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(The following is the beginning of an exchange on a libertarian’s Facebook page, with the first comment being his status update. It continued, as these exchanges often do, with my repeated suggestion that we step back from our substantive certainties and agree to base our discourse on the premise that we’re all fallible, and if we all strive to be rational and humane people, in disciplined and methodical ways, it would serve society better than our competing blind ideologies, and with this suggestion being responded to with every excuse imaginable for why it couldn’t be accepted. And this is the great ongoing tragedy of our shared existence, not just the persistence of irrationality, but the emotional investment in its preservation against all suggestions and invitations to work toward transcending it.)

KW: God Bless You for your choices, now kindly step aside as I make my own.

SH: What if your choice were to hurt others? Should I kindly step aside then? So, you have to qualify it to say “now kindly step aside unless my choice is to hurt others and good citizens need to stop me from doing that.”

But lots of things hurt others in subtle ways. We are interdependent, and our actions affect one another. So some of our laws have to recognize that there are individual actions that we each can engage in that cause one another more harm than we, as a society, can allow. For instance, if I do work in my home that produces some form of toxic waste, and I dump that waste on my own property in such a way that gets into the groundwater that others drink and causes deadly disease among those who drink it, then don’t we as a society have good reason to say that no individual can dump toxic waste on their own property?

There are so many things like that in our lives, so much interdependence, that the meme that each should be absolutely free to do whatever they choose really serves more to obscure the real challenge of determining where to draw the line between individual liberty and agreed upon limits to it for mutual benefit than to enlighten or guide us in any meaningful way.

RA: Live Free!

SH: Self-governing on the basis of slogans rather than in-depth, nuanced, and diligent thought isn’t really that good an idea. One of the things you’ll notice about every one of the most horrible chapters of modern world history is that the authors of those horrors were all always deeply immersed in moving slogans.

JW: @Steve you are dangerously close to the most dangerous slogan of all time “for the greater good”. How about, “my ability to swing my arm ends at your nose”. People have to learn to live in close proximity to one another without resorting to trying to live each others lives for them.

SH: J, our own Constitution declares the importance of governing for “the general welfare.” The fact is that I live by no slogan at all, but rather by the belief that there is only one ideology to which any of us should ever adhere: That of striving to be rational and humane people, wise enough to know that none of us knows all that much, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world. That’s not “a slogan,” but rather a philosophy, and not a shallow philosophy that fails to capture the true complexity and subtlety of the world we live in, but rather one based squarely on the recognition of that complexity and subtlety.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t consider the liberal-conservative divide the fundamental one, nor is it how I define my own commitments. I am committed to the disciplined use of human consciousness in service to humanity, period. That includes using disciplined reason, imagination, research, analysis, contemplation, and discourse, recognizing our limitations, uncertainties, and the value of allowing some organic processes to function without trying to impose ourselves on them at every turn. It includes many, many things that can be discussed and debated and ever better understood by ever more people.

If a person comes to that process with that attitude self-identifying as a conservative, that’s fine with me. If they don’t embrace that process at all, but self-identify as a liberal, then they’re as much a part of the problem as those who don’t come to that process at all and self-identify as conservatives. The blind ideologies are not the answer; the processes that best liberate and mobilize human genius are, including the genius of laissez-faire to the extent and in the ways and under the circumstances that laissez-faire is best recommended by our best understandings of how the world works. 

But that’s not what happens. What happens is that people come fully armed with an array of false certainties arrived at haphazardly, through socialization and indoctrination and emotional predisposition, and treat those false certainties as indisputable truths. We all do it to some extent, even those of us who do it to the least extent, because that’s how the human mind works: We reduce an infinitely complex and subtle reality to manageable form in order to function in the world, and mistake our cognitive models for the reality itself. A critical step toward being rational and humane people is recognizing that, and working with it.

But when people declare that they have the one right substantive ideology, they are digging into the opposite cognitive orientation, the cognitive orientation which clings most tenaciously to their own false certainties, and is most insulated from actual fact and reason and growing comprehension. Do I think that that is more closely associated with modern American conservatism than modern American liberalism? Yes, but that’s not really the point. The point is that all of us should strive to be wiser than that, and those who refuse, regardless of what ideology they identify with, merit criticism for refusing. 

I always refer to reason AND humanity, though in many ways humanity is implicit in reason, as long as we agree on certain underlying values of fairness and long-term functionality, because we are ultimately interdependent, and reason dictates that we recognize our interdependence and act not under the pretense that it doesn’t exist but with the constant awareness that it does. “Liberty” does not mean the absence of interdependence, but rather a particular orientation to it, a value embedded within it that only has meaning in its context. Those who neglect to understand that end up turning the beautiful and valuable concept of human “liberty” into a cruel and ugly excuse for acting in predatory and implicitly inhumane ways. 

It’s no coincidence that slave owners used the concept of “liberty” to rationalize their commitment to the institution of slavery (the greatest assault on human liberty in the history of our nation, matched only by the displacement and destruction of the indigenous population), arguing that to deny them (the slave owners) their property (their slaves) would be an assault on their (the slave owners’) “liberty” (see John C. Calhoun’s “Union and Liberty”). And it’s no coincidence that modern Tea Party/libertarian ideology is part of a continuous ideological thread reaching back into that same use of the concept of “liberty.” Knowing and understanding history, deeply and richly and thoroughly, is useful to our present understandings and commitments. 

I could go on. I could write books on this. But there is only one rational place to start, only one rational foundation to build on, and that is reason itself, not the arbitrarily claim of already having embodied it in one’s current substantive certainties (as some I’ve interacted with insist upon, as their way of rejecting the notion that we should all strive to be rational and humane people), but in a commitment to the methodologies and procedures which have proved in recent centuries to be the most robust for minimizing bias and maximizing accuracy, and using those procedures –which include debates that aren’t just shouting matches but actually adhere to the rules of debate, the rules of evidence, the rules of logic, or whose relative merits are judged by how well they adhere to them—in service to our shared humanity. 

It’s a simple premise. I think it would generally favor what are now considered liberal positions, but if I’m wrong, I’d rather surrender my own false certainties than insulate myself from reason in order to preserve them. It is the process of reason in service to humanity that I am committed to, not to any current assumption of what conclusions it leads to. 

And that’s something that all rational and humane people should be able to agree to, should be able to rally around. I know some moderate conservatives who do, and I identify more with them, am more reassured by their presence in our polity, than I am by dogmatic liberals who don’t. And if we can simply put aside the shouting matches over precipitous substantive false certainties, and instead agree to work at being that kind of a polity, a rational and humane polity, then this would be an even more admirable and extraordinary nation than it already is (if that’s what it already is), and an even greater gift to the world than it already is (if that’s what it already is). And we would leave on the margins, on the dust heap of history where they belong, the commitment to ignorance and bigotry and oversimplistic dogma that some insist on adhering to, moving forward instead as an increasingly rational and humane people. 

KW: Steve, why do you use my status to go on your diatribe. I respect your take but you immediately disregarded the simple fact that I am Libertarian and not a single one of my choices harm another. 

JW: I know better than to feed the trolls but I am going to respond to your essay Steve. Shakespeare said “Brevity is the soul of wit”. At least with the simple statements that K and I have made, a reasonable person might gather the basics of our personal philosophies. I read through your entire post and honestly could not make a determination of where you fall philosophically. Given the lengths to which you used as many words as possible to say as little as possible, I am inclined to believe that you are a statist leaning liberal that would bind us in the chains of some nebulous “social contract” that no party signs yet all are supposed to abide by. Orson Wells took such thoughts about “humanity” to its inevitable conclusion in Animal Farm where of course, all are equal but some where more equal than others. Unlike K, I will not respect your philosophy if it is one that would consign us to the politics of pull, where influence becomes the prime product of a society and the real producers are enslaved to the “greater good”.

SH: K, the whole purpose of the rule of law is that we can’t simply rely on each other to do the right thing, and that we must govern ourselves, as a people, with laws that bind us and limit us in certain ways for mutual benefit. You say that I disregard the fact that you are a libertarian and that your choices harm no one else. No, I dispute the notion that we don’t need laws because some people are not inclined to break them in the first place, or that the recognition that we do need laws is compatible with the ideologically exclusive emphasis on absolute freedom.

As for why I use your status to go on my diatribe: If one propagates defective ideas that can be harmful to humanity where I can challenge them, then I will challenge them.

J, you couldn’t make that determination because not all philosophies are dogmas, and mine is one such that is not a dogma. It is a commitment to the same foundations that inform science and law, a commitment to methodologies and procedures rather than to presumptions and false certainties. “My” philosophy is not reductionist, is not the folly of imposing on a complex world a simplistic panacea. It is, rather, a commitment to reason (which is served by disciplined methodologies and procedures that have proved their worth over the last several centuries) in service to humanity (rather than in service to some segment of humanity at the expense of other segments of humanity).

You assume I’m an adherent to your caricature of left-wing ideology, to which you relegate everyone who is not a member of your preferred reduction of reality, not recognizing the existence of any form of political economic thought that does not fit neatly into one or the other of your two caricatures of political economic thought. It’s a tidy but shallow world you live in. Maybe it’s time to consider the possibility that it’s not the last word of human comprehension. (And that’s the point, isn’t it? Knowing that we don’t know rather than insisting that we do, and, in the womb of that wise humility, actually learning, discovering, growing, approaching the challenge of engaging a complex and subtle world with imagination and analytical discipline rather than blind ideological fervor. THAT is the real political divide in America today, whether to be a raging ideologue, or an imaginative and analytical participant in an on-going enterprise.)

“My” philosophy is to start with the simple agreement among all who are willing to strive to be rational and humane people. It may seem insignificant, but I think that it is an important step, because both reason and humanity are easily lost to the zeal of blind ideologies. So, we say, “look, I know that I’m fallible, and that the world is complex, so lets agree, first and foremost, that we’re going to strive to be rational and humane, and take it from there.” it’s a good agreement to make, a good foundation to build on, and very much in the spirit of the formation of this nation, which was founded on the Enlightenment philosophy that a people can and should govern themselves rationally and humanely, debating as rational citizens rather than merely clinging to ideological assumptions.

Once we make that agreement, we can discuss how to realize it. Clearly, scientific methodology is better than other preceding and generally more haphazard approaches when it comes to understanding empirical phenomena, to ascertaining factual and systemic knowledge. Similarly, legal procedure is preferable to, for instance, trial by ordeal, for ascertaining guilt or innocence, or ascertaining facts and applying the law to them. These are developments over recent centuries that have increased the role of rationality in our lives. We can work to extend their domain beyond the halls of academe and the courts of law, and to employ more of their logic, and reap more of their benefits, in public discourse in general.

And it all starts with something as self-evidently desirable as simply agreeing to strive to be rational and humane people, and giving that agreement priority over any other ideological commitments.

George Orwell (not Orson Wells) wrote “Animal Farm” about an ideology coopted in service to oppression. Any ideology can be used as such a pretext, even one that claims to exist for the opposite purpose (as, indeed, Communism itself did). Ideologies always insist that every other ideology is the road to Hell, and that they alone provide salvation. It’s a common theme. They use rousing symbols and slogans to proclaim themselves the defenders of some noble ideal, and then, if they are not more procedurally than substantively oriented, inevitably betray that ideal.

A commitment to humanity is not a commitment to totalitarianism. But a failure to commit to humanity, to commit to reason, is an invitation to the institutionalization of irrationality and inhumanity, as has so often happened in so many times and places. Ironically, Libertariansim has something fundamentally in common with Marxism, and that is profound and oversimplistic political economic dogmatism. Marxism identified the state as the solution to all problems, and Libertarianism identifies the market as the solution to all problems, though economists well understand that neither is and that both have a vital role to play.

We should all act more like economists and less like ideologues when discussing economic issues. We should, in general, all strive to act more like rational and humane people, wise enough to know that we don’t know much, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world. That should be our one and only ideology

By the way, the concept of ‘trolls” on Facebook has clearly become distorted to mean “anyone who invades an ideological echo-chamber with any perspective discordant with that of the pariticpants of the echo-chamber.” If that is the new definition of “troll,” than I’m proud to be one, because these echo-chambers are unhealthy to our democracy and do poor service to the growth of reason and understanding. We need, instead, a robust, informed and informative, rational and disciplined, public discourse, where ideas are exchanged and challenged, and we work together to improve our understandings and our ability to cooperate for mutual benefit.

I would limit the term “troll” to mean anyone, on any thread, whose contribution is intended or designed to drown out signal with noise, and reduce rather than increase the informativeness and rationality of the discourse taking place.

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In many on-line debates, a well-informed and well-reasoned argument is met with the greatest scorn, often in the form of responses decrying the arrogance of the person making the argument. These responses are almost always devoid of substance, a string of z’s or a sarcastic announcement that the opponent obviously isn’t intelligent enough to have an opinion. Often a request is made to cease making such well-informed and well-reasoned arguments, to protect those who feel intimidated by them from having to be challenged so discourteously.

Putting the best face on it, one can argue that there is some merit in this objection, that everyone should feel safe to express their own opinion, and that intimidating arguments, such as those found in courts or the halls of academe, are not appropriate in the forums of public discourse. But this fails to understand the value of free speech, its purpose, and what is lost when we are more concerned with protecting arbitrary opinions from factual and rational challenges than we are with, together, arriving at the best informed and best reasoned conclusions.

Those who are most ideological and least analytical are most committed to a view of public discourse as being the futile “exchange” or arbitrarily held and inflexible dogmatic convictions. Those who are most analytical and least ideological are most committed to a view of public discourse as being a robust debate between relatively well-informed and well-reasoned arguments. Among the fundamental meta-debates underlying all other issue-specific debates is the between these competing narratives, with one side favoring entrenched dogma courteously left unchallenged, and the other favoring an increasingly disciplined process of discovery.

