The one constant is change, but the speed and utility of change is not constant at all. Organizations emerge for the purpose of fomenting change, yet, as a general rule, they soon ossify in the same kinds of unimaginative patterns as the institutions they are seeking to affect. Significant change through the medium of established organizations and institutions is generally catalyzed by either those who are raised to positions of influence despite their failure to satisfy conventional check lists of appropriate qualifications, or those who act in ways not predicted by the fact that they satisfy conventional check lists of appropriate qualifications.

Human actions fall within a space one axis of which is defined by courageous and imaginative choices striving for excellence at one extreme, and conventional choices striving for mediocrity or maintaining the status quo at the other. That axis alone does not describe the quality or efficacy of individual actions: Courageous and imaginative choices striving for excellence that are made in service to an odious ideology, or that are in some other way misinformed, may well do more harm than good, whereas conventional choices striving for mediocrity may make valuable marginal contributions to human welfare. But, while caution, analytical sophistication, foresightedness and respect for uncertainty, and subtlety of insight and strategy are necessary variables to render courageous and creative innovation a positive rather than negative force, the absence of courageous and creative innovation guarantees suboptimal outcomes.

Several recent experiences have raised this to the fore of my mind: A program director position for an educational reform foundation that I applied for, and would have done a truly exceptional job in, that I failed to get because an unimaginative vice president was looking for candidates that satisfied the more superficial and easily acquired criteria for the job rather than the more profound and harder to duplicate criteria of greater importance; other nonprofit positions filled by decision makers similarly focused on superficial and less salient criteria; an alternative school led by a robust and idealistic principal who may prove to be an exception to this “rule;” a widespread insistence, across the ideological spectrum, to cling to conventional modes of thought and conventional strategies and conceptualizations of political activism, rather than to reach down a bit deeper and attempt to foment truly fundamental change instead.

The most profound lesson of human history is the robustness of social change, the degree to which that which is taken for granted as a permanent feature of our consciousness and our social institutional landscape is truly ephemeral, and can and does change far more rapidly and dramatically than those living in their own time and place are wont to realize. It is true, of course (as discussed in The Variable Malleability of Reality) that some things are easier to change than others; that smart strategies identify what aspects of our current reality are more malleable in order to massage our encompassing social (and natural) systems in ways which move us in desired directions. But it is also true (as discussed inThe Algorithms of Complexity) that that layered complexity, in which deeper levels are generally less malleable than more superficial ones,  provides frequent opportunities for rapid, dramatic change, when some of the underlying “algorithms” are actually fairly malleable. The art and science of participating in history in socially responsible and “ambitious” ways involves recognizing and reconciling these two aspects of the challenge at hand.

It’s time for a new social movement that confronts this challenge head-on, and does so with a commitment to doing so as rationally and imaginatively and compassionately as possible. I’ve outlined one general proposal for organizing such a movement in A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill and in the other essays linked to in the second box at Catalogue of Selected Posts. (In the first box at Catalogue of Selected Posts can be found essays exploring the nature of our social institutional and technological landscape, to better inform such efforts; and in some other boxes can be found specific applications and aspects of this analysis.)

The proposal has three components: 1) Non-partisan community organizations whose members agree to commit only to reason and universal goodwill, to listening to competing views, and to seeking the policies which best serve humanity; 2) A data base or internet portal making access to all arguments that are framed as analyses applying reason to evidence in service to human welfare, and that provide documentation for all factual evidence relied on, upon which such community organizations can draw for their discussions and debates; and 3) Something I call “meta-messaging” (see Meta-messaging with Frames and Narratives): The emotionally and cognitively effective dissemination of the narrative that this is a good and worthy project, that it is good for individuals and good for society to view our shared existence as a shared existence with shared challenges and shared opportunities, that, as I like to put it, it’s better to be Ebenezer Scrooge after his adventure with Marley and the Three Spirits than before.

Such a movement depends on suspending substantive debates until they can be contextualized in the framework being advocated, because to do so would be to lose what cross-cutting appeal such a movement might have. While there are many who would never join such a movement, and never join the community organizations that are a part of it, there are many who would, including many who identify themselves as “conservatives” or “independents.”

