Sometimes people tell me I have “heterodox” or “dissident” views. The first term is favored by classical liberal and centrist types, while the latter is often used by right-wingers, who are also prone to calling themselves “heretics.” These words have always made me cringe, and it’s probably useful to explore why. My general feeling is that there is usually no legitimate justification for using them, as they encourage a kind of unreflective tribalism, lead to alienation and self-pity, and distract from what could be more productive debates.

A healthy marketplace of ideas should keep the focus mainly on which ideas are correct and which are wrong, not on social desirability bias and what the mob is thinking. To approach a conversation from the starting point of thinking about which ideas are “standard” and which are “heterodox” strikes me as the mirror image of “read the room.” The “read the room” crowd is telling you to shut up because what you’re saying is unpopular. But people who always talk about their ideas being oppressed are generally trying to guilt you into taking minority positions. Neither approach is healthy.

— Richard Hanania, “Please Don’t Call Me ‘Heterodox‘”


Under the spell of that humbug of fame or power, a man is soon prey to other incidental humbugs. There will be no end to it. He soon wants to begin to reform society, to uplift others’ morality, to defend the church, to crush vice, to map programs for others to carry out, to block programs that other people have mapped out, to read before a convention of what other people have done for him under his administration, to sit on committees examining blueprints of an exposition, even to open an insane asylum (what cheek!) — in general, to interfere in other people’s lives.

Yet there is a secondary social humbug, quite as powerful and universal, the humbug of fashion. The courage to be one’s own natural self is quite a rare thing. The Greek philosopher Democritus thought he was doing a great service to mankind by liberating it from the oppression of two great fears: the fear of God and the fear of death. But even that does not liberate us from another equally universal fear: the fear of one’s neighbors. Few men who have liberated themselves from the fear of God and the fear of death are yet able to liberate themselves from the fear of man. Consciously or unconsciously, we are all actors in this life playing to the audience in a part and style approved by them.

— Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living