Agreeing to Disagree…How-To’s and How-Not-To’s

Agreeing to disagree is a very powerful tool in solidifying and keeping friendships…if you understand how to do it.

When most people “agree to disagree” it is code for “You are too stubborn to see my point of view, so let’s not talk about it because your stupidity makes me angry…and somehow you perceive a stupidity in me that makes you angry as well.  This is what happens when you approach “agree to disagree” without an interest in respecting each other.

The effective and healthy way to “agree to disagree” is to understand what it is you disagree about and (the second part is equally important) that the point on which you disagree is moot.

For example I close friend and I recently ended our friendship over politics.  She recently had children and I was alarmed by the extreme libertarian view that she had adopted.  I mean extreme…like dissolving police departments and fire departments, doing away with public schools and libraries, shutting down public works like upkeep of public roads and bridges.  So we argued for a while…and a while more…and as much as we argued we could never find what it was we disagreed on.  We both wanted a safe environment (especially for her children which started the conversation), we both agreed that crime and violence was a problem, we both thought that government was problematic.  Somehow for her everything we agreed on meant that government was the problem, and for me everything we agreed upon meant that the government was the solution.  Either there was a piece of information or an angle that was missing or one of us was being illogical in how it all fit together.  So we agreed to disagree at that point.  She agreed that I was an idiot, and I disagreed.

That doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, does it?

This summer I met a man with the exact same libertarian view as my friend.  I was worried about it at first because I was staying with this man for the better part of a week, and I neither wanted to spend the week arguing nor thinking that he was an idiot.  The solution was…surprisingly…notto agree to disagree.  We were actively interested in each other’s point of view and we respected each other that if they had a view of the world, it must be backed up with some sort of logic.  That active desire to understand the other person is what is prohibited by agreeing to disagree.

By the end of the first night we were down to him expressing that without a government, in total anarchy, the goodness of man would show through and men would be forced to help each other.

I felt that the opposite was true: without government, in total anarchy, the baseness of man would show through and without a superior power forcing them to help each other that they would resolve into the chaos of selfishness and grab-what-you-can-if-you-can.

I looked at him and said “So you think people are basically good, and I think that they are basically selfish.”

“I guess that’s about it.”

That’s where we agreed to disagree…once we had both reached understanding of each other.

That’s the irony of agreeing to disagree…you have to push through your own prejudice of thinking that you are right, actively assume the other person is right, figure out why an intelligent person would feel that way, and (and this is the important one) when the other person asks “Why would you think that?” believe that it is because they want to better understand you…because it’s real easy to take that question as an insult.

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2 Responses to Agreeing to Disagree…How-To’s and How-Not-To’s

  1. Azura says:

    You seem to have intelligent friends. It would be wise to listen to them more often. First, the fact is most people are something in between angels and devils. The great thing about libertarianism is it wins both ways. It does not matter if people are angels or devils. If the whole world was full of angels, they could always be trusted to do the right thing, and thus would not need government. If the whole world was full of devils who could never be trusted to do the right thing, how do you think devils behave when given power and control? Government is not a superior power. It is made up of humans that you believe have a stronger tendency towards baseness. So libertarianism has merit especially if your view of humanity is correct. What institution in the history of the world has been more deadly, more brutal, more inhumane, than government? It is intrinsically despotic in nature.

    Furthermore, name one industry with a public sector that outperforms any competing firms in the private sector. Private schools dominate public schools in academic performance. In communist countries, EVERYTHING is public. Which is why communist countries are complete cesspools. Why would a public library or fire department outperform private libraries or fire departments? When you are forced by gunpoint to pay for each sectors of this firm called government, it doesn’t have to please you to stay in business, and thus you will invariably procure a lower quality service.

    The closest thing we’ve ever gotten to complete anarcho-libertarianism is the old frontier west. Contrary to what Hollywood movies show, crime was very low in the old west, rights and property were respected.

  2. Jason Tyne says:

    Interesting that you bypassed the entire matter of the blog to find a point to be your soapbox, but I’m game to follow your tangent.

    “Name one industry with a public sector that outperforms any competing firms in the private sector.”

    Here’s two recent examples off the top of my head from the state of Indiana, the state I’m most familiar with. I am guessing I could find similar cases in the other 49 states with a little digging.

    In 2009, Indiana cancelled its $1.34 billion contract with IBM to provide public benefit eligibility services. For two years, vulnerable families failed to receive benefits for which they qualified, including food stamps, health coverage, and cash assistance, due to the company’s poor provision of these services. The privatized system led to high error rates and poor timeliness, among many other problems; a public system proved to be more affordable and more effective than a private one.

    In 2010, Gary, Indiana cancelled its 10 year contract with United Water. In May 2008, a state inspection found that the district, under United Water’s management, had violated discharge limits 84 times between 2005 to 2007; had at least 25 pieces of broken equipment; filed inadequate monitoring reports; and failed to meet mandated deadlines. By cancelling the contract and bringing water service back in-house, the city expects costs to decrease from $16 million to $8 million a year.

    Might I ask what country you are writing from? I ask because faith in the private sector to outperform government agencies is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. However, the facts disproving that belief are steadily mounting. In many cases, private contractors have failed to deliver, leaving communities without vital services and assets. Private companies naturally seek to maximize profits, which can incentivize cutting corners to reduce costs. This can greatly impair service quality and maintenance of vital assets. The most popular reason for in-sourcing, according to the International City/County Management Association survey mentioned above, was a decline in service quality. Over 60% of governments that brought functions back in-house reported this as their primary motivation. (See:

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