Restoring sanity to politics

The Ottawa Citizen was kind enough to publish a long excerpt from the last chapter of Enlightenment 2.0 today. It’s the part where I try to say something positive about how to improve the current situation in democratic politics, which is rapidly descending into “all demagoguery all the time.” I must admit that it’s a bit half-hearted. Basically what I have is an awesome theory of why things are so bad, and how they got that way, and why it’s incredibly hard to do anything to improve the situation. So I wind up painting myself into a bit of a corner. But everybody likes a happy ending, so I try to say something helpful at the end.



Restoring sanity to politics — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the link Stephen, that article hits the nail right on the head. My only quibble is that in my experience it’s not editors who demand it, but rather readers.

    It’s a problem I’ve been wrestling with for a while. When Andrew and I did The Rebel Sell, we thought that the clear take-home of our analysis was that the problem of consumerism could not be fixed. So we suggested that some of the more damaging effects could be limited, but that the basic problem was ineliminable. And yet the criticism that we heard, time and time again (and I mean hundreds of times), was that we had failed to provide a solution to the problem we had diagnosed. In response, all we could say was, “what if there is no solution?”

    With E2 I’m not quite as pessimistic. With respect to the problem of rationality, by focusing on the environment in which cognition takes place I think I have something better to say that the old “just think harder” or “let’s have more education” that books like this usually end with. At the same time, being aware of the paltriness of my own recommendations, I actually end by calling upon other people to think up ways to solve the problem (subject to a few guidelines that I provide). That’s my attempt to solve the “last chapter problem” — to steer a course between pessimism and unwarranted optimism by essentially offloading the problem onto others.