Looking Left and Right: Independent Thinking


[P]eople do not arrive at their political positions by directly consulting their values to form a political position. For example, people rely to a great extent on the position of their political party in forming a position, independent of the content of that position. Also, people’s positions are often driven more by their reactions to what an issue symbolizes, even if this does not reflect a dispassionate analysis of the different political or moral values at stake….[1]

Where members of society disagree about the harmfulness of a particular form of conduct, we instinctively trust those who share our values—and whose judgments are likely to be biased in a particular direction by emotion, dissonance avoidance, and related mechanisms. [2]

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that for the vast majority of citizens already overwhelmed by the demands of their day-to-day lives—personal and professional—carving out time to study the nuances and rationales of today’s important national and cultural policy issues is a luxury few have the time or interest to pursue.

Accordingly, and understandably as well, if input is required or necessary owing to the relevance of one or more issues, the most direct route to offering an opinion is to lean with those whom the individual shares various affinities. The political party of choice is certainly an obvious and primary choice, as are the assessments offered by the related media outlets of choice. Personal acquaintances and members of various groups/organizations who share similar inclinations are likewise high on the list of “I agree with them” options.

In most cases, those shortcuts are both reasonable and of at least some benefit and advantage. But there are those significant issues affecting more than just a few of us when the urge to avoid reflection or contemplation of policy minutiae has only short-term pluses and far worse long-term minuses.

There’s little doubt that devoting the needed time and energy to parsing through the competing chatter can be tedious, especially when there’s no perception that the issue at hand matters in the moment. Those with a vested interest in making sure that the greater public does not invest the effort to educating themselves (and thinking for themselves as well) will seize on whatever options they have to deflect inquiries by whatever means are at hand.

Stirring up the passions of those on matters bearing only marginal relevance to the topic is one such tactic. Cherry-picking an arguably relevant factoid but then spinning it off in a different direction entirely is likewise a preferred method of deflecting attention.

Sometimes, the simplest of inquiries carries the potential for the greatest impact. When efforts are made not to present all sides of an argument but instead focus on irrelevancies sure to press some of the Right buttons, pausing to ask “Who will benefit?” and “Who will not” is as good a place to start as any.

Surprises await both sides to those tactics.

~ My Photo: along the Intercoastal near Ft, Lauderdale, FL – 02.07.13


Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows


* I invite you to enjoy my two new books [here and here], and to view my other   blogs–both at this website [see below] and also at Peak Oil Matters

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Life Will Answer Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name]

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Be the change you want in the world Gandhi

This blog is offered to encourage more enlightened public discourse—by sharing observations about the ideologies which motivate our political, economic, and cultural debates. The simple hope: shedding light on current “strategies” will prompt more of us to realize a different approach is at least worth considering … assuming a better future is worth pursuing. (It is!)

The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything Albert Einstein


[1] Political Orientation and Ideological Inconsistencies: (Dis)comfort with Value Tradeoffs by Clayton R. Critter, Michaela Huber, Arnold K. Ho, Spassena P. Kola [Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009] – April 2009  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11211-009-0096-1
[2] Kahan, Dan M., The Cognitively Illiberal State. Stanford Law Review, Vol. 60, 2007; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 133. Available at SSRN: