In this episode, author and economist Arnold Kling returns to talk about his book, The Three Languages of Politics, which he originally spoke with host Russ Roberts about in this 2013 episode. Kling describes three “languages” and axes of opposition for progressives, conservatives, and libertarians in an effort to explain how we have begun to talk past each other- and even demonize each other- in our discussion of politics.

Roberts says this book has been one of the most influential he’s read; it was prescient in 2013, he says, yet somehow imperative today. Roberts also notes that it’s been particularly helpful since he’s “grown up” (within the last four years!). Which political language do you speak, and how can all of us stop seeing the world in terms of “us” versus “them”?

Maybe we can all use this conversation to reflect on our own intellectual maturity.  We hope you’ll consider responding to our prompts below. And most importantly, we hope you stay well.



1- How does Kling describe the difference between “affective” and “issue” polarization? Between the “demonization” and “persuasion” modes of conversation? Why does he believe we’ve shifted from one to the other? How has this affected our political discourse?


2- Why does Kling make a distinction between one’s sub-Dunbar world one’s super-Dunbar world? How does this influence political discourse, according to Kling? What do people think they’re accomplishing when they post about politics on social media? (Kling admits he’d post cat videos on Facebook before anything on politics…)


3- Roberts notes (referencing both Adam Smith and Sebastian Junger) it’s understandable why we want to hate others. To what extent do you agree? Why do you think hatred has spilled over into politics more so than in the past- or has it?


4- How has the current media landscape facilitated the shifts referred to in the first question?  Do you think the media is the source of the current polarization, or has our increased polarization caused the media to change? Explain.


5- Roberts has suggested that Kling’s three languages have led to three blind spots. What are these? What measures might you suggest to reduce the level of animosity in political discourse today? How might these measures succeed in remedying these blind spots?