Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Problem With Reason

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case out of Washington D.C., where a long-standing law prohibiting honest citizens from owning and keeping handguns for their self-defense and the defense of their families is being challenged as a violation of 2nd Amendment rights. It would seem, at first, to be a clear division of positions – one either contends that the 2nd Amendment was written regarding individuals, or it was not. But, a longer inspection makes things a bit sticker. For Liberals, the fact that the Bill Of Rights was clearly written to protect the people from a repressive government makes it hard to claim that they should be denied the right to protect themselves from criminals. But for Republicans, the notion that an individual has the right to bear arms runs into trouble as soon as you ask how far that right extends; taken to extremes an insurrectionist collecting an armory of weapons could claim he was protected by the Constitution. One is forced to depend on Reason, no matter where one’s ideals and emotions originally direct their opinion.

The problem with that Reason, however, is that people tend to ignore it when it won’t say or do what they demand of it. An obvious example is the pervasive paranoia on the Left, which increasingly blames things on President George W. Bush, no matter how absurd the charge, but the Republicans have their own share of myopia on that count, as the 2006 mid-term elections bear out. America was hardly thrilled with the Democrats, yet the GOP managed to convince the voters that they should change the party in power. As a result, the nation is thoroughly disgusted with Congress, yet has given no clear signal who should lead; the Anarchists must see this as their golden opportunity. Certainly the focus of political ads for the Presidential campaigns has been largely stylistic, with little to no substance for anyone to use to decide who should get their vote. The serious voter must be close to despair.

The United States is a country truly unique in the world. And yet, American politics is no more lucid and civil than many other places. To run for President requires a campaign fund larger than the value of some corporations, it depends on a serial contest in multiple venues, where candidates must hone an image sufficiently distinct to stand out, but sufficiently common to remain appealing as a member of the established community. It’s a lot like any large demographic, a majority of middle-road performance, with a few noteworthy for their failures or success. The American condition is different, because when it works, the system produces leaders who listen to the people, respond to their needs, and whose vision advances the country, more often and with better foresight than any other nation on the planet. But the way we get there is far from reasonable at times. It is chock full of emotion and symbolism, of sometimes trite, even banal displays of the obvious. The most reasonable candidate is often the first rejected.

American business is still the template for the world in many ways; organization, marketing, and distribution are obvious arenas where U.S. companies excel. Yet the United States is also home to some of the most bone-headed economic decisions ever made by a non-Communist/Socialist government. American CEOs run the range from some of the most insightful and innovative leaders in the world, to some of the most insipid and trollish boors on the planet. Reason gets a migraine just trying to explain why that is so.

The American Education system is regular derided for its poor quality, in part due to a determined emphasis to place socially “conscious” issues on equal footing with practical developmental tools, or even superior. Yet the lion’s share of innovative products, medical breakthroughs, and applicable discoveries continues to go to the United States. Apparently, geniuses somehow understand the limitations of the public education system and find alternative avenues for self-education and intellectual growth. Yet again, Reason is baffled by the results.

Reason is an essential quality of a complete adult, yet it constantly finds itself trumped in decisions of the moment.