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November 1, 2013

The Price of Intellectual Dishonesty

“The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves.” —Plato

Getting angry does no good. Getting politically effective does.

As Plato noted, if we are indifferent to our dead-in-the-water political system and the intellectual dishonesty that breeds within it, we have only ourselves to blame. 

From statehouses to city halls, on both sides of the aisle, political discourse today no longer seeks to clarify issues, constructively explore policies or debate any real pros and cons of our nation’s future. Instead, it has degenerated almost exclusively into knee-jerk slogans, headline-grabbing inaccuracies and meaningless arguments. I have opined about this before. Yet the degrading, vituperative quality of political discourse only worsens. 

And yes, it makes me angry. It should make you angry too. Now is not the time for our political leaders to be reinforcing the stagnation that prevents us from solving the serious problems that keep this country from what should be a bright, prosperous and inspiring future.

I cannot predict what will or will not have happened in Syria by the time this issue is published. But I can say that the astonishingly superficial arguments for and against U.S. military action in that country show no rigorously thoughtful effort from the president or his opponents to craft a coherent policy concerning Syria, let alone the Middle East. 

Likewise, consider the dishonesty directed at Obamacare, which was developed amid denial from the left that it had any real tax implications, and alarming claims from the right that it would usher in an era of “death panels” and socialism. Now we have a profoundly imperfect national health-care law that may or may not live up to its name. Does anyone remember this law is called the Affordable Care Act?

Lost in all this misrepresentation was any substantive discussion of our enormous health-care gaps and wildly irrational costs. (See Data Points.) We are a nation that can rightfully claim not the best health-care system in the world, but the most expensive. Obamacare will not address this fundamental—some would say shameful—situation. The nation and its sick are the worse for that. 

Now we watch in frustration as politicians waste our time and money on knowingly fanciful talk about repealing or defunding the Affordable Care Act. This will not happen, and they are fully aware of that political reality. 

Yelling and shouting, posturing and inventing lies about government and how to run it are what we get instead of
serious discussion about keeping the economy moving, supporting manufacturing, encouraging tax reform and getting our fiscal house in order. For that, we need a sense of fairness, the ability to collaborate and the willingness to compromise. 

We can change this. That is why we at MSCI relentlessly advocate effective political action. We can refuse to work with and on behalf of those who insult us with their behavior. We can embrace those who work conscientiously and constructively. We can step up and step out. We must if the political climate in this country is to change for the better. Otherwise, we simply reflect the condemnation that Plato leveled at the indifferent and inactive more than 2,000 years ago.