80 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 20 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
OpEdNews Op Eds   

Pragmatists, Team Players, Idealists, and Democracy

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jerry Lobdill
Become a Fan
  (24 fans)


I heard on NPR recently a discussion of the difference between pragmatists and idealists. The definition of a pragmatist was a person who says, "Tell me how the system works, and I'll try to find a way to work within it to make a profit."- An idealist was defined as a person who has a vision of how things ought to work and tries to make the system over according to that vision. These may not be exactly the definitions, but I think they are pretty close. This was an intriguing program because I've been an idealist for as long as I can remember and at various times have been taken to task for not being more pragmatic and for not being a team player.

I like the definition of a pragmatist quoted above because it embodies all that is wrong with pragmatism. A pragmatist would seem to be a person who desires to gain something from his actions and doesn't really care what it takes to succeed. This is a person without values that transcend profit-making. Such a person is a perfect player in the game of business. The usual interpretation of Adam Smith's theory of capitalism says that the market always knows what is best for humanity and that all anyone needs to do is to focus like a laser on making a profit, and all will be well. In this model life is a game, and the person with the most toys at the end is the winner.

Corporations are a logical result of maximizing profits, because they are able to amass and control much more capital than most individuals could ever control. Consequently we have the phenomenon of the team player. The team player is a pragmatist within a corporate structure. He is never distracted by any thoughts that might create inefficiency in the game of profit-making. He is the epitome of a "good soldier"-, following orders without question or misgivings. In the hierarchy of corporate power, everybody who survives is a team player, and each member is convinced that his rewards are commensurate with his contribution to the game.

The game"-winners and losers"-you don't want to be a loser. Losers are not team players. The metaphor of "a game"- and "players"- is not accidental. Children in our society are conditioned early to fit in through participation in team sports. The game is a benign activity in which the score has no importance other than the conveyance of bragging rights and the pleasures of posturing and celebration. But no one gets hurt, and there is no need for concern about the losing team. They will play again another day, and all teams have their successes and failures to deal with. Losses teach "good sportsmanship"-, another term for complacent acceptance of loss of goals regardless of any consideration of the justice of the score. This childhood learning leads to adult pragmatism.

In a world where only team players exist there is no independent thought, no evaluation of outcomes, no questioning of authority. People who never think for themselves often become wealthy and function as judges of the quality of subordinates' pragmatism and team playing skills. They rise to positions of power over others but are in reality only blind followers of an order that is never questioned.

Pragmatists will readily abandon any cause that they see as a potential losing proposition. They would never be Goliath's David, never invest in any difficult effort because it is the right thing to do. Their idea is that the nail that sticks out will be hammered in, and so they take pains not to stick out.

In a world of pragmatists we see the Tragedy of the Commons played out repeatedly without concern. Assets such as forests, fisheries, the environment, and the stability of the planet's climate are squandered in a mindless, blind game of business and unsustainable perpetual growth.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Jerry Lobdill Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am a retired physicist and hold a B.S. in Ch. E. as well. I have been an environmental activist since the early 1970s. I was a founding member of the Save Barton Creek Association in Austin, TX. In 2006 I was a member of a select (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Making War on Climate Change

Globalization, Free Trade, and David Ricardo's Theory

When the next crash comes do you want Hillary in charge?

Currency in Fiat Monetary Systems in General and the US Federal Reserve System in Particular

Question Received Wisdom; Learn What We Don't Know, And Let the Chips Fall Where They May

The Trouble With Cash--a World Awash in $100 Federal Reserve Notes

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend