“When a politician declares himself to be free of ideology, he does not merely mean he is not dogmatic. He means to free himself from any principled tethering whatever. He means to convert what would normally be seen as evidence of a character defect—opportunism, expediency, general slippery behaviour—into a virtue.”
I’ll admit that I often don’t agree with Andrew Coyne’s opinions or political views.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy his writing, and his October 7th 2010 column was one I enjoyed very much.
His entire article was quite interesting and well-written. His main point was that while a lot of politicians are claiming to be pragmatists and not to be driven by any ideology, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Either they do have an ideology (even if they don’t want to admit it) or they don’t have an ideology and will shift their opinions and decisions based on whatever whim takes them and whatever option looks to have the most immediate benefit (and that’s even worse that having an ideology).
Or, in his words,
‘Rather, practical men that they are, politicians prefer to say they live in the real world, guided, as Ambassador Heinbecker says, by facts, not ideology. “I’m not ideological,” many will say. “I just do what works.”
As a practical matter, this amounts to saying: I am insane. Everyone has an ideology, or at any rate everyone certainly should. It is simply not possible to comprehend the world around us without some sort of interpretive filter, some mental scaffolding on which to hang events. To say that you “just do what works” presumes that we can define “what works” without reference to some vision of the society we are trying to create—that is, an ideology.’
In my own experience, I’d far rather deal with someone who has an ideology and admits it, even if it’s one I disagree with, than with someone who claims to have no ideals, which means that they usually do have an ideal and it is “I do whatever I think is a good idea at the time”.
Someone with ideals, or an idea of how the world should work, or an ideology, or principles, or whatever you want to call it (and all those that I listed are just a little bit different from each other, but also related) is at least predictable and somewhat dependable. Even if their ideology is “trust no one, lie all the time, and steal anything that isn’t nailed down”, you can still depend on them to be light-fingered compulsive liars.
But completely undependable people are just that — undependable. They’ll be your great friend, and then when you least expect it they’ll claim the two of you were never friends at all. They’re also the boss that assigns you a project and then later claims they had no idea why you were working on that, you just went rogue and wouldn’t listen to them. And then just when you’re ready to quit, or ready to tell your “friend” that you never want to see them again, they’ll turn around and be as nice as can be, back you to the hilt in a dispute with another manager or co-worker, and come over on the weekend to help you move. Dealing with people like that, you’ll begin to doubt your own sanity — “wait . . . wasn’t this the same person who was a complete backstabbing jerk two days ago? did I imagine that? am I imagining this?? Aaaaghhh!!!”