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A very short lesson in political philosophy: The reality of politics. Cowboys vs. Indians?

politics1linear

Most people think we can describe politics with the linear model above. One side wants one thing, the other wants the opposite. Yes to abortion rights, no to abortion rights. Yes to immigration, no to immigration. Yes to lgbt rights, no to lgbt rights. Big military, small military. In fact, many politicians have used this simplistic reading to carve out careers for themselves. That’s because it’s much easier to get the people at the extremes angry and involved than it is to rationally convince the people in the middle. Why? Because in practice, politics isn’t linear at all. It actually looks like this:

politics2circular

I’ve finally found a use for Microsoft Paint! 🙂

The reason is group dynamics. Opposing factions create the need for compromise, and the compromise is freedom of choice- or what we’ve come to call in the west, individual liberties. Or as my mother used to put it when my younger brother and I would fight over the last bit of cake left: “One of you gets to cut it into two slices, and the other one gets to choose their piece first.” A system that basically guaranteed fairness.

That’s the opposite of what extremists want (both left and right.) Those extremists are ideologues who, if given their way, will, through prohibitions, impose their single vision of the world. That’s why life in fascist states ended up looking terribly similar to life in soviet states. No freedom of the press or opinion or speech, no freedom to dissent, no freedom to assemble, no freedom of movement. No Freedom.

It’s time for people to wake up. To stop falling for the traditional song and dance politicians do trying to convince us we’re in a Left/Right war. What’s really at stake is freedom, and freedom as we know it depends on a centre that’s bigger and stronger than the extremes.

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29 comments on “A very short lesson in political philosophy: The reality of politics. Cowboys vs. Indians?

  1. foolsmusings
    March 3, 2016

    Wow!! I couldn’t agree more. The current polarization is creating a system where significant portions of the population are constantly feeling disenfranchised. This is leading to ever widening rifts between the two factions and will eventually lead to an authoritarian state screwing everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Worse of all is it also creates the delusion of disenfranchisement. War on Christmas? War on Christians? Jobs being “stolen”? Hardly. But all that propaganda goes a long way to created a whole class of people who believe they’re being oppressed.

      Like

  2. carmen
    March 3, 2016

    I think you are onto something, Mr. M. I really do.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. makagutu
    March 3, 2016

    Your mom, blessed be she! That policy of hers will guarantee fairness almost all the time

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hariod Brawn
    March 3, 2016

    “compromise is freedom of choice”

    Not sure about the logic there Mr. M. In what sense does the individual have freedom of choice when they must go against their values in compromise? Take a nation having nuclear weapons but not putting them on submarines (hence rendering them all but useless) as mooted here in England. Where is my ‘individual liberty’ as either a pacifist or militarist in making such an absurd compromise? It seems to me that British politics in the past 25 years has largely been a rush to an imaginary centre ground, from the traditional parties of left and right, that has left no one happy – hence the widespread disenchantment with centralised authority/parliament/EU. Am I being thick; what am I missing here?

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    • The need for compromise between two opposing groups is what translates to (individual) freedom of choice. If either side has all control, the other side gets thwacked.
      That’s the whole basis for the organization of modern governments, separation of powers, freedom of religion and so forth.
      Your individual liberty as a pacifist is to be a pacifist (personally.) Not to impose pacifism as the only model 😉

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      • Hariod Brawn
        March 3, 2016

        I understand all that, of course. I am taking issue with the idea that so-called ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘individual liberties’ (both your terms) have any meaningful applicability within the current political democratic configuration. Authoritarianism/Totalitarianism are obviously not the answers, yet I rather agree with Chris Hedges notion that we in fact do live in what he calls an ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’ (a corporate sponsored Totalitarianism), and that we shall increasingly do so. [See his book: Death of the Liberal Class or search YouTube: Chris Hedges ‘Obey’]

        Anyway, wouldn’t Anarcho-Syndicalism work splendidly in Mazamet? 😉

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      • The problem as I see it in Britain (or Spain or France) is that the “Centre” is very much a masquerade. Party whips, declarations of war, imposed voting within parties. It’s the anti-enlightenment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        March 3, 2016

        Anyway, that circle you drew in MS Paint is really very nice. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  5. violetwisp
    March 3, 2016

    I’m not sure that makes sense to me. I do love your mum’s cake cutting plan though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Consider the difference between the classical feminist movement: equal rights for all citizens (independent of gender), and the TERF movement: who want to impose their vision and definitions unilaterally and also create a hierarchy based on gender.
      In that sense the TERF’s and extremist right wingers end up at the same point of circle (the opposite end to the classical feminists.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Or take the concept of freedom of religion. It exists so no citizen can impose a religion on another. Each one can choose and then apply (or not apply) a religious philosophy to the way they live.
      At the opposite end we’ve got theocracy which prohibits any personal choice.
      So what sometimes looks like a battle between religions or between atheists and religionists on the surface, is actually more.