This is not, and cannot be, a movement to overturn Citizens United, or a movement to increase public spending on social services and education, or a movement to achieve preconceived substantive goals of any kind, because to allow it to become so would be to defeat its purpose: To find and develop the one common ground all people who wish to be reasonable people of goodwill can agree on, and that is that we all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, humble enough to know that we don’t know all of the answers, wise enough to engage in a public discourse devoted to doing the best we can, and disciplined enough to develop new procedures and new institutions that help us to work together as reasonable people of goodwill confronting the challenges of a complex and subtle world.

What we need more fundamentally and more critically than to achieve any of the individual, ideologically saturated substantive goals that divide us is to rediscover and develop our common ground, the underlying values and aspirations that most of us share, and the procedurally and attitudinally focused framework that we can create to pursue them more constructively and cooperatively. There are many people in America who are sick of the divisive, angry, excessively intransigent political rhetoric which dominates our public forums and airwaves, who would flock to a movement that steps back from that and tries, instead, to establish another kind of public discourse, another kind of political participation. This is a movement to bring them in, and move us forward.

That means letting go of the rituals of warring false certainties, and coming together instead around a common acknowledgement of shared uncertainty and fallibility. It’s time for all who are willing to make that leap of daring idealism, of courageous commitment to doing better, of believing in our humanity, to do so. We can continue to reproduce the unimaginative and unproductive ritual of over-confident warring false certainties, or to work together to create something new and vibrant and potentially revolutionary. As always, we each get to choose how daring and imaginative and conscious, and therefore how effective, our commitment to progress really is.

The following is an entire (up to the moment of this posting) Facebook comment thread on a Libertarian’s Facebook page. I often infiltrate these echo-chambers, just to emphasize the distinction in how we arrive at and defend our respective conclusions. Many examples are striking, but this one, toward the end (you can skip the first third without missing much), is so perfectly illustrative of the absolute commitment to a blind ideology, a refusal to even admit to the value of being reasonable people of goodwill, or to the possibility that those who disagree could possibly have anything of merit in their perspective, that I wanted to post it here. It serves not only to emphasize the dogmatic belligerence of the modern far-right, but also as a warning to their counterparts on the far-left: All reasonable people of goodwill have to commit to reason and universal goodwill, not by assuming that our own blind ideological certainties are unassailable, but rather by acknowledging that we live in a complex and subtle world, and that we are all challenged to better develop, both individually and collectively, the disciplines and procedures that favor reason and humanity over irrationality and bigotry.

Catherine Keene but when free markets “fail” we need less freedom in the marketplace. The only thing consistent about Keynesians is their ability to defy logic.

Jawaid Bazyar Government now takes 50% of GDP. We still have poverty, drugs, homelessness, and unemployment. Guess we’ll just need 60%! or 70%! What, exactly, will be enough, Krugman et al?

Kori Fisher what was that definition of insanity again??? doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result….yeah, that’s the one.

Steve Harvey Evidence: gdp experienced historically unprecedented growth in 1934-1937 in the wake of New Deal policies (raising tax rate for hightest bracket, deficit spending); Sweden is first country to emerge from Great Depression using Keynesian eco…nomic principles (; both the on-set of the Great Depression, and the return of a downward spiral in late 1937, were due to fiscal policies virtually identical to those recommended by conservatives today; massive deficit spending in WWII decisively pulled America and the world out of the Great Depression; the economic outcome of Obama’s stilmulus spending in the wake of the 2008 fiscal sector meltdown exceeded all professional economic predictions of our immediate economic prospects in 2008 (including for the most stubborn lagging indicator, unemployment, which turned from increasing at an accelerating rate to increasing at a decelerating rate a month after the first stimulus package was implemented). Yeah, those crazy Nobel Prize winning economists and their wild ignorance (compared to economic sages such as yourselves) about economics….

Jahfre FireEater The Keynesian view that an economy is a machine that can be tweaked to one’s advantage without negative consequences is refuted in spades by Ludwig von Mises in his magnum opus, Human Action. As Mises says, this idea “is as old as it is bad…”

Jawaid Bazyar Harvey, you’re insane. Of course it’s easy to cherry-pick numbers you like. How about you take a look at the US unemployment rates before, during, and after our Keynesian orgy during the Great Depression.

Amy Chesser Brock Have you seen Keynes vs. Hayek round 2?

