Saturday, February 14, 2009

Post No. 88: Does Everyone Necessarily Have a Point of View? - Revisited

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In July of last year, we generated a piece which asked, “Does everyone necessarily have a point of view?” At that time, we were so tired of hearing everyone take a rigid stand, on one side or the other in the presidential candidate debate, that we were about to scream.

We’ve since concluded that the question need not be directly answered, because the point of view need not always be expressed. Additionally, in a group setting, it need not dictate your effort to contribute to a common goal through collaboration.

How did the discussion of where we are headed as a nation become so acrimonious? Although many say that political campaigns have always been down, dirty, and nasty, for some reason, we feel that more sewage has recently overflowed into our drinking water.

Some years ago, a documentary aired exploring LBJ’s inheritance of the Vietnam War. We mentioned to a colleague that, despite the fact that several of us had served in the Army during that period, we did not fully understand the forces in operation at the time.

Our colleague immediately inquired as to the “point of view” of the film maker.

Since then, we’ve been asking ourselves whether everyone necessarily has a point of view.

We observed this reactionary phenomenon most recently during the debate about the economic stimulus package. In the political arena, party loyalists appear incapable of finding anything good about the positions of the other party.

We initially thought of entitling this piece, “The Dangers Associated with Defining Something by Its Least Liked Component,” Or “Let Me Introduce You to My Ugly Wife.”

Is the recognition of any positive attributes of the opposing party’s position such a fatal thing to do in drafting legislation?

In a previous piece, we presented the views of a fictional citizen and inquired as to whether that individual’s views fell within the range of acceptable positions for either political party.

We raised some rhetorical questions regarding one’s identification with certain political parties, and examined potential positions that might be taken by a third independent party.

One of the positions was that of mandatory service in the armed forces, by all citizens, to defend our nation. Some readers felt that we were advocating a return to slavery, and branded us totalitarian pigs. Some others assumed that we had taken a position in line with Osama bin Laden and that we were not patriotic.

It is not unusual for some of our readers to assume that simply because we mention someone’s name, or quote them on an issue, we support their position.

That experience also highlighted something said by another writer. He noted that in taking a moderate or centrist position, one does not receive some degree of praise from either side. Rather, one has to fend off attacks from both.

Perhaps that’s why we get so little accomplished in the political arena these days, and why partisanship appears to rule.

Every day, negative and outlandish allegations are put out there about virtually every move by every elected official.

This junk is just that; even if it does appeal to our emotional side. We should all be concerned when our innermost “fears” so strongly invade the national discourse, and begin to define who we are.

We have to get beyond our personal issues. We here at the Institute have often said that we do not care where people come out, as long as they engage in a reasoned thought process.

Reason and common sense, not to mention the seriousness of the issue, dictate that all of us be able to find something acceptable in a proposal of this size.

As the professor noted to Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, there are issues bigger than those which we now face, and which have a longer term impact.

So the next time that you read or hear a proposal from someone across the aisle, try to avoid processing it from your point of view. Try to avoid assuming that the writer has a particular point of view.

Simply view it as information.

The next time that you hear something with which you disagree, assume for a short period of time that you misheard it, or that there is a reasonable explanation for the position taken by the speaker. Try to make sense out of it.

Consider the prospect of your brain functioning like a hard disk on a computer. Just take in the information, store it there, and process it later when you have additional information and time to reflect.

When you decide to take action, or express your view, be sure to also ask this question of yourself, “Will what I have to say advance any societal interests in a positive way?”

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


  1. Since I no idea how to thank you privately, I just will do it publically. I do hope that I will learn how to do what you have done to your site. You've made a follower out of me, and I like your statements of responsibility. Which belongs to the CORE I am writing about.

  2. Are you saying that we should deliberate before acting? That is, not act in haste because the problem has been described as critical? But, rather, take time to consider possibilities that may not be immediately evident.

    That would seem counter to how political parties operate. All issues are political, to be exploited for political advantage.

