Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Upside of Arguing

“Arguments continue after hours for the fun of it. This is an important factor in the proofing of ideas: because it is only through a process of rigorous and prolonged argument - with people not sympathetic to your ideological bent - that ideas are refined and matured. Or, sometimes, revealed to be riddled with flaws. Whichever it is, it's a valuable process.”

Read it at The Age
Intellectual substance abuse
by Parnell McGuinness

Parnell begins the piece by noting an important revelation: “both the right and the left care about creating a healthier, happier, more prosperous society.” This recognition is often forgotten in policy debates, as each side attacks the other’s goals, not realizing that the true differences lie in the means by which that end is realized. An unfortunate consequence of the technology age has been to encourage sound-bit advocacy, discouraging lengthy public debates about why certain policies will or will not most effectively create a better society.

Within my personal life I generally try to fulfill the message in the quote from Parnell at the top of the page. Although my family and friends may at times be frustrated by my efforts, I often try to engage in arguments with those holding different ideologies. Occasionally I will even attempt to make an argument opposing my own ideology, if I believe it will encourage a more rigorous discussion of the ideas. The purpose of these actions is not to argue for the sake of arguing, but to ensure the ideas I pursue are the most logically sound.

At the heart of this article appears to be a belief in the natural selection of ideas similar to either Darwinian evolution or Schumpeter’s “creative destruction.” Parnell seemingly hopes to inspire think tanks to engage each other in greater public debate instead of focusing on advocating policies to fit a political bias. I think Parnell offers a great lesson about learning and hopefully think tanks will adhere to some of his suggestions going forward.


  1. "Although my family and friends may at times be frustrated by my efforts..."

    No! Never!!

  2. Really, I'm not sure I agree.