A Difference of Values: “This is by design” does not refute “This is wrong”

This came up in my Facebook feed today:

But they agree…

This disconnect speaks volumes.

Disagreements either boil down to a difference of understanding/facts or a difference of values. This one is a difference of values, but way too many people make the same mistake Being Classically Liberal makes in assuming their disagreement with Waleed Shahid is a question of ignorance.

Fact: “our government was not designed to be a democracy where everyone has equal say.”

Fact: “our government was designed to be a federation of states, all with their own government, which is why every state gets the same amount of Senators”

Those are both facts. They are both true. They are not opposing arguments any more than “the sun is a star” is a rebuttal to “the earth is a planet”. This is not a question of ignorance. The difference is in the implicit assumption about political imagination.

The conservative assumes the current system is right and trusts its architects. To the conservative, the Founding Fathers embody moral truth, and so “this is by design” is equivalent to “this is right”.

The dissident locates their source of moral truth outside of who happens to be in power. To them, “this is by design” is compatible with “this is wrong”. (The reformist vs. revolutionary split, by contrast, is not necessarily a difference of values, since both start from this moral premise.)

This is something the conservative cannot fathom. The conservative assumes the dissident only believes “this is wrong” because they are ignorant of the fact that “this is by design”.

We must expand our political imaginations and reject the notions that any human is infallible, that whatever is is right, and that power is a source of moral truth. We must dare to believe that systems, even those we’ve been conditioned to accept, can be designed to be morally wrong. Disentangling “what is” from “what should be” is a moral and epistemological necessity.

Another world is possible.

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