There is an ongoing battle on such forums whether we should be more committed to lowering or raising the level of discourse. It might seem odd that anyone could argue that we should lower it, but many implicitly do. It does a disservice to our nation and to our shared challenge of self-governance to take such a position. As uncomfortable as rational debate might be –particularly to those who are least rational– it must be the ideal toward which we continue to aspire.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Cognitive scientist George Lakoff (among others) confirmed (in The Political Mind) what we all have long known: People are not particularly “rational” in the old, Enlightenment sense of the word. We aren’t primarily persuaded by good arguments, but rather by good narratives, swayed more effectively by appeals to emotion than by appeals to reason.

Many of us are familiar with the frustrating futility of mobilizing a well-informed and well-reasoned argument in public discourse, only to have it crash impotently against the shoals of blind and inflexible ideology. We are not engaged in a rational national debate, but rather in a national competition of narratives.

This perspective defines a set of guiding principles for those committed to reason, humility, and humanity:

1) That we engage in this competition of narratives very consciously and strategically;

2) that one cornerstone of that strategy be the recognition that it is a competition of narratives, not sound bites, and that therefore sound bites should be used to invoke larger narratives rather than to reinforce the ritual of superficial political jousting;

3) that we should always anchor policy arguments in larger, consistent and coherent narratives, and make every policy debate an instance in that larger competition of narratives;

4) that our overarching narrative should be that we are the champions of reason and humanity (or reason in service to humanity);

5) that we use well-informed and well-reasoned arguments not just (or even primarily) for their own sake, but also as a constant reinforcement of the narrative that we are champions of reason and humanity;

6) that we strive to be, and to appear to be, the reasonable people of goodwill in every interaction, refraining as much as possible from ad hominem attacks and angry rants, avoiding the exploitation of trivialities, and instead arguing our positions calmly and reasonably and compellingly, not just through logical, empirical argumentation, but also through emotionally compelling metaphors and analogies and real life stories;

7) that we emphasize the importance of how we think rather than what we think, of procedures and attitudes rather than substantive conclusions, because the former is the algorithm that determines the latter –cultivating greater commitment to reason and compassion in the determination of specific policy positions should be our core agenda; and

8) that we suggest in every argument that none of us has all the answers, that oneself (the reasonable person of goodwill speaking or writing in that moment) might be wrong on some or all matters, and that what we most need as a people is for as many of us as possible, of all ideological inclinations, to agree to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world.

I’ve discussed various aspects of this in various other essays, ranging from the examination of the dynamics of our cognitive landscape (see, e.g., The Politics of Consciousness , Adaptation & Social Systemic Fluidity, The Evolutionary Ecology of Social Institutions, The Fractal Geometry of Social Change, The Evolutionary Ecology of Human Technology, The Fractal Geometry of Law (and Government), Emotional Contagion, Bellerophon’s Ascent: The Mutating Memes (and “Emes”) of Human History, Information and Energy: Past, Present, and Future, The Evolutionary Ecology of Audio-Visual Entertainment (& the nested & overlapping subsystems of Gaia), The Nature-Mind-Machine Matrix) to the importance of “walking the walk” (see. e.g., The Power of “Walking the Walk”, The Ultimate Political Challenge, The Foundational Progressive Agenda, and The Politics of Kindness) to what I call “meta-messaging,” which is the communication and dissemination of the underlying narrative of reason and humanity (see. e.g., Meta-messaging with Frames and Narratives and “Messaging” From The Heart of Many Rather Than The Mouth of Few).

The underlying narrative of reason and humanity (or reason in service to humanity) generates more specific narratives by answering the question “what does reason, inspired by and leavened by imagination and empathy, applied to evidence reliably derived, suggest are the best policies for humanity?” That question doesn’t eliminate debate, but rather frames it, and those who want to argue positions that don’t purport to answer it can be directly challenged by the narrative itself.

(It’s possible to narrow the underlying narrative for particular audiences, if one element of it seems to unpalatable to that audience, particularly changing “humanity” to “the American national/public interest.” And it’s generally recommended to frame the narrative in different ways for different audiences, down to choosing the vocabulary that most resonates with that audience.)

As a result, there are many economic, constitutional/legal, moral, and other social systemic components and sub-components to this underlying narrative. There is, in fact, an entire corpus of economic, constitutional and legal, moral, and other social systemic arguments that are generated by the underlying narrative, each of which must be converted into narratives of their own, using compelling metaphors and analogies, and emotionally evocative real life stories, but always referring back to the well-informed and well-reasoned arguments, not so much for their own inherent persuasive value, but more for their value as a constant signification of being reasonable people, members of a movement defined by reason in service to humanity.

The opposing narrative, which frames itself in terms of “Christian values” or “Liberty” or “Patriotism” (or, to be fair, some parallel left-wing ideological reductions) is, in the frame of our narrative, “irrationality in service to inhumanity” (by definition, since that which opposes “reason in service to humanity” is its opposite). Most often, it relies on some stagnant, historically produced dogma, degrading those that are vital parts of our institutional framework in one way or another (e.g., Judeo-Christian morality, constitutional law, and fundamental economic principles) into false idols that undermine both the reason and the humanity of adherents (e.g., fundamentalist religious bigotry and brutality, “constitutional idolatry” and ideologically skewed and dogmatic interpretation, and selection of a preferred archaic economist whose doctrine rationalizes the preferred ideological convictions).

The more we succeed in framing our national political ideological debate as a debate between these two narratives, the more we will attract people with the weakest current ideological convictions, because, all other things being equal, more people are likely to be attracted to (that is, wish to be identified with) the narrative of “reason in service to humanity” than the narrative of “irrationality in service to inhumanity.”

I will begin working, at least from time to time, on composing and compiling a series of essays which systematically develops the component narratives of “reason in service to humanity.” Much of the corpus of work on this blog already, haphazardly, serves that purpose, and perhaps the project will include linking to previous posts in new ones that focus more specifically on this aspect of my project.

(There have been several great “meta-messagers” of history. Ben Franklin and Charles Dickens come to mind as two prominent examples of people who intentionally created and published parables and other literary works for this purpose, to move the zeitgeist, to cultivate a cognitive and emotional orientation. The power of their work is widely recognized, but it was the power of individuals working on their own, to make their own marginal contribution. Imagine the power of an organized effort focused on precisely this modality, producing, compiling, and disseminating messages in a coordinated way to cultivate a commitment to reason in service to humanity. It has been tried before, many times, but never, to my knowledge, with quite the same explicit political focus as I am recommending now.)

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

I recently posted on three of my Facebook pages (my personal page: http://www.facebook.com/steve.harvey.313; my Colorado Confluence page: http://www.facebook.com/ColoradoConfluence; and my Politics of Reason, Humility, and Goodwill page: http://www.facebook.com/Reasonandgoodwill) the following:

For those on the far-right who like to claim that “the founding fathers” all meant for this country to be as they envision it, here’s an interesting passage from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Ben Franklin (page 315): “Another…proposal Franklin made to the Pennsylvania convention (in 1776) was that the state’s Declaration of Rights discourage large holdings of property or concentrations of wealth as ‘a danger to the happiness of mankind.'” What vitriol our modern faux-patriots would heap on Franklin, one of the most revered among those same “founding fathers” in their own day, were he alive to participate in political discourse today!

My point was less to promote Franklin’s specific position than to promote the notion that the “founding fathers” had amongst them a broader range of ideas than is sometimes supposed, and that we should honor them not by constricting our discourse to a false presumption of what “they” thought, but rather should honor them by discussing a range as broad as they did. Franklin was by far the most revered generally, and amongst the “founding fathers” themselves, in their own day (until Washington won the War of Independence, and knocked Franklin down to the second most revered), and that he had proposed an idea that would be denounced by the members of a particularly virulent right-wing ideology today that claims to be most in sinc with the “intent” of “the founding fathers” speaks volumes about how constricted our national discourse has become.

The guilt for this ideological narrowing of our national mind doesn’t belong to the right alone; the left has its own sacred cows, its own ideological false certainties that are insulated from reason and evidence and further examination. But I do not find that left-wing corpus of false ideology to form the major thrust of our national collective consciousness, and certainly not its most counter-factual and counter-rational elements.

Though many on the right decry the “creeping socialism” of American domestic policy, the large administrative state along with its regulatory and redistributive functions, its public investments in public programs, is not the result so much of left-wing ideology as of pragmatic problem solving over a period of generations. It was, in fact, the broadening of the American mind through lived history, through trial and error, through the organic processes of social institutional growth and deepening in response to the challenges of shared life.

The principle force in the narrowing of the American mind is on the right, tightly constrained within a set of very narrow and inflexible assumptions largely divorced from historical, economic, legal, or, in general, social systemic evidence, analysis and lived experience. This set of ideological shackles takes several forms: 1) a false and ideologically convenient reduction of the Constitution to “the confirmation of everything we believe whether that’s what the Constitution actually says or not,” 2) an “economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical” (in the words of The Economist magazine) political agenda, and 3) an uncompromising fanaticism, served by a simultaneous rejection of scholarship and hollow pretense to be supported by it, to name a few.

On many right-wing sites and pages, a rational argument (if presented by an infiltrator such as myself) simply can’t be followed, in an almost Keystone-coppish spoof of discourse, a political ideological rendition of “who’s on first?” Amidst the bizarre barrage of school-yard taunts and infantile pejoratives, simultaneous defenses and indignant denials of implicitly racist or quasi-racist attitudes, can be found an underlying thread of pure, unadulterated, unexamined irrationality and ignorance. Reason is not only rejected, but reduced to the status of undifferentiated subjective opinion, “your reason,” as if logical argumentation applied to reliable evidence is no more reliable than random bigotries, just one more set of arbitrary opinions among many, and not the one to their liking.

Overly aggressive right-wingers insist that George Zimmerman should never have been arrested because he, the armed pursuer and fatal shooter of an unarmed teen engaged in no illegal behavior at the time the pursuit began, was merely defending himself and his property, while the unarmed victim of the shooting, reaccting to being pursued struck out at Zimmerman, was not.

On one anti-immigrant site, arguments included the notion that since some illegal immigrants commit predatory crimes, not being more aggressive in the enforcement of immigration laws is an insult to the victims of such crimes. When I pointed out that this is precisely the same logic used to support overtly racist beliefs, by holding an entire race or ethnicity accountable for the real or imagined crimes of any of its members (a tactic that can be used to impugn any large group or race or ethnicity, since as a matter of statistical probability there will certainly be crimes committed by some members of any such group), the reaction was, of course, a string of dismissive and highly inappropriate pejoratives, and an insistence that their views can’t possibly bear any resemblance to racism, because they are indiscriminate in their hatred of illegal immigrants. They just couldn’t grasp the concept of categorical prejudice having broader applicability than its “racist” incarnation (leaving aside the issue of whether there isn’t, really, a specifically racist element to their antagonism), but were relentlessly bellicose and belligerent in their inability to do so (uttering such apparently timeless gems as “retard,” “idiot,” and, yes, “illegal lover,” the last while denying any similarity in form to racism…!).

There are, of course, the homophobes, the Islamophobes, and the various other incarnations of the “us v. them” mentality, full of hypocrisy and inconsistency. These are people who claim to be the ultimate defenders of the Constitution while simultaneously insisting that to allow Muslims the same First Amendment freedom of religion rights accorded everyone else would be a travesty against our nation.  (One of their arguments is that Islam isn’t a religion, but rather a plot for world conquest.) These are the people who complain about an overly intrusive government who simultaneously insist that government must discriminate against people on the basis of private sexual orientation. It’s a paranoid and bellicose attitude toward the world.

The Obama-haters form a cross-section all their own, frequently overlapping with other variations, but a distinguishable sub-set in its own right. Whether one supports or opposes President Obama’s policies is not the defining distinction here: It is certainly possible to oppose those policies without belonging to this particular variation of this particular cultural pathology. But, for many, hating Obama is a religion, and the justifications highly exaggerated or fabricated, and imbued with a seething hostility. Some justify this by the similar dislike by many on the left of the previous president, George W. Bush, though I find it hard to equate outrage at a president who treated the world as our enemy (and did so in eager defiance of international law and human rights) with a president who merely tries to use government to meet the needs of the most needy among us. (Indeed, treating the world as our enemy is precisely one component of this right-wing mania, while meeting the needs of the most needy among us is precisely what they most vehemently oppose.)

Irrational bigotry, anti-intellectual dogma, unreflective and fully insulated false certainties, are the fabric of this ideology. But it is not just another cult, another little outgrowth of that ever-present but rarely dominant mindset found among religious fanatics and overzealous ideologues. It is a coalescence, a mutation of both of those categories merging into one, an overzealous ideology for religious fanatics; a religious fanaticism for overzealous ideologues. And, like an astronomical phenomenon with a growing gravitational field, more and more of right-wing American society has been sucked into its vortex, from fundamentalist religious fanatics, to grease-painted anti-government lunatics, to all varieties of xenophobes and hostility-driven personality types (though, again, to be fair, one far smaller and less threatening nest of hostility-driven ideologues is still thriving on the left as well).

Of course, as with all of the most virulent, anti-humane movements of world history, it is staunchly anti-intellectual. It has branches that reject some major and not particularly scientifically contentious scientific theories such as Evolution and Global Warming. It has branches that dismiss modern economics and want to replace it with a dogma derived from the work of a century old non-empirical Austrian economist instead. The complex and sophisticated accumulated knowledge of our civilization is considered irrelevant to this faction, because only that which supports the preferred predetermined conclusion is admissible.

It belongs to the class of ideologies and movements that includes the Inquisition, Bolshevism, Nazism, the Khmer Rouge, the Ku Klux Klan, and McCarthyism. Some aspects of it are directly descended from the same lineage of national ideologies that opposed the ratification of the Constitution, defended slavery and opposed abolition, and defended Jim Crow and opposed Civil Rights. It is in many ways milder than these predecessors and cousins, but more insidious for being so.

