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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

'Enemies vs. Adversaries'

A colleague says "I found this to be very interesting.  Maybe your readers would be interested?" (To some extent, this is the point I was trying to get at in the post below this one):

Enemies vs. Adversaries, by Michael Ignatieff, NY Times: For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.
Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands.
Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again.
Adversaries can easily turn into enemies. If majority parties never let minority parties come away with half a loaf, the losers are bound to conclude they can only win through the utter destruction of the majority.
Once adversaries think of democracy as a zero-sum game, the next step is to conceive of politics as war: no quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown. ...
More civility and gentility — being nicer — will not cure this. What needs to change are the institutions themselves, and they will only change when the political class in Washington realizes that, just as in American football, there are some hits that are killing the game.
Saving the game means changing the rules. ...
What’s indefensible is a political class that believes nothing better is possible — a class that benefits from enmity without realizing that the damage from it is corrosive, and possibly irreversible.

    Posted by on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 02:08 PM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (30)


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