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Ahhh, Refreshing—-A Respectful Intellectual Debate

Posted on June 3 2010 12:00 pm
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Say what you will about Jon Stewart—his interviews, especially the extended ones hosted on the Daily Show website, are a gift to the country. For the most part, he allows his guests time to explain their thoughts, and the discussion goes far beyond the typical, predictable partisan blood sport that Stewart once famously criticized Crossfire for when he appeared on that show.

Last night, Stewart had on Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute. Stewart did some research on Brooks’ sources used in his latest book, armed with a copy of one of the Pew polls he cites. Although the discussion was wide-ranging, the main point Stewart tried to make was that Brooks and others shouting “Socialism!”are wrong for making it seem like those calling for greater government intervention are part of an “insidious ideology.” Instead, Stewart says, the debate is within the same ideology and is focused on fine-tuning regulation of free market system.

Watch the extended interview below:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Arthur Brooks Unedited Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Stewart makes a point with which I agree (and I think so does Brooks) that most people who favor government intervention are not ideologically committed to socialism. Instead, they still see the free market as critical to America’s prosperity but are seeking ways to mitigate its downsides. Fair enough. To describe any proponent of regulation as a socialist is akin to declaring anyone supporting de-regulation as an anarchist.

But where Stewart is wrong to dimiss the one part of the Pew poll that really mattered. Thirty percent of Americans favor European socialism over the free market. And Brooks is absolutely right to point out that Americans move inch-by-inch towards the socialist direction even though they oppose that ultimate destination.

Whatever your take on the discussion or my response to it, let’s all be thankful that these discussions are taking place. Two-minute raging debates as we see on cable news are entertaining, but rarely do they provoke deep thought. Rarely does one leave respecting the views of both sides or at least the commentators representing them.

It’s a sad day when the most intellectually-stimulating discussions of today’s major issues is happening on Comedy Central and The Daily Show’s website, instead of one of our news networks. But I guess that’s how it is nowadays. At least they’re taking place somewhere, which is considerably better than no where.

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