Re: New letter to Howie

Read Gary’s post, below.

For my part, I appreciate Gary’s position, and his caution that holier-than-thou approaches to persuasion don’t work well in politics.  Of course, they’re usually not intended to persuade.  Morally sanctimonious political appeals are mainly designed to cement the in-group loyalty and committment of one’s own side, rather than to convince the other side.

Still, just a thought:  If politics is not about morality, then what is it about?  Why would we even have politics?  Even if it’s just about who gets what in society, or how best to expand GDP growth or something, there’s no morally neutral formula for determining how best to do that.  Politics is not engineering and cannot be.  The steel beems in a bridge don’t disagree over what bridge is best and who should get to drive over it.   People do and always will.  Each choice in governance is a choice to place some goals above others.  I think we may be confusing morality with moralism.

My point last night was supposed to be that people who think they have the only logical, rational answers to political questions are hiding their true reasons–from us if not from themselves, too.  I was hoping we could discuss those differences in political values and, by getting them out in the open and letting their advocates use their own definitions, avoid the simple condemnations we sometimes have. 

But, to my surprise, people didn’t really seem to want  try.   They were more interested in draining the passion from politics, rather than trying to explore it.  Apparently, we’re not supposed to think that our beliefs are better than anyone else’s. 

But, believing in the merit of one’s own values and wanting to impose them on others are not the same thing!  That’s why I mentioned “background justice.” Vigilantly enforced, that is supposed to prevent the nightmares that end up on the History Channel from happening here.  And, it mostly does — after a 200 year practice, but still.  But, within those constraints on the majority, we still have to make choices about the right road to a better society.  Basing those choices on values and experience and empiricism, id the only way.  Could anyone really name another?

Anyway, that was my point.  Now, back to spouting data.


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