The earth is constantly hurtling through space and time, never in the same position twice as it moves through the universe, in my basic understanding of science, from a Brian Cox documentary about space. This could be wrong. A new piece of information may be discovered in years to come that says differently. Science and truth are often works in progress. I heard Jordan Peterson say recently that it is better not to look at our perception of the truth as an absolute and look at it as a tool with which we try to understand the world as best we can in the here and now.
This coincides with the idea of infallibility in politics, espoused by many across the political spectrum. Currently, based on all the information I have assimilated into my brain and evaluated I would say my political compass lies somewhere slightly right of centre and significantly on the side of liberty as opposed to authoritarianism. I acknowledge that there are probably billions of scenarios and pieces of information that I haven’t come across that could either render my arguments redundant or strengthen them, but based on my understanding of the world and the current economic and political climate, freer market economics and the strengthening of individual liberties over state power, appeals to me more than opposing arguments.
Therefore, I welcome free speech and debate. There are people who have led entirely different lives to me, who look at information in different ways or hold knowledge on topics that I have yet to come across. By debating and swapping ideas and arguments people can test their beliefs and see if they stand up to scrutiny. What I see a lot of however, is partisan tribalism. Which is understandable, I know in the past I have often had trouble when I have held passionately to a belief and been challenged strongly. It would make me angry and I would struggle with coming to terms with the idea that my experiences and knowledge might not be a representation of the wider truth.
This tribalism tends to manifest itself along party lines and we see people who assess some information, make up their mind on what feels right to them politically and then plant their feet in the sand and stay there until their dying day. I personally, if we have an interest in honesty and progress, don’t see that this is helpful if the wider goal of society is the truth and in politics, if the wider goal is the improvement of the situations of as many people as possible at the smallest cost. Which I acknowledge it probably isn’t for a fair few politicians.
Returning to my original scenario of the earth and its movements. If the Earth is never in the same place twice, the earth is never the same twice. It is in a perpetual state of change, much like the societies we have built on earth. There is not a single civilisation on the planet that has remained the same. People are born, die, progress and regress. Individuals make an infinite number of choices that on a collective level influences how a society transforms. Civilisations grow and die, based on an almost incomprehensible, multitude of converging individual action on top of environmental and other factors I haven’t considered or thought of.
Then along comes politics and economics and a resolute, unflinching mindset. Economic opinion usually fractures along two lines, those that favour freedom of the markets and those that favour state regulation or outright control. There are of course many people who favour a mixture of the two, but there are also those that are adamant that in all political situations, heightened government regulation or investment in the economy at a state level will always be the correct path. The opposite is also present, there are people who believe in all situations there should be total freedom of choice for individuals in the market place. The questions I pose are as follows: How, given that every waking day brings a unique societal challenge to the door of the government, can anyone claim to have absolutist answers to the economic and political problems that we face? How can anyone who has experienced a tiny fraction of all the experiences of the collective species make the claim to informed decision making? How is someone like Richard Dawkins so sure that something as complex as Brexit can be reduced to the simple statement that the remain side are correct and everyone who voted differently is ill informed. Considering that he cannot predict millions of events and actions on an individual level that will organically contribute to whether Brexit is a success or a failure?
Surely the only way forward is to be flexible as a politician and act upon all the information available about a situation at the current time to decide policy, rather than hold resolutely to ideology and try and enforce that ideology onto circumstances. And surely the way forward is not to be so resolute in your thinking that you cannot ask yourself if there is a possibility you may not be infallible.