Election Season: Time for Critical Thinking

At this time of year the good citizen is likely to say, “I’ll keep an open mind, watch the ads, listen to the candidate‘s speeches, and decide for whom to vote.” I think that watching ads and listening to the candidate’s speeches are a waste of time and attention. Here is what I would recommend.

First read the Constitution, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.

Pay particular attention to the duties of the President. You will not see create or provide jobs anywhere in the Constitution. Yet, listening to the speeches of the two candidates for president, one would conclude that creating or providing jobs is their primary responsibility. Go to the web and read up on economics. When the economy is good, jobs are plentiful; when the economy is bad, jobs are in short supply. Usually, the primary factor determining who wins the presidential election is the economy. If the economy is good the incumbent or the party of the incumbent is re-elected. If the economy is poor, the incumbent or the party of the incumbent is defeated. It is important to realize that there are business cycles and lags in the economy. When something bad happens, that effect can prevail for years before new policies or changes in the business cycle can have an effect. So a president may fail to be be re-elected not for policies of his own, but because of the policies of his predecessor. This problem is further compounded when the party bearing primary responsibility for the economic decline is elected and brings back the policies that caused the problem in the first place.

Although it is true that the president does affect the economy and domestic policy, he is limited by the congress with which he has to work. It is foreign policy where the president has the largest and most immediate effect. So when voting for president, it makes sense to weight most heavily his ability to conduct foreign policy.

For me, a red flag is raised whenever I hear a candidate tell me what he believes. I want to hear what the candidate thinks along with the facts supporting what he thinks. In evaluating the facts that are used a useful source is www.factcheck.org. When the facts don’t check out it detracts not only from the thinking of the candidate, but also from the candidate’s integrity. Ideologues believe in a dogma so that their minds are made up. Moreover, their minds are made up to the extent that their minds are impervious to evidence to the contrary. Humankind has advanced due to the embracing of empiricism at the expense of ideology.

It is unfortunate that the word “politician” has been soaked with negative connotations. It has a good and very important sense for a democracy. For business to be conducted in a democracy, compromises must be struck and agreements made among people with different perspectives. So I would definitely not vote for someone claiming not to be a politician or who would never compromise his position.

So ignore the daily fray, the negative ads and the charges the candidates hurl at each other. Review what a democracy is and how it needs to function. Familiarize yourself with the policies and philosophies of the candidates and their respective parties. More importantly, consider how well those policies square with past experience and with the future needs of the country.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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