Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Another Echidne Thought: How Many Sides Should Political Debates Have?

Oh my how these deep thoughts pulse up to the surface of my skull! It must be the heat.

I've written about this before but it is so important it's worth repeating: We need to have at least three sides in political debates.

Consider discussions about the equality of men and women. Right now the two sides in that debate are these:
1. Men and women are pretty much equal.
2. Men are better than women: More assertive, smarter, more mathematically talented, more risk-taking (which is rewarded). Altogether a superior species.

The problem with this setup is obvious to me: Any "compromise" between these views will imply that men are somewhat better than women. Likewise, if we let just these two alternatives stand for the extreme viewpoints, we frame the discussion before it has even begun.

What is needed is a third alternative:
3. Women are better than men: More socially skilled, more linguistically talented, more able to see the totality of a situation rather than its details, less violent. Altogether a superior species.

See how the debate would change if that alternative was added? Needless to say, perhaps, that I don't believe in the third alternative any more than the second alternative. But its inclusion would make the first alternative look like the obvious compromise.

The same thing happens in American politics, in general. On one side we get the fire-breathing wingnuts, using extreme and harsh language. On the other side we get the milquetoast centrist Democrat or secretly moderate Republican (president Obama, say). These stances then become the extreme allowed viewpoints! Where's Noam Chomsky? Where are the radical feminists? Communists?

Because of the weird setup, Obama can be called a Marxist by the fire-breathers of the right. The milquetoast moderate muddly-middle now represents Stalin and Mao!

Just like someone believing in the equality of men and women is turned into a ruthless feminazi.