In my last post, I wrote about how you shouldn’t hate people. This is really, really, difficult sometimes–at least it is difficult for me. I feel like I have been wronged by quite a few people, and far too many of those have never shown any remorse. Still, I don’t hate them. I may not trust them or respect them, but I have let go of my hatred. I don’t know what made them do the things they did, and even if I think I do, I may not know what makes them tick underneath it all. The guy who “borrowed” eight hundred dollars from me under false pretenses may have felt that he couldn’t tell me the truth, or listened to someone else giving him bad advice about how to deal with me. The boss who broke a promise about giving me a raise probably felt that others in the company–cynical me says he and his family–needed the money more than I did, and that I would keep working for him regardless. (Oops.)
It took me a very long time–about forty-five years–to stop hating people. I like making things simple, but people aren’t simple. I don’t have a huge number of friends, mostly because it takes me a while to figure them out enough to effectively deal with them. I have to get past the façade and get some idea about what makes them tick.
(Let me save you the trouble: I want to make the world a better place for my daughter–and prepare her for a world that isn’t very nice. I have to make the world make sense to me, so I voraciously consume information. I need to not be bored, so given a choice between doing the familiar or the unfamiliar, I most often choose the latter.)
And sorry, but I don’t hate Nickelback or their music. I don’t particularly like their music either, but they are in the middle of three categories:
- Music that makes me change the station.
- Music that I won’t stop for, but I won’t change the station for.
- Music that makes me stop changing stations.
I hate most groups. In my experience, groups give people the courage to support bad ideas. In general, the groups I like are ones that are unselfish. I tend to like groups that preserve the past, protect the environment, help the poor, and defend the rights of others. The groups I hate are the selfish groups. The AARP is a group of older Americans working for their own benefit. The NRA is a group of gun owners working to protect their right to own and use guns. The National Right to Life Committee seems like they are unselfishly protecting the rights of the unborn when they are actually selfishly advocating for the government to adopt their belief system above others. Finally, the major political parties are more concerned with increasing their power than with helping the people they are supposed to represent.
I used to belong to many Facebook groups, but I have dropped out of almost all of them, because most of them were selfish. I stayed in the group for my daughter’s school, because it often has information I need. I am in a group for a game I play, because we use it to handle bookkeeping stuff between sessions. Other than that, I don’t belong to any groups, online or offline. I see too much of an “us vs. them” mentality in groups, and I just don’t see the world that way.
Most disputes have a win-win solution; the exceptions being when both sides are extremists who refuse any hint of compromise. When I find those situations, I try to chip away at the membership to get them to see that things really aren’t as black-and-white as they see them. Far too often though, I have to write off someone–hopefully temporarily–because they are too closed minded for any near-term transformation.
There are good ideas and bad ideas. The problem, of course, is telling the difference.
The worst ideas are those that instinctively make sense, but where actual facts show that they don’t. Repealing Obamacare to fix skyrocketing medical costs by returning to a free market makes sense–except that even before Obamacare we didn’t have a free market, because the federal government, through Medicare and Medicaid, paid over 53% of all medical costs in the U.S. The Great Wall of China stopped precisely zero invasions. The wall in Israel that Trump uses as an example is misleading, since the actual wall is only about twenty-six miles long–most of the barrier is a system of fences. It’s much easier and less expensive to build, patrol, and defend twenty-six miles of wall than 1,989 miles.
Isolationism instinctively makes sense. It is easy to see that most of the things we buy aren’t made in the U.S., so the thought is that we could create a ton of jobs if we erected barriers to imports. We would create many jobs, but we would lose far more, since other countries would retaliate by restricting our exports. The U.S. has free trade agreements with twenty countries. In sixteen of those, the U.S. has a trade surplus. Overall, the U.S. does very well with countries with whom we trade freely. A large part of keeping this trade viable is that the U.S. has the largest navy in the world, but in areas of high piracy, the U.S. works with other countries in Combined Task Forces to keep the pirates away and protect merchant ships. Working with the rest of the world helps build the global economy, making us all better off–especially if we can address problems of income inequality.
But some parts of some trade agreements aren’t so good. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would require all signatories to increase their copyright and patent protections to meet U.S. legal standards, which sounds good. These protections also restrict innovation and creativity while keeping consumer prices high by keeping intellectual property out of the public domain, making it difficult for artists to produce derivative works, keeping generic versions of pharmaceuticals from being made for a longer time, and making technology patents more powerful, limiting innovation. The first copyright law in the U.S. set a term of fourteen years, plus a living author could renew this for an additional fourteen years. Now, copyright is for a term of seventy years after the author’s death or, for a work-for-hire, ninety-five years after publication. I fully expect The Walt Disney Company to push to extend this again to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. I don’t have a problem with wanting to keep things in copyright for some amount of time after an author’s death to help support their families, but seventy years is just silly, and it hurts the economy by restricting commerce.
So yeah, I hate some ideas, usually the ones that are deceptively good ideas.
Dig deeper. Learn the big picture. Don’t stop at the surface effects of a proposal: Look for the wider impact. Find the connexions.
And have a good weekend.