2/18/2002

 

Columnists Find Common Ground

 

I agree with Thom Strawn. (Oh my gosh! Did I say that?) Several times lately Iíve agreed with what Thom Strawn has written, and since Iím frequently harping on the topic of finding common ground, this seems to be a good chance to show what I mean.

 

(Note: Thom Strawn is a local columnists I have criticized from time to time who is, to put it mildly, conservative.)

 

The first time was shortly after the attacks of 9/11 when both Thom and I expressed concern in our columns about the Bush administration encroaching on freedoms in response to terrorism. In my opinion this is a counter-productive and unnecessary response that simply plays into terrorists hands. Itís not often that people from varied political perspectives not only agree on something, but are moved to make an issue of it. These encroachments have been criticized by politicians, commentators, and others of various political persuasions. When thatís the case, leaders should listen.

 

The other statement of Thomís that I agreed with was that spirituality and government are inseparable. I agree, though I suspect if we got into the details of it we would come to different conclusions about what that means. Neither politics nor economics works without a moral commitment from the participants. Even Adam Smithís ďInvisible HandĒ, where people pursuing their own interests end up helping each other, is predicated on moral people pursuing their own interests. Read Smithís book. He makes that qualification several times. Thatís why ďgreed is goodĒ is a fallacy. Thankfully we live in a country where no one group is allowed to dictate its religion to others. Thatís a kind of moral value in itself.

 

I also agreed with Thomís article that argued that government and economic policies favor the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. This is, of course, always true on balance. The disagreement usually comes between those who say some people are just whining, and jealous of what others have earned, versus those who feel itís unconscionable that some people have so little in such a rich country. I think thereís some truth in both those statements, but my concern is that most people donít grasp the extent to which they are being worked like mules for otherís benefit. All that money that Enron ďlostĒ, the trillion dollars that was ďlostĒ in the savings & loan industry collapse some years back, which we are still paying for, all that money wasnít ďlostĒ. Somebody made a killing on it and then itís covered by tax dollars and write-offs and pensions fund losses, etcetera. Add up all those types of events plus corporate welfare and all the other advantages that some influential people can finagle and you have a big part of your hard work, maybe your entire second job, being skimmed off the top by people in a position to do so who donít have that moral commitment. It is such a constant that we donít even see it.

 

Actually there was another article in which Thom focused on how greed corrupts government, but thatís something no one can disagree with so I didnít even count that one.

 

So I agree with Thom on some things. No, itís not that hell has frozen over. Itís that conservatives and liberals really do have more common ground than they often think, and we shouldnít let these false notions that the other side are all ogres (just some of them are) fill the air with so much dust that we canít even see who they really are any more.