First coined and posited in 1976, the Trolley Problem has been something of a crossover smash, moving well beyond the halls of philosophy departments and into the cultural mainstream. It became a meme, served as basis for debates on self-driving cars, and even provided the topic and title of a fantastic Good Place episode. But beneath all its popularity is a critical flaw that undermines its usefulness and shows just how troubling its prevalence in our discourse should be.
Recently, Joe Biden declared loan forgiveness one of his first targets as an executive. His plan, while not without its critics, seems sensible enough — forgive up to $10,000 in debt per borrower, relieve some of the load from those who have felt overwhelmed, and maybe even add a little stimulus to a recovery-focused economy. Unfortunately, it adds up to being short-term relief for a long-term crisis, and misses the underlying problems entirely.
Our approach higher education is woefully outdated, forged by inertia and political expediency, and increasingly ill-suited to both the world of today and the world of tomorrow…
Here’s a little thought experiment: take a die-hard MAGA Trumper, and take a staunch self-proclaimed progressive. Put them in a room together (please don’t actually try to do this). Would they even try to have a productive debate? Probably not, and that would be the end of it.
But let’s say they did. Let’s say they tried, hard as they might, to get to the root of their disagreement and find common ground. How deep would they have to go? Would they even feel like they were speaking the same language?
What we see of our political divisions, stark as…
When we last left our heroes, things were not looking good for the political middle. The age of social media has not been kind to moderates, amplifying as it does the very loudest voices in our discourse while drowning the more reasoned ones. For years now, a stark tribalism has permeated ever deeper into our culture, working its way downstream into our electoral politics. The messages of our middle are drowned in the noise, and what we are left with is two sides spewing their bile at one another — and in the middle of a pandemic, no less!
In the midst of a surprising October, on the eve of an American election that has many very, very worried, two questions beg to be asked: how the hell did we get here, and what do we do to get out? If one should find a simple answer to the first question, that the troubles of today are the doing of some nefarious force ,— be it Donald Trump, the mainstream media, Russia, China, or anything else — then one will find a similarly simple answer to the second: expunge the malicious actors, and the problem is solved.
The political compass is a lie.
For all the booming popularity of the quizzes and memes, the accounting of virtues and principles is neither effective nor necessary. The sort of governance that people support — and, perhaps even more importantly, the sort they oppose — boils down to one essential question:
Who don’t you trust?
Do you not trust the government to effectively check the economic power of individuals and free enterprise? Then you might logically conclude that society’s focus should be on ensuring the personal responsibility and character of its members. Do you not trust the members of society…
As the loudest voices on our political spectrum seem to be bringing us ever closer to civil war, some are asking the question — what happened to everyone in the middle? What, oh what, ever became of the great center that was such a force in our politics of yore, that swung elections and got bills passed? Are they still around? Does anyone still believe in that sort of thing anymore?
Towards the end of this piece, I will contend that a strong National Service program, with emphases upon and significant investment into a wide range of non-military activities, can help address and alleviate the vital problems facing our nation today. It is not the most out-there of solutions — support for requiring service of some sort is fairly split, while generally investing in and expanding service programs is seen quite favorably — but it is one largely absent from the current discourse, and wrongfully so. …
The following makes reference to an earlier, similarly titled article that I wrote roughly a year prior. If you have not read that piece, then you are certainly not alone, but it would be swell if you want to check it out. It has neat flowcharts and stuff.
At the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, I held out hope that the unprecedented time of crisis may hold an opportunity to heal our rabid division, that the critical reality might snap us out of our tribal fervor and spur us toward much-needed cooperation.
Well, that was the hope.
Ah, sweet Land of Opportunity. It’s the allure that led the early European settlers to sail over to a strange new world, that spurred our own denizens in the 19th century to trail west into the unknown, and that brought wave upon wave of immigrants to our shores, my own family (arriving from the USSR in the early 80’s) among them. It is economical possibility, but beyond that the feeling of being able to live as one wishes to live, in speak openly and think freely. It is the feeling of controlling one’s own destiny, of believing that your work…
Once a highly unsuccessful Independent Congressional candidate, now a humble man on a quest to bridge divides.