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Do you think political bipartisanship is a good thing or is it just an idealogical vacuum.

asked Nov 10 '10 at 23:38

Michael's gravatar image


edited Nov 11 '10 at 07:38

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Ayn Rand actually answered this question herself, though not exactly in this form. "Bipartisanship" is the flip-side of "polarization," about which Ayn Rand wrote an article called "Credibility and Polarization," quoted in the Ayn Rand Lexicon.

An anti-concept is an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding. But in the realm of cognition, nothing is as bad as the approximate . . . .

One of today’s fashionable anti-concepts is “polarization.” Its meaning is not very clear, except that it is something bad—undesirable, socially destructive, evil—something that would split the country into irreconcilable camps and conflicts. It is used mainly in political issues and serves as a kind of “argument from intimidation”: it replaces a discussion of the merits (the truth or falsehood) of a given idea by the menacing accusation that such an idea would “polarize” the country—which is supposed to make one’s opponents retreat, protesting that they didn’t mean it. Mean—what? . . .

It is doubtful—even in the midst of today’s intellectual decadence—that one could get away with declaring explicitly: “Let us abolish all debate on fundamental principles!” (though some men have tried it). If, however, one declares; “Don’t let us polarize,” and suggests a vague image of warring camps ready to fight (with no mention of the fight’s object), one has a chance to silence the mentally weary. The use of “polarization” as a pejorative term means: the suppression of fundamental principles. Such is the pattern of the function of anti-concepts.

(On this topic, see also "A Nation's Unity," which I regard as one of her most brilliant socio-political essays.)

"Polarization" is supposed to replace and obliterate the concept of disagreement on basic principles, but a rational person can't help but wonder: how am I supposed to have truck with someone whose ideas I regard as evil and destructive? "Bipartisanship" is the answer. A claim of evil cannot stand on its own, without some idea of the good — you cannot motivate someone to avoid X, without giving him a Y to pursue in its place. If "polarization" is the ultimate evil to avoid, "bipartisanship" is the ultimate good.

Every anti-concept is also a package-deal: a union of fundamentally disparate units according to a non-essential similarity. "Bipartisanship" links capitulation on principles with legitimate compromise. A "bipartisan" negotiation between a worker who wants a $10-per-hour raise and his boss who wants none, might lead to a $5-per-hour raise. A "bipartisan" negotiation between a woman who doesn't want to be killed and a man who wants to kill her, might lead to the woman's being "only" beaten up. Clearly, these are in fundamentally different categories, yet the concept of "bipartisanship," if applied consistently, would treat them the same.

A proper politician should be willing to work with the other side, wherever possible. But where matters of principle are concerned, "bipartisanship" is a sin, not a virtue.

answered Nov 11 '10 at 10:06

Robert%20Garmong's gravatar image

Robert Garmong ♦

edited Nov 11 '10 at 10:08

Remember the three rules of how principles work: 1)In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.

2)In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

3)When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

(Nov 16 '10 at 14:41) Mary Harsha Mary%20Harsha's gravatar image

I answered this question in a recent episode of my Rationally Selfish Webcast. An audio recording of my response is available as a podcast here: NoodleCast #82: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast. The discussion of this question runs from 40:17 to 44:31.

My Answer, In Brief: Given that neither Democrats nor Republicans respect rights, political bipartisanship will likely only spawn some horrible plan to strip us of our rights. For our short-term survival, we need gridlock. For my full answer, listen to the podcast!

To catch all the Rationally Selfish Podcasts, subscribe to the podcast feeds in iTunes in enhanced M4A format (RSS) or standard MP3 format (RSS). Or better yet, join Greg Perkins and me for the live Rationally Selfish Webcast on Sundays at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET.

answered Jun 15 '11 at 15:52

Diana%20Hsieh's gravatar image

Diana Hsieh ♦

edited Jun 22 '11 at 19:35

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Asked: Nov 10 '10 at 23:38

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Last updated: Jun 22 '11 at 19:35