Steve Harvey ‎@Jawaid: Yes, look at them. I linked to the Great Depression time line in my previous message. Economic contraction follows the policies you recommend, while economic expansion follows the policies I recommend. The sustained explosion of economic growth following WWII was due to the biggest public spending project in American history (WWII armaments). Also, not a single nation on the face of the Earth partook of that post WWII economic expansion without first having a massively expensive administrative infrastructure in place, such as the one we put in place during the New Deal. There is, in fact, an optimum: Too much deficit spending for too prolongued a period causes economic collapse, just as too little for too prolongued a period causes economic contraction. Private businesses run on very much the same model (credit is the life-blood of corporations). We fail for not reducing the deficit in times of economic boon, not for increasing it in times of economic contraction.

David K Williams Jr ‎@Steve Harvey – regarding those Nobel Prize winning economists, I’ll call your Krugman & raise you a Hayek.

Jahfre FireEater LOL

Jahfre FireEater Any scheme that allows the elite to do as they please with easy financing will win an economist or a President a Nobel Prize.

Jahfre FireEater Funding for an ivy league academic economics guild, sure no problem…just keep promising those who write the checks that there will ALWAYS be another check in their checkbook.

Steve Harvey @David: Right. My point is that you’re neither. As someone who has done work in the field of economics, I recognize the legitimate debates, and don’t dismiss Hayek or Friedman the way you folks so blithely dismiss Krugman. It’s pretty clear from the empirical evidence that government spending does indeed stimulate the economy in the short run (I know of no economist who disputes that), but the question -and it remains a question, no matter how brilliant y’all assume yourselves to be- is at what point that short-term stimulus effect is outweighed by long-term drag effects. Most economists recognize that it is a largely context dependent analysis, depending on the current state of the economy, and what, precisely, the government invests in. For instance, if the government invests in public goods that have lots of complementary private goods associated with them (e.g, invests in highways, making cars a more attractive comodity to buy), with lots of forward and backward linkages (e.g., stimulates related industries upstream and downstream from that which the government has invested in), then there is likely to be a very high multiplier effect. Economics, among all of the things that we discuss in public discourse, is the least amenable to oversimplistic platitudes, which is what your ideology pretty much relies on.

Donald E. L. Johnson Dems spend to buy votes, build political careers, not fix the economy. Belief is not the issue, imho.

David K Williams Jr Steve – we can all count on death, taxes & your misplaced condescending elitism. Hayek In fact rejects government spending as a means to stimulate the economy and explains why WWII did not end the depression.

Steve Harvey David, I love the way arguments you disagree with are “elitism” (the more informed, the more elitist), but your dismissive certainty in the face of legitimate disagreement is just good ol’ fashioned common sense populism. If there’s any “elitism” to be found, it is to be found in the position that claims that there is no legitimate debate to be had, that the one truth is known, that the speaker’s position is its perfect and final expression, and all others are just wrong and misguided. I’m all for well-informed and well-reasoned debates on the complex and subtle issues that face us as a society. That’s not what you and your friends ever offer, or accept. (There are those on the right who do, but they are becoming increasingly marginalized by those who don’t).

David K Williams Jr There are plenty of arguments with which I disagree that aren’t elitist. Your arguments, however, always revolve around how smart & educated you are & us mere mortals or so silly for not agreeing.

Steve Harvey My arguments are arguments, mobilizing specifically cited information in reasoned form to defend a position arrived at in the same way. That seems to be the problem.

Donald E. L. Johnson Steve, hve you read The Forgotten Man. It shoots down all of your points.

Steve Harvey No, it doesn’t. Here’s my point: I know that I know almost nothing, and I know that the same is true of all of you. I have more than my share of formal degrees and life experience, and a good mind through which to sift it all, and, as a result, I recognize that it is a very complex and subtle world in which we live, and that our certainties about anything but the most trivial and superficial of phenomena is tentative and fallible. The more you know, the more you know that you don’t. On the left and the right, there are those who simply don’t get that, who have a favorite sacred source or secular sage who, despite being contested and him- or her- or itself fallible, is infallible in their eyes. And when people speak from that place, know absolutely and irrefutably that their own contested truth is incontestable, that is blind dogma, and pure folly. What offends David and others more than my perceived arrogance is that I argue my positions, and do so well enough that it challenges those fortified sacred false certainties, not because of any special talent of mine, but because any argument that is a genuine argument does so.

Valarie Murphy ‎@Steve, Krugman has to be dismissed; he’s always wrong.

Steve Harvey Thank you, Valarie, for illustrating my point.

