Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sorry State of Public Discourse

No good solution exists for Iraq, illegal immigration through Mexico, and abortion. Good means benefiting nearly everyone and hurting few or none, serving mostly worthwhile purposes and having few or no negatives. We have to search for the least bad policy or the best of available, workable ones. Yet who in public life clamoring for our votes is saying this? Many proposals are out there, but their sponsors see only the good in them and either don't know or don't say out loud what counts against it.

Which public voice is saying, 'Taking everything into account, by and large, generally speaking, this is the best available practical option. Even though it is not very good, it is the best we can do under the circumstances." Yet this is closer to the truth than all the confident claims that exaggerate the benefits and underplay the downside of whatever policy is being advocated.

Will people not hear or accept the notion that some problems are complex, ambiguous, and difficult, that only proximate solutions are available that try to achieve as much good and avoid as much that is bad that is possible under the circumstances? I don't know. Apparently our leaders think they won't, or they themselves don't know any better and are simply ignorant, naive, or purely opportunistic, i. e., look for the greatest political gain that they can milk out of the situation.

I have written in other blogs on this site of the particulars of Iraq, illegal immigration from out southern border, and abortion. Here let me say that each of these requires an "emergency" answer," i. e., a response to a dire situation that arises because something has gone wrong. Something went wrong in Iraq when we invaded and before, but now that we are in the tragic, catastrophic mess, we have to do the best we can. That probably means violence, chaos, and disorder if we leave, and more needless, futile loss of lives, perhaps a protracted civil war, if we stay. The only solution to the illegal entry of immigrants through Mexico is to make living conditions decent in their own countries so they can stay home and prosper instead of risking their lives to work for meager wages under exploitative conditions here employed by people who want an endless supply of cheap labor who will not complain about harsh working conditions due to their desperation. The only solution to the abortion issue is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Meanwhile, we live with the simplicities and shallowness that mark our public conversations because nobody wants to present the hard choices, ambiguities, and complexities inherent in problems. And isn't this because so many people want unambiguous certainties from their leaders? Or do they? And would they hear the hard truth if their leaders would talk straight to them instead of seeking advantages when their opponents dare to mention how difficult, complicated, and ambiguous choices really are when reality is confronted without blinking?

How do we account for the shortcomings in our democracy? We have shallow minds thinking in shallow ways about complex issues in a setting where honest conviction is mixed with the desire to get, keep, and expand political power in the struggle of competing self-interests -- the portions of integrity, conviction, and expediency varying from little to much in our lawmakers.

Besides that is the power of money and lobbies representing large or rich constituencies that distort the process in favor of the politically powerful driven by the self interest of corporations and highly organized groups like the National Rifle Association, the Religious Right.

I think the Founders envisioned or at least hoped for the presence of the best minds in the country who would take office devoted to the good of the Republic and not partisan goals of the rich and powerful. If you had that kind of person with that kind of character and devotion to the common welfare, then compromise would be the best we could get. The compromises we get are usually poor because the negotiating positions we start are so shallow and dictated by the interests of pressure groups.


No comments: