Sunday, May 5, 2013

"The other side may sometimes have a point"

That sentiment from President Obama is something xpostfactoid reminds us about today. He quotes from The Audacity of Hope:
In his rhetoric, Reagan tended to exaggerate the degree to which the welfare state had grown over the previous twenty five years...Still, the conservative revolution that Reagan helped usher in gained traction because Reagan's central insight--that the liberal welfare state had grown complacent and overly bureaucratic, with Democratic policy makers more obsessed with slicing the economic pie than with growing the pie--contained a good deal of truth. Just as too many corporate managers, shielded from competition, had stopped delivering value, too many government bureaucracies had stopped asking whether their shareholders (the American taxpayer) and their consumers (the users of government services) were getting their money's worth (156-157).
Boy, is that something I can relate to!

Having spent the last 20 years running a non-profit social service agency I can tell you that I get equally frustrated with the conservative approach of turning our backs on those in need and the bleeding heart liberals who waste our precious resources - balking at any attempt to hold them accountable for results.

Perhaps it is that experience that set the table for me to reject an ideological approach to liberalism and embrace a good dose of pragmatism.

For me, pragmatism is very different from centrism or Bill Clinton's triangulation. Those latter two are political strategies more than anything else. Pragmatism's primary concern is answering the question"what works?" We know that ignoring social ills doesn't work. But we should also know that conservatives have a point...simply throwing money at a problem doesn't work either. We need to be smart and accountable too. As a pragmatist, I believe that the best way to advance liberalism is through implementing good government.

Even though most Republicans have moved towards their own brand of extremism these days, I still believe that we have something to learn from the traditional conservative approach. Ancient philosophies tell us that the key is balance.

That's what India Arie is singing about.


  1. I am continually amazed by your intelligence, Smartypants. You actually finished reading the xpostfactoid article?! I was so far in over my head with that thing. But then I dropped out of Philosophy in College because...huh?

    I'm with you. I don't care which side has the answer as long as that answer is something that actually works. If it really and truly does help people improve and get ahead, then yeah. If it really does address the problem, let's do it. That's why I liked that article that was circulating last week about the principle who ditched the security guards and hired an art teacher--then saw many behavior problems dissolve and test scores improve. Made me wonder if one of the main reasons why children are doing so poorly in schools can be directly related to the decades of cutting the arts and music from the budgets in so many states. And didn't we see another article recently where the Finnish were seeing improved education because they have such a strong focus on art?

    I say, let us please do what works, not what someone thinks ought to work.

    1. I can't say that I understood all of what xpostfactoid was saying. I tend to lose touch w/ philosophy when it soars that high into the big picture of things. I guess what I'm saying is that ultimately the pragmatist in me takes over in those kinds of conversations ;-)

  2. I have to agree with you both. The problem with most on the far left, is they are emotional leftists, not looking at the possible and moving forward even a little. I am 70yrs old and have seen a lot, and like you Smartypants, I have evolved. My family always called me a free spirit, (a little off center) I had the insight to know when something wasn't right and tried to change it. But was always pragmatic enough to know, I had to have a job to feed myself & my children, strong enough to get out of a verbally abusive relationship. When watching the President give his speech at Ohio State today, I was thinking of those kids going out into the public and starting their lives,he was really inspirational and challenged them today to become good Citizens. I Love this man, and greatful everyday I have witness a great man as the President of the USA.