January 11, 2019

Pocket paradigms: The center

Sam Smith - If you ask important people in politics, think tanks or the media where they stand politically, many will say "in the center." A lot of these folks like the center because it makes them sound reasonable and moderate. It also allows them to call other people extremists or gadflies or wishful thinkers for disagreeing with the conventional wisdom of the moment. Some members of the American elite have made whole careers of being measured and cautious. They like to write somber columns asking pompous questions like "Can the Center Hold?" What they really mean is: can they hold on to their power? But even if you do find the center, it's not necessarily the best place to be. My navigation instructor at Coast Guard Officer Candidate School explained it well: "If you take a navigational fix and it places you on one side of a rock and then you take another fix and it places you on the other side of the rock -- don't split the difference." Unfortunately, it's a rule not often followed in American politics.

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