Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thought of the Day: Pragmatism is a Kind of Shortsightedness

And thus a form of foolishness, because a long-term view is always wise. As you drive down a busy highway it’s obviously important to keep your eyes on the road immediately ahead of you, lest a crash result.  But  if your eyes are always focused right in front of your hood ornament, you will be constantly swerving back and forth, alternatively slamming on the gas and the brakes, as you react willy-nilly to the immediate actions of other cars around you. But if you also look three to five cars ahead, you begin to anticipate what other vehicles are doing, you get a feel for traffic dynamics, and you can initiate some maneuvers of your choice.  And if you occasionally look a mile or more ahead, you will find that you can identify bigger patterns in the traffic as a whole: you can see if traffic is clogging up, which lanes are stopped and which are flowing, which lane the big semi-truck doing 40 miles and hours is in, where a construction zone begins, where the next exits and turnoffs are, and so on.  Then you can really start controlling your own fate, because your range of anticipation has extended; by taking a long view you no longer have to react willy-nilly to the cars immediately around you, but you take the initiative and plot a course that gets you through traffic as effectively as circumstances allow.  
Being pragmatic means sacrificing gains in the future because of present concerns, which while sometimes unavoidable also keeps you shortsighted and reactive; it keeps government policy ineffective, and it keeps the Left’s political strategy self-defeating and frustrating.  Always add direction to your pragmatism by keeping the long run in view.


  1. Saul Alinsky described the role of the organizer as being a 'political schizoid':

    A well-integrated political schizoid... the organizer must be able to split himself into two parts - one part in the arena of action where he polarizes the issue... while the other part knows that... the time comes for negotiation...

    Source: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzesz4a6/current/id331.html

    On the one had the organizer needs to have the long run in mind, however polarization in the short term helps motivate the base for the purposes of an individual campaign.

    Where today's Democratic party leadership fails is understanding that 'Pragmatism' as they define it does nothing to motivate the base.

  2. If someone is supporting a shortsighted plan by saying it is pragmatic, that does not make pragmatism a form of shortsightedness. It means the plan is not pragmatic because it is shortsighted. If i said every human should be given a free personal jet airplane and a pet elephant, that would be neither shortsighted nor pragmatic.

  3. I respectfully disagree, Jeffery, I think that's the wrong way to frame the issue. I think that "pragmatists" often recognize that there is a long-term big gain to be made, but don't take steps to win it because they believe that whatever current obstacles stand in the way can't be overcome, and that is shortsighted. Usually such obstacles are not as hard to triumph over as people believe - especially if one talks a long view and acts to avoid, prevent, or minimizes anticipated obstacle as they approach. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.