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Sender: John Backman
Subject: Re: More thoughts re clarity first
Date: Fri, Aug 22, 2014
Msg: 101131

<< it would be a mistake to do Transpartisan dialogue without first making a commitment to substantive reasoning, and following it wherever it leads, however unfashionable its discoveries might turn out to be.>>

Steve, I couldn't agree more. For me, this process is fundamental to transpartisan dialogue-so fundamental that, without it, we'd be hard pressed to call what we were doing either transpartisan or dialogue.

John Backman

Board member, NCDD (join us at the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation October 17-19 in metro DC)

Author, Why Can't We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart (published by and available from SkyLight Paths Publishing)

Description: cid:D530E911-413A-4DFB-A6C5-EE951553E17A@LonghillPartners.local

From: List for transpartisan leaders and innovators [mailto:TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG] On Behalf Of Steven H Johnson Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 8:49 AM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: [TRANSPARTISAN] More thoughts re clarity first

I want to sound three cautionary notes.

First, our political culture suffers on both sides from a lack of substantive rigor. We test ideas for whether they're fashionable but not for whether they're founded on genuine substance. I saw this up close when I dug into the Social Security issue in the late Clinton years, when it was up for discussion. What I discovered was depressing. Conservatives were substantively wrong about the promise of Independent Retirement Accounts. Cato's most ambitious projections would have created a hypothetical pool of capital so large that the entire U.S. stock market would have been swallowed five or ten times over. Liberals were substantively wrong about Social Security's general good health. Social Security's actuaries use a sophisticated tool called actuarial balance that gives everyone the feeling that it's a reliable solvency yardstick. In fact, it's an asset depletion yardstick, not an asset preservation yardstick, and none of the arguments based on its use could have led Social Security to genuine solvency.

This isn't an isolated instance; fashionable thinking is a much stronger norm than substantive investigation. For both the Left and the Right. But it would be a mistake to do Transpartisan dialogue without first making a commitment to substantive reasoning, and following it wherever it leads, however unfashionable its discoveries might turn out to be.

Second, I think there needs to be a shared commitment, going in, to a spirit of shared responsibility for America's long run best interests. My way of encapsulating that is to say that all of us, as members of the citizenry, share three broad responsibilities - for the vitality of America's commerce, for the health of America's enduring assets, and for the wisdom of America's laws. Tax options touch on all three. I think any dialogue will work better if all three responsibilities are used as a shared touchstone.

Third, with respect to the carbon tax idea in particular, I sense that some on this listserv imagine that carbon taxes, if adopted, could last forever. And, since they'd be expected to go on forever, one could properly view them as a plausible alternative for payroll taxes, say, or for corporate taxes. This is a view that has to be tested for its substantive validity before it becomes a guiding principle of such a dialogue.

Here's the substantive logic that the threat of dangerous climate change imposes on us. If climate change and ocean acidification are to be halted, the atmospheric stock of carbon dioxide has to be capped at the lowest feasible level. And for total CO2 to be capped, the consumption of fossil fuels will have to come to an end. For the consumption of fossil fuels to end, the world will have to replace all its technologies that burn fossil fuel with new energy technologies that don't.

As Elon Musk likes to point out, humanity will end up making that shift someday, no matter what, since fossil fuels are finite. Make that shift now, rather than two hundred years from now, and we'll have a much more tractable climate and much healthier oceans.

Given all that, the wise view of carbon taxes is that they can be valuable but that the revenues they generate are to be temporary, not permanent. Were carbon revenues to be viewed as permanent, we'd end up locking ourselves into the consumption of fossil fuels just when we should be getting rid of them.

Bottom line - investigating options is a good exercise, if done in a context of shared responsibility and with a commitment to substantive validity. Otherwise we face the risk of a too-hasty solution and a transpartisan failure.

Steve Johnson

Steven Howard Johnson - Civic Futurist


Book in Progress: Thoughtful Patriotism


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