Donald E. L. Johnson Steve, You’re not the only one who has had life experiences, lived through several booms and busts and read numerous books on our and the world’s political and economic history. And you’re not the only one who knows what he doesn’t know and can’t predict. We’ve all been around the track one way or another, and we have our points of view the same as you do. Ours is as valid as yours. Some of us try to be objective in assessing what’s going on, and some of us are constantly trying to learn more so that we have a better feel for what’s happening and likely to happen. Having read numerous well-researched articles and books on economics and written thousands of stories and articles about numerous companies, employers, laws, regulations and economic developments, it is my personal opinion that government spending on the kind of pork that is in Obama’s stimulous bill and in ObamaCare does nothing to stimulate the economy and in the long run kills private sector jobs.

Donald E. L. Johnson Val, Krugman’s not always wrong, but he never can be trusted to be honest. He’s Pinch’s favorite socialist, and he works hard to defend his former colleague, Ben Bernankee, and his favorite politician, Obama. Like too many academic economists, Krugman has convinced his readers that he has no intellectual integrity and that he’s just another partisan hack with a column.

Steve Harvey Yes, Donald, it’s your personal opinion, but you don’t REALLY acknowledge the possibility that you’re wrong. You don’t REALLY acknowledge that professional economists are divided on the subject (with, if anything, the weight of professional opinion against you). You read what reinforces your bias, not what challenges it, and assume that “your opinion” is the end of the story. I don’t often go there with you, but, the fact is, I consider the question of the relationship of deficit spending to economic growth to be extremely complex, and clearly not something that anyone knows the answer to. I sure don’t. There is plenty of empirical evidence which supports the conclusion that it is a short term stimulus, though you all simply define that out of existence, because it doesn’t confirm your bias. The main issue seems to be its indefinite growth, eventually swallowing up the economy. There is also the issue of balancing legitimate considerations, weighing the goal of maximizing GDP growth with the goal of maximizing true equality of opportunity and other issues of human welfare and social justice. These issues are defined out of existence by those who have a false certainty that defines all of their positions with absolute conviction. There is no real openness to a debate, no real contemplation that there might be anything imperfectly understood, no real ability to learn and grow. It’s not your conclusions that are the real problem, but rather the inflexibility with which you cling to them.

Steve Harvey This exchange inspired a little essay, called “Sacred Truths”:

Steve Harvey Donald, you said ” Dems spend to buy votes, build political careers, not fix the economy.” In a survey of professional economists by The Economist magazine in 2008, 80% favored Democratic over Republican economic policies. The notion that Dems are more corrupt than Republicans is another convenient ideological bulwark, but it has no grounding in realiy. The games and strategies of electoral politics are found across the spectrum, in large part because that which works (for getting elected to office) ends up being that which is best represented. Your assumption that every belief and value those who disagree with you hold must be some nefarious attempt to do evil may serve your false certainties, but it doesn’t serve our civil discourse or our ability to govern ourselves wisely. You also said “Belief is not the issue, imho.” In other words, no criticism of your beliefs can ever be relevant, since their validity is incontravertable; the issue is, as you stated, that those who disagree with you are always wrong, by definition. All people who think this way, from across the political spectrum, do us all a disservice, by reducing our public discourse to a struggle between reason and blind ideology, rather than between competing well-reasoned positions.

Pyro Rob Steve, I think Ronald Reagan was thinking of you when he said this famous like:

“Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

Steve Harvey A strange response to the assertion that we all need to recognize the limits of our knowledge more, the need to recognize that when complex issues are legitimately contested to pretend to know that one pole in that contest is the indisputable truth is folly, and the need to keep exploring.

Pyro Rob You are mistaken, the issues are not that complex. In fact, the solutions are not that complex either.

Steve Harvey You see the difference in how we think? I recognize a complex and subtle world, with the human dimension mirroring the natural (indeed, a part of and emanation of the natural), ideas spreading and changing and merging into new ones, forming our technological and social institutional landscape, our laws and economy, our cultures and ideologies and arts and sciences. I come at it with a sense of wonder, a sense of awe, even a sense of reverence, recognizing the miracle of our existence, and the responsibility of having minds with which to engage with the reality of which we are a part, to meet our challenges and grasp our opportunities. How well we understand this dynamo of which we are a part affects how well we engage with it, how well we realize the heights of our humanity. You respond to someone who recognizes this complexity, and our constant challenge to understand it to the best of our limited abilities, never fully grasping it, by simultaneously declaring that there are no subtleties or complexities to be grasped at all, that its all very simple and fits into a few reductionist platitudes, a true hier to the Inquisitioners of old; and, at the same time, launch a quote criticizing those who do not think in that way, who recognize the complexity of the world and do not reduce it to a few simple platitudes, for thinking that they know what isn’t so? You turn reality on its head, in the most obvious of ways, and then pat yourselves on the back for the brilliance of having said something completely meaningless.

