@AGlesca tweets the following this morning:
Mussolini and trains is an old one, that is true. Peter Levine said many sensible things on this matter (which I have quoted at a now private blogsite on a multitude of occasions – perhaps ¡hasta la saciedad!). An example to follow:
[…] if there is a tradeoff between equality of voice and efficiency, the conflict is internal to democracy. We may sometimes have to bite the bullet and reduce equality to enhance efficiency, in the name of democracy. On the other hand, if we value both, we should work to reduce the tradeoff. When equal voice enhances efficient outcomes, we have a clear win.
On another occasion, he argued:
[…] We must also decide what forms of governance or administration are ethical. (Mussolini made the trains run on time, but that was not an adequate defense of fascism). Finally, it’s not enough to know that a given argument or “message” would produce political support for a program. We must also decide which forms of argument are ethically acceptable.
And (from the same post as the latter quote) (the bold here is mine):
Some areas of philosophy have developed a middleground and thereby not only served public purposes but also enriched the discipline. Medical ethics is the best example. It’s no longer restricted to matters of individual ethics (e.g., should a physician conduct an abortion?) or matters of basic structure (e.g., is there a right to life?), but also to matters of administration, politics, and program design. Medical ethicists work in hospitals, advise commissions, and review policies. Harry Brighouse has argued that the philosophy of education should follow the same model. I would generalize and say that across the whole range of policy and social questions, it is worth asking moral questions not only about basic rights and individual behavior, but also about institutional arrangements and political tactics.
Moral questions about institutional arrangements and political tactics, eh? Doesn’t bounce off the page with much of a sexiness factor, now does it? But it does – if allowed at all to rattle round our web-discombobulated interiors – grow on one.
I promise you.
What Levine consistently suggests over the years is balance. I wonder why this isn’t far more sexy for our shared democracies. Balance in sex itself, a game between equal partners, is surely the most delightful set of moments we can experience in a lifetime. And striking a balance between Cameron’s preferred competence on the one hand and his straw man of an alternative that is chaos – necessary alternatives which @AGlesca unfortunately, apparently uncritically, seems to take onboard – just belies the reality we ought to be striving for: balance as a sexy goal in life and politics both.
In the meantime, extremism – in sex, work, politics and power – seems to be far more attractive than the aforementioned balance I find so fascinating.
I don’t think this is an accident; I don’t think it’s inevitable, either.
Sorting stuff out by identifying its point of equilibrium – its movement neither falsely forwards nor backwards but, instead, usefully measured – is far more challenging and collaborative (in this sense, much more human too) than shouting out opposing slogans of pained simplification.
There must be something tribal about the latter – something which drives us to delight in the emotional stains, spreading outwards, into and over the tapestry that should be our existence.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. Life doesn’t need to be a destructive binary of “yes” or “no” all the time.
Time to define the unsexy middleground, then. Not the middleground between two extremes, though: the middleground between voice and efficiency.
In fact, time to properly understand and reclaim that middleground.
To rip it once and for all from those who would play silly buggers with out politics.
To take from that Third Way, which Cameron has long paid lip service to, its long-haul abnegation of (true) balance.
The middleground of democracy as a tool to collaborate, not exclude.