Thursday, May 24, 2007

Texas Enlightenment? Renaissance? Maybe They’d Better Come Up With The Name For It.

For Tena and RMJ
Posted by olvlzl
I’ve learned recently that it’s not only history but also the law that is better able than the behavioral sciences to deal with complex, political realities through reasoning. Lawyers are trained in rigorous reasoning about very complicated things, some of them even favor liberty and the common good. The great and futile yearning for final answers and clear results might be what obscured that common sense conclusion. But reality shows that there is no rational reason to expect that satisfying finality is available in the areas of government and the law. We get what might be called a preponderance of effective benefit. What works just has to work better than the alternatives, at least more often than not. That’s as good as we are going to get.

As long as there are people to have governments and laws there isn’t going to be an end of history. I hope that this is true and time doesn’t produce any of the various utopias proposed when some of those of a scientific bent start speculating on the perfect society.

Some people like to go on about modern democracy as resulting from the Scottish Enlightenment, those dour philosophers sometimes including, oddly enough, Locke and stretching it out rather too far and for rather suspect reasons to Smith. Maybe those guys informed some of the Constitutional Convention but that was a long time ago. We’ve learned a lot through living under the Constitution and correcting just a few of its major flaws. But repairs don’t seem to be doing it for us anymore. We might be at the major political crisis since the Civil War. We need a new Enlightenment for the renewal of our politics and society. And perhaps history has provided in answer to that need. Why it’s taken us so long to realize that Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Ronnie Dugger, Bill Moyers, .... constitute a vastly impressive and vitally useful body of thought can only be because they aren’t concentrated in one of our major attention grabbing locations. It’s almost certainly the accent too.

While we have been lucky enough to not have escaped their influence I propose that they get the full attention that such a brilliant, miraculous, group of thinkers and writers warrant. They aren’t providing the kinds of final proclamations that others have, it’s not their style. I think they, themselves, all realize that they are fallible and that their worlds aren’t written in stone. They seem to have benefitted from seeing that no philosophical pronouncements in these areas has proven to be the last word. I sense a trust in the force of evolving, informed thinking in this group, a full appreciation for good will and common decency that could take a dead piece of paper and use it to kindle a real enlightenment here. It would be good for the United States, The World and it wouldn’t do Texas any harm to have them to be proud of for a change.