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Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Tag: Compromise

Debate is about difference, not consensus


ARTICLE: There is a general and increasingly pervasive attitude that the purpose of debate is to secure consensus. That is, rather than a forum to determine which arguments and ideas are the most cogent or insightful, debate is seen as means to compromise and appease. That, however, is to denude debate of its greatest potential contribution: knowledge and understanding. When mere expression is the end, the means (rationality, evidence and reason) suffer in turn. For what is the point of trying to convince if just by speaking you are already fêted?

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On fairness


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Fairness enjoys a reputation perhaps more generous than is actually deserved. It is, of course, an important idea but, if it is the greater good you are interested in, fairness is no guarantee it will be secured. More likely an existing conflict will be defused. That can be important but it is just as important not to confuse the two.

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Rationality: our guide through the dark


ARTICLE: Why is rationality important? Well, for one thing, it allows us not only to understand principles (which are by their nature often counter-intuitive) but to apply them to those decisions we make in pursuit of the good life. That is not always easy, because emotion’s pull in the other direction can be powerful. But rationality and reason are the tools we can use to help exercise the best possible judgement.

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On authenticity


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Politics and public life lend themselves to compromise and appeasement. Both these things, in turn, help to generate an incentive structure that often does not reward but punishes authenticity. Constantly those that would seek out public office are encouraged to present to the world a version of themselves that is as inoffensive to as many people as possible. But what happens when one attains a position of power? Does that incentive still hold, or are people then more inclined to reveal their real selves?

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What would a society mired in mediocrity look like?


ARTICLE: Mediocrity is a devilish thing – pervasive and insidious and yet so ill-defined. It is relatively easy to understand what excellence is, much harder though to define its nemesis. What I have tried to do in the article below is describe what a society firmly in mediocrity’s grip might look like. It is a helpful exercise, if only because it makes it easier to understand the important role excellence plays and its general effect.

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