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Hold on There, Robert Samuelson! Let's Think This Through!

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However, debate about any given legislative proposal usually involves debate about competing values, because legislative proposals are usually complicated enough that they involve more than one value issue.

Now, the observation about competing values brings us to the issue that most concerns Samuelson the problem of denigrating opponents to one's own views as "less moral" -- as Samuelson delicately puts it. Put less delicately, we may tend to see our opponents as "evil" or at least as people who are up to no good good-for-nothing people.

When we are carrying on public debates about any given legislation proposal, it strikes me as inevitable that we will tend to characterize our opponents in the debate through negative invective. The use of invective to arouse people against what our opponents are advocating strikes me as fair enough. In the final analysis, invective is usually a way of saying, "Shame on you!"

Even though stirring up political anger about a given legislative proposal is obviously the way to move people to undertake political action to oppose the proposal, political anger as such should be tempered by reasonable argumentation. There's the rub that most concerns me political anger can get out of hand and lead at times to violence against one's opponents.

As we know from experience, political anger can at times lead certain individuals to undertake violence against another individual, as it led one antiabortion agitator recently to murder an abortion doctor in a church in Kansas.

In a similar way, political anger can lead to mob violence against other people.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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