  3. That's why I'm vehement about my sitting on the fence. Positively impassioned about middle of the road viewpoints me!

  4. Sorry, but this isn't possible in our polarized environment. Want proof, just quote Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter to a liberal. Want more, quote Bill Maher or George Soros to a conservative. The ears close, mind shuts down and the drivil rolls about "failed policies of the past..." or "You just want a socialist state". If your really want to know where this is all going to lead, look to history. I recommend "The Forgotten Man" by Amity Shlaes. The parallel to our time is right on. I think Douglas is right, it is all about the acquisiton of power and thus control of the purse. Hasn't turned out well for us regular folks in the past and I doubt this time will turn out any differently.

  5. All human beings have an ability to think and therefore will have a point of view on every topic. It can range from: I don't know much about it, to I don't give a snot, to a reasoned discussion/debate, to an impassioned plea for a certain conclusion.

    There are many topics on which I have no point of view. I know little about them and am therefore am open to listening and learning. I think this is where most people are on most topics. As proof I would offer our blogs: check your stat counter and see how many people read your posts and then compare that number to those who comment. The same people come back day after day to read your posts and never comment. They are coming for information. They may or may not have formed a point of view because it is not yet solidified enough for them to make their view known. These people care about the topic or they would not bother to read your posts so it is not indifference, it is merely not yet ready to take a stand.

    On the other hand when I am sure of my standing and have done my homework sufficiently I do speak up and air my point of view. The Stimulus Bill is a topic I feel well qualified to discuss and debate, for instance.

    There are also topics on which I can make an informed statement but refrain for a variety of reasons. Most usually, I simply don't care enough so I move on to the next topic. There are others on which I am sincerely concerned with the topic and therefore vehement in my comments. BB

    Now you really didn't expect the Opinionated Old Broad not to have a Point of View on this topic did you? :) BB

  6. Douglas, in our opinion, this bill was rushed through unnecessarily. Even though the Democrats managed to garner the votes to get it through, they should have tried their best to gain more Republican support, if for no other reason than to have more of the American people buy into it, and have other federal elected officials to support and assist them in the implementation.

    The party line vote is very disturbing. Always has been, always will be.

    However, part of our concern has to do with the expression of opinions in society. Sure people have to right to do so, but are the comments "necessary" and do them contribute in a positive manner. One person can say something that is constructive in the nature, and aid the conversation, and another can have the exact same view but say it in a manner which serves a more destructive purpose. That's prudence.

    Most of our federal elected officials are very sharp people, and many of them are wordsmiths and know the capabilities of language. They know what they're doing. There is a way to disagree and still accomplish one's goals.

    It's no different than most conversations in life. When someone is yelling and screaming at you, and attacking you, one has a tendency to become defensive and not hear what the screamer has to say. That's just plain common sense.

    Why is there all of this emotional diarrhea out there? If you are going to contribute something as an elected official, why not establish a tone where the opposition is receptive to your message.

    There is another issue. The opponents still have their constituents whose interests they continue to represent. If I knew that the grocery wagon had been pushed, and was running down the hill without brakes, instead of continuing to complain about
    the type of brake pads which should have been used, I would prefer to figure out how the goods remaining on the wagon might best be saved to assist my constituents.

  7. Coop: I think you hit the nail on the head in so simply stating that it hasn't worked out well for the average citizen. That's why we strongly support an effort next time around to vote all of the incumbents out. That's a simple way to send a powerful message.

  8. Welcome back Brenda. We're not really concerned about your ability to research, determine the fact, and arrive an a reasoned opinion. And no, we did not expect you to be a wallflower or church mouse. As we've often said, we do not care where people come out, as long as they have gone through a reasoned process.

    Although there are issues with the voters, the only real thing that we can do with them is to "educate" not "dictate" them.

    The reason why we chose the phrase, "point of view," is that there are many of us who, based on our past experiences and in the interest of efficiency, make assumptions about where someone is going and their underlying motives, before we even entertain their thoughts, and thus we don't hear them.

    Michael Savage, the syndicated radio talk show host is someone to whom I listen regularly. Quite frequently, a caller will call in and agree with him on something, and Michael attacks and demeans the caller as if the caller had said something contradictory.

