Would a debate solve anything?

Although my proposal to hold a debate on Japan’s “lost decades” story has met with considerable support, some people have demurred.

Would a debate on the Japanese economy really solve anything? One correspondent at a major American university seems to think not. Here’s what he wrote:

“I am not sure a ‘one on one’ debate of the type you suggest is going to actually result in anything useful (other than you and whichever of the guests you choose to debate becoming more entrenched in what you already believe). To me a more appropriate format might be a moderated round table type of discussion in an academic setting. True academic pursuits (using the scientific method) often do not render absolute results.”

Here is how I replied:

“I am slightly surprised you oppose a one-on-one debate. Anyone who is confident in his or her position and sleeps soundly at night cannot possibly lose a debate. On the other hand a debate is an efficient, if not a devastating, way for a teller of obscure or suppressed truths to expose contradictions and outright misstatements of fact in the position of an opponent. My invitees should not have the slightest difficulty in coming forward. After all they are working with the grain of  Western thought. They should be able to dispose of my arguments without breaking a sweat. That is if there are no contradictions in their arguments.

“The formula you suggest — talking heads getting together around a table (no doubt in a place where the weather is nice and the food good, with the proceedings underwritten by the usual ‘globalist’ interests) — has been going strong for donkey’s years, yet what has it achieved? If you know the field as well as I do, you will know the answer is less than nothing.

“Let’s consider my debate invitation in a wider context. As you may know, I was one of the earliest critics of the various questionable and downright dishonest techniques by which Wall Street insiders enrich themselves at the expense of the national interest (I devoted a whole chapter to it in a book published in 1999). If, say, in 2007 (that is before the Western public became widely aware of what an Augean stable the American financial services industry is), I had proposed a debate on the legal larceny going on on Wall Street, would you have suggested it would be better instead to have a roundtable discussion in which I would be outnumbered twelve to one by an assorted bunch of ideology-crazed academic cranks, globalist-minded media airheads (no doubt hoping for a shot at next year’s Davos), and bought-and-paid-for surrogates for the Wall Street elite?”

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