“Delight in Losing Arguments”

In his book The Big Questions, Steven Landsburg offers valuable advice (p. 235):

Argue passionately for your beliefs; listen intently to your adversaries, and root for yourself to lose.  When you lose, you’ve learned something.

Rooting for yourself to lose runs counter to your instincts.  I consider it a sign of wisdom.

If you find yourself saying things like, “I know I’m right” or “I just know that’s the way it works because I feel it,” stop and ask yourself what’s so bad if it happens that you’re wrong?  Consider that you might be wrong.

When I did that, I started learning.

Yes. I’m human and not always wise.  I occasionally get caught up in being right.  But, it’s awfully disarming to a volatile discussion to say, “You know what.  I could be wrong.  Help me see what I’m missing.

Remember ALL part of Landsburg’s advice:

  1. Argue passionately.
  2. Listen intently (which we forget to do).
  3. Learn.

Even if you don’t learn that you are wrong, you may learn why it is that you are not agreeing and find a more productive way of reaching agreement.


Central Planning

Lack of central planning isn’t the same as lack of planning.  I thought I had this original thought recently.  Then I opened Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society to the pages I had marked for quoting on this blog and this was the first one I came to (p. 53):

Despite the often expressed dichotomy between chaos and planning, what is called “planning” is the forcible suppression of millions of people’s plans by a government-imposed plan.  What is considered to be chaos are systemic interactions whose nature, logic and consequences are seldom examined by those who simply assume that “planning” by surrogate decision-makers must be better.

It turns out, I had read it some weeks back and it must have just registered in my long-term memory.

Sowell’s point works well with this insight from Steven Landsburg, that believers in central planning have been led Continue reading

Playground Logic

I’m enjoying reading Steven Landsburg’s book, The Big Questions.  I like his use of playground logic.   The following is from Chapter 20, The Economist on the Playground, where he discusses some of our ideas about fairness.

1. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Whenever a politician proposes to make the tax code more progressive, we hear rhetoric about how the rich have too much, the poor have too little, it’s only fair to spread the wealth more equally, and so forth.  To me, the interesting thing about that rhetoric is that nobody believes it.  Of this I am certain, because in all the years I took my daughter to the playground, I never once heard another parent tell a child that if some kids have more toys than you do, that makes it okay to take some of them away.

I’d add that if you attempted to impose this rule on the playground to the very people who support a progressive tax code, you could meet with a violent response.  But, that’s pure speculation.  They may calm down after you explain that you are simply doing what’s intended in society through a progressive tax code.

Here’s another one:

2. Live with your choices. I once took two children to dinner.  Each had a choice: ice cream now or bubble gum later.  Alix chose the ice cream; Cayley chose the bubble gum.

Continue reading