The natural human propensity for clear and simple answers constantly tempts to false dichotomies and lopsided choices. Sometimes the complexity is clear. Should we develop our personal lives or our professional lives? Should we organize our finances with a view to the short term or the long term? Should we care for our bodies or cultivate our minds? In these cases, it easy to see that the answer is both; the hard part is coordinating, adjusting to circumstances, and striking the right balance. But what seems obvious when it comes to juggling the personal and the professional, handling money, and keeping body and mind in good order appears more elusive in politics.
In matters of public policy, governance, and justice, we seem bent on embracing a single principle to the exclusion of all others. The most conspicuous expression of this tendency in American politics is the stark division into two opposing camps, conservatives and progressives. The popular division encourages the misguided notion that conservatives have no interest in innovation, protecting the environment, and providing for the needy, while progressives can do without preserving beliefs, practices, and institutions that have stood the test of time.
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