Doing Business vs. Righteous Indignation

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

In moving from smoke-filled rooms to talk-filled rooms, our modern political system, Edward Banfield says, has become less effective in finding the terms on which people can act together and live together in peace:

The upper-class ideal recommends participation as intrinsically good, but unfortunately, the more participants there are, the larger the number of issues that must be dealt with and the greater the disagreements about each. The ideal also requires that issues be settled on their merits, not by logrolling, and that their merits be conceived of in terms of general moral principles that may not, under any circumstances, be compromised. In the smoke-filled room, it was party loyalty and private interest that mainly moved men; these motives alway permitted “doing business.” In the talk-filled room, righteous indignation is the main motive, and therefore the longer the talk continues, the clearer it becomes to each side that the other must either be shouted down or knocked down.

(From The Unheavenly City Revisited.)

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