Thursday, June 22, 2006

Two Small Points of Light

I met a free-lance writer last weekend, the wife of one of our friends from graduate school. I started talking about public policy issues, as I do obsessively these days, and she asked my political leanings. I replied that it’s a two-party system, so I’m a Democrat by default these days, as the Republicans have all the power and are completely unchecked in abusing it.

Then I came home and looked at my blog and laughed. Look at how extreme I am! One can’t be a centrist anymore. After all somebody—not Dante—said, “The hottest fires in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” (“I don’t know; I’m just saying it’s not Dante.” Why yes, I did see 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' last weekend.)

It used to be that JSM was far left of me on the political spectrum, so it stopped me short last night to hear him call the American Antitrust Institute the most reliable of the left-of-center antitrust advocacy organizations, with only the occasional left-wingnut. JSM hasn’t moved position. I’m the one who has swung around him.

JSM once told me about a frequent dream he used to have as a child, where he flew around his neighborhood. It seemed so real, he decided to test it to see if he was really flying around his neighborhood. The next time he had the dream, he looked carefully at the wall in the neighbor’s garage, memorizing the tools so he could check them when he awoke. But when he woke up, he realized that it was all wrong: his house was reversed, rooms were missing, and distances were off.

I feel like I’m living in a dream world, and only occasionally looking at specifics that remind me that the entire perception is slightly off. It’s not a bad representation of reality. It could fool you when you’re not thinking critically. But people are by nature biased, and view the world through the lens of those biases. They are also oppositional by nature, moving further afield in response to “the other” group. Unfortunately, the biased dream world doesn’t yield an accurate map for public policies. This is why centrist policy tends to be the best policy. It forces the biased sides to integrate their views and find the common ground—which is much more likely to be the actual ground.

The American Antitrust Institute mission is posted on their website:

“Our mission is to increase the role of competition, assure that competition works in the interests of consumers, and challenge abuses of concentrated economic power in the American and world economy. We are, broadly, post-Chicago centrists dedicated to the vigorous use of antitrust as a vital component of national and international competition policy.”

Yesterday the American Antitrust Institute held their annual conference, and gave their Antitrust Achievement Award to two senators, Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). The senators have a long history of working together on the Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights subcommittee to enforce appropriate antitrust policy. I don’t agree with many of their votes in other areas, but if the AAI wants to recognize them for cross-party efforts to implement vigorous antitrust policy, I will lift my glass and say, “Here’s to the future.”

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