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Friday, June 02, 2006

What’s So Bad about Extremism?

I read a very interesting article by James Joyner at Outside the Beltway a couple of days ago that is worth commenting on. James reacts to a recent Jonah Goldberg article in which Jonah bemoans compromise. For those on the right, there is much to appreciate about Jonah's argument. Likewise, those on the left often applaud similar sentiments from left-wing writer's.

But I very much appreciate Joyner's honesty about the importance of compromise.
And, while I tend to agree a pure market or a pure socialist system of health care both might be more efficient than the current patchwork solution, it’s not clear that either would be preferable. A pure market approach would leave the poor and the mentally incompetent unprotected; while that may have good effects from a Darwinian standpoint, that would be horrible morally. A pure government system might well be cheaper in the aggregate and would certainly be more uniform. It would also undoubtedly provide less choice and lower quality care for the vast majority who are now well insured or able to self-finance.

Compromise solutions also have the virtue of being socially acceptable. We live in a gigantic, diverse society. Even if it were politically possible for one side or the other to get 100 percent of what they want on each issue, such a winner-take-all outcome would polarize politics to a level that would make the current acrimony seem like a tea party.
I generally tend to believe that we don't actually have a lot of extremism on the issues in this country but that the extremism is our rhetoric. In many ways, extremism on issues is always relative. To those in un-democratic counties, our freedom of speech in the US is an extremist position. And it has become commonplace for the left to label any conservative idea as extreme and vice versa.

That being said, I believe that there is much wisdom in what Joyner says here. Of course the million dollar question is how do we find that common ground on divisive issues. And is it even possible?

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