There is a reason I will not engage my parents in conversation regarding economy or the government. I refuse to dialogue with -dare I say- obnoxious individuals who enjoy arguing politics for the sake of arguing politics. And I positively forbid myself from engaging in
one-way-arguments dialogue regarding religion in the presence of religious fanatics.
Two words: Blanket Terminology.
Let me provide an example. During a car trip one day, I was asked by someone, whom I will refer to as Medley, my opinion regarding free market.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Greaaattt! Another “trick” question that will devolve into hours of senseless debate of what could have been and what should have been. In the long-run, such analysis will remain a futile endeavor because in the end, the market remains as it always has: not as unbiased, yet just as biased as the theories would have you believe.
But I was bored. After three hours of plugging into my mobile music device (Android based, thank you very much!) and tuning out the radio blasted rendition of “Truffle Butter” for the 50th time in a row, I was dying for something intellectually stimulating. So against my better judgment, I agreed to give my opinion to Medley’s question, namely what my thoughts were in reference to neoliberalism or something along those lines.
Little did I know that this seemingly innocuous question would drag me into an hour long discussion that, upon reflection, wouldn’t make any sense. No, I will not be writing out word-for-word dialogue of our conversation (mainly because my memory isn’t immaculate); however, our conversation did illuminate one glaring issue regarding any type of dialogue of this nature.
When an opinion is built around generalized concepts, it is VERY important that one clearly defines the terms utilized. Otherwise, your audience might also be confused by the thought that “Democracy” “based in the USA” results in “small landholders in Mexico” losing their property as a result of “Chinese/Foreign investments” in a “free market system” controlled by a select few “government” entities that forces “immigration” to be an ineffective solution to “Mexico’s economy problems”.
First of all, how are we defining democracy? Because the theory and the application resulted in a divergence of definitions and executions of a once simplified system of government and society. Which perspective would we take? The poli-sci definition, the sociology aspect, the anthropology angle, or the economic derivative? And was democracy really based in the USA, because one could argue that Greece was really the birthplace of democracy -crude though it may have appeared. And Mexico… small-landholders are affected by… where is the correlation to China? …Oh, you mean impact of Foreign Investment as a side effect of globalism which is bad and negatively impacts Mexico….? Wait, wait, “free market” technically refers to laissez-faire, no? which implies that it isn’t controlled…
Fine, I admit it! You’ve completely lost me, I say, pinching the bridge of my nose and squeezing my eyes shut against the developing migraine.
In all clarification, this would make an interesting hypothesis to some followup commentary or research compiled by stodgy academics who researched and published their conclusions in an academic journal. It would be fascinating to trace this idealized possibility while applying clearly defined concepts, proof of claims, and finally, a clear idea of how the terms in quotes are defined within the realm of that discussion. Make a substantiated argument, and even I could trace Alice down the rabbit hole, realize a new, “eccentric” perspective and still appreciate the fact that proof and substance support this viewpoint.
But even before we can approach the proof supporting this interesting structure, please tell me, how you are defining your terminology?!
Some of my most amusing and frustrating dialogue regarding economy stem from angsty conversations between myself and my parents during temperamental moments that often begin with Dad watching the news channel. A blurb regarding the economy will eventually float on the air waves, hot on the heels of some comment on our fearless leader and “Chef of the Realm”. Invariably Dad will shake his head, tsk his tongue, and make some statement regarding the “end times” and the fact that “China’s” loans to the “government” are responsible for the high level of national debt, and that politicians, banks, and nations are all united under a common conspiracy to bring down the “freedoms” the nation enjoys.
And shortly the monologue will devolve into a declaration that the world is drowned in evil, the devil is watching, and all the subsequent religious connotations that go along with these notions. I would then charge into the foray, spouting macro-economic principles and jargon which would be belittled and ignored by the parents’ firm belief in their doctrine.
Despite the lack of proof supporting the allegation, it is the distinct lack of logic behind their perceptions of how economics and finance actually work are what really boggles my mind. Define it, prove it, support it. Without these three components, it is nearly impossible for me to understand much less believe or agree.
Similar to suspending disbelief, a debate may first begin with an argument or counter argument which works to persuade the “audience” toward a new opinion or alternative reality. However, in order for this argument to be effective, there must be some measure of logical comportment and support which will work to persuade another to acknowledge the validity and be accepting of new theories and perspectives that might not have been previously accepted.
For example, I could make a counter argument to “gravity”. If you thought “gravity” kept you fastened to the earth, you would be mistaken; it was actually invisible “angels” holding your feet down all along!
Don’t believe me? Well, if I define “gravity” as a fanciful supernatural force that follows you around and notes your good and bad deeds and then articulate that “angels” are the gravitational pull towards the center of the earth as a result of the attraction of a large object to other (smaller) items nearby, would that provide clarity to my otherwise whimsically “idiotic” argument?
Suspension of belief = redefinition of accepted reality. The core of the “argument” is to counter, define, provide proof, and support.
In the meantime, I will enact my first law regarding arguments. Namely to disengage from conversations regarding religion, politics, or economics. Honestly, the time I could invest into an argument/debate would be better utilized in other avenues of my life.
I could create a masterpiece in art and song within the time it takes to destroy relationships and trample another’s opinion with misplaced superiority. And life is just too short.
So for the sake of intelligence and sanity, please avoid blanket terminology.
Especially when conversating with me.