The danger of arguing the pragmatic against the principled is that pragmatism always depends upon fallible human prognostication: it’s a gamble. Sometimes things break with the odds as the pragmatic sees them. Sometimes not. A lot can depend on knowing enough up front. Only hindsight can be 20-20, though even with hindsight the human tendency to rewrite history to favor whoever has the power to do so–and thus fake a better outcome than truly exists–is always a problem as well… *sigh*
The problem with choosing principles over pragmatism is even more complicated. First, in today’s society where often principles are argued against simply because they are about right and wrong and post-rational post modernism sees “right and wrong” as meaningless–except where “principles” of post-rational post modern are concerned, of course–simply asserting principles exist can be dangerous for the asserter. The minefield of such meaningless stances as “Right to Choose”–which means the right to deny a child the right to choose whether it wantsd to be born or not–is fraught with peril.
And that’s just the fetid grounding of today’s social setting. Political? Simply defending principles such as freedom of political speech by citizens in the face of McCain-Feingold* is literally dangerous to a citizen’s continued existence outside of iron bars.
Nevertheless, sometimes it’s profitable to at least ask, “Is what we’ll gain by this pragmatic decision–even if it works as planned–worth what it will cost us in the long run?”
Now, that sounds rather like meta-pragmatism, doesn’t it? *heh* Well, that’s how principles work.
Wall Street/banking bailout.
Short term gain: stabilize the economy.
Medium-term gain: the “feddle gummint” could reap over $2Trillion on the “investment” of $700Billion. (Yeh, read Andy Kessler’s WSJ article at the link. He could be right about the medium-term outcomes.) Now, if (BIG “IF”!) that potential gain were to actualize and be applied only toward federal debt or even to set up an inviolate Social Security fund, untouchable for expenditures apart from retirement payments to those who’ve paid into the system, I’d not be as concerned about
Long-term loss: free markets. Bailouts of those who supporedt alien invaders with junk loans. Greedy, avaricious, thieves who profitted from losses they caused with their bad management of other people’s money (and yes, that specifically includes all the politicians who actively pressured lenders to throw bad money after good in mortgages to people who could not pay for them).
Since any “profits” that the federal government coffers might gain from the bailout will, if history is any guide at all, simply be wasted on more unconstitutional spending rather than be used for commonsense things like reducing the debt load, that leaves only the short-term gains to balance the long-term losses to a free market.
Even a pragmatic person might see that violating principle here could be too costly, no?
Addendum: Maybe we could push for an amendment to the Constitution requiring a personal response to “I, Pencil” from every “feddle gummint” bureaucrap and elected official before allowing them to suck at the public teat. Perhaps then we’d be able to weed a few out who have less understanding of free market principles than a head of cabbage does. Perhaps. (I suspect most would simply crib from a Cliff Notes dumbing down of the already simple little didactic story.)
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