Ideologues Anonymous

Ideologies offer the feeling of certainty and order in an otherwise chaotic world. With their simplicity, internal consistency, and, often, intellectual beauty, they are incredibly alluring. They can unite people like nothing else and give them the conviction to pursue massive change.

But, almost inevitably, the allure of an ideology comes bundled with a simplistic view of the world that assumes perfect rationality, or perfect information and competition, or perfect repeatability, or perfect something else.

People rarely unite passionately around pragmatic, but uninspiring, ideas like Aristotle’s “do the appropriate thing”; more often, the reaction seems to be a collective “Well gee, tell me something I don’t know.”

That doesn’t make pragmatism any less valid, though. In fact, the more I see the dangers of ideology (in politics especially, on both sides of the aisle), the more I want to push for pragmatism. Embracing the key lesson of an ideology can be great, but rigidly adhering to it is likely to cause trouble.

But I say this, of course, as a complete hypocrite because I know I can be a really stubborn fuck sometimes. See: my insistence on ranking pitchers completely numerically and my unabashed embrace of universalist design principles—​neither of which will ever fully work. But damn are they sexy ideas.

And that’s why I probably wont give up my ideological ways overnight.

They say, though, that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So, here goes: “Hi, my name’s Ethan and I’m an ideologue.”