Politics

Because of the need for political alliances, democracy means that nobody ever gets what they really want

The way democracy functions today, coalitions are required to pass legislation, creating strange bedfellows between interest groups. There's no real reason that civil rights and pro-environmental legislation should go together. Or consider the big tents of the Democratic and Republican parties: while there are some core policy directions—i.e. being the "people's party"—for the most part, the party platforms are a patchwork of positions that require rhetorical stretches to unify.

Is it possible to construct a politics that doesn't need alliances? Can the correct legislation pass on its own merits? As it currently stands, each interest group has to yield ground to maintain inclusion in the whole, so much so that democracy means nobody ever gets what they want.

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Bitcoin is the first open-source government, with branches of power much like git trees, forking and merging, yet still producing a master

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Bubble economics might be the path to socialism

While socialism has yet to arrive, it may come indirectly through economic bubbles such as the current venture capital market. 2015 saw the rise of the "unicorns," so-called startups with billion-dollar or greater valuations, with Uber being the poster-child, raising cumulatively $15 billion as of 2016, putting its valuation at $62.5 billion. But this so-called "bubble" might instead be a symptom of excess GDP growth. When there is more wealth than the wealthy can spend on yachts and low-yield bonds, their excess money has to find more exciting ventures, like startups. Money is like steam, and when pressure builds up in one area, it finds release somewhere elsewhere.

In a way, the startup bubble has increased tacit socialism. All the extra startup jobs have helped low-education people into lightweight desk work and relatively high salaries. Likewise, society benefits from free software and services pumped out by startups eager to build market-share quickly, often in a vain attempt to achieve a monopoly and return value to investors. If 90% of what we consume comes from startups that eventually won't reach that monopoly state, then in a way society gets a 90% discount on everything. For example, Netflix spends billions to win the original programming race with HBO and Amazon Prime, and while the company may or may not go broke doing so, the consumer benefits from getting all this extra art on the cheap.

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Can democracy and harmony exist side-by-side, i.e. can the U.S. adopt the lock-step of China without curtailing free speech?

Perhaps it's time to think beyond opposition in politics. Many policy debates just shouldn't be debates. The debate exists simply because there has to be an opposition. Opposition is the immediate way to build a base of support. Opposition is the simplest journalistic narrative. And opposition is an easy niche to fill in the media landscape.

Opposition is useful in a debate between two people because the back-and-forth distils the policy to an optimal outcome. But when played out in a mass democracy, the result is a gradient of positions spread out among the populace.

Opposition has a way of becoming self-fulfilling. For example, United States Republicans favored the universal health insurance mandate when it wasn't President Obama's idea. And so they rallied the opposition and eventually came to believe their own spin. Which makes the following statement controversial in our current way of thinking: "Healthcare reform should have been conducted with minimal or no opposition."

China's "harmonization" philosophy is the logical extreme of curtailing opposition. The Chinese have reduced freedom of speech to achieve more desirable political outcomes. However, the quality of the desired outcome is corrupt without a free and open discussion. So the question is, Can there be a balance between harmony and democracy?

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Compassionate conservatism is the end-game for modernity

The future belongs to compassionate conservatism. Barring a singularity that changes all games, the family unit will continue its million-year reign, and therefore find ways within the rising modernism to recapitulate mating traditions. One obscure precursor is the Amish, but a more mainstream precursor is the Mormons.

Compassion will come from political compromises towards modernity. Modernity is begetting peace, and therefore less state-sponsored violence, both domestic and abroad, i.e. fewer wars of aggression and fewer cases of senseless imprisonment. Modernity will also bring more inclusion, including the acceptance of all minorities, from gays to the transgendered, as well as former drug outlaws.

So while the future will seem like the culmination of liberal dreams, it will oddly remain hierarchal and patriarchal, just mixed with some tolerance.

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Disenfranchising felons takes away those felons' right to define what it means to be a felon

By denying felons the right to vote, we passively create the "tyranny of the majority," just as the American founders warned us. As a thought experiment, imagine a society with 10 people. Initially, it starts with 10 free persons and 0 in prison. Then a law passes through majority vote, 6 to 4, to jail drug users. Now there are 9 free, 1 jailed. Then a measure passes 5 to 4 to jail sodomizers. Now there are 8 free, 2 jailed. Then a measure passes 5 to 3 to jail abortionists. Now there are 7 free, 3 jailed. And then a measure passes 4 to 3 to jail anarchists. Now there are 6 free, 4 jailed.

Little-by-little, our hypothetical society went from having laws requiring approval by the majority six, to now rule by the minority four. And this isn't just hypothetical, as drug laws disenfranchise millions of Americans who don't have the power to re-define those very laws that disenfranchised them.

