This post is a response to Jonathan Haidt’s TED Talk “How common threats can make common (political) ground” which can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_how_common_threats_can_make_common_political_ground.html
I’ve had a major problem with this guy since I first saw one of his TED Talks a while back. Without addressing the inherent problem with seeing centrists as some sort of divine onlookers who are the saviors of our civilization, simply looking at his four “asteroids” it goes: 1st one the left can see and the right can’t (environment), 2nd one the left can’t see and the right can (debt), 3rd one the left can see and the right can’t (inequality), 4th one the left can’t see and the right can (marriage).
He then uses this even amount of seeing/not seeing from both sides to make an appeal to central political thinking (or in the American context, bi-partisan thinking). The issue is however, that leftists do indeed see a problem with growing debt (it would be impossible not to), and in many ways seek to counter this with raising taxes, which is a joint solution to asteroid 2 and 3 (for many at least) and a primary contention between the left and the right both in America and worldwide is that the left wishes to increase taxes and keep/increase services while the right want to cut taxes and keep/decrease services.
Now looking at asteroid 4, the marriage issue. The proposal that marriage is somehow an equality issue is ridiculous. The divorce rate is still 50% (even among magical college attenders). Even if people of lower socio-economic classes were to marry and raise children together (his primary focus was on fathers taking up responsibility) he glosses over/ignores that just because people are married does not mean they are going to be able to raise the child any better, primarily due to the socio-economic class they belong to is a primary reason they cannot earn enough money to raise a child, as well as a significant factor in the chances of the father being imprisoned (thus completely nullifying whether or not the father and mother are married for the child, as the father can not provide in prison). So in other words, people aren’t poor because they don’t get married – they don’t get married because they’re poor (I’m using “people” not “persons” which is important to note).
But to get back to the whole asteroid problem, in reality we see three asteroids the left is willing to get behind (note that asteroid 2 is clearly an issue for the left), and just two the right is willing to get behind. Of course, someone could easily say that my critique of “asteroid” 4 is just my political bias showing, which is obvious. The promotion of marriage or “family” values is highly rooted in religious/non-secular morality which is a problem for the left in many cases. But even assuming that a promotion of marriage would turn out more well off children ignores that even if the children are going to be better off, they are still going to be significantly less well off than the children of married parents who are in higher socio-economic classes, so in reality asteroid 4 does not seem to be a true asteroid, but rather a minor contributing factor to asteroid 3 (inequality). Inequality will certainly not be solved by increasing marriage.
So looking at leftist politics we see that 4/4 asteroids can at the very least be addressed, which still leaves asteroid 1 which in no way is being addressed by the right. Ultimately however the issue with political divide is not disagreement over what are issues, but disagreement over how to solve those issues. Jonathan Haidt completely ignores this, which is evident by his argument about asteroid 2.
2 thoughts on “It’s not the problems, it’s the solutions that are the problem”
If you are married or have a girlfriend, then you will have learned the rules of argument. Which simply is this: logic is useless and often must be suspended to achieve a goal. Or better said, once a goal has been established, look for internal logics that do not overly co-opt overarching logics. Internal meaning internal to the journey towards the accomplishing of that goal. Your argument is one of over-arching logics. It is a mire to attempt respond to all your points. And such attempts which will only end in back and forth are fuel to the fire of partisanship. But once bi-partisanship becomes a goal, then internal logics like the one Haidt speaks of which do suspend some overarching logics on both sides become more useful. So yes your points are well taken but like my girlfriend often says to me (cause I am often dumbass #1), “That’s not the point.”
I agree with your comments. I’m so tired of seeing the “both sides are just as bad” argument when it’s flatly not true.