your life.

Your belief of human nature affects your view on everything, from the way you tackle relational problems to how big you believe government should be. And that holds true for the powers that be as well. These are just 7 key aspects of any people group, which, depending on what view its leaders hold – constrained or unconstrained, will produce vastly different results.


In the constrained view:

Language does not remain unchanged but neither is it replaced according to a new master plan. A given language may evolve over the centuries to something almost totally different but as a result of incremental changes, successively validated by the usage of the many, rather than the planning of the few.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

Have you noticed lately how new language is touted as the only acceptable form at what seems to be the speed of light? Bizarre phrases like “chest-feeder”, “pregnant person” and pronouns like xyrs and verself are now the new norm for many in the “woke” fields of society like entertainment and education. But for the simple folk, like me and you, this is not the way we speak. We understand realities like the reality of women for instance, will always be so we talk about pregnant and nursing mothers. We learned in grammar school that pronouns are his and hers and theirs and they. Why the strong push to change things so rapidly? Why not let society run its course and have these things evolve “by the usage of the many rather than the planning of the few”? The answer? The “few” (i.e. progressive Hollywood elites and the politicians they support) believe it is for the good of the “many” and apparently our job is to suck it up and toe the line. (Check out my post here for more on how Hollywood has ruined blue states: http://redstateramblings.com/hollywood-lies-paradise-lost/.)


The underlying causes of crime have been a major preoccupation of those with an unconstrained vision of human nature… For those with a constrained vision, people commit crimes because they are people, because they put their own interests or egos above the interests, feelings or lives of others. Believers in the constrained vision emphasize social contrivances to prevent crime or punishment to deter it. But, to the believer in the unconstrained vision, it is hard to understand how anyone would commit a terrible crime without some special cause at work.

Given human nature as seen in the unconstrained vision, such crimes as robbery, riots, rape and mugging are inherently irrational and are explained only by irrational conditions imposed upon the unfortunate segment of society. Such evils of society as poverty, unemployment and overcrowding are the fountain heads of crime. From this perspective, criminals are not so much the individual causes of crime as the symptoms and transmitters of a deeper social malaise.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Vision

Can you see how differences in vision create drastically different ways of handling crime? This is not to say we should never look into helping people out of their mental health issues or drug addiction, but it is to say that our leaders must heed Ecclesiastes 8:11: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” When it is not, as Sowell later points out: “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” Crime in blue states is worse on every level than crime in red states. This is a direct result of conflicting visions.


In the unconstrained view:

International conflicts are neither inevitable nor inherently difficult to settle. The issues in military conflicts are usually things which warring nations could have settled with the greatest ease, without the shedding of one drop of blood if they had been on decent human terms with one another instead of on competitive capitalistic terms.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

If man is inherently good, then this philosophy makes total sense. But, if man is inherently flawed, protecting a nation from evil is required and to be expected. If our leaders genuinely believe that international conflicts are not inevitable and not “difficult to settle”, it isn’t hard to see why so often we feel our leaders lack courage. It isn’t that they are cowards. It is because they have a fundamental disagreement both with what we see as a threat and how to handle threats they perceive as dangerous.

In the unconstrained vision…

…steps for a peace seeking nation to take to reduce the probability of war include:

1. More influence for the intellectually or morally more advanced portions of the population.

2. Better communications between potential enemies.

3. A muting of militant rhetoric.

4. A restraint on armament production or military alliances.

5. A deemphasis of nationalism or patriotism.

6. Negotiating outstanding differences with potential adversaries as a means of reducing possible causes of war.

Those with the constrained vision see war in entirely different terms… From this perspective, the steps for a peace seeking nation to take to reduce the probability of war would be the direct opposite of those proposed by people with the alternative vision:

1. Raising the cost of war to potential aggressors by military preparedness and military alliances.

2. Arousal of the public to awareness of dangers in times of threat.

3. Promotion of patriotism and willingness to fight as the cost of deterring attack.

4. Relying on your adversary’s awareness of your military power more so than on verbal communication.

5. Negotiating only within the context of deterrent strength and avoiding concessions to blackmail that would encourage further blackmail.

