The problem with the political extremists on the left and right could be described, crudely, is that each side doesn’t believe their excrement is odoriferous. What do I mean by that? For example, the right-wing business types won’t accept the fact that there are some businesses that will do anything to make a profit, no matter who gets hurt. For them, all business is good and can do no wrong. Oh, in theory, they’ll admit unethical behavior exists, but I don’t see many, if any, calling out their wrong-doing peers for excessive greed or unethical behavior. On the left, in similar fashion, there is no such thing as a minority, no matter what that person has done, who can’t be saved by the proper incentives, government programs, therapy or what have you. For gun nuts, everyone should have the right to a gun. For libertarian extremists, any government restriction on behavior or action is bad. I could spend hundreds of words describing extremists of all sorts who deeply, truly, and honestly believe that, if everyone followed their beliefs to the extreme, there would be fewer problems in society, and everyone would be better off, and each one of them can easily point out why any opposition to their views is wrong.

Unfortunately, people aren’t ideals, and almost no one lives up even to their own ideals. There have always been business people who abuse trust, workers, clients, and customers. There always will be. There have always been lazy bums that no amount of coaxing, schooling, therapy or what have you will ever turn into industrious citizens. There are vicious criminals who’ve come from the “best” of backgrounds. That is why societies that work have laws to put restrictions on the worst of those who cannot be trusted to act honestly and ethically.

And for all the pressure for all young people to have a college education, the plain fact is that a significant fraction of young people don’t belong in college and never will. That’s not to say that many of them can’t pursue remunerative careers or fields, because they can, and many of them, if given the right opportunities, may well make more money and be much happier than if they went to college – but this side is never raised by the “no child left behind” or “college for everyone” extremists.

Problems arise, also, when certain groups of people don’t believe that “their group” contains unethical or criminal elements. The financial meltdown of 2008 was essentially caused by two groups of people who had no restrictions on them – financiers out to make a buck at any cost and people either too crooked, too uneducated, or too deluded to pay those mortgages. Both were aided and abetted by Congress and various administrations, which passed laws and regulations mandating, effectively, that almost anyone could take out a loan to buy or to refinance a home, and in fact, made it difficult if not impossible for many lenders to refuse to make loans.

Yet, I’ve seen each side claim that the other was totally responsible, saying, in effect, my shit doesn’t stink, but yours does.

This attitude, although illustrated in the primary cause of the Great Recession, goes well beyond that. Democrats push cost-ineffective social programs on the basis that everyone can benefit, and Republicans push tax breaks and subsidies on the same grounds. The fact is that some social programs work, and some don’t. The fact is that taxes that are either unrealistically low or prohibitively high don’t work, either. And again, both sides agree in theory, but when it comes down to practice, every social program is sacred to that side, and every tax break sacred to the other side.

But, as a society we’ve gotten to that point where the “leaders” in any field refuse to deal with the beams in their own eyes, while decrying the motes in their opponents’ eyes. Because, after all, pragmatism and cooperation are dirty words to extremists of any stripe… and right now, because of partisan gridlock, the number of extremists in the United States appears to be growing.

4 thoughts on “Extremes”

  1. JakeB says:

    It is a funny coincidence, perhaps, that I am reading _Madness in Solidar_ right now (which, I’ll add, is really good — I appreciate the tension developing from nearly the first page) and reading about the fight over tariffs between Rex Ryen and the High Holders (I can’t resist noting it’s too bad you didn’t call the High Holders the Patriots).

    Does extremism always involve deliberate blindness, or lack of empathy, or can it be driven primarily by ignorance?

  2. D Archerd says:

    To quote Mark Twain, “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

  3. Wine Guy says:

    I’ve heard the malice/stupidity referred to as “Hanlon’s Law” or “Hanlon’s Razor.”

  4. David says:

    Our nation may have already passed the point of no return. The only way a national-level leader can be elected is to side with one extreme or the other. Those who try to find ‘middle-ground’ solutions are not very successful. Our federal government should pass laws that pass a simple litmus test; “Does this action cause the greatest good for the most people?” (The Utilitarian approach to ethics.)
    However, when any group starts shaking armed weapons in the air and saying, “If this doesn’t go the way I want, I’m going to start using this,” we are headed for the destruction of the nation.

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