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posted: 10/20/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Complex problems and the politics of simplicity

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Every morning, the Chicago news organizations report on the number of shootings that take place in the city -- such routine reports that seldom do the homicides have faces and families and stories any more. That's true even when the victims are kids, and often these days, it seems they are.

In the suburbs, we're still a bit insulated from this thankfully. But we get our share of shootings too, many more than the old-timers in the newsroom remember from years gone by.

Everybody views all these shootings as a tragedy. Who wouldn't view it that way? Everybody agrees that it's a problem.

But solutions. Where are the solutions?

On the left, everybody seems to think that the problem is with the guns: They're everywhere, and if we only had more gun control, we'd get this problem under control.

Nobody on the left seems to want to deal with the reality that some of the areas with the most stringent gun control also are the areas with the most cases of gun violence.

Nobody on the left seems to recognize that gun control itself is not enough.

On the right, everybody seems to think that the problem is that we're just not tough enough on crime: We need more determinate sentencing; only when we put gun criminals in jail and throw away the key will we solve this problem.

Nobody on the right seems to want to deal with the reality that determinate sentencing has so far shown little if any deterrent effect, particularly among the young, not to mention the reality of the financial constraints we have in building prisons.

Nobody on the right seems to recognize that determinate sentencing itself is not enough.

At the same time, nobody on the right seems to think gun control has a place as part of a solution. And nobody on the left seems to think that tough law enforcement and penalties have a place in solving the problem.

This is symptomatic of today's political process, of a Web- and cable news-fed civic discourse that becomes so painfully ineffective on the bigger issues, of the failure of a gross partisanship that can shut down the government but not open its eyes.

We face complex problems.

Violent crime is a complex problem.

But we try to combat it with simple answers and ideological shorthand.

The same is true of public pension reform and runaway federal spending and balancing the state budget and improving our schools and poverty and so many other things.

These are complex problems.

They require comprehensive solutions.

And they require more than that. They require genuine and pragmatic analysis and discussion.

Philosophies can be constructive; they can provide frameworks that invite ideas. But ideologies ultimately are counterproductive; they exclude ideas.

We can't afford to exclude ideas when the problems we face are complex. We need to involve them all.

We face complex problems.

Let's work together to solve them,

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