business news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

The great American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Far be it for me to disagree with the author of "The Great Gatsby," but I'd like to suggest that in fact, the ability to entertain two opposing ideas ought not be the mark of just a first rate intelligence. It ought to be the mark of being an adult.

This occurs to me because of some of the reactions I see in emails that come to me after I've written stories. Case in point: the GMO labeling issue. As I've said here before, I've generally been sort of agnostic on the issue of GMOs in food, and have just thought of labeling as sort of the intelligent, reasonable compromise - as someone suggested to me the other day, "labels are not condemning, just informing."

But much of the email tends to reflect either the pro-GMO position or the anti-GMO position, with the people doing the writing unable to see the other side's point of view. Their opponents are seen as being either anti-science and anti-progress, or conspiratorial mad scientists and businessmen hell bent on domination of the world food supply. Either might be true, I suppose, but it also is possible that neither is true. It seems to me that it ought to be possible for each concede that the other side has some legitimacy to their positions, perhaps we could come up with some sort of sophisticated, approach to developing and using GMOs in a way that is both helpful and selective.

The same approach can be applied, I think, for the whole "living wage" issue that has been highlighted by Walmart's dispute with the Washington, DC, City Council and McDonald's recent foray into financial planning for its employees.

I actually think that both sides have a point. I think that Walmart is right to say that there ought not be tougher rules for one class of retailer, and that in the end, it does bring jobs to some communities badly in need of them, and therefore ought not be punished for that. But, on the other hand, I think there is reason to be concerned when people are not paid enough in perfectly respectable full-time jobs to support their families, especially at a time when many corporate executives are being paid enormous salaries. I'm not sure that this is good for the culture, and it does not create a sustainable society.

But again, the responses tend to break down into two categories - the "Walmart is an evil oppressor" camp, and the "all the DC politicians are hypocrites" camp. Again, both may be true. Or neither. But it strikes me that simply staking out positions does nobody any good. There ought to be a way to address the larger issue of wage disparity and fairness that allows us to focus on the problem and come up with reasonable solutions that reward hard work and perseverance both on the corporate and individual sides.

This isn't just a business trend. It has infected the national politics, in which we demonize the people we disagree with and somehow believe that compromise and tolerance are symbols of personal and ethical weakness.

We don't have to agree with everybody. Trust me on this - I make a living as a pundit, which sort of requires taking sides and expressing opinions. But it was Aristotle who, centuries before F. Scott Fitzgerald weighed in on the same subject, said that it is "the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

Again, I disagree. It ought to be the mark of an adult mind.

That's what's on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: