Commentators should traveldown the rational road

Michael Greenberg

I like reading. I also enjoy watching TV. And boy, do I love politics.

Combine these three, and you are talking about countless hours wasted on watching and reading political news and commentary.

Politics is not something you can avoid. As much as you want to avoid it, it will catch up with you. In fact, everyday, all around us, we are very much affected by politics. Lawmakers are making decisions that affect all of us. Even if you are largely a Libertarian like me.

If you have read enough political commentary from all sides, you have probably come to realize one thing. Political commentators tend to speak to their own captive audience only. And in a highly partisan and polarized country on most contentious issues, these public figures generally emphasize more on blindly sticking to one side rather than choosing the rational road.

When one is an educated, open-minded and rational person, reading or listening to some of these folks speak to their blind followers and hearing their rhetorical arguments get so far away from rationality, one can’t help but go, “What the heck are they talking about?”

Sometimes when reading the newspapers or magazines or while channel surfing on TV or your radio, you come across some commentators who don’t make sense at all, and you can’t help but ask, “Who are these people?”

Well, you are not alone. Many people that I know have this kind of experience in their daily life. Don’t get me wrong. We are not passing any value judgments here. And we are certainly not taking any side here. If there is any side we are taking, it’s probably non-partisan, and it’s hopefully rational. If you haven’t noticed already, we are talking about people from both sides, people from all parties (sorry, Nader, you don’t get off the hook, either).

Granted, these political commentators are not stupid. In fact, I would argue most of them are highly intelligent, way above the average national level of intelligence. So, why are they talking the way they do, one may rationally ask.

It has to do with economic incentives. Now, exceptions to the rule exist and are very well alive, but on average, being highly partisan pays off much more handsomely than being rational. Especially in an increasingly over-hyped society.

Think of the 74-year old Warren Buffett or better yet, the 81-year old Charlie Munger giving down-home, rational voice of wisdom in some of those investment programs. Last time I checked, their TV appearances weren’t exactly the best watched investment programs, and not many people have checked out their taped video appearances from the library either. In investment or politics, audiences love public figures who go all the way to the left or to the right, even though the rational way is perhaps the best way to go.

Fortunately, in an equally divided country, the few percentages of rational voters are yielding an increasing power over the electoral process. While they are outnumbered, their votes are important because they are the voters who can still be swayed by rational arguments.

Michael J. Greenberg is a graduate student and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Editor’s note: Michael J. Greenberg is a pseudonym. He can be contacted through the editor at [email protected].