David Hines
Surrey with me on top
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By David Hines
November 3, 2012

My politics are sometimes called "fringe." That's quite a compliment; perhaps I'm too cynical, but I don't think it is intended to be.

The core of a tree trunk doesn't grow. Growth takes place in the cambium, near the bark — on the fringe. This fact provides the science of dendrochronology. Without the fringe we'd have at best a bush.

Inside a black hole, time stops. Activity is only outside the Schwartzchild limit — the fringe.

A standard line from those who wish to sell an agenda with insufficient proof is, "Everybody knows..." Do they? Or do they merely assume? The presumption of fringiness is that popular assumptions are not to be challenged. Yet little progress is ever achieved without challenging assumptions. To wit:

"Stones don't fall from the sky." A mere couple centuries ago anyone claiming to have seen a meteor strike the earth was deemed certifiably insane.

"Kings have a divine right to rule." This makes the United States one huge fringe organization. There are now some monarchists on the newer fringe who, citing government corruption and low approval ratings of Congress, question whether the overthrow of this assumption was really progress.

"The Spanish blew up the Maine"; "The Vietnamese attacked our ship in the Gulf of Tonkin." Both were used as rationale for war; both have been debunked. It's been a while since that fringy group, the League of Women Voters, stopped hosting the debates. They were unwilling to limit their debates to the party-defined assumptions.

In 1996 Clinton and Dole argued about whether to grow government by 16% or 18%. Outside that two-cent price range was the fringe. That would make current politicians' proposals extremely fringy. In 2000 Bush and Gore debated how to spend an illusory surplus. Only somebody on the fringe might ask how, if government is trillions in debt, there is any surplus at all to spend.

This year we're offered some nonsensical agendas. One guy says we shall stimulate investment by further punishing and taxing investment. The other says we shall curtail budget deficits by spending more on military ordnance and war.

With such absurdity at the core, the fringe seems like the only sensible place to be. No wonder the League of Women voters finds it more comfortable here.

The song from Oklahoma! posits the fringe being on top. That is seldom if ever the case. Persons in power have a vested interest in promoting popular assumptions that keep them in power. The fringe is a challenge to their position of privilege.

To dismiss the fringe out of hand is to put oneself in mental chains. You are thereby constrained by whatever assumptions can be sold as popular rather than what may be more accurate. False assumptions accepted in bipartisan accord lead to poor results, and what results do we see? From all corners of the political spectrum, people are saying things aren't working — from the 99 Percenters to the TEA Party; from right-wing Obama blamers to left-wing Bush blamers; from those who complain of a "do-nothing Congress" to those who think Congress has done too much already; from those of us who say Keynesian stimulus is destructive to those who claim that there wasn't stimulus enough.

Why do people get frustrated when kids ask questions such as, "Why is the sky blue?" Probably because they don't know the answer: because the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen.

Hating questions from the fringe strikes me as a similar evasion of having to provide accurate answers, or admitting that one does not yet have them. The dismal results suggest that the smug center doesn't even have the right questions.

© David Hines

 

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David Hines

Note: David Hines passed away on April 1, 2017.


Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)

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