Throughout our lives, there will always be politicians and pundits trying to coax our worldview. But the price of living in a freely spoken democracy is our obligation to build educational fortitude, defending us against glib rhetoricians.
This drawback of democracy was first pointed out by Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias. In it he wrote that citizens of a democracy were more gullible to a hack-politician’s offering of cake, than a health expert’s recommendation that we exercise. In order to avoid this kind of pandering, he argued for the tyranny of tough-loving philosophers who always know what’s best.
United States politics has been headed down this road of extremist social architecture. Politicians of both the right and the left are elected solely to impede upon their counterpart’s agenda. With no room for compromise, no shared ideals between the two sides, this era of politics can only end in one side’s complete subjugation of the other.
The ideal of the contemporary political right, to restore a lost industrialized post-World War II American Dream, shares almost nothing in common with the contemporary political left, to construct a welfare state modeled off of Europe.
The conservative right-wing is correct that a relatively unregulated economy has allowed the U.S. to maintain its economic stability above western European countries; however, it’s also true that if the government drew back federal aid in the same way it did in the 1940s, millions of Americans would be left to suffer.
It’s equally true, when democratic socialists assert that America lags behind other developed countries in providing healthcare to its citizens; however, that socialist healthcare model can only exist after several generations of built-up, capitalist wealth, sure to be spent in the next 30 years in countries like Norway and Sweden.
But without a centrist worldview, we see only half the story and resign ourselves to the zealotry it promotes.
A fundamental dispute between the right and the left involves capitalism—Good? Bad? Does freedom come from an unregulated economy or public assistance?
Rightists view capitalism as the universal pathway to freedom, what accounts for the skyrocket in living standards following the industrial revolution. But leftists view it as a dehumanizing force, placing monetary interests above human and moralistic interests.
The twist ending is that capitalism is both at the same time. If we commit ourselves to solely the left-wing worldview, that capitalism is inherently oppressive, then we must tear down the only prosperity-generating system known to mankind.
The two factors in society most commonly correlated with high standards of living sample from the political right and left, that is, entrepreneurial markets and female bodily autonomy. We need the right’s economic pragmatism as much as we need the left’s support for planned parenthood and women’s rights. We need the right’s maintenance of constitutional law and the left’s commitment to environmentalism. We need the right’s fiscal accountability and the left’s legal protection of disenfranchised groups.
In fact, there is a wide body of psychological research that indicates the traits associated with liberals and conservatives are interdependent for a functioning society. A group of Toronto researchers asked 600 Canadians and U.S. citizens to to classify their political stance before taking a standard personality assessment. Personality traits of innovation and creativity were most commonly found among liberals while orderliness and conscientiousness were most commonly associated with conservatives.
Liberals are interested in how ideas relate to one another, which results in greater creativity Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, explained to Steven Crowder on his podcast “Louder with Crowder,” This allows them to develop new progressive ideas for business and organizations.
“Conservatives need liberals to start companies and to generate new ideas,” Peterson explained. “But liberals need conservatives to run the companies.”
Conservatives make up for their inability to sustain the institution.
Rather than draw the boundaries of our political feuds across partisan lines, let us draw a broader line around a pact of curiosity and self-scrutiny. Instead of discriminating against people of other political persuasions, let us discriminate against anti-intellectual, self-serving demagogues like Donald Trump.
Outside of political narratives, we find our minds so much broader and the world so much more fascinating, if often tragic, than our politicians and pundits promised us. They value us only as a vote in the ballot to feed their will to power.
Each of us has the capability to form our own independent ideas through free inquiry. Learning becomes a celebration of living in a free society where we can argue and test our ideas freely. Rather than a political slogan or trite epithet, we will marshal our minds in debate as our primary civic duty.