It isn’t just that these rather unsavory political attitudes and emotional dispositions form one major faction within our society, but rather that they have been (and may or may not still be) growing in influence while simultaneously insulating themselves from any intrusion of fact, reason, or human decency. In the 1970s, we saw TV’s Archie Bunker (wonderfully portrayed by the very talented Carrol O’Connor) as a relic of a soon-to-be transcended past, the bigot so archaic and comical that it was not a matter of great concern. But Archie Bunker was both less virulent and more marginal in his day than our neo-Archie-Bunkers are today, whose bigotry is more insidious and sublimated, and whose numbers, perhaps, are waxing rather than waning.

I am always a bit skeptical of any claims of exceptionalism, whether American exceptionalism, or the constantly repeated and rarely accurate belief in some exceptional aspect of one’s own time and place. My own version of it, voiced here, needs to be taken with a grain of salt as well: Bigots have plagued every generation. Their numbers and influence have often been greater than they are today, and their actions more violent and predatory.

What is exceptional about the present version, what worries me about it in a way that the past incarnations might not have, is that it is a mutation of that attitude and orientation that makes both its possessors and a far larger number of potential new recruits more easily taken in. It is a version that denounces racism while preaching it, that appeals to the baser nature of human beings while providing what to those so inclined is a credible cloak of respectability.

And it is a vibrant and robust current historical trend that stands in stark opposition to the deepening and broadening of human consciousness in service to humanity. When those among us who are hopeful and humane, who would rather see us become more rather than less wise and compassionate as a people, look at this trend, we see the antithesis of the future we know in our hearts is both possible and perhaps inevitable. We see Scrooge before the transformation multiplying and growing more intransigent, and Marley’s Ghost and the Three Spirits safely locked away. We see the perhaps momentary, perhaps more enduring, victory of malice and avarice and ignorance and irrationality.

The narrowing of the American mind may not be exceptional, but it is legitimate cause for concern. And those among us who favor the blossoming of human consciousness instead need to think long and hard about how to confront it, and work long and hard and smartly doing so.

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This post is inspired by a recent interaction on Facebook, far too similar to far too many other interactions, in which someone appalled by the fact that human beings are capable of thinking and acting like human beings (or what human beings should be) responds with a spittle-laden string of childish pejoratives, including such timeless gems as “retard.”It is a stock post, to be linked to each time, thus saving me both the time and tedium of actually responding to these creatures.

I prefer to be neither the person who initiates such mindless belligerence, nor the person who responds to it in kind, because both are unappealing and assertively unimpressive. If I respond by, for instance, noting that my detractor appears to be a bit of troglodyte, my detractor is likely to note that while he merely “referenced” the empirically demonstrable fact that I’m a “retard,” I engaged in “typical liberal name calling” in response, which is “pathetic.” (True story.)

Far be it from me to knowingly engage in such “typical liberal name calling” (as opposed to the more respectable conservative preference for calling those they disagree with “retards,” of something similar, over and over again, in this case always in all caps…). Instead, I offer this one word response: Really?

It’s telling what you focus on most about my posts: their length. Not their content, but their length. Those long posts, that discuss economics, history, law, demography, and numerous other lenses that are relevant to the political and social issues discussed on these threads, err by having any substance, by failing to be shallow expressions of blind and reactionary bigotry.

To you, economics is irrelevant to economic arguments, history irrelevant to historical ones, an understanding of how law works irrelevant to an argument about legality, reality irrelevant in general. The realization that good public policy isn’t defined by legality but that we must continue to refine legality in service to good public policy is completely beyond your grasp. The notion that one must use their minds to understand their world is completely foreign to you. The possibility that your arbitrary and unconsidered beliefs could possibly be anything but the absolute truth is as beyond your reach as it has been to Inquisitors and Jihadists, who share with you the same destructive modality of blind ideological certainty,  expressed more in terms of hatred than of hope, more antagonistic toward humanity than constructively in its service. That’s what defines you.

You often assure me that I wasted my time, that there’s no way I could ever change your minds. Of course I know that: Changing the minds of the mindless is beyond the reach of the best formed arguments; appealing to human decency a joke to those steeped in the toxin of belligerence and bigotry. But juxtaposing what reason in service to humanity looks like with what you represent is a lesson for any others who are not as far gone as yourselves. These threads are read by an unknown number of silent lurkers, who have the chance to choose to be reasonable and decent human beings.

So, my spittle-spattering spokespeople for the far-right rejection of reason and civility, of concern for humanity, may you enjoy the elongated reach of your pre-human limbs to all the more effectively pat yourselves on the back for such wit and wisdom. Such simian sophistication deserves only praise, and certainly a treat from one another as mutual trainers, for it far surpasses the prowess of, say, single celled invertebrates. And, truly, how much higher do any of us expect you to aim at this point?

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I have posted before on The Signal-To-Noise Ratio, discussing the amount of noise in the blogosphere. But what I’ve increasingly become aware of is that the problem goes beyond this. There is, from many quarters and by many dynamics, a very virulent reaction to signal, in which noise is aggressively generated to interfere with signal as it emerges.

I encounter this with particular force on right-wing facebook pages, and, among them, libertarian/tea party facebook pages most of all. Most recently, on Colorado Republican State Senator Shawn Mitchell’s page, he and his friends very transparently demonstrated a commitment to burying posts that were inconveniently factual and rational under pure noise.

Within a day, as I was simultaneously responding to a global warming denier on one of Mitchell’s threads by listing the actual empirical evidence, and to someone oblivious to the history and nature of property rights on another thread, who insisted that taxation to mitigate anyone else’s poverty is theft, by linking to and expanding on The Paradox of Property, and as the signal-disrupting noise machine was revving up again, Mitchell blocked me from his page.

It’s always telling when a group of people implicitly admit that the only way they can win a debate is by locking out the opposition and holding the debate in their absence. It’s telling when they respond to invitations to all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, aware that none of us has all the answers, by hurling pejoratives. It’s telling when they respond to “you may be right about everything and I may be wrong about everything” with no similar or reciprocal admission that there is any chance that they might not be completely correct on every single belief that they hold.

And this is exactly what defines that ideological faction. It’s not the substance of their beliefs, which I strongly believe are laden with irrational and counterfactual conclusions, but rather the simultaneous insulation of those beliefs from any intrusion of reason or evidence and promotion of them to the status of absolute truth, that is truly culturally and politically pathological.

As I explain in Scholarship v. Ideology, there is a continuum of modalities of thought ranging from ever-more irrational and blindly ideological in (often self-defeating) service to compassionless selfishness, to an ever-increasing commitment to the application of reason to reliable evidence in service to humanity (as well as enlightened self-interest). Approaching the pole of pure irrationality and dysfunctional belligerence, there is a two-step process employed by which completely unsupported beliefs are first insulated from reason and evidence and then assumed to be unassailable truth on no rational basis whatsoever (also described in Scholarship v. Ideology).

The first step is an appeal to a relativistic argument that all opinions are equal, and that therefore any counterargument to the ideological position that mobilizes reason and evidence can in no way claim to be privileged over the arbitrary opinion itself, even simply by being a more compelling argument. In this relativistic step, “reason” is always defined as completely subjective, formal logic dismissed as “your reason, but not mine,” and evidence whose reliability is better ensured by the methodologies designed to do so replaced with a combination of selective and manufactured factoids assembled solely to “prove” the desired conclusion.

The second step, ironically enough, is a dismissal of any other claim to the same relativism of the first step, insisting that to harbor any uncertainty regarding the arbitrary opinion that was insulated from reason and evidence in the first step would be to make the error of relativism, and that therefore the arbitrary opinion is indisputably the absolute truth. The most obvious example of the product of this two-step process is religious fanaticism, in which Faith, by definition, is insulated from reason and evidence, and then promoted to the status of absolute truth.

(I have posited, by the way, that there may be such a thing as “pure faith,” that has no reductionist object of belief but rather a deep sensation of belonging to a sublime reality, that might be conducive rather than an obstacle to the ever-fuller realization of human consciousness. See, for instance, “Is Religion A Force For Good?” and A Dialogue on Religion, Dogma, Imagination, and Conceptualization.)

But there are many quasi-religious, fanatically cult-like, ideologies that make no explicit reference to the divine. They utilize the same modality of thought, the same tactic of insulation from reason and evidence followed by promotion to indisputable absolute truth, and they are toxic to civil society and civil discourse. They not only are sources of adamantly-propagated noise drowning out the signal of disciplined thought that serves us far better, but they are actually targeted waves of such noise, determined not merely to compete with the signal by the rules of reason and evidence (which, on some level, adherents recognize is a losing strategy), but to jam the signal by any and all means available.

The currently most virulent and troubling secularized cult of irrational dogma is the libertarian/tea party movement, which is comprised of a combination of smaller “pure” factions (those who are not social conservatives or theocrats), and larger “hybrid” factions (those who combine libertarianism, social conservatism, theocratic tendencies, and a commitment to the preservation of inequitable distributions of wealth and opportunity into a “worst of all worlds,” internally inconsistent, ideological blend)

It is, as I have often said, a movement of organized ignorance, not merely insisting on its arbitrary false certainties, but zealously committed to imposing them on the world, regardless of the real costs to real people. The iconic moment was the choice to blackmail the nation with a threatened self-inflicted default of our financial obligations as a nation by refusing to raise the debt ceiling –a formality that has always been automatic, and in most nations IS literally automatic– because of the complete dysfunctionality of failing to do so, in service to an economic policy that even conservative economists opposed (the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, in the midst of a recession). Predictably, it resulted in a downgrading of our national credit rating, which only served to further deteriorate our fiscal and economic health.

I am adamantly committed to the marketplace of ideas, to the belief that all views should be aired, should compete, and, hopefully, the most reasonable and well-evidenced and humane will be the ones to survive that process. But when some factions, some cults, try to drown out other voices, even if only within their own echo-chambers, those factions are stifling rather than facilitating that process of the competition of ideas, ensuring that, for themselves at least, their ideas never have to compete against any others.

To be sure, this goes on to some extent in other kinds of echo chambers, including echo chambers on the left, and it is just as wrong and dysfunctional when it does. But this cultish, dogged irrationality is not what defines any other ideology currently in vogue anywhere to the same extent as it defines contemporary conservatives. Indeed, it is their anti-intellectualism which sometimes leaps out most vividly, their rejection of scholarship as a liberal conspiracy, their rejection of journalism as a liberal conspiracy, their rejection of reason applied to evidence in any context or any manner as a liberal conspiracy.

If that’s a liberal conspiracy, then it’s one to which we all should belong.

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‎(The following, originally a comment of mine on a Facebook thread, I first published on CC as a comment on another post but decided deserves a post of its own. It was in response to an angry reaction to the argument that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill. I think it hits the nail right on the head.)

Hi Joyce. Pleased to meet you.

There are plenty of websites and pages which are dedicated to particular dogmas, want to preserve an echo-chamber where adherents to that dogma can reinforce prevailing assumptions and articles of faith, and exclude the introduction of any facts or arguments that are inconvenient to them. There are others that, while they may have prevailing biases, remain, to their credit, dedicated to public discourse and the robust exchange of ideas, the life-blood of a vibrant and well-functioning democracy (or “republic,” if you prefer).

There are legitimate debates that we, the sovereign (in our “popular sovereignty”), need to have, over economics, law (including Constitutional law), culture, values, and numerous other issues relevant to our shared existence as a polity, as a state and a nation. The more able we are to engage in that discussion as reasonable people of goodwill, the better off we’ll all be.

And my only argument here is one that no one should find offensive: That the more people who agree to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, wise enough to know that they don’t know, driven by a combination of pragmatic realism and a sense of fairness and human decency, the more able we are to thrive as a society and to prosper as individuals.

Our society is divided by something more profound than the ideologies we normally identify, a chasm that divides many societies in many times and places. That division is between those who, on the one hand, accept the notion that being a responsible citizen requires striving to be a reasonable person of goodwill, and those who reject that notion. Some who reject the notion can be found on the Left; some who accept it can be found on the Right. I feel far greater affinity for, and far more thoroughly enjoy and feel satisfied by discussions with, those on the Right who accept this premise than those on the Left that don’t.

People sometimes argue over which ideologies are responsible for the horrors and violences against humanity of the past, and some do contortions to revise history to insist that it was always the ideology they oppose and never the ideology they adhere to. But, in reality, the horrors and violences against humanity that have occurred throughout history and around the world have found vehicles from all across the political ideological spectrum; sometimes under the auspices of totalitarian governments, sometimes under the auspices of tribal feuds obstructing the ability of national governments to form and function; sometimes under theocracies in which religious leaders have taken power, and sometimes under philosophies that claim there is no god. The one thing they all have in common is that they are perpetrated by people who choose either to impose a dogmatic certainty rather than support procedures of on-going discovery and decision-making, or they disintegrate into the cynical pursuit of self and local interests without maintaining the social coherence to do that in a mutually beneficial way. In other words, they are all perpetrated by people who lack a commitment to either reason or goodwill (or both).

It’s clear that in this country at this time, there are many who lack those two values, and are vehement in their rejection of those two values. They react angrily to any suggestion that we should put aside our ideological differences long enough to agree to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, each and every one of us aware of the fact that we are not in possession of the final answers on all matters, and each and every one of us dedicated to the on-going challenge of governing ourselves wisely and fairly. They are a vocal minority, but far from a majority. Most Americans are not attracted to people of that nature, whether they are found on the Right or Left or anywhere in between. Most Americans want to be decent human beings, reasonable people of goodwill, working together with others similarly inclined to govern ourselves wisely and fairly.

So we, that majority of us who feel that way, should make it the dominant ideology. We should agree that we are all mere human beings, each certain of things that may or may not be true, engaged in a process together that requires listening as well as speaking, thinking as well as knowing, considering the world from the perspective of others as well as from our own. We, all reasonable people of goodwill, can work toward that end, can advocate for that “ideology,” can encourage others to join such a movement. And we, all of us, would be far, far, far better off for it.

