Two ways of saying the same thing

Normally, the holidays bring some family discussion on politics.  This weekend, those discussions were limited.  The following is the extent of the political discussion I had this weekend:

Family member:  Have you heard about what Howard Schulz [Starbucks founder] is doing about politics?

Me:  A little.  I don’t know much, but to me, it sounds like Schulz is saying “we just need to all get along and do the stuff I (or my side) want to do.”

Family member:  No, that’s not it at all.  He, and others like Ariana Huffington, want to end the gridlock in government so that government can get some things done.

Me:  Do you realize you said exactly what I said, just differently?  When people say they want to end the gridlock, they mean they want to do the stuff that they think should be done, but not what the other side wants to do.

Family member:  I don’t think that’s true.  I want to do the stuff that my side wants to do and the stuff that your side wants to do.

Me:  Really?  Name one thing that my side wants to do that you support?

Family member:  Well, I can’t right now.

Me:  Then what you said is just a platitude.  It sounds good, but means nothing.  It’s tough to do what one side wants to do — which ends up growing government — and what the other side wants to  do — shrinking government — at the same time.  That’s why there’s gridlock.

Me again (summoning Walter Williams): Here’s the thing.  We need to get more of our decisions out of politics.  You and I don’t have to fight over which jeans we should wear because we each get to make the choice that’s right for us.  I don’t get to force you to wear the jeans that I like.  But, if ‘we’ said as society that we all have to wear jeans, we’d fight over which jeans to wear and some group of people would end up forcing their preferences on everyone else.

I think Schulz has a brilliant business mind.  I encouraged my family member to read his book Pour Your Heart Into It.  It holds a lot of good lessons for starting, growing and running a business.

I also encouraged my family member to look into what other business leaders have to say about politics, like John Mackey, CEO of Whole Food Markets.

13 thoughts on “Two ways of saying the same thing

  1. My family political discussion didn’t go so well. A family member referenced a pithy tweet saying Romney wants to bomb the country he’s sending our jobs to. I said that I don’t get it and tried to inquire if he had said something in the debate about bombing china or something, which resulted in a regression of the conversation to eventually saying that I just don’t get it and she would not read more tweets since I have no sense of humor.

    It seems unfortunate (and hurts my feelings) to think that trying to start a discussion just ends up with me being considered narrow-minded, easily offended and having no sense of humor.

    I just ended up saying that I don’t see the humor in jokes that are in essence saying “this is something dumb that a dumb republican would say because republicans are just duuuuumb! Hurrrrr”

  2. It’s also annoying that I don’t even identify myself as a republican! It doesn’t “offend” me, I just think its dumb and petty!

    • Nice comments. That helps me realize that my political discussions have improved over the years. I remember having similar types of discussions. I think my discussions have improved because I’ve improved at spotting and dispassionately pointing out fallacies and I’ve educated my counterparts along the way.

      Also, I rarely defend individual politicians. It’s not worth the discussion. But, if someone says something like your relative did about about Romney (which I consider personal attack, straw man and red herring fallacies), I respond, “That sounds terrible, but I like to do my homework. Would you mind e-mailing me a link to that so I can see it?”

      That usually ends that discussion. If they do try to continue it, just repeat, “I’d love to see the link to that,” and move on.

      Most of the time they’ve misread a statement or relied on the twisted interpretation of someone else and took it as gospel. If they follow through on finding the link for you, they usually find out on their own that they misunderstood it and they learn that they should be more careful.

      Good luck. See my “Discussion Tips” tab for more advice and thanks for the comment.

      • Yea, I don’t really like to defend individuals either since I usually just end up disappointed in them anyway. The problem is that my relative isn’t interested in discussion, but in pithy humor. The joke’s not meant to be thought about with any depth, but just designed to laugh at and move on. Sometimes the pithiness is funny and clever, and sometimes it’s just lame. What irks me is that any question on my part equates to offense.

        How do I communicate that I’m not the one being touchy about it?

        • The only way I can think of to broach it again is to simply say, “You know, you’re right. I was way too sensitive about that Romney joke. You got me. Anyway, it was good seeing you last weekend. Take care.”