A literal interpretation of the democratic principle, "government by the governed," is all that is needed see this flaw.

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For conservatives, there is no apostasy, only orthodoxy; Every mistake is an opportunity to "make American great again."

When conservative politicians co-opt policy positions that they once rejected, they frame it like this is the way things have always been. While as when liberals do it, they frame it like it's something new and innovative. For example, when Mitt Romney campaigned in 2008 for what is essentially Obamacare, he framed it terms of "re-asserting choice in medicine and bringing back accountability," while as President Obama framed it in terms of "modernizing health care and turning a new chapter." Conservatives then cast Obamacare as a form of socialism, to make it seem like a deviation from a good America, while as Obama framed it as a struggle against entrenched interests, and therefore a deviation away from a bad America. Conservatives call it returning to roots, whereas liberals call it breaking new ground. For conservatives, there is no apostasy, only the re-enforcement of orthodoxy.

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If Judeo-Christian tyranny is, "It must be this way," then Buddhist tyranny is, "Who can really say which way is right?"

If you were a hypothetical emperor and had to choose between having your subjects influenced by Eastern philosophies and thought versus influenced by Western thought, what would you choose? For the sake of argument, let's over-simplify and grossly generalize Eastern and Western thought, defining them as follows:

Eastern ways of thinking express moral behavior as an outcome stemming from mindful action. The student who meditates calms their mind and sees how we're All One will indirectly find the righteous or virtuous path.

The Western way is to tell people explicitly, "this is good" or "this is bad." Think of The Bible or The Koran: They are just a Thousand Commandments. The equivalent in Eastern thought might be the Bhagavad Gita or Confucius's writings. But these are more like "good ideas" or aphorisms, like "No man who got up before sunrise every morning failed to make his family wealthy."

Again this is a gross over-simplification. For the sake of argument, let's assert that Easterners believe virtue is an indirect result of a peaceful mind, while as Westerners believe virtue proceeds from following virtuous commandments.

As a Western emperor, you would have a society that springs up based on law-and-order, with codes of conduct everywhere. In 2009, the United States saw the rise of the Tea Party, a group of people for whom it was fashionable to carry a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution with them at all times. That is how Western revolutions looks.

An Eastern revolution would not revolve around a text. Gandhi's revolution revolved around mass stillness exercises (non-violence) for example.

If you were a benevolent emperor and wanted your subjects to be happy, Eastern philosophy might be useful because it emphasizes inner peace. But if you were a more pragmatic ruler, you might assume that people aren't smart of enough to think for themselves and that they need matters of virtue codified and drilled into people's heads.

If you wanted to be a tyrant, though, either philosophy could serve your ends, but in a different manner. The Westerners could be chained by Draconian laws and The Easterners could be chained by the lack of a clear and consistent legal system.

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If literacy and literalism go hand-in-hand, then so must radicalism and the Internet

Text and literalism go together. Once a rule is in writing, it can always be referenced, and usually referenced one specific way. Likewise, upon the arrival of the printing press, Christian literalism saw a resurgence in Protestantism and eventually Puritanism which laid the groundwork for the early American cultural foundation. Could it be possible that the Internet, which is as significant an explosion in text as the printing press, has led to increased literalism? Although this hasn't resulted in religious puritanism given that the religiosity in modern times is at a nadir, it has led to politically polarized minds and a prevalence of conspiracy theories. The Internet helps people codify their beliefs by giving text to every position, both extreme and generic, leading to radicalism and rigidity.

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If money organizes value, and if politics distributes value, then capitalist states are by definition corrupt

Capital is the organization of resources. Consider a mountain. By itself, it is just a hunk of rock. But when a company buys the rights to that mountain, then builds rails to it, and employs people to work on it, it becomes capital. The people, the rails, and the mountain are now organized by the capitalist into a single channel of value that they control and direct at their will.

The reason capitalist societies are corrupt, then, is not so much that money buys politicians, but that money is organized. Money and organization are one and the same. Even if there were no bribes or political donations, money could still pay lobbyists to work in the Capitol and pitch complete programs that busy—or lazy—politicians would have no time to rebut or investigate.

The few rich have always controlled the many poor because the poor can't organize. Orwell writes in 1984, "But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies." But to conspire is to organize, and organizing isn't commonly part of being poor.

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In the U.S., every odd-numbered class is pitted against the evens: middle-class against the 1%, lower-class whites against blacks

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Is it acceptable if the 1% control 99% of the wealth, so long as everybody else is guaranteed happiness income?

Is it acceptable if 1% of the people control 99% of the wealth, just as long as they don't have an outsize influence on politics and everybody else is guaranteed $40,000 a year? Studies consistently show that $40,000 is roughly the point beyond which increases in income don't lead to meaningful gains in happiness. If everybody is happy, and the corrupting influence of money were hypothetically canceled, would there be anything else troubling about wealth disparity?

