Trollope on Reform

As a fan of British novelist Anthony Trollope, I appreciate this excerpt by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker about political reform involving moving ideas “into the realm of the plausible”:

Trollope, quite uncynically, understands both what’s necessary to make the world go round and which way the world ought to be made to turn. The Palliser books have a complicated politics. Trollope is a reformer, at times a radical, who also knows that radical reform made without some kind of social consensus is dangerous. He has Mr. Monk, a prominent radical parliamentarian, say:

“Many who before regarded legislation on the subject as chimerical, will now fancy that it is only dangerous, or perhaps not more than difficult. And so in time it will come to be looked on as among the things possible, then among the things probable;—and so at last it will be ranged in the list of those few measures which the country requires as being absolutely needed. That is the way in which public opinion is made.”

The movement for gay marriage is almost a textbook case of Trollope’s idea of how political reform happens: an impossible idea becomes possible, then becomes necessary, and then all but a handful of diehards accept its inevitability. The job of those trying to bring about change is not to hector it into the agenda of the necessary but to move it into the realm of the plausible. Once something is plausible in a semi-democratic society, it has a natural momentum toward becoming real. (Even decimal coinage happened eventually.)

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/04/trollope-trending

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

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