The Importance of Open Mindedness in Politics

This post is a reflection on observations I've made about politics. I don't stand strongly with any of the opinions/thoughts here and am very open to having my mind changed on this.

In politics, we often find issues where there are two sides in strong opposition to each other. Each side tries to argue that its own perspective is objectively more truthful or "better" than the other side.

Often, this type of scenario leads to heated confrontations, unproductive disagreements, and unwanted polarization, creating artificial divides between people.

We can see this in almost every political issue today in the United States, like the debate over guns (pro-gun vs anti-gun), the debate over abortion (pro-choice vs pro-life), the debate over climate change (climate change exists vs climate change doesn't exist), and many more (you probably get the point by now).

Differences in framework and ideology

The issue with this is that in order for one side to be better than the other, there needs to be some framework upon which both parties can determine what makes a side good. This adds a sort of pseudo-objectivity to the debate, where the parties can judge the efficacy and truth of their sides using their framework. In order for the parties to come to a consensus, they need to agree upon this framework.

However, it's often the case that each side is operating on an entirely different framework for determining whats good and whats not. Because of this, in order to actually come to any meaningful conclusions or even begin a debate on an issue, the sides first need to debate about their frameworks.

Unfortunately (for the sake of the debate, at least), each sides framework is often based on ideological arguments. While there's nothing inherently wrong with grounding perspectives in ideology, there is no means for determining the value of one ideological framework over another. Ideologies are intrinsically subjective, and thus arguing on ideologies is doomed to be unproductive.

Looking at the case of capitalism vs socialism

Take for example, the case of the debate between capitalism and socialism (we can look at this example to quickly illustrate some of the points from above). The point of this is not to provide a logically sound and irrefutable case for each side, but just to illustrate what I mean by my previous points:

Surface Level

Capitalists believe in almost complete economic freedom of individuals and corporations without much limitation. They believe in harsh competition, that the "most competent" people will come out on top, and that they should be rewarded for their competence. They also believe that incentivizing progress through such means is incredibly important. Socialists generally prefer to take the stance that more social safety nets and regulation is better for people. This comes somewhat at the cost of individual economic freedom and competition. Wealth is collected and redistributed more evenly than it would be in a capitalist system.

Judgement Frameworks

A more capitalist leaning framework would be one upholding that individual freedom and progress are very important.

If we held individual freedom as the most important thing, capitalism would likely be the better economic system. Additionally, a framework upholding the importance of technological progress would probably also support capitalism.

If we believe that progress is highly important as it drives forward humanity and increases living conditions, then capitalism would likely come out on top as it is probably apparent that capitalism facilitates technological progress more efficiently. Meanwhile, a more social framework would be one upholding the importance of equality between individuals.

If we held economic equality as the most important thing, then effective socialism would generally achieve this more efficiently than capitalism would as sustainable wealth redistribution helps to achieve this goal.

Furthermore, if we were to judge our systems based on the overall happiness of individuals in the system (this point is a bit controversial and I don't necessarily agree with it but I'll say it for the sake of argument), then socialism could potentially be the better system.

Differences in Ideology

We can look at two of these opposing frameworks: the idea that individual freedom is the most important, and the idea that equality is the most important.

These are both purely ideological beliefs and are often grounded in some kind of religious or metaphysical beliefs about the importance of individuals or about the natural significance of freedom, etc.

Thus, it's difficult to reconcile which side is "better." In order to do that, we would have to argue that either individual freedom is more important than equality, or that equality is more important than individual freedom.

As you can probably see, this is no easy task, and there is little objectivity to this argument. There are certainly valid points to be made on both sides (I hope we can acknowledge this at the level of the ideological arguments at least).

Thus, it appears that there's not much objectivity to choosing a side on this issue. While its true that I've left out many points on either side (which may sway the debate to one of the sides), for the sake of the example, it appears to be reasonable that this issue comes down to an ideological debate which is difficult to resolve and isn't as black and white as either side may make it out to be. There is much more nuance to the topic than meets the eye.

The polarization of politics

Like the issue of capitalism vs socialism, I'm sure you can think of many others like this which come down to ideological debates. For many of these issues, the sides become very blurred and there are good and valid points to be made on both sides. Thus, viewing these issues from a black and white perspective where you deem one to be entirely wrong or evil is often misguided.

Unfortunately, it's very easy, especially in today's world, to become strongly pulled toward one side of the political spectrum or another, and stay there without acknowledging the truth in the other side.

People end up slowly gravitating toward one side, while creating straw man arguments and images of the other side in their head that prevent them from seeing other perspectives. For example, the left may sometimes think of the right as wealthy, insensitive, cold, and racist. Meanwhile, the right may sometimes think of the left as overly sensitive, under achieving, and naive.

While these are generalizations don't represent the perspectives of everyone, they are becoming more and more true at the extremes. These kinds of perspectives box people into specific political views and prevent them from looking at political opinions from all sides objectively. They clearly also don't help with person to person relationships (immediately thinking of someone as naive or insensitive just because of their political affiliation certainly doesn't aid in this).

The importance of open mindedness in seeking the truth In order to see the value in both sides of any argument, one needs to distance oneself from the biases and frameworks of each side to look at an issue with a more holistic view.

Acknowledging the perspectives of both sides and the value behind the points of both parties without painting an image of each side in your head is the way to recognize the full picture. It's important to stay open minded to what everyone has to say, and not discount anyone's side just because of who it came from.

Closing yourself off to a certain side is almost guaranteed to result in a lack of perspective and a lack of a complete understanding of a topic. At minimum, understanding and listening to what the other side has to say with genuine intention is important for understanding both perspectives in a debate.

Trying to see an issue from the framework and ideology of another party as well as trying to pick apart the motivation behind belief in another ideology are both great ways to gain perspective.

However, that's not to say that taking the middle ground on every perspective is always the right way to go. That's would be almost the same as taking the stance of a single extreme on every policy.

After you have made an honest attempt to weigh perspectives from both sides, it's certainly fair to weight one side as more valid over the others and to go with that side as your own personal belief. What's important is that you have made an honest attempt to take everything into consideration before coming to a decision.

I personally stand by open mindedness in every domain, and this carries over to politics. As much as I make take a side on some issues (like climate change for example, I definitely believe in climate change), I try to understand both perspectives before doing so.

Finally, and most important, being open minded leads to much more understanding for people that take different perspectives. If you're able to take into consideration where someone is coming from with their political perspective, it's much more difficult to judge them or deem them to be "dumb" or a "bad person." I rarely (if ever) judge people for their beliefs for this reason.

One final note on this topic: while I do believe that being open minded and not taking extreme sides is better at an individual level to understand issues fully, I'm not opposed to the idea that taking more polarized stances might be better if you look at it from the perspective of making change.