Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Pragmatic Ideologue

The problem with someone who is wholly pragmatic is that they have a hard time inspiring confidence in others. If your decision making is founded purely upon what is expedient, you're not likely to be a great leader (although you could make a wonderful middle-manager, I suppose; just maybe not in the eyes of your subordinates).

The problem with ideologues is that they're not likely to be very effective. In life, while it is best to strive for greatness, there are times when we can let our pursuit of the great become the enemy of the good. True leadership recognizes that sometimes you have to compromise and gain the good, even if the chorus of voices of the ideologues insists that the leader continue the pursuit of the great; and even then despite the likelihood of obvious failure.

I once heard Reagan described as such - a pragmatic ideologue. I think it was a good description, for of what I've read about him, and he had that ability to keep both sides relatively displeased.

Cal Thomas wrote a wonderful column you can read here, on the latest GOP debate. While I share this yearning for competent leadership, I also want ideology in my elected officials. Interesting that the idea of Balanced Government fits both requirements.

A party and candidates that ran on the principles of Balanced Government would be a group of ideologues, no question. The principle is firm: each sphere of government has a well-defined scope of responsibility (beginning with the smallest sphere, the self). Deviating from that is not possible; that would be called imbalanced government, which is what we have today.

The pragmatic aspect of the proposition is this: locally, people are going to sometimes make bad governmental decisions. There will be consequences to these decisions. People will probably go through growing pains, to be charitable. Could real human suffering occur? Yes. Does that mean that people shouldn't be free to make mistakes? Of course not.

However, should local government fail to deliver on its promises (which is inevitable, if the promises are big enough), the right conclusion should be evident: that the best government is that which is closest to the self. As easy as it is to see how the general government "failed" in Katrina (by the false standard that said that individuals, families and church communities aren't responsible for their spheres of duty), would the state of Louisiana have fared much better?

Balanced Government - as designed and advocated by our Founders - is the means to effect the continued success of the United States and ensure Liberty to Her people. It has the added advantage of being a rather simple concept. Now, if we could only get a party to run on that platform, we'd be getting somewhere.


Maggie said...

To me, Reagan doesn't seem like much of an ideologue, pragmatic or otherwise. Honestly, I don't think he had a "program," besides beating the Soviets and lifting us out of the 70s morass.

Without pragmatism, government would screech to a halt ("and what's so bad about that?" Reagan would say, but wouldn't really mean). It's important, of course, to distinguish between pragmatism and spinelessness... some Republicans have fits of the latter but insist on labeling their condition with the former.

Call Me Mom said...

Mr. Tams,

I tend to believe that it would require a new party to take on such a concept, because the established ones seem to wish to cling to the ideas they've had some success with. (Whether those ideas are actually the same as the ideas that those parties started out with or not.)

That's probably not very clear, but I've had an interesting last few weeks and a lot of reading to catch up on. (Egad! the accumulation of e-mail alone is staggering-thankfully most of it is junk.)

Michael Tams said...


Come on, you don't mean that. His whole stance against communism flew in the face of conventional wisdom, which at the time was summed up thusly: the world is changing, America's not the great power it used to be, get used to it. Reagan said, I ain't buying it. He brought American Exceptionalism back into vogue.

If you haven't read it, I would strongly recommend Dinesh D'Souza's biography on Reagan. It is very well-done, even without access to much of Reagan's personal writings that subsequent biographers have had access to.

LOL, boy but did you hit it out of the park. Indeed we do observe an epidemic of weak spines, we ought to send our "representatives" some calcium supplements to strengthen those backbones!

Thanks for the comments.


Michael Tams said...

Hey! Mom!

Speaking of missing people (so I just told Terry in another comment), I'm eager to hear about your adventures when time permits.

Your point is a good one. Inertia is a remarkable force, and people in political parties are probably not wild about the organizational philosophy of a writer like Jim Collins ("preserve the core/stimulate progress" being one of my favorites). It requires more thinking than they'd probably be up for. Oh! You'll think I'm an even bigger nerd but...

"Embrace the genius of the AND" and "Reject the tyranny of the OR!!"

OK, enough of amusing myself with inside jokes, Mom, welcome back.


Call Me Mom said...

Thank you Mr. Tams.