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Platform-less Democracies

Democracy means coalitions are required to pass legislation. So if Black Lives Matter becomes unpopular, so does climate change. Since the Democrats and Republicans roughly take turns occupying Congress, the environmentalists may have to wait a couple election cycles before having the spotlight again. If the Democrats fail to deliver, the environmentalists may have to wait a generation to switch parties, a gamble that isn't guaranteed to pay off. Is it possible to create a version of democracy without platforms?

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Political correctness depends on the size of the mouthpiece, with populist news on one end, hushed tones on the other

The nature of ethics changes depending on where we hear those ethics. On one end of the spectrum is network news, which has mass appeal. These ethics tend toward irreproachable ideas, such as "All men are created equal." They're the same ethics that are discussed in high school history books, often perpetuating a mythology of the Founding Fathers and their concern for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

On the opposite end of the spectrum is parental ethics. For example, mothers may teach their daughters things like man-catching, or dads may teach sons "how to be a man." The mainstream media—as well as academia, another land for mass ethics—scrubs out any notion of gender inequality.

In other words, the political correctness of ethics changes depending on who is listening. Somewhere in the middle is talk radio, since you often listen to it alone in your car, as opposed to television ethics, which are the ethics of the living room.

Consensus ethics, the kind of ethics that politicians talk about or we discuss in polite company, are ethics that we can all agree are for the good of all. Peer-to-peer ethics are designed to help both parties in a conversation. And parent-to-child ethics are just for one person since parents are trying to send their children on their way. The kind of ethics that gets handed down from parents tends to be the most selfish of imperatives. They're even worse than the ethics from friends; Friends at least want you to follow the golden rule.

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Racism is precisely the tyranny of the majority that the Founders feared would happen in a democracy

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Rationality is a ritual, one that involves light, vague estimates of costs and benefits

They're so light, that one wonders if they can even be called rational. For example, when you ask for help and someone volunteers it, neither party is really measuring cost-benefit because the stakes are so low. Rather, all our actions are just a matter of drives and culture. Likewise, in the case of voting, it's not a rational decision for most of the electorate.

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Republicans own family values, and yet modern families, with their Montessori and Adderall, behave anything but conservatively

The marriage between conservatism and family values is a fiction because there isn't something inherently traditional about families. Parents will be the first to try new anti-anxiety meds on their children if it means better performance in school. Parents will be the first to send their children to creative expression Montessori schools if it means increased self-actualization. Parents will take family road trips or explore if it means expanding their child's horizons. Parental ambition is potentially more limitless than non-parental, and so parents will use whatever tools they think will work, whether they're traditional or modern, liberal or conservative.

Perhaps the act of starting a family is traditional. Maybe family units yield to patriarchal patterns more frequently. And perhaps parents are biased against homosexuality in their children. But beyond a narrow set of "traditional values," families aren't a demographic that has to be owned by the right-wing.

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Social change destroys old rules before making new ones, which leads to anarchy, which leads to conservative opposition

People don't like change because they fear anarchy. When change happens, even if it's superficial, the underlying rules are threatened. Former senator Rick Santorum once questioned whether legalizing gay marriage would pave the way for polygamy or bestiality. He wasn't trying to be derogatory, flip or cruel, but was expressing a genuine fear. When the rules are in flux, there is confusion about underlying principles.

The creation of new ways of thinking lag behind new laws. For example, Liberal Gay Christian groups are re-interpreting the Biblical passages that supposedly outlaw homosexuality to indicate instead that men shouldn't lie with one another casually, without love, or in a condescending way, as they would with a slave. It's linguistic gymnastics and revisionism, sure, but these kinds of moral prototypes will eventually work their way into people's code.

And people do depend on a code. Feminism has led to confusion among girls who give themselves too quickly, practice unsafe sex, or otherwise behave in a way that limits their choices. Feminism, to its credit, has proposed codes for these girls to adopt, but the initial impact of feminism has been to destroy old rules first, rather than establish new ones.

The strongest factor that separates liberals and conservatives is receptiveness to novelty. Conservatives are ultimately against future shock. They oppose the dip into anarchy. Even if the decline is temporary, and even if society will eventually correct itself, it's still a stressful time. And given the focus on the after-life for many of them, life is too short to spend one's golden years watching everything fall apart.

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Socialism and capitalism are both straw men that the media and the masses flog back-and-forth to keep them distracted from real solutions

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The Internet is a false scapegoat for polarized rhetoric

Polarization came about as a substitute for us lacking real external enemies. Communist Russia was plausible for a few decades, and radical jihad for one, but now we have to turn on ourselves.