Steve Harvey Let’s capture this conversation in its bare form: Steve: None of us knows as much as we either think or pretend we do. Pyro: You’re problem is that you know things that aren’t true. Steve: Strange answer. We live in a complex world with legitimately contested issues. Pyro: You’re wrong. We live in a simple world with simple answers. Steve: So, saying that none of us knows as much as we think we do is the error of knowing things that aren’t so, while claiming that everything reduces to a few simple and indisputable platitudes is the avoidance of that error? Uh-huh. I see….

Buddy Shipley The Cartoon Bears investigate the income multiplier of con-artist, Maynard Keynes, his argument for deficit spending, to see why it doesn’t work. They discover bad assumptions, and that Keynes was contradictory on whether his multiplier would or wouldn’t cure unemployment. They find a couple of interesting clues, and get ready to tackle the math in these videos.

Buddy Shipley Whether one favors the economic theories of Keynes or Hayak, any attempt to implement policy based on either MUST be constrained by the powers and authority granted to the federal government by the Constitution. Therefore most Keynesian ideas can never be permitted because they can only be implemented through tyranny.

Keynes was a conman and The Tree of Liberty is very thirsty…

Buddy Shipley ‎”For economists the real world is often a special case.” –Edgar R. Fiedler

“Ask five economists and you’ll get five different explanations? six if one went to Harvard.” –Edgar R. Fiedler

…”Give me a one-handed economist! All my economics say, ‘On the one hand? on the other.'” –Harry S. Truman

“In economics the majority is always wrong.” –John Kenneth Galbraith

“In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension and also a deep desire for respectability.” –John Kenneth Galbraith

“An economist is someone who knows more about money than the people who have it.” –Anonymous

“An economist’s guess is liable to be as good as anybody else’s.” –Will Rogers

“Economy is too late when you are at the bottom of your purse.” –Seneca

“The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters.” –Jean-Paul Kauffmann

“The notion that big business and big labor and big government can sit down around a table somewhere and work out the direction of the American economy is at complete variance with the reality of where the American economy is headed. I mean, it’s like dinosaurs gathering to talk about the evolution of a new generation of mammals.” –Bruce Babbit

“If all the economists in the world were laid end to end, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.” –Peter Lynch

“If all the economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.” –George Bernard Shaw

“When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul.” –George Bernard Shaw

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” –Mark Twain

Steve Harvey The problem, Buddy, is not the debate, but the unwillingness to have it. I am arguing that it is a complex and subtle world, and that our best understandings are tentative and incomplete, while those arguing against me both insist that it is a simple world amenable to simple answers, that they know what those simple answers are and that all who disagree with them are wrong and dismissible as such, and, in an amazing demonstration of how conveniently constructed their reality is, that the problem with those who disagree with them is that they think they know things that aren’t true! If we have camps in our public discourse in which their absolute certainties are not open to new information or applied reason, then we have no public discourse, but rather a secularized religious war and nothing more. Thanks to folks like you, and your counterparts on the left with the same attitude (against whom I argue just as vociferously), that is exactly the condition of this country right now. As for your dismissal of the opposing side in the current economic debate, while you are right about the fallibility of expert views, you are irrational to assume that your lay views benefit from some superior insight. The problem isn’t that experts don’t know and you do, but rather that none of us does. We are operating in a complex world with imperfect knowledge and understanding. Admitting that is a necessary first step to having any kind of meaningful public discourse. For example, you dismiss the notion that public investment can have any economic stimulus effect, despite fairly overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary (to which I cited above), relying on a string of quotes and one well-worn analysis that criticizes the Keynesian multiplier. But that analysis is the definitive truth, and, even if it were, there are non-Keyneisian arguments for why government stimulus spending works under certain circumstances, such as the one I mentioned above concerning the complementarity to private goods of the public investments, and the robustness of forward and backward linkages. It may be the case that the historical evidence is an artifact of spurious relationships, that all analyses that support the notion that government spending can have a stimulus effect under certain conditions are wrong, that the 80% of economists who think so understand economics less well than you do, and that your platitude-driven conclusion is the one correct one. I’ll admit to that possibility. Let’s put all of the arguments on the table, in a mass public agreement that none of us yet knows all of the answers, and agree to have a civil public debate based on reason applied to evidence, in which all of us are committed to the historically proven processes (e.g., scientific methodology) by which to arrive at our agreed upon truths. Let’s step back from our false certainties, across the ideological spectrum, and agree to be reasonable people of goodwill working together in a complex and subtle world. How can anyone object to such a proposal?

