Why Meaningful Political Debate Is Impossible
Okay, so I don’t really believe it’s impossible. The title I’ve chosen is an illustration of one example of why meaningful debate is difficult: sensationalist headlines in media. Headlines are often chosen to elicit a knee-jerk emotional reaction, not to foster rational thought or debate. It’s not until you get to the meat of the article that you realize the headline is nonsense and only tangentially related to the content. I think this is a byproduct of our instant gratification “sound bite” society, and I do not have a solution on how to fix laziness or susceptibility to propaganda.
That’s not what I want to discuss in this post, however. (Ah, the old bait and switch.) As someone who doesn’t shy away from making his philosophical/political beliefs known, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Often, when I am debating or discussing current events, hot-button issues, or the pros and cons of a particular political philosophy, I am not on the same page as the other conversant. This is for many reasons, but one glaring example is that political words have been twisted (by government and academia) to the point where they often have two opposite meanings. For example, a “liberal” used to mean someone who supported a gold standard and a free market. Today, most people calling themselves liberals support fiat currency and massive government intrusions into the economy. Historically, those have been positions of the state communists and fascists, not liberals. Today, it’s the “libertarians” who support the gold standard and a liberal economy. However, it gets more confusing as “libertarian” was originally a term used to describe the European anti-state socialist movements, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out. Are you keeping up?
I have publicly come out in support of anarchy, and a few friends and family members think I’ve lost my grip. Fair enough. Most people picture an anarchist as a disgruntled hoodie-wearing punk throwing a molotov cocktail at a police car. I advocate no such practice, but instead I use the term anarchy in its historical Greek context: “an” (not, without) “arkhos” (rulers). Without rulers. Simple, elegant. Now, those who argue that anarchy also means “chaos” and “disorder” are correct; the word has evolved to include those definitions. However, I doubt that very many anarchists honestly wish for society to break down into violence and chaos. I certainly do not, and have argued in the past that it is the state, not anarchy, that brings chaos and violence.
My own position is fairly simple: that we are all human beings and no one has the right to rule others. We can have leaders, who lead by example, but rulers who utilize force to subjugate others is something the human race should abolish. That’s the starting point, but from there it gets cloudy. (Of course.) Within the anarchist/voluntaryist community, you have anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-communists, both of whom argue the other are not true Scotsmen, er, anarchists. I don’t really take part in this argument, as I really don’t care what economic model you follow or what lifestyle you choose to lead as long as you don’t steal from your neighbors to fund it. (I have no problem with socialized medicine, for example, as long as the participants are voluntary.) Of course, I have opinions on what works and what does not (I don’t think socialized medicine can work…), but opinions can be wrong and attitudes can be changed based on data.
It is important to define your terms before engaging in any sort of political or ideological debate or discussion. Your opponent may not understand your meaning if he has a different idea of what your words mean, so please, please, PLEASE define your terms so everyone is on the same page.
I have two thoughts in closing. First, this essay is not meant to be an argument for or against any point of view, rather, it should be taken as an appeal for debaters to define their terms. Second, make sure you’re not using propaganda in your arguments. You can find a list of oft-repeated propaganda phrases here.
Thanks for reading!
A Disclaimer About My Politics
Thanks for reading this post, I hope I challenged you in some way. Agree with me? That’s cool. Disagree? Even better. I’m just a random guy on the internet, voicing his opinion (at the time of writing this blog post; opinions change as more facts and experience are gathered). But imagine if I had the political power and will to force you to agree with me! That would be terrible, and that’s the point of voluntarism and non-aggression. You should not be forced to agree with me. Please extend me the same courtesy.
“The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.” -Larry Hardiman
Political Blog Posts
- The Democrats Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Republicans Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Libertarians Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- Democracy ≠ Freedom
- I Don’t “Feel the Bern.”
- Confessions of a Public Servant
- Leaders vs. Rulers
- Libertarianism is Better Than Progressivism
- Why I Do Not Vote (And Neither Should You)
- The Traffic Court Swindle
- Top Five Reasons I Don’t Argue Politics on Social Media
- Why Meaningful Debate is Impossible
- Dos and Do Nots for the Liberty Minded
- “There ought to be a law…”
- A Defense of Fugitive Slaves
- Conspiracy Theories are Dumb
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