      The real battle is the about the right to choose rather than which religion or specific doctrine is good or bad.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. tildeb
    March 3, 2016

    A system (you cut, I choose or I cut and you choose) that basically guaranteed fairness. That’s the opposite of what extremists want (both left and right.) Those extremists are ideologues who, if given their way, will, through prohibitions, impose their single vision of the world. That’s why life in fascist states ended up looking terribly similar to life in soviet states.

    This is exactly right. And oh so true in fact.

    Recognizing this danger to us all is the reason why I keep identifying it when I encounter it, identifying the slow but growing movement towards fascism in the ranks of the Left (and many of the bloggers I read): actions that demonstrate this extremist ideological conviction and binary solution: demanding ‘correct’ usage compliance in language, banning, the sanitizing of history, de-paneling, dis-inviting, attacking moderate but dissenting voices as if they were the epitome of evil, siding with the opposition’s extremists, and so on.

    When dissenting opinions are considered intolerable (isn’t that what banning really is?), we know we are fast approaching the black and white world of the ideologue, those who populate extremism. And fascism is (understood by far too few people) an extremism of the Left (how people can gloss over National Socialism and attribute its roots only to the Right is a mystery to me).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Now give me a hand and help me explain it more effectively/in a different way, because I think my attempt wasn’t entirely successful. I thought the graphics would do it, but I don’t think they did.

      Like

  7. acflory
    March 3, 2016

    Sorry Pinky but I think ‘anarchy’ should be opposite authoritarianism in the graphic with ‘freedom’ dab smack in the middle.

    Apart from that anal comment, however, I think you’re absolutely correct. The thing is, the people in the middle of /anything/ are the ones who basically just want to get on with their lives despite all the carryings on. So engaging them almost requires that you push them to an extreme where politics suddenly becomes relevant to something that’s wrong in their lives.

    Makes you wonder just how relevant politics is at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t include anarchy because I’m referring to functioning political systems 🙂 But it’s interesting you mentioned that because it fits in with my point all the same. The antonymic opposite isn’t necessarily the functional opposite.
      Whereas communists believed outlawing religion was the “opposite” to the power of the church- the enlightenment proposed freedom of/from religion as the functional opposite- and they turned out to be right.
      In the first version we get one form of authoritarianism substituted by another, in the second we get a whole new system which if respected will protect people from tyranny permanently 🙂

      Like

      • acflory
        March 4, 2016

        You’re right, in so far as we talk only of religion, but at the political level, the enlightenment led only to the emergence of representational democratic systems, not to real democracy. The US presidential nominations are proof of that. I hope technology eventually leads us to a second enlightenment in which all votes truly do have equal value.

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      • tildeb
        March 4, 2016

        … the enlightenment led only to the emergence of representational democratic systems, not to real democracy.
        You make this sound like it’s a Bad Thing. It’s not. It is a great achievement far superior in unifying value promoting the dignity of personhood than any local cultural or religious practice could ever dream of achieving.
        Let me explain.
        The Enlightenment led to a reversal of what constitutes legitimate authority… not from the top down (the god model, divine right of Kings, social hierarchy by birth, and so on) but from the individual up.
        This understanding is absolutely essential to understanding why ‘real’ democracy is an untenable model of governance: this amounts to mob rule as we see repeated time and again when established authorities are overthrown and ‘real’ democracy is implemented. This idea, for example, is what doomed the Arab Spring before it began and from which destabilized an entire region and plunged it into various civil wars. Real democracy is no friend to anyone other than the eventual Strong Man who takes control and brings order out of chaos by brutality.
        The ingredient that is necessary to the democratic process to succeed is a respect in law for individual autonomy based on shared rights regardless of any other consideration or allegiance. Only with this understanding can we then understand that legitimate authority is transferred from the tacit consent of the governed to the offices of those who govern. It is the office that holds this authority and not the individuals who staff it. That’s where our democratic authority is established: in public offices.
        These public offices and those who currently hold these positions must respect individual autonomy in law or they undermine their own authority!
        This is the reason why attacks on these offices by those who seek privilege is always unconstitutional and often borders on sedition. When the freedoms of all are curtailed (in the name of a public good), no rights are violated if and only if all individuals are so affected and equally subjected to it. This usually requires a justification that can be shown to be an improvement, shown to be of a public good that can be achieved by this restriction (say, speed limits, taxes, social policies, and so on). This is an ongoing process that takes time to achieve (“…in order to form a more perfect union…”) – emancipation, suffragette, civil rights, gay marriage, and so on.
        The Scottish enlightenment thinkers had a very good grasp of the importance of legitimate authority and this lies as the foundation for Western secular liberal democracies.. even those with (arguably) titular heads of state. Once constitutional authority has been justified by this switch to the individual and enshrined in fundamental law, only then does the population have a shot at sustaining democratic rule. And flash-in-the-pan leaders like Trump will realize once in office that it is the office and not the man – constrained by constitutional law – who exercises this tacit authority under legal constraints.
        And that’s why there is so often gridlock, because under the US system there are rigid checks and balances on the exercise of political power. These checks and balances are significantly different for leaders under constitutional monarchies (for various reasons where ‘majority’ governments gain the ability to govern even with a minority of direct support, thus avoiding legislative gridlock), but the principle of bottom-up authority to offices, where individual rights and freedoms are shared by all and protected by the military (not the courts), is what Constitutions are built on.
        This achievement – legitimate representative democracy and not ‘real’ democracy commonly understood – is the product of the Enlightenment thinkers and it remains one of the greatest unifying principles ever produced by humanity.

