People disagree with each other, which is OK, but we’re very bad at it, which is not. Nowadays disagreement is commodified and amplified by “social” technology, so everyday arguments can lead to meaningful progress across the world. But if we’re bad enough at disagreeing, those same arguments are gonna lead to war!

Pop quiz: Does your side create problems? Does the opposing side solve problems? If you answered either question with “no” then you’re disagreeing badly. Most people aren’t sociopaths, and bad motives are not the cause of common disagreements. But most people aren’t stupid, either – at least no more than the usual amount. So if most people are basically good-natured, and most people are basically rational, why do they still disagree?

Obviously it’s because they have different priorities! Let’s say that your top priority is solving Problem X, but mine is solving Problem Y. We’re totally fine so far, let’s just solve both. But what if solving Problem X makes Problem Y worse, or vice-versa? Now we have a disagreement, even though neither of us is ignorant of either problem. Scale this up so that there are many millions of problems, and any action will solve some of them while making others worse. That’s the real world.

And don’t try any of that “the free market will raise the standard of care for poor people too” or “averting environmental crisis is good for the economy” bullshit. You’re picking one thing to prioritize over another and you’re rationalizing your choice. Get better at disagreeing, by being honest with everyone – starting with yourself.

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