The Power Of Civil And Intelligent Debate To Make Us All Better

One of the things I cherish about the AVC community is the civil and intelligent debate that goes on here. It has made me crystalize my thinking in ways that would not have happened without it. I was reminded of that when I read Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments on Antonin Scalia, in particular this part:

We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the “applesauce” and “argle bargle”—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.

Debate and dissent are critical. If you can’t cite the opposing point of view on an issue, you may not have thought it through as well as you should.

When I think through all of our investment decisions at USV, it is the ones that we breezed through and got to an answer quickly where we made the biggest mistakes. Some of our best investment decisions started out with a strong dissenter or two, often me. I remember my indignation at the idea that we would invest in a search engine (duckduckgo). But others convinced me that I was wrong and that has turned out incredibly well for us.

Maybe the most important part of the title to this post is the word civil. Without civility (and respect), it is hard to have intelligent debate. Respecting those with opposing views, working to understand them, and listening closely to them is the key. Even if they don’t change your mind, they can reshape how you discuss and present your views. And that can make all the difference in the world.