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Has Half the Country Gone Mad?

It’s increasingly common to hear people argue, with utter sincerity, that half of Americans have gone bonkers. Is that really true? Or is this a paradigm shift in the making?

The last few decades in this country have many asking, “has half the country gone mad”? This culminated in the recent protests and riots in the Capital. Were these folks righteous patriots raising their voices to cry, “enough!—we will not let the greatest country the world has ever seen continue its slouch towards pervasive censorship, tyranny, socialism, and permanent one-party rule!” Or were they simply whack-jobs looking for violence and destruction, egged on by President Trump and his rascally tweets?

But whatever side of the political divide you happen to occupy, there is no doubt at least half the country seems to be utterly mad—and they probably think the same about you.

Can this really be true?  For many of us, in calmer, saner moments, it is difficult to believe half our country—which half doesn’t really matter—is unmoored from reality.

Thomas Kuhn in his revolutionary book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions acknowledged the common belief that science is a steady cumulative flow of one idea being built upon another but argued that notion is simply wrong. Coining the phrase paradigm shift, Kuhn proposed that in reality, science moves ahead in intellectually violent revolutions where one world view, or paradigm, is completely tossed aside and replaced by a superior paradigm.

What leads to these intellectually violent revolutions and corresponding paradigm shifts is the accumulation of “unreconciled anomalies.” These occur when the actual results don’t fit with the expected or predicted results. Sooner or later, these anomalies are either somehow explained away (or ignored for as long as possible), or they accumulate until they force a break with the underlying theory, since it clearly is wrong.

The growing frictions we experience every day—regardless of your political position—are simply the symptoms of the present failing paradigm.

Of course, it is always easier to see these revolutions in the rear-view mirror where one can think, “of course it is that way, how could anyone have believed anything else?”

But being in the middle of one of these revolutions is quite a different experience, and perhaps that is where we find ourselves today.

No, half the country hasn’t gone mad. The growing frictions we experience every day—regardless of your political position—are simply the symptoms of the present failing paradigm and the two main purveyors of these failures: the Democrat and Republican political parties and their various allies. 

And just like the world of science, the only way to address these “unreconciled anomalies” is to abandon the present thinking which has led to the crisis and discover a deeper, more fundamental truth. 

To do so requires discarding the left/right, conservative/liberal, and most certainly Democrat versus Republican paradigm. That bifurcated thinking is what got us here in the first place.

Never forget that political parties are nothing more than networks of private organizations which employ thousands and spend billions to control the levers of power in government. If this doesn’t cause a certain degree of concern, you aren’t paying attention.

Each attempts to create tribal loyalties to “their side,” but ultimately these organizations are primarily concerned with their power and the rewards it brings to them, and little more. The high-minded rhetoric is too often just for consumption by the rubes who are foolish enough to participate in this game. The fighting between the parties is much more about whose snouts get in the trough, not a battle for the soul of the country.

Critiques on America’s two-party system, of course, are extensiveas are debates about the viability of third-party or independent candidates. We see that happening in the push-back to the Evan McMullin-led proposal by 150 prominent conservatives to seriously consider a third party.  While recognizing the challenges of seriously moving beyond this bifurcated system, perhaps it’s time to think hard about what it would take.  

Yet I’m not simply making another argument against the 2-party system.  And I’m not only pointing towards the possible benefits of a third party.  What I’m pointing to are inherent limitations in the left-right paradigm in terms of solving our problems.

Never forget that concentrated power will attract those who want to use this power—it is as predictable as night following day—and both major political parties have their assigned roles to play in this scripted drama. And play it they do.

But it seems the paradigm upon which these organizations rest is beginning to crumble, and it is highly unlikely this genie will ever again be put back in the bottle.

So, what to do? First, remember quite often all of those “problems” that seemed so insurmountable, those issues which simply don’t seem to have a solution other than the “other” side pulling their heads out and seeing things my way, simply fade away. They are problems created by the system.

Our political, economic, and cultural wars are all based on these “insurmountable” problems. Look at the present political situation. Half the country seems absolutely mad and people sincerely speak of a coming civil war as they see no realistic way to solve the arguments other than the physical annihilation of, or separation from the entire “other” side.

People must be allowed to live their lives as they see fit, as long as their actions don’t hurt or infringe on anyone else’s life.

When the only seemingly possible solution is using the power of the government to crush those who disagree, it is time to rethink the entire paradigm which at its core, arguably creates these realities. If we insist on keeping the present failing paradigm, these “unreconciled anomalies” will sooner or later be the end of us all.

I would argue the simplest solution that is neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal nor conservative. It’s the solution this country is based on.  Just as the Founders understood, individual freedom is the only long-term answer. 

People must be allowed to live their lives as they see fit, as long as their actions don’t hurt or infringe on anyone else’s life. Period.

This is why all the debates about the growing size of government in the U.S. still matter today. By many measures, it’s difficult to maintain true individual freedom while at the same time having large, intrusive, governments. 

Perhaps, then, we don’t after all, need our betters in any political party leading us to some imagined promised land. Maybe we simply need them to give us space and preserve our freedoms—aka, leave us alone. And let’s not give up on ways to control and shrink the leviathan the various levels of government have become. Finally, let’s ensure those limited things governments are authorized to do, they do well and efficiently. Is that so difficult?

But let’s return to the more important point.  No, your neighbors aren’t mad. But the tribal hatreds that are flowing across this country are very real and are primarily driven by those who supposedly want to fight themthe Democrat and Republican parties. 

Stop hating your neighbors and instead consider hating the beliefs of those who have brought us to this point in time. It is far past time for us to end this fool’s game.

About the author

John Conlin

John Conlin is the founder and President of E.I.C. Enterprises an education nonprofit. He is an expert in organizational design and change.
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