Yesterday, I took a shot — again — at liberals. Today, I’m aiming right, left, and center.
As with yesterday’s post, this appeared in The Boston Globe’s Uncommon Knowledge section Sunday.
Take my advice and do the perfect thing
Our political discourse seems to be dominated by back-seat drivers and Monday-morning quarterbacks — pundits, analysts, strategists, lobbyists, and activists who spew advice without having to follow it. But there’s the rub: What we’d advise others to do turns out to be substantially different than what we’d do ourselves. In several experiments, people were asked to contemplate various choices, either as an adviser or as the chooser. As advisers, people were more idealistic than pragmatic, focusing more on the why than the how, even to the point of being hypocritical. For example, advisers would advise others to spend a lot of time volunteering but were much less generous in volunteering themselves. Putting advisers in a how (vs. why) or imagine-making-the-decision-yourself mind-set was enough to bring them back to reality.
Danziger, S. et al., “Idealistic Advice and Pragmatic Choice: A Psychological Distance Account,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).
Politics, and most of the rest of life, is seriously overcrowded with “do as I say, not as I do” folks. Though [clears throat] hard-pressed to think of an off-hand example, I’m sure that group occasionally included this humble blogger. But for me, it is not a way of life, as it is with some.
I don’t really care how you live your life as long as how you live it does not hurt others. I don’t care what you do to yourself or to other consenting adults but I do care if you try to use the law to force me to accept it and/or subsidize or pay for it.
I know there are many others like me, but we seem to be a great minority.
Leaf through some law books (or use a forklift to pick up the whole set) and you’ll find them chock-full of laws that regulate and criminalize personal behavior. Each and every one had its genesis with some busybody who did not like something someone else was doing. Busybodies are legion, they always have been, and so are the folks who’ve run afoul of their indignation and have been punished for their effrontery.
Oddly enough, it is often the busybodies who are most vocal, most insistent that everyone do as they say who turn out to be the most serious offenders of their own self-righteous commands. We could probably fill a book just with examples of hypocritical preachers and politicians, starting with Jim Bakker and Al Gore.
Thankfully, I have a solution. Why don’t we all just shut up, stop trying to inflict our opinions on others, and mind our own business?
I think it’s a great solution, a near perfect one. I bet most you reading this will support the idea. But how do we get everyone else to see the light?
Let’s get a law passed.
What do you think? Good idea or bad?
Would you vote for the “Shut up and leave everyone else alone” law?
And who are your favorite hypocrites?