Monday, November 21, 2016

Party of Reason and Progress

I dislike it when people steal my ideas before I even have a chance to come up with them. It's so rude!

The biggest culprits in history have been David Hume, John Stuart Mill, R.M. Hare, and J.L. Mackie. But a contemporary example that just came to light is David McAfee - who has taken my idea of a new kind of third party based on reason and evidence.

He calls my invention the Party of Reason and Progress.

He has compounded his offense by actually putting some effort into starting this party, promoting it, and getting it started.

The cad!

As with the other people mentioned above, McAfee did not steal my ideas precisely. There are some differences, which I would like to comment on.

Before I do, there is an important point that I want to make. There seems to be a strong disposition for critics to adopt the attitude of, "If you do not agree with me in all things, you deserve to fail, and I will oppose you in all you do." This is an irrational position to adopt. Anybody who insists on perfect agreement with their ideas condemns themselves to being alone and impotent. No two people have exactly the same beliefs, so if one is going to work with other people one is necessarily going to work with people with whom they disagree.

That being said, it is not a reason to refrain from addressing those matters of disagreement - particularly in an organization that values reason.

Admittedly, what I called a "party" used the term lightly, since its members would be advised to join that political party in their district that is likely to select the next winning candidate. If one lives in a Republican district, then party members should join the Republican party; and if in a Democratic district, one should join the Democratic party. The reason is to have the maximum influence on deciding the person who will actually be sworn into office.

As a merely educational organization, PORP is not offering anything substantially different from other organizations that aim at promoting evidence-based policy making. In that case, it would be more useful for its members to join - and thereby to augment the strength of - one of the organizations that already exists. However, the idea being presented here of having its members join the political party that dominates its district provides it with a way of influencing elections that is currently not being tried.

This leads to a second point of difference between what I would recommend and what the Party of Reason and Progress is planning.

According to a posting on the blog Danthropology, PORP intends to focus on helping the Democratic Party.

While the party is going to focus on Democrats, for now, it would be wonderful to see it expand in the future and help elect third-party candidates at a more local level and build a true reason based party.

This causes me to ask whether this is actually going to be a "party of reason and progress" or whether, instead, it is going to be a "party of rationalizing the policies of the Democratic party."

This risk, I think, is augmented by the fact that the organization name contains the term "progress" in the name. While progress, generally conceived, is a good idea, this may be taken to suggest that its organizers have prejudged the "progressive" ideology as containing all truth and wisdom and that all good evidence necessarily supports this belief. It is as dogmatic as believing that all good evidence will support the Bible or some other religious text.

Actually, I do not think that the Democratic Party in general, or progressives in particular, have a monopoly on intelligence and wisdom. There are areas where Republicans support the better and wiser policy position, and where Democrats - with their ties to particular special interests - have adopted unreasonable and irrational views in order to curry favor with those groups.

In order to combat this potential bias, I think it would be a mistake to simply slap away anything Republican and, instead, to challenge Republicans to, "come here and show us what you have".

Accordingly, as with all things that exist in degrees, it is as true among Republicans as it is among Democrats that some are more rational and responsive to reason than others. Consider, for example, the Republican 2012 Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman who tweeted, "To be clear, I believe in evolution and I trust scientists on climate change. Call me crazy."

For my own part, I think that, when it comes to climate change, once it is admitted that the scientists know what they are talking about, the best course of action to pursue in the light of those facts are to follow the plan favored by market economists - to try to solve the problem by internalizing the costs rather than by adopting a body of complex and confusing regulations.

These, then, would be my two initial recommendations.

(1) Have its members join whatever political party that dominates their region (if any) and work within the primary process to help that party select the best candidate possible for the general election.

(2) Do not assume that progressivism has the one true and accurate set of solutions for all the world's problems and, instead, look outside of that political ideology when seeking real-world solutions to real-world problems.

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