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        March 4, 2016

        Um…sorry but the enlightenment sprang from the Greek model, and in political terms, that meant the concept of democracy practised by the city state of Athens: one man, one vote, all votes of equal value, the majority of votes carrying the day.

        We can argue that the Greek model was flawed because neither women nor slaves were allowed to vote, but the fact remains that Athens trundled along quite happily with a system wherein eligible citizens voted directly on issues that affected them all. They did not just vote for a representative to ‘speak for them’.
        Given how rarely politicians actually speak for their constituents, this was flawed from the start.
        Direct democracy, however, has its own problems – i.e. it is impossible to implement on a larger scale. Or at least it was until the advent of the internet. Now, at least in theory, the average voter ‘could’ vote on all major issues. The technology is just about there.
        If we did have direct democracy, we would have true majority rule. Then we could debate whether that’s such a good thing or not.
        The bottom line, however, is that representational democracy has proved to be just as flawed as any other political /system/. As we have never been able to try direct democracy on a large scale, we can’t truthfully say whether it would be better or worse than all the others, but I definitely wouldn’t be brave enough to call it ‘mob rule’.

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      • Is the Trump phenomena not true democracy? And what does that mean?

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      • acflory
        March 4, 2016

        Good point, Pinky, but this is the common ‘man’ responding to self image, not issues. Trump is projecting redneck beliefs and aspirations, however he is anything but stupid. So if he is chosen to represent GOP voters they will end up deceived. And there in lies the true evil of representational democracy: one moment in the ballot box can lead to 8 years of lies.
        By contrast, I believe the Facebook phenomenon is true democracy at work. The common ‘man’ /wants/ to have a direct say in what happens to their lives and Facebook gives them a taste of that power. It is a democratizing technology.
        The fact that I hate Facebook can’t take away from its power.
        Like it or not, technology is shoving us towards direct democracy and we’d be wise to find ways to balance the majority rule it will usher in.

        Like

      • But how good/effective is that variety of direct democracy?
        Remember when the BBC had a well defined purpose statement?

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      • acflory
        March 4, 2016

        I haven’t really thought too much about the effects of direct democracy because it would all be speculation at this point. Nevertheless, some ideas do occur to me.
        Let’s say that in a given country the voting system stays more or less the same except that:
        a. it happens online instead of in a ballot box, and
        b. it applies to all major issues that parliamentarians would currently vote on.
        Here in Australia that would mean people would have to vote on issues because voting is compulsory. Upside = more informed voting public. Downside = who in hell wants to effectively become a politician?
        Another upside, though, would be that lobby groups would effectively become obsolete – how can you lobby millions of people at once?
        Another downside = media of all sorts would become far more important.
        Actually, the more I think about this the more obvious it becomes that voting could NOT be compulsory, not in a direct system. But I think some of the other points would still apply.
        How such a system might work in other countries I have no idea. As always, the devil is in the details.

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      • tildeb
        March 5, 2016

        And it’s always easier to be against than for, to say no than yes, to not do anything versus doing something. Historically, mob rule is real democracy in action and it’s a regressive rather than progressive social force. Mobs don’t produce thoughtful legislation… ever.

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      • acflory
        March 5, 2016

        I’m surprised you equate majority rule with mob rule, or thoughtful legislation with politicians of any stripe. Why would it be so bad for citizens to vote for issues instead of just politicians? And since when did politicians grow halos?
        No offence, but I think I’d rather trust to anarchy.

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      • Sidenote: This is also one of the most important periods in law of all history. It’s when Garrow proposes the presumption of innocence and rules of evidence. It’s also when Beccaria (cited by Jefferson and Adams) writes On Crimes and Punishment.

        Like

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This entry was posted on March 3, 2016 by in activism and tagged , , , .
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