What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know.
Last week’s Economist carried an editorial called True Progressivism. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read through the long editorial. When I finished reading it, I felt like it had perfectly captured what I felt, what I thought, what I believed about government and public policy but would never have been able to articulate this well.
I hope you will go read it. If more people believed in something close to this True Progressivism, it could be a very important path out of the bipolar mess that American politics is today.
I happened to mention how much I liked this piece to a guest at an Infosys event last week. He said that his wife sometimes echoed similar sentiments about Tom Friedman’s writing – that it almost speaks to her. But he tells her that that is because her thinking has been shaped by Friedman’s writing. And now, obviously, what he writes agrees with her viewpoint.
Was it the same way with me and the Economist? Had I read it for so long that it had shaped my own belief system about politics and economic policy and now when I read something like this piece, it seems like it was speaking to me?
Perhaps. But I have read the Wall Street Journal longer, though less nowadays. I read the New York Times a lot more than the Economist. But I don’t always agree with the New York Times editorial page, and rarely with WSJ’s.
No, I don’t think the Economist has brainwashed me. I think that good newspapers are a little bit like friends. Your friends do influence you. But you tend to spend more time with the ones that think like you do. And the way you think is a product of your experiences and the people that have influenced you. And hopefully, rational, independent thinking.
The world is full of tribalism. If your family, friends and the people around you believe in something, you are almost predestined to believe in the same thing. Good writing like the Economist’s and thinking for yourself can save you from this dreary predetermined destiny.
Egalitarian economic theories have been much debated by economists right from Adam Smith to Mohammed Yunus but few could converge to an universally acceptable mean. It is because if `equality’ and `growth’ has to co-exist, certain long standing fundamental principles of not just economics (Eg. limited means, unlimited wants) but of evolution of species have to be re-written (Eg. survival of the fittest).
Economics and Politics have been founded on the bedrock of diversity of its constituents and any attempt to democratize leadership (or servitude for that matter) will never get real. If a wealthy capitalist has to run a factory, it warrants availability of cheap labor. Egalitarian societies breed mediocrity and smugness as they are an anathema to excellence ; and they have been non-starters as there exist no incentive for enterprise. That explains why most of the egalitarians have more or less settled for `equal work, equal pay’ theory as against `equitable distribution of wealth’ that has been the war cry of early age socialists – now by default of politicians, both right and the left, to give people some reason to walk into a polling station.
I have simple way of avoiding tribalism. It involves to actively seek opposite opinion and its rationale.