This week I learned …
The world really does need more love. Even economists are beginning to think so! Okay, maybe not all economist — I haven’t done a survey to ask them all — but the economist, Arthur Brooks, featured on Episode #478 of Freakonomics Radio does think the world needs more love. Particularly the political world.
I don’t want to get into a lengthy political discussion, but I will say that at the bare minimum I, as a citizen, just want my government to work. I don’t play into partisan politics (as best as my human frailties will let me) which is probably why the past two decades or so of politics have just left me banging my head on the wall.
Standing back from an objective point of view, it seems politicians just throw ‘hate’ or ‘shade’ around without getting anything done. This is further exacerbated when you have partisan bills rushed through the U.S. Congress and government shutdowns because congress peeps can’t decide how to keep the lights on.
In this episode, Brooks argues that part of the problem is we (both politicians and citizens) have contempt (anger + disgust) for each other which prevents us from hearing the other side’s argument. This episode highlights several examples of this from real-life politicians.
Personally, I believe in order for a democracy to thrive there has to be discourse. By discourse I mean a back and forth, healthy form of debate based on evidence about what do what’s best for citizens. I don’t think we’ve seen much of that in recent times. But how do we get there?
Well, as Brooks argues, it takes a little bit of love; love for the person on the other side of the aisle. In other words, approach all people with empathy as individual human beings. We all have different experiences we bring to the table. Those experiences are valid and — perhaps — needed for a democracy to thrive and grow.
That said, I know this is an extremely difficult thing to practice. I’ve struggled with it in my own life, but I truly believe that if we can learn to approach more people (including ourselves) and situations with love and empathy the world will only be better for it.
Below you’ll find my tweet-sized summaries and takeaways from this episode. Admittedly, it was difficult to condense this 45+ minute episode into 280 characters, so I highly recommend you listen to it in full to get all the nuance and details.
Lastly, I think the thing that resonates with me the most is the quote from Arthur Brooks about how we need people to vote for not just to protect us from the other person. When citizens of a democracy can vote for a person, that’s when democracy is functioning at optimal capacity.
Love Your Enemy (via Freakonomics Radio)
A conservative economist says we can fight contempt and political polarization with love. “We need people from both parties who people are going to vote for as opposed to someone who’s going to defend me from the other side.” —Arthur Brooks (~paraphrased)
- Anger + Disgust = Contempt. Contempt leads us to be less likely to hear the other side’s argument and more likely to attack on an emotional basis instead of logical/argumentative basis.
- Addiction to contempt is correlated to the type of media you consume and NOT your gender, ethnicity, age, occupation, etc. The more you watch cable TV and consume social media the more likely you are going to be both a victim and perpetrator of contempt.
- Populism (and populist ideas/ideals) generally rises after a big (once in a century) financial crisis such as the Great Depression or the 2008 Financial crisis. People are hurt & angry which makes it easier for them to feel contempt toward others.
Thanks for reading!
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Don’t forget to leave a comment: how will you approach more people and situations with love and empathy?
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