A recent run-in with a missionary at sophistpundit, along with Bob’s post on intellectual honesty have inspired me to write a bit here.
Much of man’s folly is in his continual quest for instant gratification. We often fail to realize that everything has a price, and that the price is not always paid in currency visible to the naked eye.
You can’t create something out of nothing. This is obvious to anyone. You can just conjure up a cake; you have to get the ingredients. But more than just the ingredients, you have to put in the right proportions, and bake it for the right amount of time at the right temperature. Even less intuitive to us is the fact that our talent–in this case, one’s skill at portioning for a batter and timing the baking process–is also something that we contribute.
All these things; our time and our physical resources and our skill, are the price we pay in order to get that cake. If any of these falls short, we get what we paid for. There is a balance here, and I think it is often underestimated.
One concept that I think is very difficult for people to wrap their heads around is that value is entirely situational. There is no basic value to anything. A product is only worth whatever the consumer is willing to pay for it. No more, no less.
I started Creative Destruction in the hopes of making a place for people who strongly disagree and probably distrust each other to exchange ideas with one another. But what would this exchange entail?
I you are perceived to be a conservative by the person you’re in a debate with, the best payment for that person’s trust is to think of as many people they would categorize similarly who you think are failing to measure up to whatever it is you’re talking about.
For instance, if a someone tells you that everything is divided up by political affiliation, and you would end up on the conservative side, I would argue that this isn’t true, that people are people and political affiliation should not be allowed to bar discussion. Now, to make a case for this, I wouldn’t say “Like Michael Moore, he tries to divide everyone.” In all liklihood, they will not be impressed by this and it will only further their suspicion that you’re unfairly biased against liberals. So instead, I would say “People like Ann Coulter and Limbaugh are examples of exactly what I can’t stand–people that make money by fueling the fire and making it even harder to cross partisan lines for the purpose of a discussion.”
Some people would consider this approach to be a cop-out. I don’t think so. In this particular example, offering up an example of a liberal polarizer has no value to the person I’m engaging in debate with. But offering up an acknowledgment of the conservative pundits who behave equivalently has much more value to them. And I have sacrificed nothing–I really don’t like those two. But the person I’m talking with has put me in the “conservative” category in their mind, and so providing criticism of two people who they’d also put in that category can be seen as an act of good faith.
This does not mean an end to criticism of liberals if you are a conservative, or conservatives if you are a liberal. What it means is that you should be actively critical of people who you might agree with more on some level, because otherwise criticism of another political affiliation will be easy to view as nothing more than selfishness.
You’ve got to give something before you can hope to get what you want; and there’s no guarantee that what you give will be valuable enough to get precisely what you’re going for.
But I believe people will always reap rewards for this, in the long run.