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Moving thoughts

We argue, dispute, contend and cantankerate. It's healthy, and we'll keep on doing it. Just elsewhere.

July 27, 2008

This final issue of the Opinion and Book Review section is a regrettable concession to the economics of the newspaper business and the particular travails of this company. However, the loss of these pages does not mean the eradication of such journalism, merely its relocation -- beginning next Sunday, book reviews will run in Calendar and the opinion pages in the main news section.

You might be asking, along with the bean counters: Why bother with opinion journalism at all? It's easy to make the argument against this work. It agitates readers, compromises a newspaper's objectivity, telegraphs arrogance, invites controversy, costs money. So why not drop it altogether? The answer, we submit, is that any work that agitates and infuriates is worth a closer look, and if it goes beyond that -- exploring real solutions to challenging problems -- society benefits.

Editorials are not what they once were; no longer do they memorialize the views of anyone who happened to lay his hands on a printing press. Today, at least at The Times, editorials reflect the considerations of a board, divergent in its members' politics, on the issues of the day. They are written after debate and disagreement, fashioned as part of a larger body of work that seeks intellectual honesty and consistency: We do not oppose the war in Iraq on Monday and support it on Tuesday; we do not support the death penalty one day and oppose it the next. And editorials are not blogs or columns; the views we publish in this space are not singular opinions but collective ones.

As such, editorials are a rare voice in our national culture and politics; they are the product of a Socratic enterprise, guided by the idea that debate produces wisdom.

Many of our readers disagree with us. Some accuse us of lock-step submission to orders sent by Democratic Party headquarters. We make no apologies for our center-left lean -- it is where our study of leading issues has drawn us -- but some of those criticisms are ridiculous, more revealing of our accusers than of our work. We like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a liberal Democrat, and supported his election, but we irritate him regularly with our skepticism about his fidelity to his promises. We also like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, and supported his election too. Still, we do wish he'd give us a decent state budget. We don't think much of President Bush, but two-thirds of the nation, and even more of Los Angeles, is with us there.

We take a libertarian view of many issues -- we wish the government would snoop less, check its impulse to over-regulate, allow gay couples to marry, refuse to engage in state murder -- but we are not guided by ideological purity. We opposed the war in Iraq -- still do -- but backed the Bush administration's troop surge as a strategy for expediting withdrawal. Whether it's the construction of an Orange County toll road or the latest ruling by the Supreme Court, we analyze before we opine.

Not everyone likes it -- heaven knows, not everyone likes to pay for it -- but there's a value in discourse. We offer our views and happily publish those of others. Our Op-Ed pages and your letters feature the works of intellects and academics, politicians and humorists, and everyday people of all types. As often as not (yes, we check), they take issue with our editorial views. Many challenge this newspaper as an institution. We publish them not because we agree or disagree, not because the authors are our friends or associates, but because we are committed to the idea that a disputatious society is a healthy society.

We may change a mind here or there, but even if we don't, we relish our place in a rollicking civil discourse, which we hope to engage with civility and respect. We wish we were doing so in our own section every Sunday, but we'll take our space where we can get it and continue to give you our best thoughts.

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