Pyro Rob Steve, the simple problem is that the govt thinks it’s responsible for things it is not. The simple answer is to restrict the govt from doing those things. The really simple answer is to abide by the constitution as it is written.

Steve Harvey Pyro, that’s the simple problem according to one ideology, and one faction of our population, and not the other. Nor is it the unambiguous truth about what our Constitution says and means (a document whose interpretation is subject to judicial review rather than popular referendum). The challenge in a democracy (or republic, if you like), in a popular sovereignty, is to recognize competing views and interpretations, to recognize competing political and economic ideologies, and not to assume that only yours is legitimate, while all others are wrong. I disagree with your political and economic assumptions, but I am very willing to participate with you in a process which subjects all views to reason and evidence, to robust debate, to a process by which reasonable people of goodwill can better arrived at the best reasoned and most useful policies. To get to that place, ideologues have to stop insisting that there is only one truth: Their own.

Buddy Shipley No Steve. The problem is blindly assuming the “debate” is even legitimate. Keynes was a conman and the gullible refuse to accept they’ve been had, and no one wants to admit they’ve been scammed on such a scale as this.

Buddy Shipley It’s NOT a F#$%ing “ideology”!!! WTF is the matter with you? It’s the Constitution, stupid! SO many Marxist assholes, so little time.

Steve Harvey You can keep repeating variations of “We are absolutely right and those who disagree with us are absolutely wrong, case closed,” but you are only continuing to prove the depth of your blind ideology. There are legitimate economic debates, some not involving Keynesian economics at all (as I’ve noted twice already, not all analyses which arrive at the conclusion that public spending has an economic stimulus effect do so via a Keynesian analysis). You dismiss the opposing view, and insist on your own infallibility. I say we are all fallible, and the only way to frame that universal fallibility in a manner which best serves reason is to commit to the processes most conducive to the triumpth of reason.

Steve HarveyI’ve studied and taught the Constitution in multiple contexts, in economics, history, and law, and all Constitutional scholars that I know recognize that the document you think is so simple and straightforward isn’t at all. Many of its terms aren’t defined, and have no inherent unambiguous definition (e.g., “due process,” “general welfare,” etc.). The necessary and proper clause, the spending clause, and the commerce clause give Congress potentially expansive powers, depending on interpretation. Insisting that your interpretation is correct, often in contradiction of virtually all constitutional scholars, is indeed ideology, and not the Consitution itself. The underlying purpose of the Constitution was to strengthen, not weaken, the federal government, as its history (replacing the toothless Articles of Confederation) and its in-depth defense by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay in The Federalist Papers clearly demonstrate. It may be, in the end, that you are less omniscient that you believe, and that there is indeed room for debate in this great nation of ours.

Buddy Shipley Steve refuses to comprehend. It is not a matter of “right and wrong”! It’s the Constitution, a binding contract between and among all citizens of these United States. Neither Steve nor our Elected Officials have the RIGHT to ignore it and do as they please!! That is tyranny.

What Steve calls “platitudes” I call standing up for the liberty of individuals, upholding and defending the Constitution, which is the sworn duty of EVERY elected official! That they fail to do this makes them criminals, but the judiciary aids and abets them in their tyranny.

And fools like Steve like it that way.

Buddy Shipley Steve, you are part of the pathology that’s killing us. If ANY of the bullshit you think is “Constitutional” was legitimate, why didn’t the framers and founders implement any of it from the outset?

You just make shit up and pervert the language of the Constitution to suit your agenda du jour. YOU are one of the errors in our education system responsible for filling student’s heads with propaganda.

