Comment Of The Day: “The Quest For The Perfect IIPTDXTTNMIAFB…”

Ethics Alarms is proud to present as Extradimensional Cephalopod‘s. Comment of the Day to the post, The Quest For The Perfect IIPTDXTTNMIAFB Continues, And Joe May Have Given Us A Winner!

I am always thrilled to have a lot of comment to one of my posts, but there is a definite downside to that: once the number gets much beyond 20, the chances of a comment being read diminishes sharply. The following superb entry on the subject of the relationship between values and bias, in the context of comparing the relative character traits of the current President and the previous one, is as though-provoking and worth reading as anything I have ever written here, and false modesty is not in my tool box.


Identifying our values takes place in a vacuum. Ideas first. Judging people comes later, if necessary. All of us here seem to agree that Trump and Biden are pretty bad people, but we’re arguing about what ways they’re bad, and which one is worse? And moreover, we’re judging each other based on differences of interpretation and risk tolerance which we’re treating as objective fact? We can do better than that.

(I’m not a postmodernist; I do believe we can arrive at judgments we all agree on. It’s just that this isn’t the way to do it.)

Trump and Biden represent different collections of risks. Which one we think is the lesser of two evils depends on what risks we think we and the rest of the world are prepared to deal with. The risks we’re comfortable dealing with depend in turn on our experiences and skills, and how we have come to think of society in general. It’s entirely possible that somebody’s risk assessment is more accurate than someone else’s, or they could be equally good or bad.

However, when we need to hash out a choice between two bad options, we’d better bring to the table some plans for how we’re going to handle the consequences of the option we want to pick. That’ll go a long way towards getting people on board.

(I elaborate on this approach in this article: “Real life isn’t like the trolley problem, but people keep treating it as though it is.”)

After all, figuring out whether Biden or Trump is worse isn’t really the problem we’re trying to solve here. That’s just what the leaders of the Republicans and Democrats want: to divide sensible people so much over a choice between two bad options that nobody has any room to think about how to avoid getting in this situation again. Nobody’s asking “who do we really want on those ballots, and what will it take to get them there?” Everyone’s trying to get their chosen fool elected because they’re more afraid of the other fool.

Worse, nobody’s asking the question, “How do we make the world a better place without any help from our incompetent elected officials?” If we don’t like the way the government uses the power it derives from us, the people, why not use some of that power ourselves?

There’s a couple relevant books I should recommend here: You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen by Eric Liu and The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century by Carne Ross.

Why minimize the flaws of our own preferred option while emphasizing those of the other option, when we could set things up so those options lose their power to force us to either of them?

8 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “The Quest For The Perfect IIPTDXTTNMIAFB…”

  1. Great comment of the day!!!

    Worse, nobody’s asking the question, “How do we make the world a better place without any help from our incompetent elected officials?” If we don’t like the way the government uses the power it derives from us, the people, why not use some of that power ourselves?

    Most of the politicians we have these days especially those running for President are terrible, terrible people who seem to have flushed their ethics and morals down the toilet. Effective, quality, moral and ethical leadership from the grass roots of our nation is CRITICAL right now.

    Strong Leaders Are Needed To Inspire Nationwide Grass Roots Movements To Support The Constitution & Confront Totalitarianism

    I’m swamped in my work and life right now and that’s all I have time to share. I’ll be back on a more regular basis in a month or two.

    Catch y’all later.

  2. Great comment, E.C., especially in the context of the original article. Many supposed binary choices are indeed self-inflicted.
    Reasonable people should agree that at some point -hopefully soon- it is essential to the survival of the republic that we move well past getting our “chosen fool” elected instead of the other side’s fool. I believe this can start at the community and local government level and move outward, even as we act to influence state and national politics concurrently, to establish “no fool” standards. (A “No Fool Rule”?)
    Nearly thirty years ago, I did some consulting work with a police agency in my region that was trying (under “new management”) to fix some long-standing issues between the agency and the city’s citizens. There were a lot of old resentments and a lot of mistrust. Their new chief was an old friend who was familiar with my work in community policing. I got lot of resources and advice from folks at the DOJ Community Relations Service, with whom I had previously worked on community policing transitions.
    Long story short, over a period of several months we were able to identify community leaders at the grassroots and identify common ground. Everyone in our “coalition of the willing” made a commitment to good-faith analysis, planning, and execution of our plans. We began to establish more honest and effective communication and mutual accountability. All sides learned a lot in the process, and the foundation was laid for eventual success and long-term cooperation to improve the relationships among community groups and between citizens and police. Several of the structures and processes we devised still remain in place as “maintenance” measures to prevent a return to the “bad old days.” It was a very enlightening and rewarding experience.
    A well-deserved COTD!