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Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

I’ve written before about the potential of “new media” to accelerate our cultural evolutionary processes (processes described in the essays linked to in the first box at Catalogue of Selected Posts), emphasizing the positive potential (see A Major Historical Threshold or A Tragically Missed Opportunity?). But there are also dynamics in place which co-opt this meme-accelerator in service to our basest inclinations, systematically favoring the least well-informed and most poorly reasoned memes and paradigms over the best-informed and most well reasoned memes and paradigms.

This consciousness-contracting force is comprised of the following interacting factors, the first of which is laudable in and of itself, but combines with the other two in dysfunctional ways: 1) A shared popular commitment to respecting the right of each to express any position in public discourse without privileging some over others; 2) A wide-spread individual aversion to being embarrassed by having one’s own factual or logical error debunked in public discourse; 3) The pandering of many comment board and blog moderators to those who are so embarrassed, favoring empty sniping (which is accepted as the norm on such forums) over carefully constructed argument (which is considered too discomfiting a challenge to those who want a “safe” place to broadcast their often arbitrary, ideologically-derivative opinions).

I’ve encountered this dynamic repeatedly, targeted both by participants and, in service to popular inclinations, moderators as well, for introducing analytical thought into such forums. Most recently, the Denver Post has taken this dynamic to new depths, deleting three highly factual and analytical comments on my part, at the behest of someone who was offended by the factual and analytical content itself.   

The first comment was a list of points contesting a comment by the complaining individual (whose own comment was nothing but a string of ad hominems), citing economic studies, a demographic argument made by The Economist magazine, and historical facts. Other than starting with the word “hogwash,” and ending with the phrase “other than that, you really nailed it,” it was nothing but fact and argument. The second comment was a point-by-point debunking of his response, devoid of any ad hominem. The third was nothing more than a straight-forward and very dry correction of the assertion that the 15% tax rate paid by many of the wealthiest Americans is due to their charitable giving, noting that the 15% rate was the capital gains tax rate that many of them enjoyed, and not an artifact of deductions for charitable giving. Amazingly, the Denver Post on-line moderator deleted all three, at one point messaging me that he saw nothing wrong with my comments, but was deleting them anyway!

I contacted the Denver Post about this, and received assurances that they would discuss it and get back to me. They never did.

This is just the most egregious example of a larger, and more troubling dynamic: The privileging of angry ideological memes over factually informed and well-reasoned memes. Anyone who reads comment boards such as the Denver Post can’t help but notice the dominance of angry ideological voices. What many may not realize is that the moderators themselves actually contribute to ensuring that such voices dominate their comment boards, not because they necessarily agree with or prefer the tone of those voices, but rather because of a mistaken application of a democratic instinct: Protecting voices from factual and logical challenges to them.

In one sense, the larger endeavor we are in, the struggle over humanity’s future, is a contest between the forces of mindlessness and mindfulness, of belligerence and compassion, of bigotry and enlightenment. We must never forget, each and every one of us, that that struggle occurs within as well as without, within our own individual psyches, within our own groups and movements, within our own rationalizations and ideologies. But the two are a challenge that we face without distinction, for we share a mind, and when the forces of mindlessness prevail in our interactions, they also prevail in our own internal cognitive landscapes. The Denver Post, for instance, succeeded not only in silencing reason applied to fact in deference to irrationality applied to fictions, but also in reinforcing the belief that it was right to do so in the mind of one who least could afford to have that belief reinforced.

It is incumbent on each of us to confront these countervailing currents, sweeping through the same media of collective consciousness as I am using now; to level their waves of mindlessness with the interference of equal and opposite waves of mindfulness. As many know, my outline of a sustained strategy for doing so can be found in the essays linked to in the second box at Catalogue of Selected Posts. But this suggested paradigm, like the paradigms it is designed to affect, should be one which benefits from the genius of the many, from the refinements offered by time and numbers. It is now just a nascent thought, waiting to be developed. The only critical thread that must weave itself through all of our efforts is a commitment to continuing to strive to be reasonable and imaginative people of goodwill, working together with humility and compassion to confront the challenges and opportunities of a complex and subtle world. The more successfully we spread that meme, the better off we will be.

Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

We have a lot of work to do. All reasonable people of goodwill have a lot of work to do. It’s not enough to groan, to bemoan, to talk or even walk, to vote and encourage others to vote, to protest or rally or lobby or canvass, to organize for specific goals, to engage in rituals and contribute to the noise of a very noisy world. It’s not enough to write, or implore, or contemplate, or engage others. We need to take action; a very specific kind of action; a less familiar and, for many, less emotionally gratifying kind of action; a less cathartic and more creative kind of action; a less ritualistic and more conscious kind of action; a less well-trod and more innovative kind of action.

The first step is to know that we can do much, much better. I don’t mean we could do better if only we beat the political opposition at the polls, or that we could do better if only others saw the world the way we do and joined us in our efforts to create a kinder, gentler, saner world. I mean that those of us who claim to believe in our collective potential to improve the human condition can do much better at translating that belief into results. That’s not something that depends on any superficial panacea saving us from a very deeply entrenched status quo, or on any sudden mass change of consciousness (that, in truth, it is our challenge to catalyze and cultivate), but rather on the discipline and commitment of those who share a general vision and goal, in service to that vision and goal. 

First of all, I shy away from using the term “progressive,” because, while among existing political ideological orientations, that is clearly the one I align with, and clearly the closest to being the force for moving in the direction of being a kinder, gentler, saner world, it falls woefully short, and leaves behind some who might join us in this effort, while being overtaken by others who are as much an obstruction to moving in the direction of becoming a kinder, gentler, wiser world as our ideological opposites are.

We need a movement within and beyond the progressive movement that commits to something many progressives have not committed to, and some conservatives would: To leave behind the false certainties, the overwrought commitment to oversimplified panaceas, the ancient tribal impulse to reduce the world to the “good guys” that are us and the “bad guys” that are them, and commit instead to disciplined reason and universal goodwill alone as the ultimate goals and underlying means of all that we do.

That doesn’t mean, as some people always insist on interpreting it to mean, that this is advocacy for always being “nicey-nice” and never taking firm stands for or against specific positions, even engaging in “hardball” politics in service to those stands. (Indeed, there are many who accuse me of the opposite error, of not being “nicey-nice” enough in public discourse, of “bullying” people, either with my intellect or my “flowery, condescending bullshit,” depending on their disposition toward me. While I am not claiming that I always get it right, I am claiming that there are definitely times to “bully” people with one’s intellect, or, as I like to put it, to make arguments so compelling that those who find them inconvenient are made uncomfortable by the difficulty of refuting them.) Those are determinations that must be made in the context of the kind of comprehensive analysis, holistic vision, and disciplined commitment to them that I am advocating. Nor does it mean that this vision is meant to (or possibly could) displace the current and familiar popular political landscape, with all of its oversimplifications, precipitous manias, and narrow interests or visions. I discuss below how these two visions and orientations, one of strident advocacy for passionately held views, and the other for cultivating a broader and more accommodating commitment to reason and goodwill in both the form and substance of our political advocacy, can coexist.

Rather, this is the articulation of a higher ideal, a more conscious and restrained and aspirational political and cultural movement, to which people who aspire to the creation of a kinder, gentler, and saner world can invest some or all of their energy, either while engaging in other more familiar political movements that also appeal to them and capture their imaginations and their motivations, or (as might be the case for some few) as their primary or only vehicle for social change.

I had, not long ago, developed one specific blueprint for what such a movement could look like (see, e.g., Transcendental Politics, A Proposal, The Politics of Reason & Goodwill, simplified, How to make a kinder and more reasonable world, Meta-messaging with Frames and Narratives, Community Action Groups (CAGs) & Network (CAN)). The specific blueprint developed in these essays is not the subject of this one. Our efforts to create this new “transcedental politics,” this more disciplined and humble and wise commitment to working toward a positive vision of what can be rather than against all of the windmill-dragons populating our ideologically saturated realities, can take what form it will, but it must begin with a commitment to it, and an organized effort to cultivate this new species of activism so that might flourish amidst the flora and fauna of the current political ecosystem.

Many of the essays I wrote in the course of developing and fleshing out my “politics of reason and goodwill” are iterations of the same theme of this one, such as The Ultimate Political Challenge, Second-Order Social Change, “A Theory of Justice”, The Foundational Progressive Agenda , The Politics of Anger, The Politics of Kindness, The Power of “Walking the Walk”, “Messaging” From The Heart of Many Rather Than The Mouth of Few, The Heart of Politics, A Call To Minds & Hearts & Souls, Politics & Social Change, Changing The Narrative, Cluster Liberals v. Network Liberals, Realizing Human Potential, The Loss of Humanity, Getting Off The Political Treadmill, and An Argument for Reason and Humility. Though there is undoubtedly considerable redundancy laced throughout these essays, it is my hope that together they, somewhat haphazardly and inefficiently, carve out a well-defined and increasingly detailed vision of how to do better, of what it means to do better, and of what it requires of each of us who wish to help change the world for the better.

The keys to this vision for progress are two-fold: 1) We need to cultivate within ourselves and within whatever organizations we create committed to this vision the humility, wisdom, and universal goodwill that must inform it, and make those values a discipline that we actively pursue, both within ourselves as individuals and throughout all social fields to which we belong; and 2)  we need to explore, in depth and with precision, the nature of the social institutional and cognitive landscape that is the field within which we are operating, applying the knowledge gained to the challenge of affecting that landscape in desired ways. (For my nascent contribution to that second component, see, e.g., The Politics of Consciousness , Adaptation & Social Systemic Fluidity, The Evolutionary Ecology of Social Institutions, The Fractal Geometry of Social Change, The Evolutionary Ecology of Human Technology, The Fractal Geometry of Law (and Government), Emotional Contagion, Bellerophon’s Ascent: The Mutating Memes (and “Emes”) of Human History, Information and Energy: Past, Present, and Future, and The Nature-Mind-Machine Matrix.)

 The articulation of these two aspects of what I’ll now refer to as “Transcendental Politics” is one of the challenges I have only barely waded into. It’s clear that they are closely bound together, in numerous ways, and that the discovery of the conceptual threads that weave them into a single whole will be an exciting and gratifying enterprise. I alluded to some of the connections in The Dance of Consciousness, The Algorithms of Complexity, and undoubtedly in other essays as well: They revolve around the fact that we are both participants in, and elements of, the social institutional/technological/cognitive landscape that we are simultaneously operating through and trying to affect. These are not too distinct spheres of reality, as we so often pretend they are, but rather one; recognizing that, and acting on the basis of that recognition, is a cornerstone of Transcendental Politics. (I have just recently bought a book, “Spiral Dynamics,” recommended to me by a friend, that purports to address precisely this dimension of the challenge, to develop a leadership and social movement/social change paradigm based on, essentially, the evolutionary ecology paradigm of our shared social institutional/technological/cognitive landscape.)

Transcendental Politics is one specimen of a larger, already defined category, referred to as “Transformational Politics,” which is political action designed not just to win battles within the current paradigm, but to change that paradigm as well. Transcendental Politics specifies a very precise kind of transformational goal, one which relies less on assumption and more on analysis, is more dedicated to humanity, all things considered, and less to narrower goals that conflict with that global goal on closer examination. It is a transformation that discourages stridency and encourages thoughtfulness and civil discourse informed by humility. It is, in short, the politics of reason and goodwill (leavened with imagination and compassion), pursued with Discipline & Purpose.

Part of what is to be transcended is the level of analysis on which the current ideological dichotomy defining the contemporary partisan divide is to be found (see A Tale of Two Movements). While both contentions are true to varying degrees and in varying ways (the Right is correct that there is a very salient agency problem embedded in any reliance on government to order our lives, and the Left is correct that corporate power, particularly over the political process, has reached crisis proportions), neither dynamic is as simple as its staunchest advocates imagine, and neither lies at the core of what is obstructing progress. (Admittedly, like peeling away the layers of an onion, the core itself may be ever-elusive, but part of the project of Transcendental Politics is to focus on the peeling back of layers to find the ever-more fundamental issues to address, and to eschew the self-satisfied belief that complex issues require no further analysis once a position has been taken. See The Algorithms of Complexity; or The Wizards’ Eye for a fictionalized representation of the dynamic.)

Transcendental Politics involves digging beneath these issues, recognizing the elements of truth in them, but also the utility of the institutions being critically analyzed, and eschewing the manias of obsessive exaggeration and oversimplification. Transcendental Politics requires us to embrace rather than scoff at the habit of qualifying assertions, identifying exceptions and conditions and variability, and, in general, declining to reduce the world to pithy soundbites in favor of exploring the world in all of its subtlety and complexity. To paraphrase the former Colorado (and now Wisconsin) political journalist Adam Schrager, quoting his father, Transcendental Politics favors thinking and speaking in commas and question marks over periods and exclamation points.

Stridency doesn’t exclude anyone from participating in advocacy of Transcendental Politics, or joining any groups that may emerge to implement it, though the stridency itself is excluded. There are times to be strident, and we each use our own judgment to determine when that time has come for us, though, on average, I would say we err on leaping to stridency too quickly rather than refraining from it too often. (For instance, I recently became very strident in an exchange on Facebook, with a bunch of right-wing evangelicals preaching anti-Muslim attitudes, calling for an attitude of prejudice and policies of discrimination toward all Muslims residing in the United States. I found their attitude so reprehensible, so horrifyingly familiar, that, while composing powerful arguments designed to increase the difficulty of rationalizing their bigotry, I also declined to mince words in my characterization of their position. See “Sharianity” for my depiction of their position.)

Many of my fellow progressives are strident about things I choose not to be, and am less convinced merit it. The governmental and police responses to “Occupy” protesters, for instance, while certainly sometimes excessive and counterproductive (and therefore deserving of very clear criticism), seem to me to be embedded in a more complex and nuanced challenge of balancing legitimate needs to enforce laws designed to protect the public health and safety with the need to limit the freedoms of speech and assembly (especially political speech and assembly) to the slightest degree practicable. It is an issue in which there is an inevitable balance to be struck (even if it is not currently being struck in the right place), and therefore an issue in which stridency is to be avoided.

