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The Dead End of Pragmatism

April 5th, 2009 by Mike N · No Comments · Culture

The Sunday 4/5/09 Detroit Free Press has three editorials,here, here, and here, that are chickens coming home to roost. They are titled
>”Michigan must take long view to fix growing gap between revenues, spending.”
>”How the budget soared out of reach”
>Emergency cuts are no long-term fix”
and each one calls for long-term thinking and decries all the concrete bound, range of the moment fixes of the past. For example:

Even in this time of economic crisis — especially in this time of economic crisis — lawmakers and the governor must summon the fortitude to make long-range fixes.


Finally — and this is truly Step One — Lansing has to make long-term projections and honor them. Officials can visualize the tightrope walk or use another mental image, but they have to budget as if every decision will make a difference 10 years from now — because it does.

And finally:

In other words, emergency cuts, extreme as they may be, rarely represent the kind of change that would bring the budget into balance over the long haul.

I left comments in the online edition one of which said:

“This is the third editorial in the Freep today calling for long-term or long view thinking. And properly so. Long range thinking is desperately needed today nationally not just in Michigan. But thinking long-term is precisely what pragmatism discourages. The father of the economic policies that President Obama is currently deploying, John Keynes, once remarked, in response to a question on the long-term consequences of his policies, “In the long run, we’re all dead”, in other words, who cares about the long-term? It is this short term thinking that the media has adopted in its advice to politicians, and to us, on how to fix things. A principled method of thinking is sorely needed but before the press can adopt one it must realize that pragmatism is a disastrous method of thinking and abandon it.”


All three editorials taken together are screaming “Pragmatism doesn’t work”, yet the authors don’t seem to to see it that way.

This is the dead end of pragmatism and what it will do to a human mind. A pragmatist, looking at its disastrous results, can only stamp his feet and insist that short-term thinking must be made to have good long-term results. How? Somehow.

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