How We Argue

26 01 2009

I don’t know if Paul Krugman knows everything even if he is popular on the left right now but he had a good column up yesterday about how we argue about the economic stimulus plan. The phrase that caught my eye was “arguing in good faith.”

This was a point I tried to make a few days ago at another blog — that what the country voted for was, in part, this very thing — that we want people to argue “in good faith.” We are tired of “cheap shots” and “bogus talking point[s]” and “nonsensical argument[s]” and time being wasted refuting “arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible” and “old arguments” that don’t mention current circumstances.

Obama is polite and bipartisan and all that good stuff. Krugman is a bit less so — citing the “I won” quip — and I am sure I will never be close to bipartisan.

But that is a separate issue from truth. Facts. Straight information. The full picture. Context. Moving beyond playing games and addressing serious issues seriously. Rising above our personal biases and arguing in good faith.

It’s harder than falling back on soundbites but, as Krugman wrote, anything less will be and should be disregarded as “huffing and puffing.”





8 responses

26 01 2009

And even allowing for good faith and good intentions among at least some of the huffers and puffers, Nance is right. This is a huge disconnect in America that has nearly destroyed our whole system imo. Gotta change. It MUST change.

I was just thinking this morning about “systems intelligence” as President Obama’s extraordinary gift, wondering if people who argue about what I see as red herrings — or maybe I shouldn’t presume motive and just call them mis-overestimated irrelevancies — are mentally deficient for comprehending modern challenge, if they literally lack systems intelligence and thus will never understand him (or us):

The levels for the amount of systems intelligence in a person are

1. Seeing oneself in a system, or being aware of the systemic environment with systems thinking.
2. Thinking about systems intelligence, or being aware that possibilities for productivity stem from the interaction with oneself and the system.
3. Managing systems intelligence, or exercising productive ways of behaviour in the system.
4. Sustaining systems intelligence, or exercising productivity in the long run.
5. Leadership with systems intelligence, or initiating and leading organizations that are systems intelligent.

The more levels a person is able to handle, the more systems intelligent he or she is. A person equipped only with the mental model of systems thinking is left at level 1, while systems intelligence is needed in every level after that.

27 01 2009

Yes, yes, yes! Watching the Republicans talk to newscasters this morning, after their meeting with the President on the stimulus package..I saw glimmers that maybe they were finally understanding the need to talk and see what kind of common ground both sides could find. We can hope, can’t we!?

30 01 2009

Did y’all see this essay about science and democracy being naturally compatible and mutually reinforcing, elevating each other in the search for sustainable human truth, while assertions of faith and dogma over science and denial of free inquiry, drag down both both science and democratic values together?

If we are not practicing good science, we probably aren’t practicing good democracy. And vice versa. . .once you can’t talk about one subject, the origin of the universe, for example, sooner or later other subjects are going to be off-limits, like global warming, birth control and abortion, or evolution, the subject of yet another dust-up in Texas last week.

There is no democracy in China, and some would argue that despite that nation’s vast resources and potential, there will not be vigorous science there either . . .

30 01 2009

So, arguing in “good” faith means arguing apart from faith, or we could say arguing with faith in free inquiry rather than faith in faith? Keeping faith with each other that neither science nor government can be good when made to serve faith and dogma . . .

30 01 2009

But..those arguing from a dogmatic faith :), think that you must base every discussion or argument in your faith…thus ..acknowledging to themselves and to all others…that we can’t argue about anything..the playing field will never be level..they will always take an upper hand..or elevated status in their opinion.

So, I give up. 🙂 arguing with those who are held in dogmatic view, whatever religion or non religion you have. You either are open to informed, questioning discussion or like our GOP party, politely listen and decline to hear..

15 02 2009

Frank Rich on Obama being right again, pundits getting suckered by GOP delusions yet again:

The stimulus opponents, egged on by all the media murmurings about Obama “losing control,” also thought they had a sure thing. Their TV advantage added to their complacency.

. . .At least some media hands are chagrined. After the stimulus prevailed, Scarborough speculated on MSNBC that “perhaps we’ve overanalyzed it, we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

But the Republicans are busy high-fiving themselves and celebrating “victory.” Even in defeat, they are still echoing the 24/7 cable mantra about the stimulus’s unpopularity.

. . .This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those “zombie banks” that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets.

. . . If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House.

15 02 2009
Nance Confer

My favorite line from this excellent column:

“Some Americans may even have ancestors saved from penury by the New Deal.”

Some of the positions being pushed by the Rs were/are so out of touch with what many of us know from our own personal family history, we don’t have to be a Washington insider to know who is supporting us. And who isn’t.

And I just heard a talking head finally say what I have been yelling at the screen for a week — why are the Ds giving up anything at all when the Rs don’t offer additional votes? Get the votes promised up front, then work out any concessions. No more votes for the D proposals, no more concessions.

At any rate, a lovely column from Mr. Rich. 🙂


15 02 2009

Here’s another good one — Obama as eternal optimist but no sap:

Obama’s determination to elevate ends over means could bring him closer in temperament to presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt (who pledged “bold, persistent experimentation”) and Abraham Lincoln, who often insisted, “My policy is to have no policy.”

That doesn’t mean either man lacked identifiable goals, much less bedrock principles. It did mean they were willing to constantly recalibrate their course in service of those goals and principles — as Lincoln once put it, like river boat pilots who “steer from point to point as they call it — setting the course of the boat no farther than they can see.”

Obama is a long way from matching the achievements of Lincoln and Roosevelt, of course. (If Obama, and the country, is lucky, he won’t have to.) But his common inclination to “steer from point to point” may serve him and the country well, especially since Obama has inherited problems of a magnitude faced by few of his predecessors other than those two titans. Obama recognizes the obvious challenge those problems present, but also sees in them opportunity.

“I think that there are certain moments in history when big change is possible… certain inflection points,” he said. “And I think that those changes can be for the good or they can be for the ill. And leadership at those moments can help determine which direction that wave of change goes.”

Is this one of those moments, he was asked.

“Yes, I firmly believe that,” he said, leaning in toward his audience. “Which is part of what makes it scary sometimes, but also is what should make people determined and excited, because I think that we can really solve some problems that have been there for a long time and we just couldn’t get the collective focus to tackle them. Now may be one of those moments that we can.”
Indeed, in today’s maelstrom, we may have no other choice.

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