But if an individual, on careful consideration, and in full consciousness, determines that, by their judgment, the issue of overzealous and overly violent enforcement of marginal laws, against political protesters generally not engaging in any serious misconduct of any kind, is an issue worthy of strident condemnation, that’s not a judgment I am in any position to say is “wrong.” I can only say that, since such determinations are a matter of personal judgment, and since one goal of Transcendental Politics is to increase our thoughtfulness and reduce our stridency in general, both my stridency toward those anti-Islamic xenophobes on Facebook, and others’ toward overzealous police action toward the “Occupy” protesters, should be left in the arena of conventional political discourse (where we all will still be participating as well), and removed from the attempt to transcend it.

In fact, people who are stridently opposed to one another on some or all issues might find a venue in which to discuss underlying aspects of those issues in a different way, if some of them at some times share the basic commitment required of participation in Transcendental Politics: That of striving to be reasonable people of goodwill working together to confront the complex and subtle challenges of life on Earth. To enter that new venue, we take off our hats of issue advocacy, and put on our hat of tolerance and acceptance. We do not have to worry that we are tolerating and accepting something intolerable and unacceptable by doing so, because we have not forsaken the other hat of passionate advocacy on that issue. But we can rejoice that we have, without giving anything up, opened up a channel through which reason and goodwill might have more opportunity to gain more purchase on more hearts and minds.

Transcendental Politics is about reducing the entrenchment of mutual antagonism, and increasing the commitment to reason and goodwill. It is about reducing irrationality and belligerence, and increasing consciousness in both thought and action. It is about moving from a politics that reproduces and reinforces our folly toward a politics that liberates us from and gradually transcends that folly. It is about growing as human beings, as individuals and as societies, and reaching toward higher and more life-affirming expressions of our humanity.

My role, thus far, has, for the most part, been to articulate this vision and try to rally others to it. (I have made some organizational attempts as well, such as trying to form my own community organization as part of that component of my “Politics of Reason and Goodwill” project, and engaging, both professionally and avocationally, in a multitude of public interest advocacy efforts. I developed this project, beyond my writings here, in the context of a Colorado Leaders Fellowship, with the Center for Progressive Leadership, outlining a long-term plan for bringing it to fruition. I also sent out hundreds of packets to political and civic leaders in Colorado, describing my specific project to them, looking for support and funding. However, despite all of that, I have not yet done enough to take these ideas across the threshold from the drawing board into implementation.) But, while social progress is always urgent, and millions suffer every day from our failures to address the challenges we face more effectively, instantaneous success is rarely an option.

This is not something one individual can make happen on his or her own. We often look to leadership to lead us, and lament its failure to do so, but, in the end, we should lament most of all our own failures to step up to the plate, and become leaders ourselves, leaders in our families and communities, leaders in our organizations and professions, leaders in our thoughts and actions (see What is Leadership?). None of us should wait for someone else to make this happen; we each should take action ourself to make it happen, to move it forward, to spread this meme and this paradigm, to help it insinuate itself into our cognitive landscape, and, from there, into our social institutional landscape.

If this is a vision you share, or one that you believe has a vital place in our social field, then please, step forward and say, “yes, I want to be a part of this.” Email me with an expression of your interest (even if you have done so already, please do so again: steve.harvey.hd28@gmail.com). Let’s start a dialogue around it, a continuing effort on all of our parts to transform our world for the better, not by raising our fists and expressing our rage, but by raising our consciousness and expressing our humanity.

We are capable of accomplishing so much together (see, e.g., Public Entrepreneurialism and Gaia & Me). But it takes more than a wish and some words. It takes commitment. Let’s not lament our failure to transform this world for the better to the extent that we know we are able to; let’s, instead, rejoice in our commitment to doing so, and act on that commitment with a renewed sense of determination and indomitability.

Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

(Here is an unedited Facebook thread, continuing the ongoing discussion….): David K Williams Jr: What radical, ignorant tea-bagger said this?

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” 

David K Williams Jr: A: Abraham Lincoln

Matt Arnold: As quoted by yours truly several months ago: http://www.clearthebenchco​lorado.org/2010/10/25/figh​ting-the-%E2%80%9Cprogress​ive%E2%80%9D-takeover-of-s​tate-courts/

Joshua Sharf: I think he even had a low, sloping forehead.

Audrey Lussier Hussey: what a radical.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Barney Frank????

Jacque Rhoades: Crazy Abe. What was he thinking?!?!

Lawrence Depenbusch: Abe said enough great things, he could have had one off day. You try getting selected for Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial, and the penny…

Steve Harvey: Right. The same guy who led the opposition to your ideology in his time, and who would continue to lead it today were he alive, strengthening the federal government against a secessionist movement, denying the individual liberty asserted by southern slave owners. The words are perfect; your blindness to the fact that today you are those “men who pervert the Constitution” ironic.

Joshua Sharf: Steve: I wasn’t aware that “my ideology” included the ownership of other human beings.

Buddy Shipley: xactly, Joshua. Beat me to it! Steve’s a twit.

Steve Harvey: Your ideology includes an extreme notion of individual liberty that neglects to recognize how its exercise affects the rights and liberties of others. The inability to abstract and apply general principles to new variations on repeating patterns is part of what permits them to be repeated. Or, more conventionally, “those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.”

Buddy Shipley: Liberals reject principle in favor of moral relativism, screws their reasoning every time.

Steve Harvey: Read John C. Calhoun’s “Union and Liberty,” which argued in langauge almost indistinguishable from Tea Party arguments why the overreaching federal government was depriving Southern Slave owners of their Constitutionally guarnanteed liberty by trying to abolish slavery.

Buddy Shipley: Wrong again, Stevie.

Buddy Shipley: On all counts/

Steve Harvey: Really, Buddy? Because I read it, cover to cover, when I studied American Political History. And that is exactly the argument that Calhoun makes.

Steve Harvey: Once again, you’re entitled to your opinion, but not to your facts, no matter how determined you are to simply declare that the facts are other than what they are.

Buddy Shipley: That’s my line, thief.

Steve Harvey: You are a bunch of throwbacks, lacking the knowledge, humility, or imagination to have the faintest recognition of to what extent that is the case. And, in the process, you try to inflict a utopian farce on an otherwise pragmatic nation, ta…king an idea divorced from its articulation with our lived history and insisting that only that idea must be revered, even if the version to which you reduce it can be implemented only at the cost of our prosperity and our humanity.

Buddy Shipley: WRONG: “ideology [that] includes an extreme notion of individual liberty that neglects to recognize how its exercise affects the rights and liberties of others.” –YOU ARE COMPLETELY WRONG.

David K Williams Jr: Steve – read Massachusett’s abolitionist Lysander Spooner’s “No Treason.” It’s readily available on the internet.

Steve Harvey: Yes, Buddy, you frequently repeat it, though you never demonstrate it. You ignore the historical, economic, and legal empirical evidence that I mobilize. Your last comment, citing another argument, does nothing to address the one that I cited.

Joshua Sharf: Steve, this is a non-argument. I’m not going to be held responsible for Calhoun’s misuse of Constitutional arguments, any more than you would be for early “progressives'” racism.

Buddy Shipley: Lincoln inherited a nation already in conflict over the economic canard of state’s rights to free commerce based on slave labor. Rather than allow the Union to collapse Lincoln chose to fight to keep it together, and that meant he had to choose between sanctioning slavery or ending it –One nation United without slavery, or divided and enslaved. The choice is not difficult.

Steve Harvey: Joshua, you would be absolutely right, if your ideas were fundamentally different from Calhoun’s. Unfortunately, they are fundamentally similar, just in a different historical context. They were used to oppose Civil Rights, and your own Ran…d Paul said that he wouldn’t have been able to support The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 because of how it infringes on the liberty to be (though he of course did not put it this way) a discriminatory racist.

Steve Harvey: The fundamental flaw in libertarian ideology is the de-emphasis of interdependence, and the neglect of the degree to which freedom must be articulated with where its exercise affects the welfare of others, which is extensive and ubiquitous.

Buddy Shipley: ‎”They were used to oppose Civil Rights…” — WHAT?

Buddy Shipley: Steve, you are babbling again.

Buddy Shipley: ‎”de-emphasis of interdependence” — ON WHAT?

Buddy Shipley: The Left has for generations been allowed to manipulate the language to serve their own ends with deceptively crafted legislation presided over by a Judiciary that has been corrupt at least since Liberal luminary Thurgood Marshall who asser…ted: “Do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” — ie: legislate from the bench because we the elite anointed few, surely know better than the great unwashed masses or any Legislative Branch that must actually be elected by the proletariat.

Steve Harvey: Uh, yes, Buddy. Southern leaders, such as George Wallace, used the complaint of an overreaching federal government to resist desegregation and the enforcement of Civil Rights provisions. The history of your ideology begins with the Articles of Confederation, and continued with “nullification” doctrine (that states have the right to “nullify” federal law at will), and then was used to impose Jim Crow, and finally has been reincarnated as Tea Party dogma.

Of course, it has articulated with other essentially absolutist doctrines along the way, such as religious fundamentalism, but the integral thread is very easy to discern, and to recognize as coherent across our history. And, yes, I see that you have now indicted Thurgood Marshall, responsible for arguing “Brown v. Board of Education,” which made desegregation the law of the land, and catalyzed the modern Civil Rights movement. Thanks for demonstrating my point.

Buddy Shipley: I indict Marshall for legislating from the bench.

Buddy Shipley: You fail civics 101, asshole.

Buddy Shipley: Your reading & comprehension skill are also lacking.

Steve Harvey: Right. You indict Marshall for doing what his namesake (Chief Justice John Marshall) had established as the role of the Court in the early 19th century, to the great benefit of the nation (which would almost certainly not have managed to so… closely approach “rule of law” as it has had he not done so, since your ideal of each imposing his or her own Constitutional interpretation, and not tolerating any process which imposes one in any centralized fashion, would have obliterated the law by converting it into a creature of each person’s imagination).

And I have no doubt that I failed your version of Civics, though I have taught it (and US History, and US Government), though not the caricature of it that your litmus test requires.

Steve Harvey: There are three branches of government, all involved in creating the law of the land, in different ways. Congress legislates, but legsilation is not the only law producing process. When the executive branch implements the laws, it must affe…ct them to make them implementable. Executive branch agencies do this in the form of agency rule making, a very elaborate process with lots of in-put from all interested parties. The judicial branch interprets the law, which cannot be drafted to cover all contingencies. The process of interpretation is a process of creation, inevitably.

Part of the genius of our system is this tension in the creation of law, a lathe on which it is forever refined, a lathe that you are determined to smash and replace with a sledgehammer for all occasions.

Buddy Shipley: WRONG AGAIN, asshole.

Steve Harvey: Yes, Buddy, you keep saying it. But, strangely, you are completely devoid of arguments. I know you are convinced that whatever you declare to be true must be, especially if you can accompany it with a profanity. But, alas, that’s just not how it works.

Steve Harvey: Buddy, that’s the elementary school version, not the reality, either by design or in practice. The idealized version is that the legislative branch writes the laws, the executive implements them, and the judicial interprets them. The realit…y is that all three of those processes affect their formation, inevitably, by the very nature of what it means to do those things. The shallowness of your mind is the problem, not the complexity of the real world.

Buddy Shipley: The 3 branches have DIFFERENT responsibilities! The Legislative Branch has the sole authority and power to craft and pass Legislation — NOT the Judiciary, you twit!! The Executive can choose to either sign the Legislation into law or veto it, and the Judiciary must APPLY THE LAW, not MAKE SHIT UP as they see fit!

Aaron Michael: The fundamental flaw with progressivism is that it seeks to cure the vices of men through force via the state. Libertarians acknowledge interdependence among people (hence the advocation of pure capitalism), but stop at trying to impose th…eir social norms on others. That’s not to say they don’t recognize universal morals, but being a prejudice dick does not fall into a category of aggression that would warrant a negative law enacted for the purpose of curtailing persons with discriminating behavior.

Buddy Shipley Just like Obama’s tyrannical policies to NOT enforce the laws of the land, T. Marshall chose to ignore the law and exert his own despotic opinion in place of the law and in blatant defiance of the Legislature that was actually ELECTED by the People. This is tyranny, and Steve wholeheartedly advocates it.

Aaron Michael: And once again Buddy emerges from the swampy soil to give his opinion on a matter he know nothing about.

Buddy Shipley I’ve been here all along, what steamy turd did Aaron crawl out from under??

Buddy Shipley ‎”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” –P. J. O’Rourke. Why do you leftist maggots insist on doing just that?

Buddy Shipley ‎”Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control mans’ appetite through legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not even crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our Government was founded” –President Abraham Lincoln (December 1840).

Buddy Shipley: Can your wee wittle bwains expand these concepts to everything else, or is the strain to great?

Aaron Michael: Buddy, O’Rourke is much too sophisticated to have jelly brains like yourself quoting him.

Aaron Michael: Try quoting Justin Bieber; it fits you better.

Buddy Shipley: Ohh, how witty. How many books have you written, maggot?