    Additionally, our real concerns is with our elected officials. As Jeffrey Sachs often says, we ought to be able to think ourselves out of most any problem. However, when we focus too much on our personal philosophy and not on getting the job done, it becomes problematic.

    Here's another thing. If the concern at issue were a moral one, like abortion or stem cell research, we can understand someone sticking to their guns. However, it is just a difference in approach, we can see why more of a consensus can't be generated.

    Any business owner who has ever had partners will tell you that there are many situations where a decision has to be made about how to do X, or Y, which could dramatically affect survival of the business, and there is an extensive, heated discussion about what should be done. However, at the end of the day, there is generally a consensus and the partners move on to make it had best they can.

  9. I am fairly negative about our future, as we are nearing the end of the greatest era of individual freedom and opportunity any country has ever experienced. This is why so many are polarized in the current political context. Most are on the side of government providing and protecting all our needs compared to those who believe the constitution authors held limited government and individual freedom and responsibility as the most important principle for the republic.

    Fortunately, I believe our generation has benefited the most from the last 30 years of freedom and prosperity. This advantage I believe our children will not experience. I see expanding government control of all areas of our lives, taxes on everything we do or now have the freedom to do and elimination of many personal freedoms. Jefferson said it best: "A government able to provide all your needs is a government strong enough to take all you have".

    One side cried over the intrusions of the Patriot Act yet has no problem with laws to silence opposition speech. They see no problem in Government bail outs and control of corporations. Yet don't see the problem with elimination of secret ballots.

    It is a sad day in our history when we have placed all our hopes and dreams in the hands of bureaucrats and lawyers.

    Get ready folks, we will either experience the next depression (20 plus percent unemployment) or soviet style managed economy. I'm not excited about either.

    Rationally, discuss this!

  10. Log, I see we agree on much here. I had a philosophy at work when a crisis hit that was essentially: Commit to a decision even if it is wrong. In my situation, however, the impact on the public was generally minor, the guidelines fairly clear, and the results relatively immediate. This allowed for a swift correct if the decision was wrong. Economic policy is much more complex, as are the crises, and the results of decisions/actions taken are not only not immediate, they can sometimes take a decade to emerge. I stand by the adage of "act in haste, repent at leisure" as a guideline for almost any governmental action short of national defense in the face of attack.

    Coop, I hope you are wrong. Seriously. I don't think I will be heavily impacted since I am in a stable position economically. I suspect I can weather a drawn out downturn fairly well.

    Looking back on the US's early history you might find a much more polarized electorate, though the desired or projected outcomes were much different. Certainly the country was never more polarized than in the first 60 years of the 19th century.

  11. If one feels that nothing will change, that there is nothing that they can do to improve a situation, and nothing will be advanced by any act that they undertake, then common sense dictates that they not put any energy into it. It is a waste of time. Unproductive and inefficient. Why even bother?

  12. Log, reminds me of the joke... One man turns to the other and says, "Do you think the two greatest threats to this country are ignorance and apathy?"

    And the other man replies, "I don't know and I don't care."

    My personal opinion is that a country can change systems of government if only 10% wish to make it so.

  13. Coop: We have a somewhat different view of what led us to this point, and what will happen in the short and long term. However, the end result is the same.

    We believe that you correctly identified some of the contributing factors. Here are some others ripe for consideration. Pls excuse the rambling nature of the discussion. We’re rushed.

    1. A book discussion just aired on CSpan2 Bk TV, about a book entitled, “Life without Lawyers." The author argues that we have too many laws. Through litigation, we essentially started internal fighting, which added nothing to the economy, but made the lives of businesses more difficult and complicated. Litigation just absorbs, and just shifts money around; it never creates anything, and not in an exponential fashion. We also believe that we got away from simplicity in terms of the rules to follow in society. When you have to consult an attorney or accountant before you take an act, something is very wrong.

    2. Making money off of a transaction is illusory or “funny” money. Additionally, a service economy has a limited lifetime. You can only last as long as people need services, and are willing to pay your price point. We stopped making things.

