Political Talk! DON’T RUN FROM IT!

Political cartoon

“The professor has just said something that impressed me. I asked him, ‘Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?’ And he replied: ‘That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics’.”

— Greenville Clark, Dublin, New Hampshire, 1955

OK. First blog. This should be interesting. So, I have been reading the news for a vast portion of my life. Also, I have studied politics for a decent amount of time (probably 5-6 years now). I have an Associate, Bachelor, and Masters degree in political study, and wrote a masters thesis on the topic of small arms and international security. So I suppose I have some authority to write about this stuff.

What I do know is that there exists an extreme polarization in the American political system — which, by the way, is nothing new. Partisan extremes occur within the system from time to time. However, contemporary American political polarization is continuously reinforced because of a variety of issues ranging from new flows of information to distinctly partisan media.

The purpose of this blog is to cut through partisan issues to explain fundamental tenants of political theory (how a state functions), political/economic theories (mainly capitalism and communism), and to highlight the role that international politics may or may not play into American politics.

HEY MAN! WHY DO YOU NEED TO TELL ME ABOUT MY COUNTRY!!!!?

A: Because most people never really think about what liberalism (or conservatism) actually is. Also, it is helpful to distinguish between political and economic systems. For example, Communism is fundamentally an economic (and mostly impossible political) system, and others may not know how fascism and dictatorships differ. In addition, I find that very few people understand the “rules” of the American political game. For example, few people understand that the American political system is not a literal democracy at all — yet people float the word around as if it is.

Further, the components of the American political system are highly complex at multiple levels, and some individuals don’t even understand that each state, and locality, has a separate political system. Finally, it’s essential for citizens to understand the difference between federations and confederations, and how this power separation alters the structure of how things get done.

YOU AIN’T ONE OF THEM LIBERALS ARE YOU?

A: Well, first of all, that’s a stupid question. To start with, you need to understand liberalism and conservatism … and people who ask this question generally don’t understand the philosophical underpinnings. To go further, classical liberalism is actually a major component of the Republican party.

A contemporary “liberal” is a term that media used to denote a person belonging to the Democratic party, which is stupid. I suspect the term was chosen because the word ‘liberal’ is attached to conceptions of liberal (government) intervention. However, liberalism as a philosophical outlook is much different and includes principles of individual rights, protections by laws, and individual equality.

Variations between liberalism and conservatism generally emphasize differences between how they view human nature — essentially liberalism emphasizes the malleability, or changeability, of human nature (read Rousseau), and conservatives generally do not believe human nature is changeable and therefore want to maintain the status quo, or balance of power between groups (economic, social, or even ethnic). While hard-lined conservatives are more concerned with tradition and maintaining society, hard-lined liberals are more of the opinion that human nature can be changed by implementing laws that will affect human behavior, and therefore be fundamentally altered (though admittedly these alterations can take quite a bit of time).

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS, MAN!?

A: While this is a complex question, there are ways of distinguishing between the fundamental ideas of each party, and while most people can fit within the framework of the two-party system (there are rarely genuine “independents”), there are some slight variants cropping up according to political taste.

First, what do contemporary Republicans want? I chose to define Republicans first because I don’t think there is any unified agreement of what they want as a whole — hence splinter Tea Party and, the younger, fresher variant; the Libertarians. All shades of Republicans can generally agree on one thing only: fewer taxes. Pretty much everything else has a non-unified answer from the various shades of political views — and there really is no unified stance on social issues at all.

But why do Republicans care about taxes so much? Because they don’t believe that implementing laws, programs, or bureaus aimed at altering human nature or behavior work, because human nature is unchanged. The nature of people is to survive, and will do so by any means necessary — so the best thing to do is to maintain the peace and let people do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t affect the affairs of your neighbor. According to this view, it’s no wonder that contemporary Republicans want to avoid social issues.

To further complicate the Republican position, splinter groups now represent shades of the “no-new-taxes” ideology made popular by such greats as Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan. Libertarians want to strip away progressive and liberal additions to the system by taking away government funding from major bureaus and programs, which is of course controversial, and probably does not sit well with federal employees, contractors, or generally anyone who benefits from federal money.

Another group is the nationalistic, anti-tax Tea Party group which seeks to preserve tradition, emphasize “American-ness,” and return tax dollars to the working people. The general theme is the view that humans are as they are, and there will always be rich and poor and ethnic fighting. So long as this dynamic exists, then the best you can do is fight for what you can, maintain the peace, and emphasize business to secure work — because business is the cornerstone of a stable (economic and therefore political) system. Sounds pretty good, huh?

REACTION: Democrats don’t view the world as Republicans. In the democratic world, the real power lies in the ability for humans to shape and change what being human means (and I’m sure all political theorists would yell at me for simplifying conceptions of philosophy). So for the contemporary Democrat, changes will not occur on their own, and thus laws must be made to alter behavior. Because, after all, people NEVER want to change anything; however, they are capable of it. While extreme democratic ideals emphasize complete social equality among people (communism), I think most sensible members of the party understand there will always be rich and poor people as well. However, the difference is that democratic ideals dictate that you can alter the status quo to make the world more equal for those who partake in it, but it requires work and a fundamental understanding of the system you live in.

