It’s time for pragmatism

What’s the difference between an idea and an ideology?

You have an idea. An ideology has you.

With covid19 coming to our shores, we’re seeing first hand where the rubber meets the road.

It actively selects against bad ideas at very high stakes. The political ramifications of this public health crisis ignore our arbitrary left/right policy bundles. In the flurry of op-ed pieces that have since followed, we’ve read how coronavirus could “destroy liberalism” or “be bad for conservatism.” The truth is, the cultural psychology and favored policies that are likely to emerge run the gamut:

  • Border controls
  • Socialized medicine
  • Xenophobia
  • UBI
  • Paid leave policies for workers
  • Anti-globalization
  • Fast-track testing and vaccine approval
  • Reduced hurdles for occupational licensing in medical fields
  • Bio-surveillance and contact tracing
  • Increased spending on biomedical and public health research
  • Impetus for building strong local communities and divil society
  • Social conservatism

Look at that list. There’s something for everyone – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian (sorry anarchists). The cynical way to put it is that whichever party was early to the crisis could’ve milked it for their own agenda. Our government leaders totally failed to “capitalize” because they missed all the signs and were woefully inept.

Talking about “when all this is over” is a moot point. If it’s not clear to you by now, it really should be. Covid19 is part of our world in the near future and we’re going to have to learn how to live with it. It’s going to stoke other sociopolitical forces that would have very significant long-term consequences – it might put an end to in-person voting, the work-from-home (distributed work) phenomenon might decrease innovation clusters as people don’t have to live in urban centers (huge political effect), and don’t forget the demographic changes that would arise.

Real world changes almost never map neatly to our entrenched political tribes and maps. I’m glad people are slowly waking up to this reality.

This is where pragmatism is going to be valued above ideology. It has to. If not, lives will be lost.