Steve Harvey Buddy, as I said, I’m familiar with, and committed to the Constitution. The problem is that you refer to a caricature of the Constitution rather than to the Constitution itself, and the terms of the binding contract are other than what you insist they are. Again, this is open to debate (though I am convinced, through being well-informed rather than through an arbitrary certainty, that your position is mistaken), and I do not dismiss you as wrong-by-definition the way you dismiss all those who disagree with you. I recognize that I live in a world of differing views, differing interpretations, and that our job is to put into place the most robust and rational systems for arbitrating among those disagreements. Your belief is that as long as you keep shouting more loudly, invoking more epithets and ad hominems directed toward those who disagree with you, labelling away every fact and analysis and all who articulate them that you find inconvenient, you have somehow managed to command an impenetrable fortress. It is only impenetrable in terms of how well it insulates you from contradictory evidence and argumentation; it is non-existent in terms of how well it actually defends your position in public discourse.

I’ve written extensively on the “Political Fundamentalism” of the Tea Party, and its three idolatries (“Constitutional Idolatry”, Liberty Idolatry, Small Government Idolatry). Though I’ve emphasized the degree to which it defines the Right, political fundamentalism of a different flavor is also rampant on the Left. This is particularly tragic, because the Left, despite its foibles, is substantively far closer to where procedurally disciplined reason and goodwill lead, but to the extent that it is not defined by such procedurally disciplined reason and goodwill, it loses much of this natural advantage in the struggle for our national soul.

Personal political convictions on the Left are, for the most part, as dogmatic, vitriolic, and arbitrary as those on the Right. Though those convictions have, on average and inconsistently, arrived at where reason and goodwill, diligently pursued, lead to, they have not generally done so by personally diligently pursuing reason and goodwill, but rather by doing exactly what their counterparts on the Right do: Gravitating toward the political ideology that best resonates with their predispositions, and then cognitively and emotionally wrapping themselves around it and committing themselves to it. I have written extensively on how this fact helps to erase the natural advantage that would otherwise accrue to better-reasoned, more factually-supported, and more humane political ideological commitments (see, e.g., Ideology v. Methodology, The Signal-To-Noise Ratio, The Elusive Truth, Scientific Misconduct: There’s No Such Thing As Immaculate Conception, The Voice Beyond Extremes).

Furthermore, not all of those arbitrary certainties widely held by left-wing ideologues are actually substantively superior to their counterparts on the Right. The cost of adhering to blind ideology isn’t only losing an advantage that would otherwise have accrued, but also, too often, failing to achieve that natural advantage at all, by failing to identify the wisest policies that best serve the public interest. The Left is far too laden with oversimplistic, systemically naïve, and ultimately counterproductive false certainties, while the Right is not completely devoid of legitimate insights. The ultimate challenge is less that the Left wins than that the best and most humane ideas win. And that ultimate challenge is best met by a broadening and deepening commitment to establishing a procedure designed to promote the implementation of the best policies, independently of ideological presumptions about what those are.

While I believe that the dogma of the Left is closer than the dogma of the Right to what such a methodologically disciplined process (similar to scientific methodology or legal procedure) would produce, it doesn’t really matter: I’m willing to put my beliefs on the line, and if and when such a process favors Right-wing over Left-wing policy recommendations, so be it. We need to start shifting political discourse away from fighting over our more fallible conflicting substantive conclusions, and toward fighting for an agreed upon process by which to arrive at them which reduces their fallibility.

Obviously, neither the majority of people engaging in political discourse and activism nor the majority of voters are going to suddenly relinquish their own ideological convictions and embrace instead the application of scientific and judicial methodology to the derivation of new convictions. The opportunity to do so, and the historical evidence of the value of doing so, have long existed. Economists, political scientists, legal scholars, and policy analysts have long, often implicitly, been making the case for doing so. American politics will continue much as it is today, a semi-orderly competition of precipitous false certainties, into the foreseeable future, gradually evolving according to forces I’ve described elsewhere (see, e.g., The Politics of Consciousness , Information and Energy: Past, Present, and Future).

But just as scientific methodology gradually, almost imperceptibly, and still very incompletely, displaced religious dogma as the most reliable source of understanding the systemic dynamics of nature, and just as legal procedure gradually, almost imperceptibly, and still very incompletely, displaced prejudice and bigotry in the determination of guilt or innocence, so too can a similar commitment to a similar procedure applied to political beliefs have a similar effect over time. It’s a worthy and attainable long-term goal to which to commit ourselves.

