Monday, January 13, 2014

Fixing What Isn't Broken

Have you ever noticed how people tend to focus on solutions to problems that don't work? We all do this at some point. We get it into our heads that we know how to fix something, and we go about doing that same thing over and over, even though we keep getting the same result. This is, in the words of Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity.

What this comes from is our ability to see that something is wrong, but not fully understanding the problem. Whether because we lack the ability to see the issue objectively, or we lack some piece of information, or we can't accept that we are somehow to blame, we have an uncanny ability to come up with grandiose plans that benefit ourselves instead of benefiting the situation.

I bring this up because it is obvious to me that many of our esteemed leaders are suffering from this sort of delusion. They see the problems we see, but somewhere along the way, that ascribe a hyper-partisan reason for why that problem exists, and an equally partisan solution for solving it. Inevitably, the solution they come up with always seems to put them at the center, making them the hero who fixes the world. Interesting, isn't it?

A great example of this is an op-ed piece written by Mitch McConnell entitled How to Save the Senate. It's not much more than a melodramatic complaint about how no one seems to be getting along in the Senate, and how everyone (but really just Harry Reid) needs to put aside their differences and listen to everyone (but really just Mitch McConnell). Of course, while Mr. McConnell writes this, he is already hard at work doing the exact opposite.

But it goes beyond Washington, of course. When you look at the extremists out there who want to take drastic steps to change our country, we get things like this. Indeed, this is a bit better than McConnell's ravings, since it's at least a novel attempt. But the fact that this group, primarily made up of conservatives, is willing to ignore the foundations of our nation by suggesting that states can immunize themselves from federal law is crazy.

We are constantly bombarded with people telling us what's broken and how to fix it. Admittedly, things are bad in some cases. But the solutions need not be extreme, they don't need to be fanatical, and they don't need to be absolutist. They can be reasonable, they can be balanced, and they can make everyone look good. If we could get rid of this expectation of all-or-nothing, black-and-white policy and principle, we could do so much better.

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