  3. Part of the problem of hashing out problems with two alternatives is that we have made that binary choice too complicated.

    I distinctly remember walking out of the polling place in 2016, after having voted the straight Prohibition ticket (or Libertarian, whatever, not that it mattered) and feeling despondent, knowing that either Trump or Clinton would be elected.

    That is because the myriad issues facing people have to be reduced to a binary choice. People of all stripes get lumped together because the totality of concerns is distilled into a choice between 2 people.

    So, when I voted for Trump in 2020 (Mind you, I come from The State Mondale Won; my vote NEVER matters), it was out of a mixture of spite for his detractors, respect for his unorthodox style and fear of Biden’s limitations. That got me lumped into the same people who think Trump was a political genius and mindless partisans.

    We all get grouped together because so many issues have to be condensed into a single binary decision.

    The solution to that would be a multi-party system. However, because that won’t happen, we are faced with the equally unlikely solution of limiting the power of government.

    Politicians complain about too much money in government. They want to get money out of campaigns. Fools! They don’t seem to understand that money follows power. If they divested their power, the money would go away—overnight. But that requires them to give up power.

    They send power back to the states and the money will immediately start flowing there.

    If we reduced the things that Congress could pass law on (let’s start with Art. 1, Section 8), the number of things that would influence our binary choice would be reduced. Things might be easier.

    Let me put it another way. If government had 10 things to do, a binary choice might be easy because you just look at how the two candidates stand on those 10 things. When government has 500 things to do, the choices are far less nuanced. Add to this that we have many more millions of people squeezed into this binary.

    Politicians like it this way. They like to have more power. They will continue to amass power.

    Our binary choice would be much easier if they ceded power back to 50 independent states. We would have more owed if that happened.

    They don’t want that.


  4. I don’t think I agree that the choice boils down to risk. I think it boils down to harm. We are picking and choosing who gets hurt by policies in a binary choice.

    In the past, risk might have been the argument we were having, but lately the argument is actually about hurting people. Who loses their jobs? Who loses their freedom? Who loses their rights? Who loses their free stuff? Who loses their control over other people? That is what people are arguing about.

    Big tech follows the motto “Move fast and break things”. The government is now following this motto as well, and they do not care what happens to the people who the broken pieces fall on. This has raised the stakes to sky high levels, because the entire system is being destroyed. As the stakes rise, people become more combative, more angry, and more ready to hurt the people hurting them back.

    Ethics are important, but at the end of the day, mammals are driven by operant conditioning. People are mammals. Breaking things and crushing people is going to have predictable results. Rewarding people for bad behavior is going to have predictable results. Punishing people for good behavior is going to have predictable results. Ethics exist and are important because they push people into the positive side of operant conditioning.

    Intentionally breaking down the ethical foundations of a society will at best have mixed results, and at worst completely destroy society. Intentionally breaking down the ethical foundations of a society as quickly as possible, with no regards for the consequences and deliberate malevolence almost guarantees complete societal destruction. This isn’t a risk assessment, it is pointing out the obvious.

    A society cannot will biological processes away, no matter how much it wants to. Operant conditioning exists, whether people want it to or not. If you hurt some people at the expense of others, the harmed people will fight back, and the rewarded people will fight to keep what they have won. A healthy society attempts to prevent harm and reward good behavior. An unhealthy society attempts to prevent good behavior and rewards harm. In a healthy society, risk is the factor that people argue over. In an unhealthy society, who gets harmed is what people argue over. My assessment is that we have moved into the latter category.

  5. Thanks, everyone! I’m working to bring this approach into the public consciousness so that we can have more constructive discussions.

    (Also, dang it, I left out the word “choose” from the last sentence–I guess it still works, though.)

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