When Watching The Debate, Check Your Principles, Not Your Feelings

When talking about the debate and the candidates, you will hear a lot of friends begin sentences with “I feel like….”

If you have been around college students these days, perhaps you’ve been hearing how they are harangued to “check their privilege.” Instead of “checking their privilege,” those who begin their sentences with “I feel like” might better “check their principles.”

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump Debate
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Impulse vs. Integrity

Do your feelings signal which candidate will be a better president?

Consider this. A driver cuts you off in traffic. You experience angry feelings. Are your angry feelings a guide to behavior? Should you chase down the other drive because you feel they “disrespected you?”

Are your angry feelings a guide to behavior? Or, are they a guide to the quality of your thinking? If your angry feelings intensify to fury, does that mean you are absolutely right about the intentions of the other driver? Or, are those escalating feelings a signal that the quality of your thinking is abysmally low?

When you are feeling angry as you drive, holding a principle of not endangering others will be a better a guide to behavior than your angry feelings.

Similarly, if while watching the debate last night, you experienced intense emotions, were those feelings signaling which candidate will be a better president?

Our feelings are not a guide to a prosperous, free, and peaceful society; timeless principles are.

Understanding Is Key

Did you feel Trump will do a better job protecting the American worker from foreign competition? If so, you had better check your principles regarding trade. Time to forget about your feelings and have Don Boudreaux explain the fallacy of protectionism in one of his many excellent essays.

Did you cheer when Clinton itemized one of her countless new programs to expand government? If so, it is time to forget about your feelings and check your principles regarding the constitutional powers of the president. Randy Barnett’s new book, “Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People” is an excellent place to start.

Our feelings are not a guide to a prosperous, free, and peaceful society; timeless principles are. Each of us thinks we have good intentions. But, our good intentions are not the same as taking responsibility to really understand the conditions under which freedom flourishes and thrives. Jefferson was a big proponent of knowledge as a safeguard of freedom. In his words , to be ignorant and at the same time to be free is a condition that “never was and never will be.” In his own life, Jefferson observed he “was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led.”

Is it not time to pay more attention to timeless principles and less to our feelings?

Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. He delivers leadership workshops to organizations and blogs at BarryBrownstein.com, and Giving up Control.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.