I’m a worrier. It’s what I do. Lately, I’ve been worried that I haven’t been upset enough, frequently enough. Oh, it’s not because I enjoy the high blood pressure that comes with being emotionally upset or find perverse pleasure in whatever disagreeable thing it is I’m experiencing — that would be too oxymoronic. It’s that I think being upset by (in my opinion) little thought-through, badly argued but sanctimoniously delivered speeches or writing really fires me up to do some (hopefully more thoughtful, better argued, and minisized on the sanctimony-front) writing of my own.
I think put Thomas Sowell put it best when he penned this acknowledge to his book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice,
In the spring of 1996, some particularly sophomoric remarks by one of my Stanford colleagues not only provoked my anger but also convinced me that there was a real need to untangle the kind to confusions that could lead any sensible adult to say the things he had said — and which all too many other were saying. I went home and immediately resumed work . . .
[After thanking Milton Friedman and Mancur Olson] In a truly just world, I would also have to acknowledge my debt to my colleague whose sloppy thinking galvanized me into action. However, I shall not do so by name, in deference to collegiality and to the libel laws in a litigious society.
May we all have such sophomoric but productivity-enhancing colleagues! Lacking such “fire in the belly” inspiration, however, I make do with calmer, more descriptive and less argumentative, more informative and less persuasive writing. This is surely fine, but I worry — worrier, remember? — that too much of this calm waters carries the danger of grounding my blog in a morass of vacuous posting. After all, some of the posts that I think are the most content-heavy on this blog are posts written in response to things I found highly disagreeable. Some of these posts are written when I’m viscerally upset (although I take care to re-read and edit when I’m no longer seeing red). Even as they tend to be the least popular, least read of my writings on T&B, they please me. Even as they tend to be the most reputationally risky — for I take definite positions in them that, horrors upon horrors, may turn out to be wrong — they invigorate the blog and recommit me to the project.
Of course, too much of them and the blog veers into the infested waters of preachy, self-righteous, and pedantic writing. Who wants that? “Nobody”, say I as I answer my own rhetorically posed question and commence on worrying about being too pedantic.