Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why are means and ends so often conflated in politics today?

Intellectual laziness? Perhaps.

An attempt to mislead? More likely.

In any case, it drives me crazy. One can argue that ends justify means (the torture debate, for instance). I don't accept this, but it can be rationally argued. What can't be argued rationally is that rejection of the means is a rejection of the ends. Many on the left are justifiably critical of the Republicans attempt to tar those against torture with the label "pro-terrorist." However, some on the left engage in the same intellectual dishonesty in the minimum wage debate arguing something like:

Raising the minimum wage is an anti-poverty measure. If you are against raising the minimum wage, you are "pro-poverty."

So my plea to politicians, policy advocates, and voters is this:

Let's be idealistic in debating the role of government and defining its goals. Let's be pragmatic in debating the implementation of those goals.

A corollary: don't trust anyone married to a policy. If the ends change to fit the means, there is something fishy going on (Bush's tax cuts and the Iraq War are two fine examples).