The actual developments of society during this period were determined, not by a battle of conflicting ideals, but by the contrast between an existing state of affairs and that one ideal of a possible future society which the socialists alone held up before the public. Very few of the other programs which offered themselves provided genuine alternatives. Most of them were mere compromises or half-way houses between the more extreme types of socialism and the existing order. All that was needed to make almost any socialist proposal appear reasonable to these "judicious" minds who were constitutionally convinced that the truth must always lie in the middle between the extremes, was for someone to advocate a sufficiently more extreme proposal. There seemed to exist only one direction in which we could move, and the only question seemed to be how fast and how far the movement should proceed.

FA Hayek, Intellectuals and Socialism.

The warning against the golden mean fallacy is useful but standard, what I like best about this quote is that it brought to my attention the importance of constructive imagination in political reforms. I think this implies we'll get more and better thinking at the margins of policy if there are many different views about what policy's grand goals ought to be.


Attitudes to the past, present and future seem under-study in political science contrasted with personal anecdote. I'd be interested in teasing out these ideas further. To add to this paraphrase what I heard on the radio, since I can't find the original quote:

'Imagine you're walking a tightrope between past and future and the present is the ground far below. Don't live in the present'

-Syrian in raqa advising activist on how to deal with execution of friend for not attending morning prayer.

Rationality Quotes Thread February 2016

by elharo 1 min read2nd Feb 201697 comments


Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.
  • Post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.