Friday, February 13, 2009

Political Science 101

I was listening to “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio this morning. The story was important and timely in these days of economic chaos. It was about a college student who had spent two years living in a tent in Africa recording and studying the sounds made by the spotted leopard. Somehow, my mind wandered. I am sadden that this stimulus package is divided down partisan lines. Had McCain been elected, his administration would have proposed something similar, as main stream economics says that you need to stimulate the economy in order to avoid deflation which can cause true depression. Many, if not most of the Republicans want the package to pass, they just don’t want to vote for it so that if it fails, they can draw a clear line between the parties in the 2010 congressional elections.


What is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat ? That’s not a good question. The question is, what is the difference between a conservative and a liberal ? The political party labels are all just brand names. Both conservative and liberal thought springs from the purest of motives. A conservative is someone who does not want to see people (often themselves) held back. A liberal is someone who does not want to see people (often themselves) left behind. The tension between these two different modes of thinking forms the basis of all economic political argument in a democracy. In a totalitarian state, all those in opposition to the state are “liberals”. It is only after voting rights are granted that the definitions as I posit them begin to come into focus. Liberalism is an evolution of the concept that defines conservativism. Once you establish that the state should not be able to hold you back, the more successful in the market place tend to dominate the less successful. Liberalism then  evolves from the perceived need or desire of some to bring a measure of fairness to the society, so that no one is shut off from a decent living. Some people think that everyone is entitled to the same living. That is what we call socialism .It’s never made much of a mark in our country.


America started out as a classical liberal state, that is, a “conservative state”. The Pilgrims came to this country for liberty. The principles set out in the Declaration of Independence are principals of liberty. The concept of placing “justice”, as in social justice, not due process, on the same plane as liberty in America arrived much later. By definition, even liberty was not established in the country until after the Civil War. Justice as we view it today is really a late 19th century response to what we call the “Gilded Age”.


A stimulus package is all about justice, and has nothing to do with liberty, except in so far as it indirectly benefits some with tax cuts. That’s why Republicans don’t like it. That’s why Democrats do like it. But the parties, as mentioned above are not pure. The stability of the political system in the United States, or any democracy is based on the “haves” who want total liberty, voluntarily giving to the “have nots”, whatever slice of the pie is necessary to avoid a social revolution. Remember, there are always more have nots than haves. Politics in the United States involves the see sawing back and forth between liberty and justice. The country has come to more of a consensus than just about any other democracy as to how far  each side of  the see saw is allowed to go up and down. Theoretically, both American Political parties would fit very comfortably within the Tory party in Great Britain. The reason we  have such knock down and drag out fights in our Congress is because the political parties still pretend that they stand for something. Otherwise, they would have to admit what everyone really knows is the truth. That any individual politician is concerned only with his own political survival so that he/she can continue to run the country. Often into the ground.


Now back to the stimulus package. What will it do ?  Who knows ? my best understanding is that in terms of jobs, it may help to the extent of about 2%. So if the unemployment rate goes to 10%, maybe we can get it back down to 8%. That sounds like a lot of money for not much of a return, unless you are in the 2% that gets helped. The price of buying off the have nots is getting a lot higher, with a lot less return I fear. But there are less have nots than there used to be, so maybe that’s inevitable. The real fear of this down turn is that its depths and the issues that brought it about, may turn many haves into have nots. I’m thinking about planting a vegetable garden myself.


Blogger Jannie Funster said...

Touche on the veggies!

And getting a cow.

One of the best political pieces I've read. Ever.


8:48 PM  

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