Everywhere I speak these days, people ask me what we need to do about the “division” between Americans along political lines, to which I answer, “Bring on the division!”
(Intellectual division, I mean; the idea of it being physically dangerous to wear a political cap or to display a political yard sign should be intolerable to every American, and — take it from a psychologist — if you’re inclined to physically intimidate anyone who disagrees with you politically, then something is seriously wrong with you).
For as long as I can remember, too many Americans have been political intellectual slackers, embracing cognitive cop-outs like, “I’m just a moderate,” “I’m just fiscally conservative but socially liberal,” or, “I just hate both parties; I vote for the man [or the woman].” The truth is, when one really puts forth the intellectual effort, there are fundamentally two distinct ways to think about how American society should be structured.
In other words, there are fundamentally two distinct ways to think about how much collective responsibility (i.e., government) one should have in one’s life versus how much personal responsibility one should assume. And this fundamental dichotomy is the reason why we have just two parties (that mean anything) in the U.S.A. — even in nations which have more than two parties, those parties often end up forming similarly-polarized coalitions.
It’s the reason why committed, philosophical partisans who are “pro-choice” on abortion are predictably anti-choice when it comes to schools and gun ownership, predictably in favor of wealth-redistribution and of amnesty/citizenship for illegal immigrants, and predictably against expanding domestic oil/gas production/transportation, against getting tough on Iran, and against broad freedom of contract in the employer/employee and insurer/insured relationships.
It’s also the reason why likewise-committed, philosophical partisans who are pro-life are predictably pro-choice when it comes to schools and gun ownership, predictably against wealth-redistribution and amnesty/citizenship for illegal immigrants, and predictably in favor of expanding domestic oil/gas production/transportation, in favor of getting tough on Iran, and in favor of broad freedom of contract in the employer/employee and insurer/insured relationships.
On the left hand, the collective is emphasized; the subordination of the individual to the collective is the means of optimizing the collective; collective responsibility is encouraged over personal responsibility; and even constructive individual autonomy from the collective is discouraged, within both the national and global communities — the exceptionalism of our American collective relative to other collectives is denied.
On the right hand, the individual is emphasized; the optimization of the individual is the means of optimizing the collective; personal responsibility (as well as personal generosity) is encouraged over collective responsibility; and constructive individual autonomy from the collective is applauded, within both the national and global communities — the exceptionalism of our American collective relative to other collectives is celebrated.
In short, on the left hand is a philosophy which deemphasizes individual responsibility and therefore necessarily also deemphasizes individual liberty (notwithstanding any philosophers’ or politicians’ promises to deliver individual liberty without individual responsibility, this simply cannot be done). And on the right hand is a philosophy which emphasizes and promotes both individual liberty and individual responsibility.
Clearly, the left and right hands grasp socio- and geo-political philosophy very differently, which is why, when people say they’re essentially politically ambidextrous (i.e., “moderates” who take some left-handed positions and some right-handed positions on the political issues of our time), I know they’re really probably just intellectually lazy and haven’t made the effort to grasp much of anything politically-philosophically speaking.
Reason dictates to me that one hand’s grasp is fundamentally correct, while the other’s is fundamentally and fatally flawed. And while I can respect the intellectual effort of fellow Americans who at least have thought enough about maximizing our collective peace and prosperity to have formed the conclusion — however erroneous — that the right hand is actually the wrong hand, I feel no obligation to compromise with them simply for compromise’s sake, especially when that means compromising my principles.
A lawmaker with whom I generally agree on political issues attended a recent speech of mine entitled “Bipolar Politics,” and he asked me afterward, “Wouldn’t you like to see us legislators reach across the aisle more, find more middle ground, be more bipartisan?” to which I replied, “No, not particularly.” I don’t want to see legislators “go along to get along.” I want to see legislators embrace the right philosophy and win — win elections; win policy debates; win legislative votes.
If “reaching across the aisle” means, for example, caving on a supremely-qualified judicial nominee in the face of unsubstantiated allegations which logic, and centuries of American jurisprudence, dictate must be deemed — at best — confabulations, then no, I don’t want to see that. I want to see American legislators stand firm for the principles which make America great, so that the philosophical dichotomy between them and their ideological opponents is crystal clear.
And I want to see American citizens be safer, freer, and richer — I want to see them be able to sleep at night, to let their kids play outside, and to board airplanes without fear; to choose their kids’ K-12 schools (and to predict who will and won’t be in the bathrooms with them there) and to send them on to college; to pay off homes, to get the healthcare that they need, to retire, etc. But I believe that government can facilitate most of those things best by keeping out of their lives (and wallets).
Which is why I say, “Bring on the division!” It’s high time that all Americans think seriously about which hand —the left or the right — has a grasp on the philosophy by which we should live and be educated and work alongside one another, which then should dictate positions on political issues, votes for political candidates, and ultimately, public policies, that at least will be increasingly intellectually consistent, and that, God willing, will be increasingly intellectually correct.
Brian Russell wanted to learn how people could live together as peacefully and prosperously as possible, so he studied what makes us tick (and got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology), how public policy keeps us in line (and got a law degree), and what motivates us to do our best (and got an M.B.A.). Then, he put theory to the test, practicing both psychology and law, starting his own small businesses, consulting with business leaders and lawmakers, and traveling the world comparing what does and doesn’t work in 40 societies. Now, he shares his expertise in people, public policy, and productivity on national television and radio, in his book, "Stop Moaning, Start Owning: How Entitlement Is Ruining America and How Personal Responsibility Can Fix It," and here on Newsmax. Learn more at DrBrianRussell.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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