My argument is not that all matters in the political universe can be reduced to testable hypotheses and non-controversial paradigms, but rather that the excessive arbitrariness of political ideology can gradually be pushed to the margins, the transparency of interests and values served and harmed by particular orientations and policies increased, and the range of rational policy ideas in service to the public interest more clearly defined.

That is the alternative to idolatry.

I’m angry too.

I’m angry at those who try to obstruct improvement of the human condition, and at those who obstruct improvement of the human condition while trying to facilitate it. I’m angry at both those who lack any sense of responsibility to one another, and those who lack any sense of how to satisfy that responsibility to one another. I’m angry at those progressives among us who try to turn every meeting into a group therapy session, focused on how mad they are that their imperfect certainties of the world are not being adequately realized by the candidates that they supported. I’m angry at hubris, and inflexibility, and attempts to impose the noise and obstruction of false certainties on a system already clogged with noise and obstructions of all kinds. I’m angry at folly, littered liberally across the ideological spectrum.

I’m angry at those who believe that progressive activism should consist entirely of trying to impose one’s own will on government, and not at all of trying to inform the will that is being imposed. I’m angry at those who believe that if they are convinced that something must be, then making it so must be good. I’m angry at those who think a straight line is the best path to all destinations, even if the destination cannot be reached by it.

I’m angry at those whose self-indulgent and unproductive anger drives productive people away, dominating discourse and derailing progress. I’m angry at those progressives who are essentially the same as Tea Partiers, only filling in the blanks of the same Mad-lib differently; who are political fundamentalists of another shade, characterized by the same attitude, adamant and inflexible, impermeable to new information, content to be absolutely certain of inevitably imperfect understandings. I’m angry at those who respond to the intentional obstruction of progress with the unintentional obstruction of progress, forming an implicit alliance with those they purport to oppose. I’m angry with those who adhere to and reinforce the cycle of blindly ideological opposition rather than striving to transcend it, as would serve an authentic progressive movement.

I’m angry at those who think that unproductive bitching is the epitome of political activism, and that attempts to plan and execute efforts to actually affect the political and ideological landscape are distractions from their “substantive work.” I’m angry at people who combine working to get favored candidates elected with anger that those candidates consistently disappoint them, or anger that fellow progressives made other choices, while doing nothing to assist those candidates in their efforts to persuade constituents who are not in agreement. I’m angry with people who think elections are the breadth and depth of politics, and that all challenges are met by winning them, though even they constantly observe that the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

I’m angry with people who completely ignore the importance of creating a context which facilitates what we want our elected officials to do. I’m angry with people who don’t understand that getting progressives elected and re-elected is just the most superficial layer of the political challenge we face, and that unless we address the layers beneath it, we will be both less successful at achieving that superficial layer, and less successful at making such success, when it comes, conducive to the ends we had in mind when pursuing it.

I’m angry at those who don’t understand that electoral politics is just the beginning of the challenge; that the rest involves more, not less, responsibility on our part. And the tragedy is that too few people undertake that more essential responsibility.

I’m angry at people who take pride in a passionate commitment to change things for the better that is being squandered in ways which are more emotionally gratifying than effective, and, if anything, actually contribute more to ensuring that things won’t change for the better than that they will. I’m angry when these people speak for the progressive movement, attempt to ostracize and disinvite those who aren’t like them in order better to wallow with fellow travelers in an ecstasy of complete ineffectiveness.

But I’m not angry about the possibilities that lie beyond their fortifications, that can attract larger numbers of more able souls. I’m not angry, but rather am hopeful, that there are many who are silent, put-off, disgusted, and alienated by the combination of arrogance, ignorance, anger, and intransigence that characterizes many of the most vocal lay participants, of all ideological stripes, in our political process. I’m hopeful that a different kind of progressive movement, a more pragmatic but  more robust and effective progressive movement, can attract the vast silent majority, who strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, and seek only a sign directing them to where reason and goodwill reside.

I’m hopeful that those of us so inclined will be able to find and create venues in which tackling the real challenges we face, that are ours to tackle, is considered the proper focus of our efforts rather than a distraction from them. I’m hopeful that there are those who want to work with some degree of humility to do our part, on the ground, to improve the quality of life in this state, nation, and world, both by affecting government, and by affecting the context within which it operates.