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April 16, 2013

MORTON: Anger on varied values

The rancor and moral outrage of the left and right over various current issues eats at the very core of civilized discussion. Whether the topic is abortion or gun control, immigration, taxes or government subsidies of the private sector, the emotions of those who disagree dominate the discourse which has become mean spirited.

There are those in my family and among my friends who would roundup and deport all illegal immigrants. Others within my family or among my friends would provide full government services and speedy citizenship for such “illegals.” The two sides see each other as deficient in judgment, to be polite about calling another person crazy.

Extremists, regardless of label, are unwilling to grant the validity of the other side’s set of values. Naturally, they question each other’s facts since satisfying statistics or impressive opinions support both sides.

Let’s look at improved transit for the Indianapolis metro area. “Too costly relative to the benefits” is the argument of the foes, while the pros envision a progressive community realigning itself with necessary changes.

The pros see the foes putting roadblocks in the path to settling the issue. The foes, however, feel the entire question is being rushed to judgment before enough is known about the proposal and its outcomes. These are standard arguments based on the scenarios of those with differing beliefs and preferences.

Those who want guns in schools to protect our children imagine a world in which good triumphs over evil at the point of conflict. Those opposed to guns in schools imagine a world in which new horrors are likely with the increased level of force available to too many people with quick trigger fingers.

Gambling and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) are less emotional issues, but advocates for all sides often leave the rails of moderation and charge off demonizing their opponents. Nonetheless, the questions about gambling and the IMS are rooted in common soil.

Is either gambling or the IMS a business that deserves protection by the state? In both cases we find private entities with difficulties meeting their competition. New gambling venues in other states impact our domestic gaming sites and the state’s revenues. The IMS has neglected to update its facilities and now seeks a subsidy from Indiana to regain a preeminent position in auto racing. Opinions on gambling and business subsidies are strongly held in the Hoosier State.    

Medicare and social security are topics that can raise the temperature in any room. Medicaid and welfare, with or without drug testing, are guaranteed to start a vigorous debate where people with different value systems meet.

School vouchers are another area of intense disagreement. Advocates insist that vouchers are necessary for freedom of choice, while critics see vouchers as instruments that will destroy the public schools and their mission of equal opportunity for all.

These are not economic questions alone, if at all, but philosophical issues before the Legislature. Sadly, the Indiana General Assembly has few philosophers to sort out the questions and to look ahead for answers.

Morton J. Marcus is an economist, writer and speaker formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He can be reached at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.

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