Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The "But" Gambit

There's more than one way to kill progress

"No, but Dad ..."

It's like fingernails on a chalkboard. Whether it's because they don't like my decision, have an underinformed opinion, or they're not getting they're way, my kids like to counter with a "but".

And it's funny (and kind of sad) when politicians and favorseekers play the "but" card.
  • "Yes, tax reform is important but ..."
  • "Yes, the bill provides exclusive benefits to a small population but ..."
  • "Yes, entitlements are an ever-increasing proportion of the budget but ..."
  • "Yes, our proposal is poorly conceived, poorly crafted, inefficient, and intrusive but ..."
The "but" gambit is played to impede action and deflect criticism. And it's lazy and self-fulfilling because, as Bon Scott once put it, "doin' nothin' means a lot to me". Worse still, however, is when it's played to defend the status quo and favoritism – whether explicit or derived.

In fact Congress has internal rules that almost guarantee inaction. A piece by Dylan Matthews points out that even when a majority of legislators representing a wide majority of Americans agree to move forward Congress shifts to "Park". Mr. Matthews asserts that one delaying mechanism – the filibuster – "blatantly .. violates basic democratic norms."

For me, some action – any action – is better than no action. Instead of using "but" to delay, let's make it an addition: "Not only can we ... but we can also ..." Let's find out what happens because of action rather than inaction.

Leadership. Now that's playing a winning move.