Opportunism versus Identifying Opportunities

In a recent email, a friend who basically shares my political views wrote:

If your solutions to the “problems of capitalism after COVID” are the same as those you were advancing to the “problems of capitalism” before COVID, I suspect COVID has had no bearing on your thinking other than to advance your opportunism.

I told him that I thought this was not the slam-dunk argument he thought, and he actually agreed with me and asked me not to quote him by name.

But I am quoting the thought because I’ve heard a similar thought expressed over the years by people of various political persuasions. During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, for instance, I advocated getting rid of deposit insurance or at least reducing the amount of a deposit on which people could get insurance, along with getting rid of various other government restrictions (such as the ratings cartel set up by the feds) that had contributed to the financial crisis. The person I was talking to–I forget who–said “I see so many people of your persuasion advocating things they advocated before the crisis and not advocating anything they didn’t already advocate.”

He said this as if he thought this was a winning argument against the reforms I advocated. I replied that the reforms I advocated would help make things better and were relevant and that, moreover, if they had been implemented well before the financial crisis, the financial crisis would have been less bad. So, I said, the fact that I advocated them well before the crisis should give me more credibility, not less, because I could connect some of the bad things that happened with the absence of those reforms.

I think that the “this crisis hasn’t caused you to change any of your views” argument is a poor one. Maybe it shouldn’t cause you to change any of your views. It’s always better, if your goal is the truth, to analyze the measures being advocated whatever the time line of your advocacy.

Go back to the original quote above. Notice the charge of opportunism. It could be opportunistic; I don’t know the people my friend is talking about. But it could also be identifying an opportunity to make a point against capitalism when the person identifying it sincerely believes that capitalism made the particular crisis worse. Again, the best way to handle this, if truth is your goal, is to ask the person to explain how capitalism contributed to the Covid disaster if, indeed, that’s what the person is saying.