          I’d recommend better preparing yourself for future attempts. Realize that they don’t want to discuss anything and be prepared give an apathetic response.

          When I encounter folks like that, I’ve learned to say something like: “Yes. I’m sure that’s right [with my best, I-could-give-a-crap tone]. Anyway, I’m really glad to see you. How’s work going?”

          Since I started doing that, my life has been better. From that response, they seem to realize that a) I don’t think it’s funny and b) I don’t care enough about their opinion on the matter to get worked up about it. And they seem to drop it.

  3. Nice dialogue. Makes me think of the story of the the blind men and the elephant. You can’t resolve gridlock by trying to impose your opinions onto somebody else. The only way the blind men would have been able to figure out what it was that they were touching was if they had combined all their limited perspectives together.

    The elephant in this example represents the scope of government. If we want to determine the actual scope of government then we would have to combine our perspectives. We could accomplish this simply by allowing taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes.

    Buddha and Hayek were saying pretty much the same thing…we all have some information but nobody has all the information.

    • Again with the allocate their own taxes! You’re cracking me up.

      Here’s a wrench I’ll throw in. I imagine most Democrats and Republicans wouldn’t bother allocating their own tax dollars. I’m guessing that many of them would be willing to elect leaders to allocate for them.

      • Do the two have to be mutually exclusive? Why not just allow each and every taxpayer to decide for themselves whether they directly or indirectly allocate their taxes? That’s how I’ve always imagined it.

        But if a Democrat did not choose to directly allocate their taxes…then it would be kind of hard for them to complain that the DOD was receiving too much money. And if a Republican did not choose to directly allocate their taxes…then it would be kind of hard for them to complain about the cost of government entitlement programs.

        Think about the non-profit sector…when was the last time you heard about a donor to PETA complaining about the how much money the NRA was receiving? How would complaining about how much money another non-profit is receiving help PETA receive more money?

        I imagine that just like we have a donor division of labor in the non-profit sector we’d have a taxpayer division of labor in the public sector.

        Wrenches are more than welcome…it cracks me up when people try and defend a system that has no rational or logical basis 😀

        • Nice response.

          Of course, some people won’t be happy with just allocating their own tax dollars. They’ll say it’s just a pittance compared to the wealthy. So, most of government will be at the whim of the wealthy unless we somehow collectively allocate the wealthy’s taxes for them.

        • RE: Seth
          Great point. It always seems that with liberals and gov’t spending, the crux of the issue isn’t what they want to spend THEIR money on, it’s what they want to spend OTHER PEOPLE’S money on! This would never address that, so it would never fly with the liberals.

  4. Pingback: Holiday Political Discussions | Our Dinner Table

  5. Seth, you know your family political discussions like the back of your hand…but pragmatarianism throws a wrench into the standard liberal vs conservative/libertarian discussions. The wrench it throws into the discussion is political tolerance. How can you “win” a political argument against somebody that respects, recognizes…or at least tolerates your values?

    Here are some of my discussions for you to juxtapose with your discussions…

    Exhibit A – Linda Beale –

    Exhibit B – Buckster – (several exchanges all the way until end of the thread)

    Exhibit C – Keridan –

    Exhibit D – Hicup –

    Exhibit E – Larry –

    They all made the argument that the government would be at the whim of the wealthy…but all their arguments completely disintegrated when I asked them to substantiate their hasty generalizations regarding the values of the wealthy. You can’t generalize all the life experiences and values of the wealthy any more than you can generalize all the life experiences and values of the poor.

  6. Loved this post, Seth, both for your retelling of the conversation and for the way it nicely summarizes all of the “too much gridlock” talk these days. Of course, as George Will (I believe) is fond of saying, “gridlock is a feature, not a bug, of the American political system.” Imagine all of the nonsense that could sail through Congress without those annoying dissenters!

    As it happens, I had just sent in a letter-to-the-editor to a local Seoul newspaper on much the same theme a few days before reading your post. Great minds, etc, eh?


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