The Pragmatist Manifesto

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how I came to my own set of political beliefs..  I’m not sure I really fit the mold of a progressive or a conservative, more of that of a pragmatist.

1.  I didn’t think Jesus was kidding about that whole “do unto others” thing.  Even though I’m an agnostic, I’m still strongly influenced by my upbringing, especially since as I’ve learned about other cultures, and faiths, most of them seem to say something very similar.  Doing things that are mutually beneficial seems to be the optimal way to organize human society, so I believe it should be the ultimate objective of public policy.

2. I like to learn about other cultures and people without worrying about missing something because I’m too busy judging them.  Usually I find they’re just as interested in learning about me as I am about them.  Dismissing ideas because they came from somewhere else is a good way to miss out on solutions.

3. I trust evidence and science, and am willing to change my beliefs if science and evidence provide proof that my beliefs are mistaken.  Dogmatic devotion to political or religious beliefs to the exclusion of any evidence to the contrary only blinds one to solutions or ideas that may result on solutions.

4. I believe that change is inevitable, the only question is whether or not I can find ways to adapt to it, not how long I can forestall it.  No culture on this planet has ever survived unchanged.

5. I believe that the interests of society trump the interests of business.

6. I believe that long term thinking must be a component of public policy even in the face of public opposition. Often public opposition is based on immediate needs, while public policy is based on long term opportunity.  For example, had we made the investments in renewable fuels and energy conservation during the first energy crisis of the 70s, the 90’s and 00’s might have looked entirely different.  Our interests and obligations in the Middle Easts would look entirely different absent a compromising interest in energy.

7. I believe that government is a better solution than private enterprise for problems that require long term planning and thinking though private enterprise can be an effective partner.   Private enterprise by its very nature is risk averse, and unwilling to commit resources unless there is a potential for return.  Government does and can direct resources to private enterprise to research and build solutions for longer term problems or opportunities.  See the Interstate Highway System, the Internet, the Space Program, REC and other projects where the government at the state or federal level gathered and redistributed the resources and used private enterprise to either research or build the project, thus creating economic opportunity.

8. I believe that when attempting to resolve an issue, people with actual training and experience in the subject being discussed should be deferred to over politicians with little or no knowledge.  To do so is not “elitist” or “snobbish” but common sense.  I no more want climate change policy set by an economist than I want my brain surgery performed by a dentist.

9. I believe that a thorough discussion of the the ins and outs of issues  is more valuable than talking points and sound bites.  To the extent that we reduce complex issues to bumper stickers and slogans we insult the intelligence of not only the general population but we reduce their interest and ability to debate the issues in the future.  If people fall out of practice because they’ve been trained not to think beyond the talking points fed them by talk radio and consultants, they will lose the ability to question what they’re being told and think critically about it.  The rise in prominence in sites like, and personalities like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are a perfect example of this.

We are in danger of becoming an Idiotocracy.  I only hope that we can come to our senses before there is no turning back.