Every ideology is flawed. How do we find common ground?

Sunday , July 16, 2017 - 5:00 AM3 comments

E. KENT WINWARD, special to the Standard-Examiner

Political discourse has turned into political disgust. Rancor and discord strangle dialogue. Who is right? Should the government of a self-proclaimed Christian nation help feed the poor and needy? Or does assisting those in need only perpetuate poverty by removing the incentive to pull yourself up by the bootstraps?

One belief system advocates governmental support for the impoverished, the other does not. There is one thing they have in common, however.

Have you figured it out?

They both want to reduce poverty. But one camp believes the government should take the lead, while the other sees it as an issue for families, churches and charities to address.

Yet ask this question: Should a civilized society do everything it can to eradicate poverty? My guess is the answer from both camps would be yes. Only the psychopathic and antisocial would say we should strive to increase poverty. Our dialogue and discussions rarely start from the fundamentals upon which we agree, but rather jump right to ideological conflicts.

As an attorney, I believe the rule of law makes our society stronger and safer. Ignoring the rule of law makes our society weaker, and our lives less free. That’s my ideology.

I also believe the rule of law involves pain and death. Judges can take away freedom and property, dissolve relationships and wreak havoc on lives. The quality of their rulings depends heavily on the caliber of the laws and the skill of the people working within the legal system.

Believing in the rule of law requires believing in the ongoing creation of good or better laws. Anyone who has spent time trying to read statutory language or judicial rulings knows they aren’t perfect.

In 1745 B.C., the rule of law was the Code of Hammurabi, which included laws like this: “If anyone bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.” I guess it was important to know how well the person you wanted to accuse could swim. This is not the rule of law I believe in, although it could decrease frivolous litigation.

Even the Constitution of the United States is not a document of justice and legal representation for all. The second paragraph of Article I contains this: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” In other words, if you were a slave, the Constitution only counted you as three-fifths of a person, and if you were an untaxed Native American, then you simply didn’t count. "We, the people" was an exclusive club.

The bloody nightmare of the Civil War shows how the law play out in the arena of pain and death. In this case, the pain and death came from an alleged ideology of "freedom" that diminished human beings to fractions or ciphers.

My point? As an ideology, the rule of law is imperfect. Republican ideology is imperfect. Democratic ideology is imperfect. Every ideology is imperfect. If we want to end ideological discord, only one belief system offers a roadmap.

This belief system has several incarnations, many of which are probably familiar to you. The rule of law has incorporated it into how we conduct trials and appeals. Scientists have incorporated it into how science is advanced, and the first step is always the same: Examining the evidence. No belief system can operate outside the world in which we live. If you don’t look at what is actually happening, your beliefs are built on sand, not rock.

The second step is looking for inconsistencies, resolving them to the extent possible and developing a theory that explains all the evidence, not just some. This may require some trial and error, which leads to the last step: Based on evidence and experience, admitting your initial belief was wrong.

If we do that, we can begin to find common ground.

E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. Twitter: @KentWinward

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