6. Relying more on the good sense and fortitude of the public at large reflecting culturally validated experience than on moralists and intellectuals more readily swayed by words and fashions.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

I don’t know about you, but I want to be represented by leaders who handle threats as outlined above in the constrained vision. I’d feel much safer in that realm than with Whoopie Goldberg calling the shots.


At the extremes, the constrained vision says “My country right or wrong”, while the unconstrained vision casts its exponent in the role of a citizen of the world ready to oppose his own country in words or actions whenever he sees fit. Patriotism and treason thus become a meaningless distinction at the extremes of the unconstrained vision.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

In the unconstrained view, Sowell shows us how fidelity, duty and roles in society are greatly undervalued while sentimentality and personal experience are placed on the throne. So, it isn’t hard to see how patriotism and treason are rendered “meaningless.” Personal experience cannot sustain a people, because one person’s idea of America could be “the land of opportunity” and another’s “a racist place built on lies.” The constrained view lets us be people. People who have made mistakes. People who have made positive changes and who need to make more. But, people nonetheless who can handle the reality of human frailty and the reality of responsibility. Let me ask you, which is better for society – emotionalism or fidelity? Is it good for an American citizen to care more about America or China? Is it good for a father to care more for the well-being of his own family or should he devote himself first to the well-being of another’s home? Is it good for a mother to prize her children first, or should she value another woman’s children higher than her own? We all instinctively know the answer. Fidelity preserves our freedom and our relationships. Emotionalism cannot replace faithfulness.


Another recurring theme in the unconstrained vision is how profoundly different current issues are from those of the past, so that the historically evolved beliefs, the “conventional wisdom” can no longer apply.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

There has been a strong push in education to divorce children from the traditions and belief systems of their parents. If you’re living in a state ruled by people who hold an unconstrained view of man, you should expect policies that threaten parental rights, ignore history, and repeatedly try to change culture by changing the narrative, even if that means lying.

In the unconstrained view, any means necessary is permissible if it will further its believers’ goal of “utopia.” So, Hollywood can do things like completely change Anne of Green Gables or A Wrinkle in Time because, in their view, the narrative of culture needs to change, not because it already has. (Waiting for that could take forever because normal folk like you and I are not as “evolved” as our esteemed progressive elites.)

Most people do not believe much has changed throughout the course of human history. We believe mankind is flawed and things like adultery, murder, vanity, jealousy, and selfishness have wreaked havoc on our world. In our camp, there are many who want to raise strong children because we know they will encounter unhealthy desires both in their own hearts and in the hearts of the people they meet. We use stories, history, and personal experience to help shape their loyalties and to warn them not to repeat the mistakes of their fathers, their mothers and all who have gone before. In the unconstrained view, that is wasted time. What is needed is something new entirely.


The argument [in the constrained vision] is not that it is literally impossible to reduce or eliminate specific instances of inequality but that the very processes created to do so generate other inequalities including dangerous inequalities of power caused by expanding the role of government. Milton Friedman exemplified this aspect of the constrained vision when he said, “A society that puts equality, in the sense of equality of outcome, ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom and the force introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

The unconstrained vision sees inequality as evil. They see evil in the “patriarchal” business your grandfather passed down to you and in the fact that certain demographics score better on their SATs. This is why their energy is thrown into combatting these “inequalities” instead of in protecting America from what you and I would call actual, real threats. In their minds, with the exception of a few intellectually superior people who they deem worthy enough to cast the vision for America, Americans are far too privileged and we therefore, are the enemies.


According to the unconstrained vision:

“Evil, in the existing society, is neither incurable nor even very hard to cure when you have diagnosed it scientifically.”

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions

That quote is possibly the most terrifying of Sowell’s entire book. Remember the tyrants who have gone before: Hitler, Fidel Castro, Osama Bid Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il… These men scientifically diagnosed human beings they saw as evil and spent their lives seeking to eradicate them. What our leaders believe matters.

We are not utopians. We accept the fact that these bad ideas will undoubtedly threaten every state in our nation at some point. And that is why we must be willing to bravely share the reality of human nature, even when people look at us sideways or make us feel like we are not as “evolved” as they are. After all, we have history and reality on our side!

Whether or not you move to a place where you experience less conflict with the vision of your leaders, remember, if you see human nature as it actually is, your vision is better! Better for your family, better for your city and your state blue or red and ultimately, better for the world.

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