In light of last year’s elections, I thought I’d express some of my ideas concerning the state of American politics and some of my own thinking about how to understand American politics. I realize this is a bit late, and the election was several months ago; and no doubt, people are now sick and tired of hearing about this. I haven’t posted about politics yet on this blog, and don’t intend to say much more about it in the future.
This past election year has been especially draining for many people, because the American public was presented with a choice between two terrible options: Trump or Clinton. Clinton was a horrible candidate because, although she could claim much more experience in the political world, with whom it is unclear to me whether she has any positive accomplishments, and has a proven track record of making poor decisions. Additionally, it was clear that she had many conflicts of interests which ended up profiting her personally. With Trump, it was impossible to get a clear picture of how he would act as a candidate. At some point in his life, he has espoused views on various topics which represented policies espoused by both Democrats and Republicans. It was never clear that he had a real understanding of some of the very fundamentals, about what the purpose or structure of government was as stated in the Constitution. In the end, Trump successfully was able to detect unease among the working-class factions of society, cater to them the words he felt they wanted to hear from a presidential candidate, and secure their votes. I suspect in the long run, they may be disappointed and realize they were duped into electing someone who does not in fact have their interests in mind. In some sense, Trump played the political scene like a very highly-intelligent and successful individual (which he likely is, considering his track record of success in real estate), however I have suspicions he may have been playing Americans as pawns in a chess game. After being sworn into office, he appears to be reversing many of the political views which helped him get elected.
Often times, I think people are fooled by political rhetoric made by politicians during their campaigns. There is an idea that there are opposing philosophies in government: Republicans vs. Democrats, the Left-wing vs. the Right-wing, conservatives vs. liberals, globalists vs. nationalists. I have refrained from using the above labels for my own views, considering their definitions are a bit fuzzy and change over time. While some of these dichotomies do have fundamental philosophical differences, when push comes to shove, the elected political leaders in the United States typically act the same, regardless of the party they adhere to or political philosophies they espouse during their campaign. The fact is that the American populace is collectively incapable of deciding on candidates which espouse a political philosophy which would lead to more limits on government power. You can expect like clockwork that America will decide on leaders which intend to increase the scope and power of government, only so long as they are convince that they will benefit as a result. Candidates which espouse an agenda which puts limits on government power are typically labelled as fringe candidates and radicals, and are vulnerable to the attacks of either party, which are quick to point out when a certain group is going to reduce spending on welfare or warfare ventures which are in line with the particular party. When a candidate suggests that the government shouldn’t spend so much money on welfare programs, the leftists will be correct in criticizing the money spent in the failing national defense policies, and talk about how that money should be put to better use to provide free health care or education; or conversely, when politicians promise more socialized healthcare or medicine, the right is correct in pointing out the this form of spending is wasteful and typically does not accomplish the desired effects, but instead tends to promote policies which increase the American empire and presence in failing overseas military ventures. Regardless if which party is eventually elected, the candidates have a tendency to abandon the ideologies which helped garner votes from the factions they catered to, abandon their campaign promises, and the effect is for the gradual increase for all levels of government power, both for Democratic and Republican agendas. Politicians on the right sign into law some of the largest social programs, and politicians on the left pave the way for more military intervention overseas and surveillance programs.
In evaluating a candidate, what most appeals to me personally is not only a view that the government ought to be limited in its scope, but also a sense that the views the candidate espouses are deeply-held beliefs, which stem from a grounded and consistent philosophy and understanding of history. Political debates are especially mind-numbing to me, since they don’t ask the sort of questions which get to the root of want the core beliefs of a candidate actually are; and rarely if ever illuminate any substantial differences between the candidates. I would prefer the debates to center around fundamental philosophical questions, such as: Is it alright for the government to steal your wealth using the threats of imprisonment or lethal force if it is not okay for you to steal somebody else’s money at gunpoint? Is it okay for the government to force you to act against your own conscience? Is it right for the government to force you to make certain decisions about the education of your children or how you spend your wealth? Are there even any limits to what the government can do? Is it right for the government to force you to act charitably? What lessons can we glean from history and from studies into the effects of certain political policies? Unfortunately, the public media is not helping the American public become more informed concerning these questions. As Neil Postman points out in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” (which although written several decades ago is especially relevant today), the age of television has turned politics into a form of entertainment, in which ideas are passed to you in the form of irrelevant images and catch phrases, and very rarely conveys relevant information. People have stopped thinking critically about the truth of the arguments espoused by the public media, and instead have adopted a feel-good moral attitude which opposes the urge to think critically about the views expressed, and make decisions based on an awareness of history or moral / philosophical principles.
There is a growing demographic of people who espouse socialist political view, and not only am I shocked that they express an ignorance of history especially from within the last century, I am bewildered that they haven’t thought through the implications of what their views imply in actuality from a philosophical level. Not only do the ideas of socialism are immoral and break at least three of the 10 commandments (though shalt not steal, covet, kill), it has a proven track record of leaving individuals as well as entire countries destitute, creating the conditions for economic instability and eventual collapse. We are today seeing this in many countries in Europe, Venezuela, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. Although proponents of socialist views will often point that the version of socialism they support is different in nature than the socialist political systems which have failed, to me, it appears to be the exact same fundamental political philosophy about what the role of government is: to take from the economically successful minority and redistribute to the economically unsuccessful majority with an end goal of reducing or eliminating class distinctions. The socialist ideas imply the existence of a God state, which shepherds us since we are incapable of caring for ourselves, and which we pray to for wisdom and healing. Ironically, as many who hold to these views are self-proclaimed atheists, their desires for a God state appears religious in nature.
The tendency I would like to see is for governments to reduce the scope of their power, and allow for more individual liberty. In my view, governing power ought to for the most part be as decentralized as possible, even as much so it is at the level of the individual, family, or community. This isn’t to say that there is no role for a state or federal (or for that matter, global) governing body, and I certainly would not claim to be an anarchist. However there certainly ought to be more thought into how to limit these powers and defining the roles of these governing bodies, as for instance, Article 1 section 8 of the constitution sets out to do.
The political opinions I hold of free-market decentralized government may be considered impractical to a lot of people, since the possibility of it being tried anywhere in the world any time soon is unlikely; and possibly has never been tried in entirety before. Human beings are flawed creatures and any human being put into a position of power will in one way or another be corrupted. It is therefore expected that the tendency over time is for power to be concentrated into fewer hands over time. At certain points in time, revolutions have taken place which have stripped the ruling class of their power; however, decentralization of power occurs very rarely and is most often been short-lived, as humans make their attempts to maintain and strive for more and more power. From history, it has been clear that flaws of human character will eventually lead to the demise of even the most well-designed political systems humans can come up with.
And so for the time being, I expect the American political house of cards to eventually become too burdensome, and eventually collapse under it’s own weight — just as has eventually happened to every empire in human history. History keeps repeating itself, and I think we can expect that it will continue doing so. It is difficult to find hope for the immediate future, considering the trends. I feel as though I’m a passenger in an airliner with pilots which have had too much alcohol, who are about to run the aircraft into a mountain side. All I can do is encourage others to be aware of their situation, and brace for impact, pray and trust in God to bring you through, and maybe try not to peek out the window too much.