Buddy Shipley: Debt Default: More Honesty, Less Hyperbole U.S. Annual Deficit spending is projected at $1.4 Trillion this year alone, or 10% of GDP. The national debt is over $14.3 Trillion dollars, or 91.2% of GDP, which is no one claims is sustainable…. Service on the national debt amounts to nearly $400 Billion each year, based on average interest rates of ~3.9%, as Democrats demand a higher debt ceiling! This cannot be permitted. If the U.S. were to actually default on its debt payment we may lose our AAA rating (determined by Standard & Poors, Moody’s, Fitch), which in theory could cause our interest rates to increase; specifically, if the U.S. rating was downgraded from “AAA” to “AA-” it could result in an increase from .25% to .50% percent paid in interest, or a total of between $1 Billion and $2 Billion per year. Compared to our national debt, annual deficit spending and even the annual service on our national debt, $2 Billion is chump-change, especially considering the debate in Congress is about the need to slash federal spending by Hundreds of Billions, even Trillions of dollars! Too many politicians are addicted to spending other people’s money, and like a drug addict they will do anything to satisfy their addiction, no matter the harm done to others. It is well-past time for intervention; our only recourse now is interdiction. True fiscal conservatives must stand their ground at all costs, they must NOT cave-in on demands, threats and scare-tactics to lift the debt ceiling or raise taxes! Raising taxes will only stall an already stagnate economy and facilitate the politicians’ addiction. Defaulting would not be the worst thing to happen, but raising the debt limit and increasing taxes on a stagnate economy with 9.1% unemployment certainly would. This Congress has consistently proven it cannot be trusted to conduct the nation’s business within its means, with or without any wars. If you eliminate the entire $1.2 Trillion in war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan from the budget we’re still smothered under $13.1 Trillion in debt! Our junkie government has a SPENDING problem, not a revenue problem. The socialists have finally run out of other people’s money; it’s time for tough love, they must be forced to quit cold turkey.

Buddy Shipley: You maggots want a revolution? Keep it up.

Aaron Michael: So writing a book makes one smart? Oh and a captain planet coloring book doesn’t count.

Buddy Shipley: So, ad hominem attacks are all you’ve got?

Aaron Michael: Hahahaha and the pot calls the kettle black.

Steve Harvey: Let’s start with a thought experiment: What happens if you remove the state from the pricture? No force, only freedom. Those inclined to prey on others will do so, and will band together to do so, while those who are not will band together …to defend themselves. They will use force in both cases. Some of these bands will defeat others, consolidating into larger entities, with those able to assert or impose leadership becoming de facto governments, only far more tyrannical than those of developed modern democracies that you are now decrying.

If you remove the state, then you essentially press the reset button on political history. The state is a reality, because force is a reality. So pretending that the issue is over whether the state is good or bad is moot; the question is how to limit it and use it to maximum advantage, all things considered.

Yes, limiting it and controlling it is an essential part of the challenge, but not as some quasi-religious notion unrefined by a recognition of both its inevitability and its range of competence. The state is our vehicle of collective action, our public agent, and free people using mechanisms by which they, in effect, ARE the state can, should, and must accept that responsibility, despite the real challenges and obstacles posed by it.

My version of progressivism doesn’t declare the state good or bad, but rather starts with the recognition that we cannot escape the responsibility of governing ourselves to the best of our ability, today, here and now, guided by the brilliant products of our history, but not absolved of our living responsibility by them. We can best do this by first resolving to be reasonable people of goodwill rather than raging blind ideologues, whether on this side or that of any question.

To do that, we need to be somewhat humble, recognizing that we live in an almost infintely complex and subtle reality, with wonderful minds that are more limited than that reality. So we need to know that we don’t know, that we are constantly discovering. Then we need to do our best to mobilize our collective genius in this inevitable effort to continue to do the best we can, as reaonable people of goodwill. When, through that process, we arrive at conclusion which limit the state more, then I am the first to applaud our success. When, through that process, we arrive at conclusions that utilize the state more, then I applaud that success as well. There is no one final panacea that answers all questions and resolves all challenges, once and for all.

The Constitution is a short and vague document, interpretable in mulitple ways, one which provides brilliant guidance, but does not resolve all questions. We are participants in a living history, just as the drafters of that wonderful document were (who knew better than their modern idolators how great the need would be to continue to refine it as history created new challenges and opportunities). There is no escaping that fact, nor should we wish to.

Argue your positions, and I’ll argue mine, and let’s strive to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. Now, THAT would be tribute to our Founding Fathers, who showed us the way!

Buddy Shipley: “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it” –Thomas Sowell

“Most people who read “The Communist Manifesto” probably have no idea that it was written by a couple of young men who had never worked a day in their lives, and who nevertheless spoke boldly in the name of ‘the workers.'” –Thomas Sowell

Buddy Shipley: Compromise ALWAYS means losing ground to progressives/liberals! As Thomas Jefferson said, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” For the past century this is exactly what has happened. In the…ir attempts to “bring the country together” many prominent Republicans have pursued the disastrous course of “moderation” and “compromise” as they seek what they mistakenly believe to be some sort of desirable “middle ground.” I say there is no such thing! It is a fallacy to describe compromise with liberals as anything more than the constant erosion of conservatism and liberty — we are constantly yielding more ground to the Left — toward socialism, fascism, communism. They may call themselves Liberals or Progressives or Democrats, but history reveals them to be one in the same: Leftists progressing toward total government rule, always for our own good of course! Whether the Leftist Lemmings are aware of this or not, they seek a form of government better known as Totalitarian. Read Orwell’s “1984” with a different perspective, one where the totalitarian dystopia is Obama’s Leftist dreams made manifest. Forms of Government: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=DioQooFIcgE. Liberal Fantasies v. Reality: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=90SdmjuCAqw. And yes, “socialism” is but a few steps away from communism. http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=DioQooFIcgE. “The problem with splitting the difference between opposing sides, as many negotiators are prone to do– whether these negotiators are marriage counselors, labor arbitrators or the United Nations– is that this gives an advantage to the side with the most unreasonable demands, and therefore promotes more unreasonable demands in the future.” –economist Thomas Sowell

Steve Harvey: Buddy, what you are now calling “socialism” has a record of success, not of failure, for not one modern prosperous nation has achieved modern levels of prosperity without the form of government you are now calling “socialism.” Not one. The post-WWII economic boom was participated in only by nations that had large administrative states in place prior to it, and not by any nation that didn’t. Your semantic game of applying a word overbroadly, to indict one system by lumping it together with another completely different one, carefully obfuscating the reality of world history, may be satisfying to your ideological zeal, but it is an affront to reason.

And your loathing of compromise is a loathing of the process which produced the Constitution you turn into an object of idolatry rather than the legal framework it was intended to be, for it was all about compromise. The basic argument has existed throughout our history, between “the Hamiltonians” on the one hand (ironically, the original “federalists,” though “federalism” then meant an argument for stronger rather than weaker federal government), and “the Jeffersonians” on the other (though Jefferson explicitly repudiated many of the notions you now enshrine as sacrosanct).

Steve Harvey: Okay, I can’t spend my life demonstrating the historical, legal, empirical, logical, economic, and just general folly of every bit of nonsense that Buddy Shipley insists is not only Gospel truth, but justification for social and political disintegration. Go for it, Buddy. The podium is yours and yours alone.

Aaron Michael: I added doughnuts to my new workout routine and have lost 35 lbs! Therefore, doughnuts made me lose weight. Steve, you also failed to mention the more appropriate correlation that the 20th century was by far the bloodiest and the perpetrators were those very same gigantic centralized states.

Buddy Shipley: Steve, that previous comment is perhaps the most cogent thing I’ve ever seen you write & share, if only it were not so long and rambling — dude, you need to focus better. I never suggested eliminating the state. The State is certainly th…e problem and direct cause for our economic crisis, but that is because it has exceeded its authority! I am no anarchist, although I’ve recently given it more consideration I still think anarchy is too unstable to survive aggressive parties seeking dominance. You are correct about the effect of a “reset,” and the emergence of groups using force for aggression and defense (now apply that to the current world). Force is essential in protecting individual rights, and the right to exercise that force has been granted to government, and yes, “limiting it and controlling it is essential,” else it might be turned against those it is intended to protect. But again, that is why the founders constrained the government’s authority with the limited powers enumerated in the Constitution! You seem to support these great ideas but then contradict your own position by endorsing ever more excessive government, legislating from the Bench, and progressive nonsense that only leads to more government excess! You do not seem to comprehend your own ideas. It’s certainly a concern that overthrowing our current government could result in even worse tyranny than what it has become. We must certainly seek to govern ourselves rather than depending on Big Government to do it for us, but that concept in and of itself is an ideology, perhaps one some might consider “raging & blind”… Our founders were “reasonable people of goodwill” and to that end they crafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We need to return to them. Also, they are only “vague documents” to those who wish to circumvent their intent and exceed the limits of power proscribed by them. In their wisdom the founders also incorporated the means to amend the documents, but our elected officials prefer to ignore that difficult hurdle and again exceed their authority! How is it you do not grasp this? Our Constitution defines the limited powers of government and distributes those powers among the three branches: Executive, Judiciary, and the bicameral Congress. When any of these branches usurps a power of another branch it is unconstitutional, a breech of the Public trust, and a crime that should be prosecuted, but instead goes ignored, thereby establishing precedent for the next breech, and the next, each more egregious than the one before. What you advocate, we already have, if only it were enforced. And finally, you’re wrong about the successes of socialism — it is a cancerous disease destroying every country it has infected.

Lawrence Depenbusch: What Buddy said…

Jacque Rhoades ‎:( Just looked at Steve’s profile, he is a teacher. Sad.

Steve Harvey: Aaron, I did not mention the perfect correlation between large administrative states and modern prosperity as proof of causation (though, unlike your doughnuts analogy, it wasn’t the offering of one anomalous example otherwise disproven by a flood of contradictory examples, since EVERY modern prosperous state has a large administrative infrastructure, and HAD one in place prior to participating in the post-WWII explosion of wealth. Furthermore, the ACTUAL socialist states, that HAVE universally failed, are distinguishable from these modern prosperous states in their political economic form, including the Western European states and The United States, despite the sloppy use of a single ideologically-charged, rhetorically exploited term to conflate them). I offered it as refutation of Buddy’s not only erroneous, but diametrically-opposite-to-​the-truth, statement, that all “socialist” states (by which he meant “states characterized by large administrative infrastructures”) have failed. What have failed are states which have dismantled market economies en masse, which the large prosperous states with large administrative infrastructures have not done.

As for the bloody twentieth century, since warfare is ubiquitous in human history, and states of all types and degrees of development have engaged in it to fairly similar, extensive degrees, the main cause of the distinction in degrees of violence in twentieth century wars is level of technology, thus leading to more destructive warfare, rather than form of state, which does not significantly distinguish the degree of warfare (independent of technological destructiveness) that occurred.

As for Buddy, he continues to ignore arguments and rely on insults and arbitrary declarations, since I argued why the Constitution does not answer all questions, and have previously argued why we are already following it in a systematic, rather than political disintegrative, way (through judicial review, by which determinations are made concerning the constitutionality of laws which do not degenerate into the wild and generally erroneious ideological assertions of a particular fanatical faction). Yes, the Founding Fathers were, taken as a whole, “reasonable people of goodwill,” who did not absolve us of the responsibility to do the same by ending history for us, but rather began our national “experiment” in a brilliant way on which we are challenged to continue to build.

Furthermore, Buddy: The reliance on attacks on style (your literary critique) is both irrelevant and evidence that you feel that merely addressing substance (focusing on the arguments and responding to them) is insufficient to the task of “winning” the debate. I was amazed at your accusation toward someone else of relying on ad hominems, since that is well over 90% of the content of your posts!

And Jacque: I’m a former college lecturer, high school teacher, professional researcher, and author (I’ve presented papers at professional meetings of economists, and my original scholarship is cited in several articles and books); and am currently an attorney who has worked as an independent policy consultant. I have no doubt that you find it sad that your ideology is rejected by those who know what they’re talking about (which is why you, plural, always complain about academics and journalists, supposedly all “leftists,” though you never quite manage to explain why it is that precisely those people who professionally acquire, analyze, and report information should happen to lean en masse in the direction opposite of your dogmas).

You (plural) rely on a bizarre combination of insisting that reason supports your conclusions, while rejecting all reasoned empirical arguments as “intellectual elitism,” and relying instead on a completely irrational semantic game (“since we can erroneously label the modern capitalist hybrid of robust market economies and large, economically engaged administrative states “socialism,” and can point to other states characterized by completely different political economic structures that are generally known as ‘socialist’ [though we will also engage in the revisionism of recategorizing states that were historically characterized by far-right rather than far-left ideology as “socialist” as well, simply naming all failed or reviled states ‘socialist’ as part of our absurd, blindly ideological form of ‘argumentation’], by this sloppy and meaningless equation we have proven that large administrative states are universally failures, despite the historical fact that no successful modern state has not had a large administrative infrastructure.”).

Steve Harvey: As I’ve told David previously, intellectualism doesn’t guarantee success (Marxism was indeed an intellectual paradigm, and a failure both theoretically and politically), but anti-intellectualism guarantees failure, and is an institutionaliz…ed part of all totalitarian states while absent from all modern, prosperous capitalist states. Our Founding Fathers were markedly intellectual, mobilizing classical and Enlightenment thought in the devising of our political framework, and no one is arguing that that intellectual achievement was a failure. Marxism itself was just one of several competing intellectual paradigms, not the only one, and once it prevailed politically, became an anti-intellectual paradigm (the rulers of Marxist and other totalitarian states universally persecuting intellectuals, who are the bane of the kinds of ideas that they and you profess, that are mere blind fanaticisms in service to concentrations of power and impositions of human suffering). We have no choice but to continue to use our minds to the best of our ability, fallible as that faculty is, because the opposite is far more disastrous.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Wrong Steve: It is not modern techonology that was the force that led to the death of so many in the last century, but the rise of PROGRESSIVE idealogy in the hands of media supported tyrants in Russia, Germany and China. Progressive leaders slaughtered millions of people, who did not share their idealogy. Progressive ideas kill…..

Steve Harvey: Sorry, Lawrence, but that’s your semantic game again. Russia, Nazi Germany, and China are examples more dissimilar than similar to Western Europe and The United States, on multiple dimensions. The sloppy use of the word “progressive” to mea…n “any state that I reject, regardless of dissimilarities,” may satisfy your ideological certainties, but it is poor argumentation. To take it a step further, the reality of the world is one characterized by variation along multiple dimensions, to varying degrees.

