Examining Very Influential Ideas, and How to do so Properly

The following is a letter to the members of a Facebook group I help manage. The group is small and relatively new, but the viewpoint diversity of its membership is quite remarkable, as is the level of intellectual discussion.

Facebook is not a good forum for long essays, and I frequently recommend members use Medium.com to publish ideas that deserve a longer form, so I figured I’d take my own advice with this. …

The good things that frustrate democracy, and how to have them all

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“And what, I said, will be the best limit for our rulers to fix when they are considering the size of the State and the amount of territory which they are to include, and beyond which they will not go?

What limit would you propose?

I would allow the State to increase so far as is consistent with unity; that, I think, is the proper limit.” -Plato’s The Republic, Book IV

It’s useful to look back on Plato’s The Republic when thinking about the limits of a state. He witnessed the earliest evolution of the Athenian state that can be…

Violence in the U.S. Capitol is not a Right or Left problem. It’s a We problem.


The protest and violence at our nation’s Capitol yesterday should worry us all. No, not because “the right” is getting bolder. It is because the United States of America is diminished because of these events. If you’re an American citizen or someone who benefits from American stability you should be worried, and more importantly, you should be worried for the right reason. If you see this as a problem of or for the political/ideological right, you’re not thinking big enough. Certainly, that’s what it looks like, but back up and see the forest not just the trees.

I am aware…

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Recently, the term “lived experience” has become popular as a way of knowing or understanding things. This idea actually conflates two things. First is the understanding that we all operate in the world together and therefore need common frames of reference to interact and communicate with each other. The second thing is that individual experiences often contradict the common frames of reference and should be given consideration when dealing with individuals. Both of these things are true, but they are not the same thing.

Violent crime is very uncommon in the developed world. This is an understanding that most of…

A popular deceptive tactic you should be aware of

Windsor Castle with motte in the center and baileys on both sides. (Image from Wikipedia.com)

The motte and bailey as a form of argumentation is a rather recent phenomenon. It has been used to great effect by some people talking about today’s hottest topics. It’s important to learn how to identify it and understand how it works. Once you do, you’ll spot the tactic easily and in places where you might not have expected. For me, it was like a curtain had been lifted and I could see the truth much more easily, à la the Wizard of Oz.

The medieval structure

How topics become more or less acceptable to discuss

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If you follow politics, you’ve probably heard of the Overton window. If not, you’re probably familiar with the concept, and it’s useful to have it laid out clearly and classified with a term you can refer to.

The Overton window, put as simply as possible, is the range of acceptable ideas. It’s a political term, named after the man credited with articulating it, but it’s actually created and controlled by society at large. Politics follow changes in society, so it’s useful to think of the Overton window more broadly than just politics. Society tends to have more things it’s willing…

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An idea for turning our government back toward solving problems and away from posturing

We have an accountability problem in our country. We give power to politicians with the express purpose of governing in our interest. This is what a vote is. The United States is not a direct democracy at the highest levels, but at some levels it is, and at the levels where it is not it is still supposed to uphold democratic ideals. But how many politicians are actually held accountable? How many of us actually know how all our representatives at every level between us and the Senate are performing? …

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A short final note before we get the results

After the election, people will make the following points. I illustrate them here because we will all be better off if we understand these points are inevitable, come to grips with them beforehand while we are not as emotional as we will be on November 4th, and so we can preemptively move past them.

There will be accusations of meddling in our elections. Many of these will be true. This is not new. Other nations who have an interest in American elections attempt to influence things toward their desired outcomes. This has always been done and always will be. We…

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One of the hardest lessons of life

The first job of any young person setting out into the world should be to get good at something. When I was a young man, I made it my job to be right. Not about everything in the world, just about my job. My first job after high school was in the military doing aircraft parts requisitions. Learning everything needed to be right in that field, or any field, is a long process. There are so many things you don’t know as a young adult, that to become good at anything is a process that takes years, at least.


What I found in my own reflection on racism in my life

We’ve all been told more and more loudly lately that we’re supposed to examine our lives for any traces or manifestations of racism. I don’t believe that’s true, but I’ve done it nonetheless.

My father didn’t raise me, but I visited him sporadically as a child. Once when I was about fifteen, I vaguely remember him saying something negative about a black man. It might have had something to do with said black man having a sexual relationship with my younger sister, but I can’t be sure. My memory’s not that great. …

Craig Carroll

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