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The history of progressivism is the story of the least the rich can give the poor to keep the system intact

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The middle-class supports policies that favor the rich because they assume money comes from hard work and talent

The middle-class understanding of wealth might actually be more positive than the attitude wealthy people have for themselves. The wealthy know that their wealth is not the product of hard work or talent, but of connections and opportunism. Those in the middle-class are stuck there because they are unaware of the dirty deeds necessary to get further.

The wealthy will always vote in their best interest. But since they are small, they need the inadvertent support of a middle-class that votes against their self-interest, otherwise, they would have no power.

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There's a fine line between anarchy and a truly functional democracy

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There can be no "war between the sexes," so long as their genetic destinies are as twined as the strands of DNA that supposedly divide them

Ultimately the sexes are at peace with each other because their genetic destinies are linked. Every selfish man or woman who plays to the negative stereotypes of their sex has a mother and a father who benefits from that selfishness. If a selfless man or woman mates with a selfish jerk of a man or woman, they may be oppressed in this generation, but if the couple is successful in ensuring the survival and thriving of their children, then that selfless/selfish combination will perpetuate itself in their children, as designed.

While the lack of rights for women might vex those who currently live under those rules, those rules which supposedly benefit men, also benefit those women's brothers, fathers, and sons. This genetic collaboration doesn't justify those rules, but it does change the interpretation of existing, supposed fault-lines in the "war of the sexes." For example, when veiled, Middle Eastern women are trotted on Western news networks, it's framed under the guise that all those women are oppressed. Veiling is an automatic oppression according to feminism, but we can't assume that those women in rights-restricted countries are as excited about the promise of their liberation as we are. After all, those rules are intertwined with a social structure that supports their way of life.

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The vice of consumerism prevails even when we replace conspicuous consumption with conscious consumption

Liberals mock stereotypical conservatives with their gas-guzzling SUVs and gaudy McMansions, without realizing that their brand of consumption is not much better. Wealthy liberals buy hybrid or green cars, but replace them every couple years, leap-frogging each other over who can have the right, trendy car. Their cars are adorned with bike racks, roof racks, and filled with high-end yoga mats and artisanal bottles of tea. They buy products with value-added labels such as GMO-free or Local, but find them in stores that have an order of magnitude greater variety—and therefore higher operating expenses—than traditional grocery chains. Stereotypical liberals distinguish themselves by replacing conspicuous consumption with conscious consumption. Meanwhile, consumerism remains the constant vice all along the political spectrum.

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To say that the purpose of genitalia is inherent in the design of it is to deny the other 99 uses of it

Entelechy, or the principle that the purpose of things inheres in the design of things, leads to a tyranny of the majority. People have to agree to the purpose and the design of something, and therefore the most popular opinion prevails. If one takes a pluralistic view, that everything has multiple purposes and multiple designs, then minority uses of the human body, such as the homosexuality, wouldn't be suppressed.

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While apathy increases with larger states, so does mass activism, which is how we ultimately address local injustices

The problem with larger states is that motivation is so diffuse. When there are millions of voters, it's irrational to go to the polls. On the other hand, with a larger state, gross local injustices can accumulate enough small bits of regional ire to generate a unique, mass-scale response that would have otherwise been impossible, such as in the nationwide response that descended on Rosa Parks.

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Willful Philistinism

The expression, "I may not know art, but I know what I like," is a defense mechanism against real or imagined culture snobs. But there is an alternative, empowering approach called willful philistinism. The Sloanes, who were a group of wealthy Britons epitomized by Princess Diana, employed this strategy. They were unembarrassed to admit disliking ballet, opera, modern art, and James Joyce. Most public intellectuals of the 1970s and 1980s were left-wing, but because the Tory Sloanes were right-wing, they had to distance themselves from that culture. The Sloanes created an alternative reality of ideals wherein base taste was an object of admiration and pride.

Ironically, in dissing intellectual snobs, the Sloanes became snobs of snobbery. Whereas the typical snob rejects mainstream taste, the willful Philistine rejects those same snobs for trying too hard. So instead of cultural taste being like a spectrum, with good and bad taste being the poles, it is more like a ring. Those at the top of the pecking order, to protect their coveted position, reject the whole hierarchy itself, looping back to the bottom and identifying with plebian icons.

The Republican Party, which draws significantly more votes from the wealthy than the Democratic Party, has recapitulated willful philistinism. They've crafted messages that slam intellectualism and praise the countryside. While rural America could easily evoke illiteracy, destitution, backwardness, and naiveté, the Republicans have romanticized the farmer's life. Republicans emphasize homespun virtue and authenticity, abandoning cosmopolitan academics, and as a result, have created a strange alliance between rich and poor.