Wednesday, April 06, 2016

"Your Political Ideas Would Never Work"

     The title is an assertion often made -- and it's true!  Each one of us has some mental map, vague or detailed, of how the world would be run if only it were just our own individual self making the decisions.

     But politics -- government -- doesn't happen in a vacuum.  Even in a universe full of clones of James Madison or Supreme Glorious Leader Kim Il Whoever, the clone who has to muck out the sewers is going to have a markedly different experience -- and hence different opinions and expectations -- from the clone managing the power utility.  It's a group effort and never as neat and organized as the charts and graphs and bureaus of departments with nicely-labelled office doors make it look: even in the most repressive of police states, there's an element of consensus and if everyone but El Supremo and his loyal circle suddenly stood up and said, "To hell with this, I'm gonna go do my own thing," the regime wouldn't last out the day.  I practice, it never happens like that; there are always enough assorted True Believers, timid followers, pragmatic opportunists working the system and so on that instead of thirty million happy, free-thinking "Gands" out of an Eric Frank Russell story, you get the Spanish Civil war.

     Society, culture, the arena or flowerpot where politics happens,* is a group effort -- an indirect group effort, made up of all the opinions and decisions of you and everyone around you.  It's not just what you do in the voting booth, in Congresses and Parliaments and Party Conferences.  And though it is frequently presented as an all-or-nothing proposition, it rarely really is.  In the U.S., in recent memory, both of the parties have been foolish enough to muse about "permanent majorities" during times when they have held both the Legislative and Executive branches.  Yeah, don't get too comfy.  Majorities end; parties fade: just ask the Whigs.

     So when I foolishly let myself get drawn into a debate with a critic of anarchism on Facebook (it's not all a wretched hive of scum and villainy, though one is never very far from sight there), we kept colliding over an issue that doesn't really exist: the guy kept saying, "If you get what you want, it would actually be a hell on Earth, red in tooth and claw, neighbor against neighbor--"†  Okay, say he's right (he isn't) -- so what?  I'm not going to get what I want.  If I am really, really lucky, over the course of my life I may see the scope and power of government in the United States shrink a tiny bit.

     We're all vectors; we have a direction and a magnitude.  We contribute to the resultant overall vector of our culture -- we can't not do so.  Given the small influence any one of us has, there is no reason not to be true to your inner compass to the full extent possible without initiating force or committing fraud.
* If you're using the flowerpot metaphor, it's reader's choice whether politics is the flower -- or the fertilizer.
† He even had well-poisoning.  And the lack of mutually-agreeable medium of exchange.  There may have been lepers.  It was enough to make a hog weep, really.


Phssthpok said...

'Fraud'... By who's definition?

Roberta X, remotely said...

Christ, how hard is this? Fraud: Untrue statements to other individuals used to cause some outcome you desire. This is part of the Zero Aggression Principle; it's axiomatic. It is also a philosophical consideration rather than a legalistic one. The latter gets defined -- however poorly -- by legislators and is determined in court. The former is between you and your conscience and/or god(s).

Some damn day I'd like to see if I can't convince all the various politically-minded folks to see how many of 'em can dance on the point of a pin and then throw the pin away. Alas, by my way of thinking that would be force *and* fraud, so I can't.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Sometimes I think it would be a net positive if the Code Duello were reinstated. But your opponent who dislikes Heinlein's "an armed society is a polite society" maxim probably would just point at that as proof of his thesis.

So until then, looks like we're stuck with yelling at each other on social media. Or choosing not to so engage.

Batchainpuller said...

I often ask folks "What's your (political) Utopia?"
Their dreamscape usually falls apart after just a couple of branches down the decision tree.
It happens regardless of their natural or learned inclinations.
The phenomenon is true for my utopia, too.