While you identify “state engagement” as the defining characteristic, it is in fact one dimension, that comes in dramatically varying degrees. Western European and modern American levels of state engagement are, in reality, strongly correlated to prosperity and freedom, while significantly higher degrees of state engagement (displacing markets and freedom of expression and assembly) are associated with tyranny.

This conflation of dissimilar things to argue your position is persuasive only to those who are rationalizing irrationality, not to those who are examining the world, and trying to understand it as it is. Ironically, Libertarianism and Marixism are quite similar in form, even while being substantively opposites, because both are utopian fantasies, divorced from our lived history and our incremental pragmatic social institutional evolution, attempting to impose an internally contradictory and easily debunked extreme absolutism on a society, in ways inevitably destructive to the real freedom and welfare of the members of that society.

Steve Harvey: There is error at both extremes, whether too much or too little state engagement. This is strongly evidenced by history, and strongly supported by any well-reasoned analysis. You cite examples of the error of too much state engagement (“Tyranny”) to defend an argument for too little, in opposition to the paradigm that is most supported empirically and historically as the most effective balance.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” –P. J. O’Rourke >>> (…and Power in the hands of an institution that can tax and punish is even more odious)

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Government is not reason, it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington >>> (For an educator -such as Steve- to cast off such primary wisdom against the danger of government force, shows him to be under the sway of this force that has fed him for decades and turned him into it’s guard dog—pity)

Lawrence Depenbusch: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” ~Plato >>> (Laws and courts are ultimately at a loss to control evil people, and so more laws tend to hinder the good more than constrain the evil)

Steve Harvey: Again, Lawrence, does that mean that we should have no laws? Everything should be legal, no use of force involved, and if someone decides to commit murder or steal or rape, laws are irrelevant, because good people won’t and bad people will? Or do we, more sanely, and more in accord with reality, recognize that laws play a vital role in regulating human coexistence, and that the question isn’t whether, but rather how and in what ways?

Quotes, BTW, are made in historical context, by mere human beings. Washington’s doesn’t imply that government is bad, but rather draws attention to the real challenges involved in using it well, made at a time when his emphasis was determined by his context. Listing quotes of revered (or not revered) individuals is not argumentation either. It doesn’t absolve us of mobilizing reason applied to evidence in search of understanding and in service to humanity. And even the most brilliant quotes, taken out of context and misapplied, can lead to appallingly erroneous conclusions.

Bumber-sticker wisdom, even when it is indeed wise, is not enough for self-governance; real analysis, mobilizing real data, in service to real understanding, can’t be by-passed by recourse to your version of pithy sayings to live by (a tactic which is used more often in service to ignorance and tyranny than in service to wisdom and freedom). If you want to make arguments about how best to govern ourselves, cite instead the Federalist Papers, which are extensive and in-depth (and are arguments for stronger rather than weaker federal government).

But, more importantly than all of this, recognize that you champion one position in a national dialogue of legitimately conflicting views; champion it, by all means, making your best arguments, and advocating for what you believe in. But engage in the debate with the desire to grow and learn, and, when necessary, to compromise with those with whom you sincerely disagree. Because this nation belongs to all of us, not just to any one radical faction. And we have in place many systems for deciding from among our competing views.

While I fervently disagree with the bulk of your ideological corpus, I also recognize that there are legitimate debates to be had over the balance between investing in our present and future well-being and taming our growing debt, over how best to balance our various social institutional modalities, over how best to maintain a robust market economy. I do not dismiss monetarist economic theory, because I recognize that there are very well-informed and intelligent people who champion it, and so it is incumbent on me to consider the possibility that it is the more valid position, or that it has some validity even if not the more valid position. The most important point is not about our conflicting substantive positions, but rather about our conflicting attitudes toward how to go about engaging in this substantive conflict.

I argue that we are best off, first and foremost, suspending our substantive certainties from time to time, and agreeing that our first responsibility is to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. We all need to admit that, no matter how well informed we are, we are fallible, and our own beliefs may be in error, those of our opponents may be correct. We all have to recognize that being a human being is being a work in progress, that none of us have the one, true, unassailable final answer on all matters. And on that foundation, we need to continue to build our wisdom, our humanity, and our commitment to being responsible citizens engaged in a common endeavor.

I may be wrong about everything else (and, if so, fervently desire that that be demonstrated to me, or that I be defeated in our political contests, because my commitment isn’t to what I now think I know, but rather to what I don’t yet know and must still discover), but I am right about one thing: We need to recognize that our competing ideological certainties, militantly held and insulated against evidence and reason, do not serve us well. Disciplines and processes that favor reason and goodwill have proven to serve us much better, and the more we are able to extend those individual and collective disciplines and processes into ever-wider spheres of our existence, the better off we will be.

Buddy Shipley: Steve, why do you always ALWAYS misinterpret and exaggerate everything we say?? NO ONE suggested we should have NO laws! I never said we should have NO state! For an educator your reading and comprehension skills F’ing suck! And as I’ve suggested to you on several occasions — LESS is MORE! Your overly-verbose rambling tomes are not going to get read — these are COMMENTS, not books. WTF?

Lawrence Depenbusch: “The government solution to any problem is usually at least as bad as the problem.” —Milton Friedman … It is not an ALL OR NOTHING situation. Realizing that government power is odious, that laws have unintended consequences, that evil is not often constrained by law, we ought to keep our laws general and few.

Steve Harvey: When I am arguing substantively, I try to mobilize evidence and reason to demonstrate what I perceive to be the dazzling empirical and logical weaknesses in the “arguments” dominating the opposition to my arguments on this thread. I see mostly sloppy semantic arguments, overapplying terms and then concluding that all forms stuffed into the overbroad terms are proven dysfunctional by the dysfunctionality of some of the quite different forms to be found in the same overbroad category (akin to arguing that cows must be meat eaters, because cows are mammals, and here are some examples of mammals that are meat eaters, proving that cows are therefore meat eaters too, despite the empirical evidence that they aren’t).

But I live my life with the recognition that what I think I know today may be demonstrated wrong in some or all ways, and so must listen to arguments, address them, respect that others believe something different from what I believe, and engage with the purpose of improving our shared understandings rather than with the purpose of showing how my dogmatic religion is THE RIGHT ONE and yours is THE WRONG ONE. Of all of the irrational positions dominating the arguments against me here, the most irrational of all is the sense of absolute certainty, often in complete contradiction of reason and evidence, though insulated by a shared and reinforced delusion that reason and evidence supports whatever you are certain is true.

We all need to start with the recognition that none of us has a monopoly on absolute truth, that we need to rely on evidence and reason and to whatever extent possible submit ourselves to those disciplines of the mind in pursuit of our understandings, and to know above all us that, if we are wise, what we are certain is the one infallible truth today will be shown to be in some ways less than perfect if we do allow reason and evidence to influence us. I have long maintained that the most fundamental political divide in America (and the world) isn’t between any of the conflicting substantive positions we hold, but rather between those who are absolutely certain of a dogmatic ideology in a world that they insist is really quite simple, and those who are committed to using their minds to the best of their ability to address the challenges of life in a world subtler and more complex than our understandings in any given moment.

For this reason, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are more similar than different, and play a more similar than different role in the world; and Marxists and Libertarians are, in the same way, more similar than different, and play a more similar than different role in the world, despite the substantive diametrical opposition of their respective positions.

I accept, as a fundamental tenet of reason, that I may be mistaken about any substantive position, that evidence and reason must be given primacy over what I think I know, that I must submit to a discipline that goes beyond simply rationalizing my current certainties and be willing to let go of some and gravitate to others as reason and evidence dictate. The most urgent of all political projects is advocacy of that procedural commitment, that shared humility and shared commitment to reason.

Believe what you will, but believe it with the recognition that we exist in a world of conflicting views that are not neatly divided into those that are absolutely and infallibly correct (the ones oneself holds) and those that are absolutely and invariably wrong (the ones that others hold). The more people who take THAT step, the better off we will be.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me” ~Dave Barry >> reminds me of Steve.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, “general and few” is a vague phrase. How about “we ought to do the analysis, mobilizing all of the tools and information and reason at our disposal, to determine how much and in what ways to utilize government to optimal advantage, and minimal harm”? Real governance, real policy determinations, are information intensive endeavors, involving huge amounts of phenomena to be taken into account, and require an attention to details.

For instance, markets are easily gamed, at extraordinary and sometimes catastrophic public expense, by central players with unique access to sophisticated information, unless the public implements mechanisms to police those markets and prevent that gaming of them. That is a necessary government function in modern capitalist economies, the failure of which to perform is heavily implicated in every major economic crisis of the last century. But that demand is not captured by an absolute ideological commitment to “less” government.

Buddy complains that I misinterpret when I argue as if you are advocating for no government, but I do not misinterpret; rather, I follow the logical implications of your position. Unless you are arguing for a balance of government powers and their absence, then you are implicitly arguing for no government. And if you are arguing for a balance of government powers and their absence, then you need to recognize that we are faced with the challenge of determining what precisely that balance should entail.

The argument that that has already been determined by the Constitution is both false and a mere appeal to authority rather than an argument on point. It’s false, because, for instance, Art I, Section 8, clause 1 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to tax and spend in the general welfare. It is up to us to elect members of Congress who do that in ways with which we agree, which means that the Constitution ultimately does not tell us what balance is to be struck between governmental functions and their absence. It’s an appeal to authority because the Constitution, while a brilliant document, is not infallible, and we are still responsible for governing ourselves, and considering when and how we might best serve that function by amending the Constitution when appropriate.

And, thank you once again, Buddy, for your valuable literary criicism. I consider this a debate about our self-governance, but if you feel the need to try to talk about something else, I understand completely.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, let’s suspend the urgent issue of who and what we are or aren’t as individuals, and focus instead on the topics of debate. Respond to my advocacy that we all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, recognizing our own fallibility, and acknowledging the irrationality of assuming that everything we believe is, since we believe it, the one absolute truth, while everything our opponents believe, since we do not believe it, is absolutely wrong. I would be happy for every other argument I’ve made to be disregarded, if this one compelling point be addressed.

Don’t you think we would serve ourselves better by saying, “okay, you have your position, and we have ours. Let’s back up here a second, look for merit in the opposing view, acknowledge that none of us has a monopoly on absolute truth, and work together as reasonable people of goodwill to arrive at common understandings and civil compromises as we engage in this difficult task of self-governance”? Or do you think that a mere war of conflicting fanaticisms is the height of wisdom and responsibility?

Buddy Shipley: What Lawrence said! Steve: re-read each one of those quotes and try to grasp at least a fragment of their author’s insight. For all your attempts at intellectualizing political ideologies you utterly fail to acknowledge the wisdom of the …ages stated so eloquently by the people who made that history. Instead of learning from the best of them you advocate expanding the worst of them! Above, Steve stated, “The state is our vehicle of collective action, our public agent, and free people using mechanisms by which they, in effect, ARE the state…” blah blah blah — BULLSHIT. He implies the state is our ONLY vehicle of “collective action.” WRONG! Our ‘state’ was established with the express purpose of protecting our Rights to Life, Liberty and Property, to set free each individual to pursue their own happiness, their own dreams, to allow each to live his life as he pleases — WITHOUT government intervention and impediments to those pursuits. To these ends our ‘state’ — the federal government — was granted LIMITED powers to exercise LIMITED authority over a very finite set of issues, all primarily concerned with protecting the aforementioned individual Rights. In this country the state is NOT all-powerful, its scope of power was purposely restricted to avoid the bloodshed, destruction and ultimate collapse of governments past. To be clear, the majority of power was specifically granted to the individual States and to the individuals in each State, NOT to the central government, as Steve seems to believe. Steve seems to be denying the right or ability of people to freely assemble and create organizations such as churches, clubs, companies, volunteer groups, non-profits, etc to take collective action that benefits them and others. As I’ve said before: Government is NOT a charity, and spending other people’s money is NOT philanthropy! Government mandated “contributions” are tantamount to theft; taken from each according to his ability, redistributed to each according to his need — as determined by government bureaucrats. Karl Marx would be proud! If you want to pursue any certain “social agenda,” I suggest you start your own charity for that express purpose. Do not assume it is any part of the role of government, or that your social agenda is the same as mine. The rights of the individual extend only until they infringe on the rights of others; your pursuits cannot impede, impair or steal from those of others. “What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.” (AKA: Theft). Moochers, looters, thugs and parasites, otherwise known as Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats and labor unions, have no problem with that. The rest of us object.

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy” -Guiliiani- 9-3-08 (Busting the vague slogans of the Left)

Steve Harvey: Once again, are you willing to agree that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world, or do you insist that there is only one absolute truth, and it is the …one that you hold to be true? Are you more committed to perpetuating our world history of endless religious and ideological wars, or are you more committed to seeking the common ground of proven procedures and disciplines?

Steve Harvey: What marks real progress is a growing commitment to such procedural discipline. The growth of scientific methodology revolutionized our understanding of nature, vastly increasing the signal-to-noise ratio in our contemplations of the phenomena that encompass and comprise us. The Constitution is a document establishing a procedural framework, the rule of law, through which we can settle our political and legal disputes in an orderly and rational way. Legal procedure has developed from “trials by ordeal” to a highly rational (if still imperfect) process, by which arguments are made and conclusions and resoutions arrived at.

Our political system is a procedure for deciding among relatively arbitrary ideological positions, but we can improve on that by all committing to procedures which make those competing positions less arbitrary, and narrow the contest more to those positions which fall within the parameters suggested by evidence and reason. Strings of bumper-sticker slogans do not define such a process; empirical, logical, analytical argumentation does.

Steve Harvey: Lawrence, I agree, we should not govern ourselves with slogans. So “busting the vague slogans of the left” with a pithy slogan from the right is not a solution to that deficiency, but rather a continued participation in it. We need governance not by competing bumper-sticker wisdom, by by competing arguments. That’s what I advocate.

