The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

The proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage cannot and will not ever agree. They are talking past each other. The problem is that the issue is religious/moral for some and legal/moral for others.

Those who oppose same-sex marriage focus on what they believe to be religious/moral factors. They quote the Leviticus passage, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman.” Those who support same-sex marriage focus on what they believe to be legal/moral factors. Many laws grant special privileges to married couples, not offered to unmarrieds. This is felt to be a violation of the 14th Amendment’s, “equal protection clause.”

Although the above is something of an oversimplification, it is impossible for people to agree, when they’re arguing about two different things. More examples:

Israelis and Palestinians may disagree on some facts (“Who was here first? Who fired first?), but fundamentally, the Jews really are talking about the Holocaust and Jewish survival (“Never again”) and the Palestinians really are talking about choice and Palestinian survival (“We have nowhere else to go.”) They are talking past each other.

The pro-lifers are talking about morals (“Do not murder.”) and the pro-choicers are talking about science (“An embryo is not yet a sentient human”). They are talking past each other.

Democrats feel caring for people is good for the economy. Republicans feel caring for the economy is good for people. They are talking past each other, and when people talk past each other, they don’t hear each other.

Listen to any argument, and eventually you’ll hear the words, “Yes, but.” That’s shorthand for, “I don’t want to listen to, or even think about, what you said” (That’s the “Yes” part). “I only want you to think about what I’m about to say.” (That’s the “but” part.)

There lies deep within us, the fear that if we listen too closely, our own arguments will be demolished. So we resist listening, lest we are forced to admit we are wrong, and our world will come crashing down.

Being consciously aware of this, I make a special effort to try to listen to debt hawks’ facts. Unfortunately, their favorite word seems to be “idiot, ” often followed by “stupid,” and they never get around to offering facts I can evaluate. They focus on popular wisdom and I focus on data, so we simply talk past each other, something like the creationists and the scientists.

What’s the solution? Courage. Have the courage to see your treasured beliefs proved wrong. Have the courage to evaluate the other guy’s side. Have the courage to listen, and perhaps to come to an accommodation. Any fool can close his mind and shout louder. It takes real courage and intelligence to listen, truly listen, to the other guy’s side.

Of course, that depends on the other guy presenting a side, rather than limiting himself to telling you you’re an idiot.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity