What we're about

This is a meetup started as a group for people in the Philadelphia area who are concerned with the current political turmoil in America, but who also feel that the prevailing liberal-vs-conservative political paradigm is unnecessarily limiting our ability to think rationally about politics & search for policy solutions. Since we shifted to mostly online meetups in 2020, we've opened the group up to people everywhere. If you like to talk politics but you've got some eclectic or moderate views that leave you feeling out of place at most of the activist groups, party meetings & political rallies in your area, this meetup is for you!

However, if your political views put you on the far left or far right of the political spectrum - i.e. you're a socialist, anarchist, fascist, or religious fundamentalist - please go elsewhere. Also, if you consider yourself a moderate Republican or moderate Democrat but your views are just generic talking points you've gleaned from listening to the pundits on Fox News or MSNBC, this group is not for you. It may seem uncharitable to exclude people, but from past experience our discussions just don't work very well with these folks, since they tend to see all of our problems as the result of only one of our political parties - i.e. they're not "agnostic".

"Political Agnosticism" is a term I came up with back in 2015 to represent a non-dogmatic approach to politics that acknowledges uncertainty and the validity of multiple perspectives, and looks for practical solutions without worrying about adherence to an overarching political ideology. The purpose of this agnostic, skeptical & free-thinking approach is to avoid treating politics as a "culture war" based on group identities or a clash of "political religions" based more on devotion to a party than knowledge of the issues. Instead, when we cover a political issue, we look at what experts in various disciplines know (and don't know) about it, tease out the ethical implications, note the tradeoffs between different policy approaches, and then look at potential solutions that encompass everything we've learned.

The only political values that are prerequisites for members are a belief in civility & tolerance towards those we disagree with, a belief in traditional civil liberties like the freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of association, and respect for institutional norms like separation of church & state, academic freedom, press freedom, government transparency, and due process. These principles of an "open society" form the preconditions for the existence of a non-partisan political forum like ours.

We are affiliated as an independent salon of the Burke-Paine Society (BPS), a national organization that takes its name from Edmund Burke & Thomas Paine, two Enlightenment-era political thinkers that exemplify the conservative & progressive strands of the "classical liberal" tradition. The BPS is based on 4 core values - Inclusiveness, Empathy, Intellectual Curiosity, Humility - and is committed to 3 objectives: (1) rebuild cross-partisan trust, (2) redefine the national identity, (3) ignite a political renaissance. To learn more, visit their website: https://www.burkepainesociety.org/

Our general approach to politics is based on a concept we've borrowed from another organization, the Circle of Reason, called "pluralistic rationalism" i.e. a personal commitment to reasoning, regardless of one's worldview. We start by assuming that reasonable people can differ in their cores values, whether it's framed as a preference for freedom vs security, tradition vs progress, individualism vs communitarianism, meritocracy vs egalitarianism, patriotism vs cosmopolitanism, etc. However, this approach is also premised on the belief that we should all commit to following the rules of logic & evidence-based reasoning. "Pluralistic Rationalism" is based on 3 tenets that are complementary to the core values of BPS - they are: (1) Factualism (as opposed to Denialism) for sourcing knowledge, (2) Skepticism (as opposed to Dogmatism) for vetting knowledge, and (3) Moderation (as opposed to Emotion) for expressing knowledge. To learn more about "pluralistic rationalism", see the Circle of Reason's website: http://www.circleofreason.org/

We are committed to creating a space for non-partisan political discussion based on intellectual honesty, mutual respect & civility. That means adopting the conversational principles of charity & good faith, avoiding name-calling, and trying to understand the best arguments that can be made for each side.

The goals for this meetup group are as follows:

(1) We try to understand why people - including ourselves - are predisposed by inherent psychological traits, cultural milieu & life experiences to have different moral intuitions & political orientations. We generally use a mix of the Big Five personality traits & Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory.

(2) We look at moral philosophy to try to better understand how moral axioms logically connect to one another and form ethical systems like deontological ethics, utilitarianism, and contractarianism. We examine how these ethical systems form the basis for political philosophy, legal philosophy, and normative theories in the social sciences.

(3) We try to increase our level of rationality by learning how to spot logical fallacies, cognitive biases, flawed statistics, and irrational forms of thought like conspiracy theories & moral panics. The work of the "rationalist community" (e.g. Robin Hanson, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Scott Alexander, Julia Galef, Spencer Greenberg, Tim Urban) is a big influence in this area, although the "post-rationalists" (e.g. David Chapman, Kevin Simler, Venkatesh Rao, Sarah Perry) occasionally offer an interesting supplement.

(4) We try to educate members on both the fundamentals and the latest research from the social sciences, and we discuss how this relates to current events & trending political topics. Aside from looking at academic research, a lot of our reading material comes from data/explainer journalism sites, econ & policy blogs, as well as the major public intellectuals & pundits from across the political spectrum.

(5) We try to imagine alternative types of political & economic systems that could provide better outcomes for the future based on both theory & empirical data. This often involves looking at various "maps of the policy landscape" like the Cato & Fraser Institutes' Human Freedom Index, SPI's Social Progress Index, the Economist's Democracy Index, the UN World Happiness Report, and others.

(6) As part of our effort to break away from the narrow range of ideas represented by the two major political parties, we often look at constellations of ideas that could be described as syncretic, contrarian or heterodox. This often involves looking at ideas emerging from various blogosphere niches like market urbanism, civic hacking, ecomodernism, effective altruism, futurism & strategic forecasting, and the rationalist & skeptic communities. We also look increasingly to intellectuals who've been excluded from academic orthodoxies or "canceled" in mainstream media outlets, such as the scholars associated with Jonathan Haidt's Heterodox Academy and Peter Singer's Journal of Controversial Ideas, Keith E. Whittington's Academic Freedom Alliance, Yascha Mounck's Persuasion, Jeffrey Gedmin's American Purpose, the legacy outlet journalists who've recently moved to Medium & Substack (e.g. Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracey, Jesse Singal, Katie Herzog, Matt Yglesias, Zaid Jilani, Freddie deBoer), and the centrist faction of what used to be called the "Intellectual Dark Web" (e.g. Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Michael Shermer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christina Hoff Sommers, Cathy Young, Alice Dreger, Debra Soh, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Coleman Hughes, the various writers at outlets like Quillette, Unherd & Areo Magazine).

(7) In order to do our part combatting political polarization, we borrow ideas from a range of organizations that are currently working on enabling mutual understanding & civil dialogue, such as Andrew Brummett's Burke-Paine Society, Frank Burton's Circle of Reason, David Blankenhorn's Braver Angels project (formerly Better Angels), Alexandra Hudson's Civic Renaissance, Liz Joyner's Village Square, Joan Blades' Living Room Conversations, John Gable's AllSides team, David Nevins & Debilyn Molineaux's Bridge Alliance, Lisa Swallow & Kareem Abdelsadek's Crossing Party Lines, Tim Dixon & Gemma Mortensen's More In Common project, David Brooks's Social Fabric Project (a.k.a. Weave), Gary Kasparov's Renew Democracy Initiative, Charles Wheelan's Centrist Project (now called "Unite America"), Irshad Manji's Moral Courage Project, the newly founded University of Austin, the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), and others.

Upcoming events (4+)

Braver Angels Event: "Parents & Public Schools"

Link visible for attendees

EVENT TITLE:
"Common Ground Workshop - Rights & Responsibilities of Parents in Regard to Public Schools"

REGISTERING FOR THE ONLINE EVENT:
This is a FREE event; however, you will need to register for it. The registration process for this partnered event will be directly over Zoom. Please use this Eventbrite link to register - https://www.eventbrite.com/e/common-ground-parents-rights-and-responsibilities-in-public-education-registration-396348568237

You will receive a direct personal Zoom link for the conversation in your email before the event. (Check your "Junk" folder if you don't see it.)

Event Organizer: Yvonne Boyd - [masked]

EVENT DESCRIPTION:
Join us for a Common Ground Workshop on “What are the rights and responsibilities of parents regarding their children’s education in public schools?”

If there is one thing that unites parents, it is the desire for a quality education and a safe learning environment for their children. Today, public education is on the frontline of political polarization. Parents are attending school board meetings to voice their concerns about curriculum, school district policy and the use of public funding. Remedies suggested by Conservaties and Liberals are often different.

The Braver Angels Common Ground Workshop brings together equal numbers of Conservatives and Liberals – Reds and Blues (4-8 of each) – for a deep dive into a problem, such as addressing climate change, electoral reform or abortion. Together participants talk about their connection to the issue and their opinion on solutions. By the end of the 3-hour online event they have come up with jointly and unanimously held Points of Agreements on values, concerns and policies.

The Common Ground workshop is an out-growth of Braver Angels signature Red-Blue workshop and allows participants to go deeper into a single issue. Points of Agreement can be fleshed out at future group meetings, and when possible lead to joint Red-Blue actions such as op-eds, joint speaking and meetings with legislators.

Goals:

  • To delve into a single issue where citizens differ, and learn how each other sees the problem
  • To delineate areas of common ground and points of agreement
  • To learn something that might be helpful to others in our community and the nation.

Logistics:
There are two ways to join a Common Ground Workshop:

  • Participant: A participant will engage in small- and large-group discussions with individuals of both the same and different political persuasions. Participants must identify as “red” (Republican or leaning conservative) or “blue” (Democrat or leaning liberal). We will strive for an equal balance of red and blue participants: 4 to 8 people on each side.
  • Observer/Alternate: An observer/alternate will not participate in the discussions directly but will have the opportunity to watch and listen. Observers/Alternates should be ready to step in and participate as their "color" in the event of participant cancellations. In areas that have a geographic "color" imbalance, allowing for up to 15 Observers/Alternates provides an opportunity for more people to experience a Red/Blue workshop. Observer/Alternates have found observing a workshop to be amazingly valuable.

Who can come? Anyone interested in developing a deeper understanding of, and connection with, people whose political beliefs differ from their own. You should honestly be able to answer "yes" to the following question:
“Are you willing to listen to the other side, and are you willing to speak to the other side with respect?”

Everyone who signs up will receive a phone call or email from an organizer. Organizers reserve the right to switch people between Participant and Observer/Alternate status depending on the needs of the workshop.

ABOUT THE EVENT HOST:

  • Formerly known as "Better Angels", Braver Angels is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by David Blankenhorn in 2016 to depolarize American politics through grassroots organizing. They do this by hosting events to facilitate civil dialogue that bridges the partisan divide. To learn more, go to https://braverangels.org/our-story/

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Bi-Weekly Discussion - Understanding Our Post-COVID Economy

Link visible for attendees

This is going to be an online meetup using Zoom. If you've never used Zoom before, don't worry — it's easy to use and free to join.

Here's the link to the event: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87412845169?pwd=bTdDRm9PRUxTTmpvWkh5SEVnLzJ4Zz09

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UNDERSTANDING OUR POST-COVID ECONOMY

INTRODUCTION:

What you're seeing below is a blank discussion outline. If there's no title listed above for this meetup, it probably means I haven't decided on the topic. If there's a title but not much else, it means I've picked a topic but I'm still looking around for articles & videos clips to stimulate discussion.

If you see the topic and think it's interesting, please RSVP early since this gives me a general idea of about how many people will be showing up.

I typically try to finish up the discussion outline the weekend before a meetup, but sometimes I can't finish it until a couple days before the discussion. Luckily, I only ask that people watch a few video clips prior to attending the meetup and they generally only come to 30-45 minutes total, so even if it takes me until the day prior to finish up the discussion outline you'll still have time to prepare.

  • So what's up will all the X's below? Meetup's new format gives me a very short character limit that makes long discussion outline impossible. However, I found a way around it - by copying old meetups before the new character limit was introduced. But there's a catch, if all of the blank space isn't filled when I copy the meetup, the new shorter character limit will be applied, so I'm forced to fill up all the available space with X's. I know that sounds kinda ridiculous, but it's the only way I can still write up long, detailed discussion outlines.

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DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION:

The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major debates over the economic effects of the COVID pandemic and our various responses to it. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about about XX minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion.

In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on each section.

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I. THE EFFECTS OF THE COVID LOCKDOWNS & BAILOUTS ON BIG CORPORATIONS VS SMALL BUSINESSES:

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1a) Victor Davis Hanson, "How COVID Lockdowns Killed Small Businesses" (video - 2:44 min.)
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II. THE EFFECTS OF COVID ON REMOTE WORK, LABOR SHORTAGES, "THE GREAT RESIGNATION" & "QUIET QUITTING"

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2a) The Economist, "Covid-19: is working from home really the new normal?" (video - 8:46 min.)
https://youtu.be/MxDVucUZCnc

2b) CNBC, "How 'Quiet Quitting' Became The Next Phase Of The Great Resignation" (video - 8:31 min.)
https://youtu.be/iVLiRWD3gAM
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III. THE EFFECTS OF COVID ON INFLATION, ECONOMIC GROWTH (RECESSION) & GOVERNMENT DEBT:

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3a) CBS, "COVID: Future Generations Will Pay For Trillions Of Dollars Of Pandemic Deficit Spending" (video - 2:35 min.)
https://youtu.be/e8dFuTTwaFA

3b) WCS, "Stagflation: Will Covid-19 and the Russian-Ukrainian War Cause Both High Inflation and a Recession?" (video - 11:34 min.)
https://youtu.be/aSNHVutveSw
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IV. THE EFFECTS OF COVID ON GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS & THE BROADER TREND TOWARDS DE-GLOBALIZATION, INSOURCING & TRADE BLOCS:

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4a) Bloomberg, "How Far Can De-Globalization Go?" (video - 4:54 min.)
https://youtu.be/4PTMteWRA94

