A Shift in Political Perspective

The last couple of weeks I haven't spent as much time following the health care debate as I would like. I did listen to President Obama's speach tonight and then I spent some time doing some research about what I've missed in the last few weeks. There was one particular paragraph on Keith Hennessey's blog that struck me, although it is only tangentially related to the current debate:
I wish millions of Americans read KeithHennessey.com and were patient enough to learn the details to be as well-informed as you, my brilliant and thoughtful readers. But I believe imperfectly-informed involvement is better than complete disengagement. And I have a core confidence that, given time, the American people are on the whole smart enough to figure out the underlying truths and make sound judgments. I am a strong believer in the inherent wisdom of the common man. I am actually pleasantly surprised how relatively well-informed this debate is, compared to so many other policy debates I have seen. I will continue to do my part to contribute to a thoughtful, impassioned, civil debate.
Now this struck me because it blatantly flies in the face of the perspective I have had for most of my life. Historically, I have not been very up on politics. In fact, I have been completely disengaged. I didn't follow major issues and often felt kind of a dislike for people who did because they always seemed to think they knew a lot and never seemed aware of the things they were ignorant of or the complexity of the topics they held such adamant views about. I justified my inactivity based on the perspective that strong political opinion should only be held and voiced by those that had significant understanding of all the topics involved. I was no expert so I didn't feel qualified in expressing (or even forming) any opinion nor did I think that most people could credibly offer an opinion on most subjects. About a year and a half ago a friend of mine chewed me out for holding that view. Among other things, he cited the fact that I often seemed to hold the opinion that people didn't understand the complexity of the issues they were discussing and that I seemed to indicate that I understood things better than average by pointing out that complexity. Yet I would never get really involved in discussions and would rarely go beyond implying that I understood a topic. It was his opinion that in reality those that didn't understand things all that well but cared and were at least active in political thought and discussion were doing far more good than I was. Furthermore, with my background in economics, he argued, I ought to be able to understand and do more than the average person, yet I did nothing and didn't seem to care. I thought about that conversation a fair amount and ultimately decided I ought to take time to be more informed and involved. Since then I have gotten more and more into politics and economic issues. I've try to keep up with the news, particularly economic stuff. And I actually really enjoy it quite a bit. Now I am much more opinionated about a lot of issues and will discuss politics much more readily. (I even almost called in to a radio station the other day when they were taking calls.) I haven't blogged much about it, but I really would like to do that more. So when I read the above paragraph tonight, I realized that my perspective on politics has shifted rather dramatically in the last year: I now actively reject the perspective I have described and that I have held. I think it really is quite important for people to be actively involved in political debate and discussion, even when imperfectly informed (which is the state that we all perpetually find ourselves in). In light of my new found perspective, if you are currently disengaged from political discussion and involvement like I was, I encourage doing a bit of reading and at least forming opinions on things. Start with whatever topic interests you. For me it started with the economic policy; for others it may be military stuff, health care, the deficit, or any one of hundreds of other topics. I have found it really worthwhile.