It’s become a truism today that complexity is bad and that we should strive for simplicity. I agree. Kinda. Sorta. I’m here to offer a qualified and narrow argument in favor of complexity. Of course, the people who hate complexity don’t read things such as this anyway, so I figure I know who’s still reading.
In almost every discussion, the complicated and nuanced position is at a disadvantage. The simplistic and emotional appeal is almost always going to win most people over. I know because I tried both in politics. The only thing that works is dumbing things down, because very, very few people are willing to take the time to understand a complex idea well enough that it seems simple to them.
In the first election I ever managed — when I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing — we consciously decided that we were going to talk about issues and not personalities and trivialities. We ran a full-page newspaper ad with more words on it than you’ve ever seen from a campaign in your life. We issued white papers recommending policies based on ideas from think tanks. We talked about what the issues really were — and we got something like 3 percent of the vote. A couple of years later, we took the same candidate and ran again (for a different office, but in the same city). This time, we didn’t mention ideas. We didn’t mention policies. We didn’t mention philosophy. We just talked about what a great guy the candidate was. We won.