Original Thought · Uncertainty


This is an unpopular truth, but not everyone’s opinions are equal. ~Shane Parrish

In the Farnam Street post this morning, the above quote appeared. Shane went on to defend the statement with a reliable if simplistic story. ” I am going into surgery and have a few choices to make. While the opinion of my partner and a first-year resident should be heard, they should have less weight than an experienced surgeon.

If we should give more credibility and validity to some opinions or advice in a potentially life-threatening situation, shouldn’t we extend that rationale to other circumstances? Or do we?

If I am considering the purchase of a new laptop, I review information from a number of sources; social media, tech sites, manufacturer’s promotion, friends’and colleagues’ recommendations, and bring my own experience, logic and intuition to bear. Somewhere in the calculation, I might add a measure of confidence to my logic and a friend who has a tech rep. If I am satisfied with the choice and find the decision to be reasonable I (all thing$ being equal) would act and purchase a specific laptop. If I am later satisfied or disappointed with the purchase, I would refine the selection criteria in subsequent searches and weigh the input differently.

Yet, we, without question, believe that every elector should have a full vote. We don’t consider the voter’s preparation for the decision. It would seem outrageous to suggest that informed, concerned, interested, involved individuals should have greater sway in the choice of elected representatives. Is it outrageous for pragmatic or philosophical reasons? What ramifications would we face if voting was a responsibility rather than a right? If I was required to fully participate in the fulsomeness of debate and arrive at a well-reasoned and informed position (whatever that was) before my x on a ballot counted as 1.0, would I be making a different or better choice?

For me, I realize that I have tendencies towards certain political ideologies, I have an ease at making decisions, and I am likely to be more informed about the substance rather than just the sizzle of a policy or platform. Should that make my input more valuable to the greater good than someone who is influenced by self-interest? religious belief? partisanship? financial gain/loss?

Is the idea that elections or referendums should produce the best result a red herring/ What if democracy isn’t about the quality of the choice or even the quality of the participation? Maybe, democracy is about the ongoing quality of equitable relationships. What if the results are supposed to be accepted because it holds polar opinions in tension, somewhere between agreement and conflict? Democracy reduces the disparity of disposition and narrows the bandwidth of societal norms? Is a smaller range of acceptable positions advantageous to individuals, community, society?

Does it feel uncomfortable when the range gets so wide that someone else’s opinion seems reprehensible? Do we stop listening when a line is crossed? It seems that we loudly and quickly assign labels to positions that are outside the narrow spectrum that is safe for discussion. Can the scope grow if we are subjected to a vocal force who espouse a view that is outside the box? I have witnessed changes in societal norms and acceptance that a few years ago was outside the realm of ‘polite conversation’.

The big progressive issues of the past 50 years have gained traction and change the conversation by courageous activists constantly bringing them forward. 50 years ago, no country accepted the concept of same-sex marriage. 50 years ago abortion was taboo. 50 years ago health care was a luxury. 50 years ago sovereign debt seemed impossible. Is it unreasonable or unrealistic to expect that the pendulum will continue to swing? Would democracy suffer if it only swung in one direction? How would conservative voices be heard if the scales were always tipped towards the left? Would revolt be inevitable if only conservative ideas were validated?

Are we on one edge of the paradigm today? Are we on the verge of a swing or the cusp of a revolution? Is the frame stretching or ready to burst? For me, the answer to these questions is “it depends on the day”. With that in mind, I can’t accurately predict where the state of affairs will be in 2019, 2020 or at the end of the next election cycle. It feels like we can survive if we accept responsibility for the process and become engaged in the debate. Is it optimism? Maybe, but without that hope, I need to concede that we are doomed to dangerous conflict. What are you going to choose?

Make Today Remarkable,



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