The Three Languages of Politics by Arnold Kling

Monday, March 29, 2021

Now that I think about it, it is not at all surprising that I picked up and read this book.

  • I have been intrigued by language (so much so that getting machines to understand language is my day job!) for as long as I can remember.
  • Observations that change how I see the world intrigue me.
  • How people perceive, understand, decipher and involve themselves in politics has fascinated me over the years. (Go read any of my posts from yesteryears.)
  • For the last few years, the breakdown of communication between myself and my family and friends who hold contradictory political ideologies has bothered me.

‘The Three Languages of Politics’ is a short book that I got through in under 2 hours. However, it is an insightful book. Within the first few pages, Arnold King introduces a rather simple framework for interpreting any political argument around you, and boiling it down to a probable set of bases that the person making it is coming from.

In the couple days between when I read the first half and the second half, I started breaking down opinions I saw floating on Twitter, in email newsletters, on blogs and in articles, into not just the ideologies of the person, but in a way that helped me make better sense of what was being conveyed.

Buy it, read it. There isn’t much to lose, but a lot to gain. I’ll leave you with a precious quote:

The only person you are qualified to pronounce unreasonable is yourself. You are qualified to tell other people that they are wrong. You are just not qualified to tell other people that they are unreasonable.

P.S.: I listen to Amit Varma’s The Seen and the Unseen voraciously and this has been recommended across multiple episodes.