    3. We willingly shared our technology and processes with others who did not have our interests as paramount. It took us years of R & D and hard work to develop technologies, only to hand them over to others over a period of a few short years.

    4. We believe that we somehow got away from majority rule. Responding to the issues of every imaginable minority does not advance the interests of the whole. It’s sorta like arguing with your wife every day about what you are going to eat for dinner. Doing what the majority wants makes for clarity and simplicity of rules.

    5. We also believe that we as citizens got lazy. We started pursuing all sorts of creature comforts which were not necessary. Vacations. Reduced hours at work. Luxury this and that. It perverts the whole work ethic. There is always going to be a potential competitor out there willing to work harder, faster, and better than you. That requires you to be on your toes, and each day meet the competition. You can not rest. Rest is a cancer.

    6. Marriage for love is a relatively new concept. Prior to that, marriages were arranged for pragmatic and business reasons. When men and women pair up because of lust, infatuation, and sex, the union is not particularly productive or efficient. Relationships in this country reflect the ultimate culmination of not being focused on the contribution the team makes to society. It’s self indulgent. (Look at the other countries which were once great powers, and where they are today. Just heard an author say on C-Span2 Bk TV that the Europeans have given up the fight, and are exhausted, and that they “gave up” their empires. So now they’re lovers.) Imagine all of that wasted time which could have been devoted to more productive pursuits. Get together for pragmatic reasons, and the sex, respect, and love will probably follow on the back end.

    7. We as a country have stopped trying to be competitive. We're not willing to sacrifice "our quality of life." That's the bottom line. He who is willing to sacrifice most will probably beat you out every time. We're no longer hungry.

    The bottom line is that we were inattentive. We saw all of this happening 30 – 50 years ago. It’s just that we were reaping the benefits of our behavior, and we kept on partying.

    Now, that being said, it DOES NOT MEAN that those things we mentioned are bad or negative things. However, they are choices and trade-offs. You cannot reduce hours, and expect to make the same or more money, as a general rule. You can’t lay off your most valuable people and continue to make good products for very long.

    We as a society is one which wanted its cake and to eat it too. You have to make a choice. We can’t have it both ways.

    We suspect that we will rally for perhaps a decade or two because we have the knowledge and the resources. However, at some point down the road, our society will want to return to leisure time, less work, more pleasure, and by that time, the really hungry societies of the world will have caught up with us in terms of knowledge and resources, and they'll be more motivated.

    Every dog has it day. A nation can not stay on top indefinitely. Our suspicion is that what really upsets people is that our being on top did not have to end so quickly, during our lifetime, and that our prosperity could have been prolonged. However, at some point, there is the downfall of all great powers.

  14. Douglas: Your mention of your relatively stable economic situation also reminded me of another factor contributing to our downfall as a society. Nothing personal, but an expectation of ceasing work and retiring or enjoying life significant affects the economy, along with the receipt of payments. In the old days, you worked until you died, and you were very motivated to work. When a substantial segment of your society is no longer part of the engine in terms of generating things, then it is all downhill after that.

    We know people who have been retired for 30 years, and collect checks. It is only so long you can do that. All of those wasted years of productivity. Not saying it is wrong, just saying that it has consequences.

