Chris Van Es

Beschaving op de Ideeënmarkt

CAMBRIDGE – ‘Als de mens zich heeft gerealiseerd dat de tijd vele strijdende overtuigingen heeft omvergeworpen dan zal ze misschien gaan geloven dat het ultieme goed dat ze verlangt beter bereikt kan worden door een vrije handel in ideeën; dat de beste test van de waarheid de kracht is om zichzelf een plek te verwerven in de competitie van de markt en dat de waarheid de enige grond is waarop hun wensen veilig uitgevoerd kunnen worden.’ Dit schreef rechter van het hooggerechtshof van de VS Oliver Wendell Holmes in een beroemd non-conformistisch opiniestuk  in 1919.

Zoals elke markt echter heeft de markt van ideeën regels nodig; in het bijzonder zouden de deelnemers gebonden moeten zijn aan regels wat betreft eerlijkheid, nederigheid en beleefdheid. Bovendien zou elke handelaar in ideeën zich moeten houden aan deze principes.

Natuurlijk hebben politici de ideeënmarkt door de eeuwen heen vervuild met smaad. Maar verrassend genoeg is er juist in de Amerikaanse politiek vooruitgang. Volgens een studie van het Annenberg Public Policy Center is er in de afgelopen jaren minder onbeleefdheid in het congres voorgekomen dan in de jaren negentig of jaren veertig van de vorige eeuw. De Republikeinse senator Ted Cruz werd breed veroordeeld om zijn agressieve ondervraging in januari van de nieuwe minister van defensie Chuck Hagel. Maar het in twijfel trekken van het patriotisme van een genomineerde was in de tijd van McCarthy nog de norm; vandaag de dag is het minder gangbaar.

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