Monday, May 23, 2005

On Catalogues and politics 

Maybe politics should be more like writing essays.

When I was an Open University Associate Lecturer I had to tutor students on academically credible essay writing. In essence this was how to bring evidence and analysis together.
First you state a 'thesis'; that is an assertion about your subject that raises questions. Not just 'self-evident truths'.
Then you marshalled evidence for and against your thesis. Anyone half awake can get 'evidence' to support ones own ideas, the discipline comes from understanding and being able to state accurately the case against your ideas.
Then you show why your evidence makes a difference to your original statement. Has it strengthened your case, weakened it or can't we decide on the evidence available?

In order to have evidence that makes a difference it has to be marshalled into an 'argument' linking the items and weighing them up. It is not enough to present a catalogue of facts. The marshalling into an argument, using discipline and integrity, is one of the things that separates good scholarship from plausible assertion.

Is it possible that the Liberal Democrats have fallen into the habit of having a magnificent catalogue of policies without enough ‘argument’ following on from this to make it live? Leaving voters to check the boxes as Kos says in respect to US Democratic politics? If so policy reviews that redraft the catologue will not be the most productive ways forwards. Perhaps some thoughts on philosophy and direction as well as on policy details are needed 'in the next decade' or even earlier. Simon Titley has some thoughts here.

One 'argument' linking our policies in the recent election was implicitly 'Restoring the Tax Base'. fairness and integrity is the theme of that argument. Beter than getting trapped in the 'Tax Raise' meme anyway.


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