Lawrence Depenbusch: In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty. ~Proverbs 14:23

Steve Harvey: More slogans. Do we agree, or don’t we, that we should all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, humble enough to know that what we think we know may in any given instance be mistaken, and that the views of those who oppose us may in any given isntance be correct, and that we need to allow a vibrant public discourse, as disciplined by reason and evidence as possible, to sort that out? Do we agree, or don’t we?

Lawrence Depenbusch: ‎”A witty saying proves nothing.” ~Voltaire – and I say bye

Steve Harvey: I’ve asked this simple question repeatedly now, here and on other threads. I’ve received before flat out rejections of the notion (because, as Buddy once said, “liberals are neither reasonable nor have goodwill, so fuck you!”). This is what… defines the real divide, with dogmatists from across the political spectrum on one side, and people trying to engage in rational thought and discourse on the other. Which side do you want to be on in that struggle?

Steve Harvey: So, are we to be reasonable people of goodwill doing the best we can, with some modicum of humility, or are we Crusaders and Jihadists, Belsheviks and Tribalists, knowing that our own One Absolute Truth is the only Absolute Truth, and that …all who disagree with us are simply wrong, because they disagree with us? What’s it to be, the battle of Organized Ignorance against Reason and Goodwill, or an agreement to all strive to contain our disagreements within the parameters of reason and goodwill?

Steve Harvey: So, Lawrence, your fortress against Reason and Goodwill is impenetrable after all. What a surprise!

Steve Harvey: Funny, Lawrence, that after relying solely on a long string of witty sayings, you end with the witty saying that a witty saying proves nothing, in an argument against someone not relying on witty sayings at all, but rather complete empirical arguments. It’s disappointing that I’m the only one here who can appreciate the irony.

Lawrence Depenbusch: Steve thinks using more vague terms in longer sentences brings more clarity? Steve thinks only his witty sayings prove anything? Self-Love 101

Steve Harvey: Once again, Lawrence, I ask you: Do you want to strive to be a reasonable person of goodwill, engaged in a debate encouraging other people to strive to be the same, or do you want to insist that the purpose of this debate is to prove what a… terrible person I am? What matters more: Who and what I am, or the issues we are discussing? What is more on-point, and what better serves our public discourse, focusing on me, who you don’t like, or arguing on the debate we are having, in which two citizens of this country are presenting conflicting positions and hopefully both growing as a result?

Buddy Shipley: Reality Check: From the outset our governments were small, their duties few, their powers fewer, and they imposed a very small tax burden on the People. All of this is no longer true, and witness the result of runaway government: Deficit spending $1.42 for every ONE DOLLAR of tax collected! Annual Deficit spending is projected at $1.4 TRILLION! … JUST THIS YEAR ALONE — next year it will be higher. National Debt is now over $14.3 Trillion dollars! … That’s over 91% of GDP, which is NO ONE claims is sustainable. … The entire U.S. GDP is $14.6 Trillion, with no growth in sight. Service on the National Debt is $400 BILLION — EVERY YEAR! Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats want to Borrow, Tax and Spend even more. Living within ones’ means is not “raging blind ideology” — it is only reasonable, prudent, wise and the fiscally responsible thing to do. To insist on doing otherwise is reckless and criminal, which sums up everything advocated by Liberals/Progressives/Demo​crats

Steve Harvey: Here’s my theory: This debate, and all like it, quickly become very personal, and as far removed from the substance of the debate as possible, because that is the only way to insulate your ideology from any information that challenges it. You simply ignore the FACT that all prosperous modern nations have the political economic structure (a large administrative apparatus) that you are condemning as unworkable.

You simply ignore the well-argued position that your ideology is a direct descendent of the ideology that has been on the morally, economically, and politically losing side of our national history since its inception, first championing The Articles of Confederation against The Constitution, then championing secession against the abolition of slavery, then championing Jim Crow over Civil Rights, and now championing a hamstrung government prevented from being used as our public agent to address the challenges which continue to face us as a people.

You ignore the economic arguments that you find inconvenient (while I do not; I grapple with them in order to continue to refine and challenge my own positions), the center of gravity of the entire discipline of economics (which is dominated by analyses which do not jive well with your ideology), and the realities of such things as “transaction costs,” which imply a larger role for government than you acknowledge (as demonstrated by 2009 Economic Nobel Prize winners Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom, in their separate analyses on the role of extra-market institutional forms in the maximization of market efficiency).

You ignore the actual Constitution, which enumerates Congress’s power to tax and spend in the General Welfare, while errneously insisting that the Constitution unambiguously and unequivocally supports every article of faith you hold to be true. In fact, “ignoring” seems to be the basis of how you preserve and defend your position, engaging in the verb whose noun best describes your ideology and your attitude.

Buddy Shipley: NO Steve! Your premise is wrong from the start!

Steve Harvey: Reality check: No one is arguing against the need to address our balance sheet. Meeting that challenge, every reasonable person knows, requires both a decrease in spending and an increase in revenues. There are blind ideolgues on the left who resist the former, and blind ideologues on the right who resist the latter. Reasonable people seek real solutions.

As an economic matter, it is a non-linear proposition, so that some of the best solutions are counterintuitive: There are ways in which current investment is the best way to reduce future debt, and an economically and fiscally intelligent policy is not the one that uses your sledge-hammer understanding of the challenges involved. Furthermore, our debt has consistently grown more rapidly under Republican than Democratic administrations over the course of the last 30 years, with only the exception of Obama’s response to an economic crisis catalyzed by right-wing deregulationary fervor and a commitment to siphoning wealth upward into ever fewer hands.

Steve Harvey: But let’s get back to the real question: Regardless of which of us is right or wrong on these substantive issues, can we all agree to strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, exercising enough humility to acknowledge that any of us may be right or wrong on any given issue, and that we should try to build that recognition into our discourse and into our political process?

Buddy Shipley: You assume that because we condemn what the states have become that we are also condemning what they once were, but we don’t!

Buddy Shipley: I do not have time to prattle back and forth with you — some of us have to go earn a living/

Buddy Shipley: But Steve! LIBERALS never admit losing an argument, when they sense they are losing on any given point they just change the topic to a straw man or red herring and declare victory!

Steve Harvey: So, Buddy, you can’t admit to the possibility that you might be wrong about anything? I will: I might be wrong, on any position that I have argued. I hold every substantive position tentatively, submitting it to the continued lathe of evide…nce and reason. Can you meet me there, agreeing that none of us is omniscient, that our conflicting positions require an ability to recognize that no one of us or one faction of us has a monopoly on all truth? Why are you so resistent to this notion?

Buddy Shipley: Of course I can! Why just the other day I thought I was wrong, but then I realized I was mistaken.

Steve Harvey: First of all, I’m only “losing” this argument in the minds of people too deluded to acknowledge any of the evidence or argumentation that has been put into play. Secondly, arguing against ideological dogmatism and inflexible false certainty is not “a red herring,” but the most essential of all issues on the table. It forever astounds me that your entire ideological camp so consistently tap dances around the obvious: You represent (along with some counterparts on the Left) the historical norm of blind ideology and religious fanaticism. That is the core truth that you are so thoroughly insulated against that you can’t answer the question: Will you commit to striving to be reasonable people of goodwill engaged in a public discourse in which we have yet to determine where absolute truth lies?

You can’t make that pledge, just as Christian Fundamentalists, and Islamic Fundamentalists, and Bolsheviks, and Nazis, and Khmer Rouge, and all other militant fanatical ideologues throughout history are unable to make it. Because you represent and fight for the opposite of reason and goodwill.

Buddy Shipley: We are witnessing the collapse of socialist economies all over Europe, and the unelected powers-that-be expect the remaining Eurozone countries to save the others. This, too, is unsustainable. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The trouble with So…cialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But Liberals/Progressives never learn from these mistakes, they just change their label and argue a different issue, and keep repeating the same failed behavior expecting different results. They are insane. And some of us must work… fin

Steve Harvey: You see? You have repeated a falsehood that I pointed out in one of our recent discussions, to shore up a position that is not supported by the evidence. We are NOT witnessing the collapse of “socialist” economies all over Europe. The German economy, which is far more socialist than ours, has outperformed ours for decades, was less affected by the recent economic crisis than ours, recovered from that crisis sooner, and is not facing any of the credit issues that Greece and Ireland and some others are.

What we learn from those countries that are in crisis is that what they specifically did must be avoided, not that all members of some overbroad category in which you place them is discredited by their failures. Again, meat eaters and mammals; not the same thing.

Buddy Shipley: Only seems wrong to Marxist polyps like you, Steve.

Buddy Shipley: Ask Big Government Spenders, How much government is enough? Or better yet, how much can we afford? Clearly we cannot afford the bloated over-reaching behemoth we now have. Clearly this is not what the framers intended, else they would have… created most of it at the outset. And WHY do those who favor big government and bigger spending steadfastly REFUSE to acknowledge their failures, and why do they insanely insist on repeating the same behavior expecting different results? Environmental Protection Agency: $10.5 Billion The EPA may have served a positive role when first established, but no more. It’s become an apparatchik of the Marxists in DC and it continues to grow like a metastatic cancer. The EPA and the Dept of Energy, along with the current administration, are a clear and present danger to our nations. SHUT THESE SOBs DOWN IMMEDIATELY. Energy Department: $26 Billion The U.S. Dept of Energy has utterly completely failed to attain its 1977 prime directive of U.S. energy independence and should have been terminated decades ago. Instead of euthanizing this diseased sow, DoE’s budget has grown to more than $26 BILLION this year. Instead of pursuing their mission, the fools at DoE are pursuing investigations and filing lawsuits against American businesses! PULL THE PLUG ALREADY! Education Department: $71 Billion, plus ARRA: $23 Billion (and more?) The U.S. Dept of Education is an insatiable and dismal failure. Throwing more money down this rat hole will not do anything to improve education; gutting this bloated pig and returning those tax revenues to the states will keep more money closer to the students where it belongs. There is NO justification whatsoever for a federal Department of Edumacation, Constitutionally or otherwise, and again it is a malignant out of control bureaucracy that defeats its own reason for existing. Fannie/Freddie Bailout cost taxpayers $7 Billion per month (Already totaling $1 Trillion ~ $1.4 Trillion) Their liabilities alone could increase the national debt by $7 Trillion. The GSEs, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac must be shut down and everyone involved investigated and the corrupt indicted and imprisoned, along with the politicians guilty of passing legislation such as the CRA and compelling banks to make bad loans to unqualified borrowers (ie, “sub-prime” borrowers). Instead of blaming lenders for making risky loans resulting in the mortgage meltdown, blame the politicians that compelled them to make such loans; one of those misguided pieces of legislation is euphemistically called the “Community Reinvestment Act” (CRA), starting with Public Enemy #1: Barney Frank and gang. ALL of these government departments and agencies have FAILED HORRIBLY and have been contributing to the demise of our country for decades! WHY keep raping taxpayers to fund them?? Then there’s the oppressive and abusive IRS that enforces the raping… Internal Revenue Service: $13 Billion Eliminate the IRS and save $13 Billion immediately*! Americans spend over 6 Billion hours and billions of dollars yearly struggling to comply with the tax code. If we eliminated the U.S. Tax Code or at least simplified it and made it less onerous we could eliminate the IRS, immediately saving taxpayers $13 Billion, plus do away with the costs shouldered by individuals, families and businesses to pay for tax accountants and lawyers, which are totally unproductive and a waste of everyone’s resources. It would also reduce (or eliminate) tax evasion thereby increasing revenues as it increases peace of mind and insures domestic tranquility… Tax forms could be reduced to a 3″x5″ card and tax collections could be outsourced to several Temp Services – or maybe even the US Postal Service (they need the work!). *The IRS Oversight Board recommended $12.914 billion for 2011, an increase of $767.7 Million over the FY2010 budget of $12.146 Billion. This recommendation is $280.6 Million above the President’s FY2011 request of $12.633 Billion for the IRS. The Board’s recommended budget is 2.2 percent higher than the President’s request. I think these numbers are modest, and by no means do these few items address ALL the government’s insanely expensive, reckless and feckless failures. Not even the proposed $500 Billion in federal budget cuts will solve our fiscal problems, yet Democrats laugh and scoff at the mere suggestion of it – these bastards must be held accountable, indicted, impeached, dragged out of their offices in cuffs, publicly tried, convicted and imprisoned or better yet, sent to Gitmo for use as waterboard practice dummies.

Steve Harvey: It’s mind-boggling the extent to which you carefully avoid making any actual argument, or getting paste the absolute equation of “government engagement” and “socialism.” as if there are no degrees or differentiations to be found within everything you are able to stuff into that word you depend so completely upon.

Garrett Whitehorn: All of you, please! Ad hominem attacks have no place in a battle of reason! If this was in response to a status of mine, I’d have deleted a lot of these comments for that very reason. I’m especially disappointed in you libertarians/conservatives​ … you’re supposed to be better than that.

Steve Harvey: You know, Buddy, in reality, I’m exactly as opposed to Marxism as I am to your ideology, for exactly the same reasons: It is logically and empircally and politically and economically untenable. I am strong believer in the robustness of mark…ets, and in the dangers of not recognizing the salience of individual incentives or the importance of emphasizing personal responsibility. But you are so lost in oversimplifications and overgeneralizations and mischaracterizations, unable to distinguish between green and orange because both have a bit of yellow in them, that such distinctions are defined out of existence, and the ideology built on that contraction reflects the loss.

Steve Harvey: Here’s something I just wrote to a friend, joking with me about how I am “WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG” (to which I replied, “you forgot to call me ‘asshole’!”), which bears repeating: “here’s some irony for you: I actually assume that I AM w…rong, to some degree or another, on almost every substantive position I hold, because the truth is almost always subtler than our representations of it. To me, this more than anything else is the distinguishing characteristic in the debate you are referring to, and others like it.”

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