Ron Trowbridge of Lone Star College has written an insightful piece in SeeThruEdu entitled “To Those Who See My Writing as Slanted: Every Piece of Writing Has a Slant”, in which the key takeaway of his thinking is this: “In politics, there is no such thing as objective truth. For liberals and Democrats, facts are screened through a center-left prism; for conservatives and Republicans, through a center-right prism. The New York Times slant is center-left; the Wall Street Journal is center-right. E. B. White once observed, ‘I have never seen a piece of writing, political or nonpolitical, that doesn’t have a slant. It slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.’ ”
Upon reading this, I immediately thought of one of my favorite books and authors, A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell, to which I return frequently to remind myself of his solid theory of the grounding of perspective on political truth. For Sowell, the intellectual origins of the sides of debate on essentially all public policy issues can ultimately be traced to the degree to which the opposing parties are of the “constrained” or “unconstrained” vision. Consequently, the very meaning of words like “freedom”, “rights”, “equality”, and “power” may be drastically different, depending on their context with different worldviews, or visions of man.
Without getting too far out into “the weeds”, Sowell’s key criteria for distinguishing the constrained and unconstrained visions are (1) the locus of discretion (who decides?) and (2) the mode of discretion (what is the decision process?). Both visions acknowledge inherent limitations in man, but the nature and degree of these limitations is different. Put simply, the unconstrained vision allows for considerably more knowledge, morality, virtue, and fortitude on the part of human nature to successfully accomplish it objectives than are thought humanly possible by the constrained vision.
Because both constrained and unconstrained visions are ultimately concerned with social results, this notion of the vision of the truth in its various contexts cannot always be perfectly applied and Sowell acknowledges that there are certain assertions of truths and issues on which a mix is appropriate. But over the past 20 years or so, I have found it a reliable concept in determining the source of the bias or “slant”, as Trowbridge calls it, that is inherent in any search for truth in politics.