4b) Luciano Ciravegna, "Why the world economy needs, but will not get, more globalization in the post-COVID-19 decade?" (video - 9:06 min.)
https://youtu.be/PZ8OiEZXOmg
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Braver Angels Online Workshop: "Families & Politics"

Link visible for attendees

Event Title: "Families & Politics" (National Meetup)

Registering for the Online Workshop:
This is a FREE event; however, you'll need to register for it. Go to the following Eventbrite link & fill out the registration form, and when you hit "register" you'll receive an email with a link to the Zoom meeting room: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/family-politics-ba-national-registration-409869269017

If you have any questions, please contact the workshop organizer: Amy Akashi - [masked]

What is "Braver Angels"?
Formerly known as "Better Angels", Braver Angels is an organization founded in 2016 to depolarize American politics through grassroots organizing. They do this primarily by hosting events for cross-partisan dialogue & civil debate. To learn more, go to https://braverangels.org/

What is the "Families & Politics" Workshop?
Join your fellow Americans across the nation for "Families and Politics", a Braver Angels course on how to talk to family members across the political divide. Here's a basic overview of the course:

  • The workshop will begin with a discussion of why family relationships are uniquely challenging in the presence of political differences, and some general ways to deal with those challenges.
  • Then the workshop will address different roles members play in family conversations about politics (e.g. the Gladiator, the Defender, and the Sniper), and give you a chance to think about how people may play those roles in your family.
  • Lastly, the workshop will get into strategies and skills for talking with family members who differ from you politically in a constructive way, particularly the family members you find most challenging.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE WORKSHOP:

  1. Setup & Familiarize Yourself With Zoom:
  • For the best experience, update your Zoom client to the latest version. You can find it at https://zoom.us/download.

  • Familiarize yourself with the features we use in Zoom by visiting the Zoom Tips Page, which has Zoom information specific to Braver Angels events, as well as help for those who have never used Zoom: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19jlrTDYjWU3aVabyctvEN8er0RF-8q4ofRySzBFW6E0/edit

  • 2. Complete Part One - Read the Guide & Take The eLearning Course

  • Download & Read the Participant Guide: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1s2uUlUiwSSaOPkMpL8SRp4d4Eetoi7zI/view

  • Complete the 40 minute, online eLearning Course: https://braverangels.org/online/families-and-politics-training/

  • 3. Attending the Workshop:

  • Make sure you have your Participant Guide handy - for best results, print it out & have it next to you during the workshop.

  • Plan to join the Zoom meeting a few minutes before the start time, so you can get signed in, adjust your Zoom settings and be ready to start promptly.

  • If you have any difficulty joining the event, please email the volunteer team at [masked]. [Note that volunteers are only able to monitor this email address immediately before and during the online events.]

  • Note: Based on past experience, about 30% of those who register for the workshops are not able to participate. Because of this, the admins 'over-book' workshops to include as many people as possible. It is possible (but unlikely) this workshop will be over-booked on the day of the workshop. If this happens, a few people may be asked to be observers rather than participants, and/or register for a future workshop. This restriction is due to a Zoom technical limitation. As stated, this is not likely to occur, but you should know of this slight possibility.

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Braver Angels Film Club: "The Pruitt Igoe Myth: Why Did Public Housing Fail?"

Link visible for attendees

Film Club Topic:
The Braver Angels film club chooses films that address social, political or cultural issues that are relevant to society today. They may highlight liberal-leaning, conservative-leaning or independent themes, or feature actors or directors from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

For this event, we'll be discussing the film "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth", a 123-minute, 2014 documentary directed & produced by filmmaker Chad Friedrichs. It tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home.

The world-famous image of its implosion has helped to perpetuate a myth of failure, a failure that has been used to critique Modernist architecture, attack public assistance programs, and stigmatize public housing residents. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth seeks to set the historical record straight. View the trailer here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CAfACI7LBY) and watch the film for free here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRnKMwJxKI4).

Be sure to watch the film before we meet on Zoom to discuss it!

Registering for the Online Event:
This is a FREE event; however, you will need to register for it. Go to the following link & fill out the registration form, and when you hit "register" you'll receive an email with a link to the Zoom meeting (check your Junk folder if you don't see it):
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/film-discussion-the-pruitt-igoe-myth-ba-national-registration-473049492767

Who is the Organizer for this Event?
Questions? Contact Molly Zeff at [masked]

What is "Braver Angels"?
Formerly known as "Better Angels", Braver Angels is an organization founded in 2016 to depolarize American politics through grassroots organizing. They do this primarily by hosting events for cross-partisan dialogue & civil debate. To learn more, go to https://braverangels.org/

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This event has passed

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