  15. We all have a point of view. No rational adult walks about like a tabula rasa. The question is can one see past that to appreciate another point of view and more importantly do we change as we learn and become better informed. I would hope so.
    "How did the discussion of where we are headed as a nation become so acrimonious?"
    I suppose the answer to that is not so simple. For one thing the extremes of both major parties seemed to have maneuvered themselves into places where they are capable of pressing the emotional buttons of those in their respective parties. For another a great many people are indeed too lazy to form opinions from serious research and genuine dialog. It is almost as if we are hearing characters out of an Ayn Rand novel ramble on with 40 page humorless monologues.
    1.Litigation has certainly gotten out of hand but it is often the only way to obtain justice. Frivolous litigation needs to be more clearly defined before you can attempt to reduce the frequency of such actions.
    2.A service economy has tremendous limitations. Still, you can't outsource the funeral director or the beautician or the plumber. We do need to make things. The Germans won't pay their workers as low a wage as they could if they outsourced to India but you don't see them manufacturing Mercedes Benz in India. When you can't make it cheaper you darn well need to make it better.
    3.To this I can only add "can you see me rending my garments and pulling my hair?"
    4.I'm less certain about this. In fact I might go so far as to say we not only have majority rule, we very nearly have mob rule. Bread and Circuses ladies and gentleman.
    5. Newsflash. American workers are not lazy. They have longer hours and less vacation time than any of their European counterparts and that has been the case for a very long time. I have European friends who were gobsmacked when they found out how little time we have for family and recreation. We don't need to work harder, we need to work SMARTER. This is the 21st century. Time to build a better mousetrap.
    6. This is one that you will have a tough time selling even though some Brainiac-type TV executive has just cooked up a reality TV show about arranged marriages. I have the same feeling about divorce as I do about abortion. We have made both of these things far too commonplace, with no social stigma, and little if any consequences. I think most people who chime in around here are fans of responsibility and consequences for actions. Marrying for pragmatic reasons alone made for some dismally unhappy couples and children. Have you ever even spent a bit of time dating someone for whom you did not particularly care due to social pressure? If you ever have you can imagine how horrible it would be to marry that person.
    7.Tell that to anyone of the millions of people who have started up their own businesses in the last 30 years. If a worker feels he or she has a vested interest in the company they will give it their all. If they are made to feel as if they are as disposable as used tissue paper...not so much. Even so, some will shoulder on because they were raised with a work ethic that will not allow them to slack though they are not being rewarded by doing so.

  16. oops that should have read "soldier" on not "shoulder" on though perhaps keeping the proverbial shoulder to the grindstone might have also applied.

  17. Log, we retirees have a purpose. We consume. We buy cars, we buy gas, we patronize restaurants, we shop for gifts for our grandchildren, we travel and support the hotel and entertainment industries. Someone has to. Without retirees, golf courses all over this county would have to convert to farmland and the remaining ones would only be affordable by the filthy rich. We help keep prices down by whining about the high cost of everything. We support thousands of bureaucrats who work in Medicare and Social Security.

    And we do all this without putting one illegal immigrant out of work.

  18. Douglas: You are correct. Retirees do consume. But so do the homeless, illegal aliens, those in nursing homes, paralyzed individuals, and spouses who stay at home and do not work. People who work drive the economy and produce things, not just consume. Government lives off the back of business.

    North Carolina has turned into a consumer driven, not business driven, economy. We have lots of empty nesters, whose kids are off to college, moving down here to sem-retire and buy a lower priced home. It is now 3rd behind Florida and Arizona as a retirement destination. They may engage in part-time work periodically to relieve the boredom, or bring a few bucks in.

    The streets are filled with fast food restaurants, and all sorts of retail establishments. They may provide some low wage jobs for the less educated but you can not make a real living in that type of service position. Additionally, people need to have jobs to acquire income, or have an income flow from some source, to use services. When the income pipeline is cut off, the services will suffice. They're already suffering from a lack of available credit.

    Our biggest issue in the US, as is the case with Western Europe, is lack of babies. We are getting too old as societies to support the same "standard of living" for the future. There is a shortage of prospective labor moving forward. The pipeline is about to go dry. Additionally, illegal immigration has slowed dramatically in recent months since it does not make sense as much economically as it previously did.

    We can not keep up the luxury of our "standard of living" going forward, unless there is an explosion of new, innovative industries producing things, discoveries, and and inventions, which people want to pay for.

    Imagine that you had a football dynasty at the top of the NFL, and for years, the influx of new players kept you on top. Then imagine that the influx began to slow and then to a trickle, and your old players started retiring. Then imagine that some vacanies appeared, particularly at skilled positions, and you had not one to fill them. Worse yet, no youngster in high school that might ultimately fill the pipeline. You, as team owner, would ultimately lose your status and position.

