Thursday, March 3, 2016

When Persuasion Is No Longer Enough, Build Anew

The pen is still mightier than the sword...right? Mmmm, perhaps not so much as it would seem. Indeed, this phrase originated when new institutional capacity was expanding the definitions of economic equilibrium. Frontiers everywhere! Perhaps persuasion works best, when people are utilizing institutional structures which leave room for words to become action. On the other hand, when equilibrium potential has been explored and then some, it becomes more difficult for voices of reason and logic to break through the muck.

This is a historical moment when positive actions - those capable of building new structural frontiers - are needed. Even though that would mean stepping on some entitled toes, all around. Thus far, precious little toe stepping has been going on - at least where it counts. Hence the usual Democrat and Republican platitudes, er, harvest "seeds" are mostly falling on rocky ground. Meanwhile, the toes which have been trampled, are people who - in spite of their best efforts - remain unheard. This group continues to grow in spite of it all. Maybe forget about the voices of gentle persuasion for now.

But, but, isn't reason and logic expected to rule the day? A recent cartoon aptly sums up the persuasion dilemma. Long lines of people were waiting in front of a sign labeled "Answers". Meanwhile, most everyone then heads in the direction labeled "simple but wrong". Whereas, the "complex but right" sign encouraged a few lonely souls along the winding path.

Who knows. Might this be a moment of reckoning for more than a few think tanks, which have operated for quite some time on the assumption that if only citizens had access to the "right" information, the right talking points, then all would be well. The wisdom of the pen could provide the only realignments needed, which would supposedly break societies free from their violence, rancor and general backwardness. Funny - the same strategy assumed by formal education in recent centuries, instead of a marketplace which was actually structured for skills capacity utilization and time investment.

Unfortunately, a lot of persuasive dialogue lost its best shot in decades, once purveyors of useful information basked in the extra attention, instead of realizing why so many were actually seeking their input. Just the same, various sides and ideological venues emerged "victorious" in the new (crappy) normal, declaring all around that essentially nothing needed to be changed. Think tanks and media had the ear of numerous citizens who erroneously believed that productive solutions were being actively considered, prior to and well into the aftermath of the Great Recession. Is it any wonder that many who still follow these information outlets, weren't particularly interested in productive reform, to begin with?

For instance, I felt as though in a time warp after reading this article from Brookings, "Explanatory Journalism: A Tool in the War Against Polarization and Dysfunction". Seriously? After Super Tuesday I had to fight the urge to stay in bed and not even bother leaving the house for a week or two. And yet I'm one of the fools who still seek inspiration (go figure) from the bountiful offerings of think tanks and oh so much more. Some no longer bother. Once most of the "victory parties" for reasoned thought were declared, plenty of people made up their minds what (still) worked for them, versus what they could give up on without a bothered conscience. Why bother with conscience if...Ahhh, well.

Consequently, which presidential candidates really benefit from reasoned logic, today? (crickets) More than a decade earlier, in the course of beginning this project, I was already beginning to doubt the ability of words to get things done. It seemed that something more radical than mere words had become necessary: something which people could actually engage in and build upon. Something which would generate new institutional capacity, in order that the logic of free markets might still hold. A marketplace for time value.

More than ever, that appears to be true, now. In a local city park, a memorial to war veterans reads "Everyone gave some." I couldn't help but wonder: how many areas of our lives does this certainty still hold true? It is too easy for governments, special interests, and people of all persuasions to pick winners and losers - too easy for families and neighbors to do the same. But when people and their governments carry this process too far, everyone creates a world in which people are increasingly judged from birth, whether they are capable of any form of contribution, at all.

Judgments. Extreme skill divisions. They both multiply, as the years go on. They build an ever more fragile equilibrium - a world in which more of us become burdens to society, even if only! As more are judged unworthy, the burdens only become heavier for the ones who are expected to carry the load. But it is meaningless to expect the highest skilled to share the bounty from their time value, when a fortune in time value in aggregate is simply thrown to the wind.

Everyone needs a chance to "give some", if civilizations are to prosper and continue. Conservatives know this, even though they may be quick to judge. Progressives know this, even when they are quick to raise the stakes which mean even further exclusion. Enough. It's time to build institutions which are structured for inclusion, instead of attempting to force "someone else's" institution to include. Earlier institutions were built for prosperity by means of specific exclusions. There's nothing wrong with that, but now they need help. It's time to build anew, because persuasion is no longer enough.

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