Nov 092010

This is Great American Debate-Out

...also know as...

Look, Ma! I solved all the World's Problems with just two hands!
Flogging Brenda's Blog Server

I was inspired by Brenda's words about “hosting a fair fight.”

So I went on CNN Election Central and pulled down what exit polls seem to indicate are Americans' top issues of concern. There are 8 of them, the Economy, the Deficit, Health Care, Illegal Immigration, Education, Energy, Wars and Terrorism.

I am going to post a short blog about each one. Each time I posit what I believe is the real problem. And each time I posit what I believe is the real solution. In 5 there is only one solution, in 2 there are 2 choices, and in one there are 2 choices but one is the favorite. My big bet is, not only am I right, but you and the vast majority of Americans think I'm right, too. So come on, debate me!

I've also posted some guidelines for the debate. I think sometimes the lack of structure in blogs and Facebook is itself what creates so much misunderstanding and anger. And let's face it, in order to agree on several different things, we need some single baseline upon which we all agree. So naturally, let's debate the guidelines, too! :-)

The guidelines boil down to 3 things: Facts, America, and Logistics

Stick to the facts. We need a common baseline. We can't get together if everyone is living in their “own private Idaho.” Be responsible about it. Don't quote some tabloid journalist who quoted the Maharaja from the Land of Outsource.

If we have a space where we need to fill in a possible truth, we can allow for speculation. But we should require a kind of moderate, centrist version of Occam's Razor, namely that the fact we choose is obvious, plausible, and perhaps “vouched for by some 'mainstream' source.” For example, it's possible that some government types recently went on a taxpayer-funded Bacchanal to Shangri-la. What's more plausible though is that they went on a mission of economic diplomacy to a list of Super Power Hopefuls. Our common sense ought choose the latter explanation. And that has a nice effect, because we stop calling each other Prudes and Orgyists, and start debating what our economic policy should be towards those nations.

One of the “facts” we have to stick to is America As She Is. We're not here to be Europhiles, or Pilgrims. There are other venues for that sort of thing.

Most of what America means is laid out for us in our Historical Documents, and in a long history of law and precedent. There's a way to upend that, which is through a Constitutional Amendment. So if we can all agree you have the votes to make that happen, you can go ahead and “change the facts” for the purposes of our debate.

Part of what our documents lay out for us is that we are to be governed by the Will of the People, but that we must protect the Rights of the Minority. 51% doesn't mean you win. It means you have some leverage in the negotiation.

And part of what American means is our cultural heritage. Some of the places we've been, some of the things we've done, maybe they weren't the best choices. But we do need to consider that they shape our consciousness and character, and we need to figure out how that fits in to any solution we create.

For example, we tend to mistrust intellectuals, and color our rhetoric with proverbs. We prefer “common sense” to big theories. In a way, we use our own folksy version of Occam's Razor. I think sometimes Liberals have a hard time communicating good ideas to us because they are unfamiliar with this vernacular.

As another example, we see our Heartland as the Cradle of Our American Values. But Conservatives may not recognize that as a very new phenomenon. That's not how my parents' generation was raised. The great accomplishments of all our states and cities, including the urban and coastal ones, used to be a part of Our Heritage. Something like 80% of us live in urban areas, perhaps 60% on the coast. If we eject these people from our heritage, we will remain forever divided.

Finally, let's keep threads together. Stick to my 8 topics as the main debate. If you want bomb Palookaville back to the Stone Age, do that in the thread about war, not the one about the economy. If you want to debate whether we should have a trade agreement with India, start your own new thread.

And now, start your engines!