  19. Can't I be facetious without getting a lecture?

    We do produce less as a nation. However, we do still produce. It is not quite as bad as it seems. We do need consumers who do not take up jobs, because when producers consume and over burden their credit lies we end up with a credit meltdown (such as are experiencing now).

    I think we are going through a reset cycle of the economy. For the last couple of decades, we have been a heavily consuming economy which has run up personal debt well beyond the sustainable level. This is fine until our fixed assets (such as houses) start losing value. 40 years ago, the average consumer budgeted. Credit became easy and those budgets have begun to look a lot like deficit spending.

    I think the economy is shrinking, worldwide. In the long term, this could be a good thing. In the short term, it will be painful.

    I agree with you that we have a problem with population growth. That's what immigration is supposed to compensate for. In fact, immigration reacts better than population growth for reacting to expanding and shrinking economies. As our economy contracts, as it is now, so has immigration. If we had filled those jobs with our own population, the workers would have nowhere to go when the jobs disappeared.

  20. Wow! Log. This is the best post yet. LOL LOL You started out asking if everyone has a "point of view" and then you sort of ramble and brought up a lot of topics that were related if one stretched the point. So okay I went to the "point of view" question and thought I gave a reasonable answer. For which you put me down, "We're not really concerned about your ability to research, determine the fact, and arrive an a reasoned opinion" LOL what wall did that come off of? LOL I didn't say anything about doing research.

    Somewhere after this everyone seemed to get going on the economy and our lousy elected officials and not talking to each other or listening to each other. But dang it everybody had a "point of view"!

    Log made a number of great comments each of which could be discussions in themselves. June, God Bless her tried to comment on Log's List of social issues. Did very well too as June usually does.

    Log then made a remark about retirees being rather useless (I agree) and Douglas just tried to inject a bit of humor. (Doug you beat me to it!) Log gave him a lecture.

    I have so much enjoyed this three ring circus. Does anyone know who twisted Log's tail to get him going?
    If anyone figures it out please do it again. Okay? BB :)

  21. Brenda, we're loving it! The operative phrase in the first paragraph was "...tired of people taking a rigid stand...." When one takes a rigid stand, one runs the risked of being boxed in the corner, or led around.

    This was fun, wasn't it? One of our friends, stever, contends that we often engage in mental masturbation. We just bristle at rigidity in one's thought process. All of us should be able to recognize the merits of the positions of others occasionally, or we lose credibility.
    No line of thinking has such an abundance of internal consistency that it is applicable to all situations, and all arguments, and at all times.

    Our tag line is: There are more than 2 or 3 ways to look at any issue; there are at least 27.

    Even one of the best, the late William F. Buckley, constantly revisited his views, and sometimes modified them. That's all we ask. Be open to looking at things differently.

    Our cyber-friend Vikki suggests that when we develop a larger audience, the debate will be self-generated without much intervention on our part. Your analogy to a three ring circus is very apropos at this point in our development. This is what we hope to recreate on college campuses all over the globe.

  22. P.S. Brenda: You appear to be having fun, and that's a good thing.

  23. As we type this, Matt Miller, a columnist for Fortune Magazine, is appearing on a book discussion on C-Span2 Book TV about his book, "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity."

  24. Brenda, we're loving it! The operative phrase in the first paragraph was "...tired of people taking a rigid stand...." When one takes a rigid stand, one runs the risked of being boxed in the corner, or led around.

    This was fun, wasn't it? One of our friends, stever, contends that we often engage in mental masturbation. We just bristle at rigidity in one's thought process. All of us should be able to recognize the merits of the positions of others occasionally, or we lose credibility.
    No line of thinking has such an abundance of internal consistency that it is applicable to all situations, and all arguments, and at all times.

    Our tag line is: There are more than 2 or 3 ways to look at any issue; there are at least 27.

    Even one of the best, the late William F. Buckley, constantly revisited his views, and sometimes modified them. That's all we ask. Be open to looking at things differently.

    Our cyber-friend Vikki suggests that when we develop a larger audience, the debate will be self-generated without much intervention on our part. Your analogy to a three ring circus is very apropos at this point in our development. This is what we hope to recreate on college campuses all over the globe.


"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

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