I try to respect opposing opinions. That is important to me on a lot of levels. But sometimes people try to disguise stupidity as an opinion. That can be awkward. I respect opinions, but how can I show respect for stupidity without being a liar?
Let me give you a concrete example.
During an American election cycle you will see a lot of “opinions” that looks like this:
“The Constitution clearly gives us the right to do X. Therefore, that’s the way it should be.”
That sounds like an opinion, right?
But it really isn’t.
The Founders wisely made it hard to change the Constitution, but they did give us the tools to do it. And we have changed it in the past, e.g. slavery.
So it is stupid to hold the opinion that we should do what the Constitution says, no matter what, when the authors of the document had no such intention. And common sense tells us that society ALWAYS changes over time. The Founders knew situations change (they were revolutionaries after all) and sometimes people get better ideas. Why would Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson want to prevent any new and better ideas from becoming part of the Constitution? They weren’t gods. They were smart people trying to invent a good system that could become greater over time.
The authors of the Constitution clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously planned for the document to change. That’s why the rules of change are designed into it. If historians have some other explanation for why the rules of change are included in the document, I am all ears.
We have a similar situation with laws passed by Congress. Look at the debate about illegal immigrants. You hear a lot of people arguing that the law-breakers must be deported because they broke a law, and we are a land of laws.
On a conceptual level, a nation must have laws in order to function. But again, the Constitution explains in great detail how to change laws. They change all the time. Change is the normal condition.
If you think illegal aliens need to leave because it is the law, that’s not an opinion. That’s stupidity, because we can change the laws any way we want. All that matters is what we want, and what makes sense, not what has already been written down somewhere. Let’s make wise decisions first, then force the laws to agree with us.
Americans aren’t rule-followers. It isn’t in our DNA. We are revolutionaries. We are entrepreneurs. Often we are total assholes. But I sure hope we never become a nation of obedient rule-followers.
The only laws I plan to respect, now or ever, are the ones that make sense to me and are a net positive for humans. That feels American to me. You won’t see me obeying any laws because someone I have never met decided it would be a good idea.
I literally feel offended when anyone suggests that my life should be guided by the wisdom and fairness of dead slave owners.
The nature of capitalism is that innovation often requires breaking some sort of law or social convention. A few years ago I blogged that a company like Uber was not possible because taxis had legal monopolies. Then Uber decided to ignore all of those laws, or change them. And in so doing they are on track to be the largest company in the world. I identify with Uber, not dead patriots that pooped in holes and raped slaves hundreds of years ago. I’m sure the Founders were awesome when viewed in the context of their day, but maybe we need to update our heroes every few centuries to avoid this kind of awkwardness.
How about the future of self-driving cars? They are against the law now. That isn’t stopping any company from building them in anticipation of changing the law.
As a citizen of the United States, if your only reason for supporting a law is the Constitution, or because Congress said so, you are officially stupid. But if you obey laws that make sense, and violate the ones that don’t, you are as American as the Founders of the country and our illegal immigrants.
Here’s a little thought experiment for you. I will describe two groups of people and you can decide which ones to deport:
1. Hard-working people who took huge risks to live in America so their children could have better lives.
2. People who believe all rules should be obeyed, even if the rules are senseless and inhumane.
I’d like to deport that second group, just to improve the average. And we can deport the illegals who commit additional crimes too. I’m with you on that, assuming those additional crimes are violating sensible laws.
In the interest of clarity, if you think illegal immigrants need to leave your country because they are sucking up your resources, that is an entirely legitimate (albeit selfish) opinion and I respect it. If you live in a capitalist society, you are allowed to be selfish. The system depends on that very thing.
I respect greed, if you are honest about it. But please don’t tell me you blindly follow all laws – even the bad ones – and still want to identify as an American. That just doesn’t fit.