Thursday, July 14, 2016

Know What I Mean?

I am trying to understand some of the anger flying around in world politics. I don't think we make a lot of effort to genuinely articulate the view of those who we disagree with it. Most of the summaries I see of the anyone's opposition are not what that person would say. Daniel Dennett suggests one of the first stages of listening is being able to express the other person's view in a way that they say, 'Yes... I believe that'. Most attempts I see seem closer to parodies or insults. The opposition is evil, a clown, idiots, racist, or any other number of things that make them worth ignoring.


It is interesting that one of the insults thrown is directed at 'The Establishment'. There are few people who openly say that they are Neoliberal or Market Fundamentalists, who believe in the Washington Consensus. What ends up happening is a huge disconnect between the way people see themselves, and the way they are seen. I think both sides lose out here. If the true Establishment/Consensus isn't actually delivering for people in a way they are happy with, that is a problem. If politicians don't represent the interests of people, that is a problem. I think the real problem lies in our inability to talk to each other.

When I read about the big, evil, Neoliberalism, there are many things that I agree with. It is often associated with de-regulation, reductions in government spending, fiscal austerity, and privatisation. All of these are incredibly divisive issues, but I don't think most people think about or understand them very well. We understand our own world's incredibly well. Most of us vote or argue based purely on how things affect our world. We outsource the big picture to representatives who are supposed to then pull things together. We don't think about the trade offs and costs. We think about our own lot. We react to horrible stories we hear. The representatives can think about the bigger community. It is interesting that some of the big names in Neoliberalism who are criticised for encouraging individualism over community argue directly against that. Two of the philosophers/economists associated with Neo-liberalism, a third way between socialist planning and classical liberalism, were Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

'Hayek's ideal is a legal “medium” of society, liberal enough to permit creativity, stable enough to reward creativity, and constraining enough in ways that steer creativity away from zero-sum and negative-sum games and toward positive-sum games: that is, wealth creation, not wealth capture.'

Hayek (1899-1992)

Rather than government as a group that takes all the information and makes a decision, Hayek's vision is a world where the understanding individuals have of their own world drives the decisions. It is a world of empowerment. Government sets the rules of the game and acts as referee, but the players play the game.

Most of the parties I see in the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa don't make sense to me (These are the places that get most of my head space). They come from a world where we thought there was a dominant ideology that was right, and the others were wrong. A world where we need opposition and proposition. In the UK, there is clearly a disconnect between voters and politicians. All the major parties in the recent Brexit referendum were on the opposite side to the vote. The Labour Party members and those they voted into power may want different things. The leader is popular with the party, but not the party representatives. The Conservative Party didn't take the risk of finding that out.

I don't take the view that things are a complete mess. I think the general trajectory of the world is very positive. We are getting wealthier and less prejudiced. I do think we need to tweak the rules, and one of those first tweaks should be to listen to each other.
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