So for change to happen, it necessarily involves implementing policy to do so, and, as the argument goes, time will eventually alter behavior. A good example of this would be sexual harassment. Some commentators would say that sexual harassment is not gone, and that men still want to sexually harass women, and vice versa — because human nature has not changed since day one.  Other commentators would say that, as time goes on, people forget it’s a law, and accept it as truth. So a child growing up in a world where sexual harassment is considered unacceptable will simply grow up to believe that norm is true, and therefore it alters behavior and therefore nature. Contemporary Democrats take this position with a lot of issues. Mainly though, the agenda focuses on social justice, or justice for victimized minorities. To achieve justice for victimized segments of society, there must be laws to protect individual rights. However, to be fair, I’m pretty sure Republicans are OK with anti-sexual-harassment laws, but the example still holds some weight.

TAKEAWAYS:

Democrats and Republicans certainly view human nature differently, but there are core similarities as well. They both have conceptions of individual rights and the rule of law, which are major components of — ARE YOU READY FOR IT — classical liberalism.

Liberalist ideology revolves around conceptions of individual rights, rule of law, free trade, and equality. From this view, both parties agree on the core tenants, but differ in the view of human nature at a fundamental level. Keep in mind, however, all of this stuff is essentially debatable, and, therefore, extremely difficult to grasp — which makes politics one of the most difficult subjects to wrestle. Also, because it is all debatable, nobody wants to study it, and therefore people get discouraged.

However, the bright side is that this is a useful starting point to understanding politics in the American context because, let’s face it, the political system is very dichotomous with distinct separate entities — perhaps because there has to be one winner all the time in our system (curse elections!).

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BLOG ABOUT?

This blog is aimed at demystifying the confusing political atmosphere in American politics. Because there are so many levels of government, clearly partisan media, and a proliferation of really random and false conceptions of politics on the internet, this blog aims to clarify the components of politics. Because sensationalism, and partisanism, is great for business (Fox News and MSNBC make the most in advertisements against moderate news outlets), it is in the best interest of stakeholders to keep the political climate the way it is. However, American politics is in need of moderates, politically savvy citizens, and generally smart people for this whole democratic/republican/and, at times, dictatorial system to work.

It is a complex machine that is the result of many different ideologies and creeds, and modern political systems reflect a very rich history of that. So, the plan is to write about various topics in politics for those interested. I want to run through various “ism’s” relating to political philosophy and theory, and clarify the differences between them. I will also write about differences between international politics and domestic politics. Also, I may start looking at developments in the political system, and write about the history behind these actions, and how they are important to know and understand. After all, at the base of the system, the entire structure is only as good as the components within it — which are citizens. HEYOOOOO!

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18 thoughts on “Political Talk! DON’T RUN FROM IT!

  1. Warren K

    Well then. I see you’ve written a blog directly aimed at myself unless of course your friends are as nerdly as I am. I look forward to future blogs. While I certainly don’t have the background as you do, I’ll try and comment now and again if I think I have something intelligent to add. Which I’m sure means not all that often. One comment I would have (besides it being “Ayn” Rand), is lumping libertarians with Republicans. While it’s true that Libertarian’s views line up with Republican’s on most tax issues, they diverge greatly when you start looking at the social issues and foreign policy. To that point you can’t lump the followers of Ayn Rand (objectivists) with Libertarians. Objectivists are far more willing to meddle in foreign affairs than a Libertarian. If your point is that being a Republican means not enacting laws to change people’s behavior, I disagree. While that may be true on fiscal policy, it is not at all true on social issues. A republican will always try and legislate morals thereby changing behavior. A libertarian will not.

    I agree with your comments on America needing more politically savvy citizens, but the pessimist in myself just doesn’t see it happening. Seriously most kids would have googled “Kardasians” multiple times before ever finishing an article like this. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You’ve just got a really uphill battle.

    Good luck my friend.

    Warren

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  2. jraffety84 Post author

    Most def, sir! I admit the Libertarian vs. Objectivist philosophies are not fully represented in the party. So, to that extent, for all I know, Objectivists are socially progressive — however, if that is the case, I would suggest they align with Democratic causes. Although I don’t know the philosophies that well.

    I suppose I just wanted to analytically separate conservativism and liberalism, and how they are actually compatible ideologies, but the approach differs. And that’s what’s super annoying about American politics. There will never be a party to accurately reflect your individual preferences — unless you’re a diehard party loyalist.

    There is some overlap, and I hope Ms. Rand wouldn’t be too mad with me for using her name … RIP. Although the misspelled name is inexcusable. SORRY AYN subscribers :(. I shall now correct :D.

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  3. Warren K

    No doubt about only having two viably electable parties. I often wonder what it would be like living in a country with a coalition style government like Israel. On the one hand you have more than two parties getting elected, but you also can have the government all of a sudden collapse like it just did late last year. You’d probably also have people still vote for a label no matter what. I have many family members on both sides of the aisle that vote straight party ticket on their ballet. But I guess at least most people in my family vote. I can’t say that for my town. Our last city wide election we had a whopping 23 percent turnout. Less than one in four. Now that’s democracy in action!

    BTW, I’m sure Ayn will accept your heartfelt apology.

    WMK

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