Thursday, July 28, 2005

Where Is The Balance of Power?

We respectfully ask that you read the entire post before commenting the first time, but for your convenience we have put a jump to the comments section right here, so that you can easily find them.

The only tool available to the political process is the application of force toward ends desired by the governing body. There is no political action that does not involve such an application of force. These ends universally lay in peace and prosperity; no political movement has ever promised its followers abject poverty and misery. It is on the application of force that each party disagrees.

All political parties descend from the acceptance of one of two contrary (as opposed to contradictory) propositions: either men possess harmonious rightly-understood self-interests in the action of which all benefit, or there exists a fundamental discord between the rightly-understood self-interests of men in the action of which all benefits must come at the expense of harm to others. Either peaceful social cooperation is possible and necessary for life, or men must be forced like repulsing magnetic poles to interact.

Consider the implications of both propositions. I will list a few, and we'll see how they relate to our political scene.

1. A party founded on the first proposition will seek to limit the function of government to the suppression of those pernicious self-interests which can only be expressed through force. The law is seen as having one function: to protect the innocent man from the criminal. Government is seen to exist to apply force toward those who would violently dissolve social relations. Government is seen as a "night watchman."

A party founded on the second proposition will seek to extend the function of government into the realm of social relations and the suppression of those rightly-understood self-interest upon which men act peacefully. The law is seen as having two functions: to protect the innocent man from the criminal, and to protect the innocent man from himself. Government is seen as a nanny.

To some degree both major parties in America have adopted a little of both propositions. As Bastiat said, those who would mold mankind in their own image at some point, different to each, realize the implications of their beliefs, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to backtrack; hence the infinitely varied plans of the utopians. Yet it should be easy to see which proposition a party is most heavily influenced by. There are some advocates of each party who will point out policies of the opposing party as examples of the latter's expanded powers over peaceful action, and some who will publicly acknowledge which proposition they uphold. Look to the aggregate, however. In the course of the 20th century, which American political party has upheld the most policies influenced by the second proposition? It is quite easy to see that the Democratic party has been the driving force behind the expansion of government action into social relations.

2. A party founded on the first proposition will hold that the individuals in government, possessing rightly-understood self-interests identical to the rest of the population, can no more justly suppress those interests than any member of the population. These individuals in government are limited to the protection of the rightly-understood self-interests of the population, this protection being synonymous with rights. The function of government is seen to be the protection of the equal rights of the population from individuals both within and without government. A party so founded will hold that government must be limited in its actions, and that the individuals in government be held accountable to the rest of the population. A government so founded will be a constitutional republic, which possesses democratic processes so that the will of the majority, limited by the equal rights of each individual, is expressed.

A party founded on the second proposition must hold that the individuals in government be of a qualitatively different caliber than the rest of men. They cannot be held accountable to the public, whose natural inclination is the destruction of social relations, and so must exist as a separate and alien class of men. They must possess self-interests different than the majority of mankind, and cannot properly be said to be given permission in their actions. A government so founded cannot be held accountable to the public, cannot be limited in its functions by the public's will, and inherently cannot possess democratic processes.

In this implication, more than in the previous one, it is seen more easily which American political party has sought gradual delegations of power from elected assemblies into unelected positions. To broaden my focus, I will point out that the only conclusion possible from the second proposition is the complete consolidation of political power into a single unelected governing body.

3. A party founded on the first proposition will, holding that there exists by the nature of man equal rights common to all humans, see no issue in international trade. International law, as with domestic law, will be seen to have as its only function the protection of peaceful social relations against violence. The foreign policy of such a government will focus upon dictatorial nations, nations which oppress citizens, and will have no say in peaceful international relations.

A party founded on the second proposition will hold that there exists, even more than within a nation, an inherent discord between the self-interests of the inhabitants of each nation. International law will, as with domestic law, concern itself not only with violent actions but with peaceful social interaction. International trade will become an issue, and the government will concern itself with the level of imports and exports and other trade relations.

In this implication, there is a much finer distinction between the major American political parties. Whereas both accept the implication that international trade relations falls within the domain of international law, it is possible to determine to what degree each acts toward the regulation of international trade. I will leave it to the other posters to decide which party embodies in a greater degree the regulation of trade.

4. A party founded on the first proposition will hold that education be placed within the solid jurisdiction of the people closest to the children, people who have the least latitude for the expression of pernicious interests. The goal of education is seen as the expansion of knowledge, not an institution of social change to remodel humans. There is no need seen to suppress the rightly-understood self-interests of students through education. A party so founded will seek to decentralize as much as possible a public education system so the decisions are made as close to the parents as possible.

A party founded on the second proposition will hold that education must train youth to suppress their rightly-understood self-interests and adopt different self-interest identical to that of government officials. Education will be placed within the hands of a centralized governmental body, as it cannot be left to the decisions of parents whose pernicious self-interests are destructive of social relations. The goal of education is seen as the protection of society by remolding students to the correct morality. Public education becomes an institution for social change.

On this implication, it is also clear to see which major American political party has influenced more heavily the public education system in the 20th century.

From this brief list, it should be apparent that the driving force of the Democratic party has been the expansion of governmental power over the sphere of voluntary social relations, and that to a large extent this drive is also behind the Republican party. To the extent that both have been directed by the second proposition, they have expanded the powers of government to interfere with peaceful social cooperation. A compromise between the Democrats and the Republicans will most likely occur in a dispute over the degree to which government may encroach on social relations, not over whether such a power is just. I hold that most political debate now is a matter of degree, and not a matter of two opposing principles. In many political issues, it is the second proposition that is at the heart of both sides. What then, does political moderation mean? In practice, it now means a compromise between two policies both of which seek the same immediate end: the expansion of government power into peaceful social relations.

Observe the tenor of political debate. Much of it concerns quantitative issues: how much welfare is justified, how much of a course must be taught in school, how large a tax ought to be imposed on cigarettes, how many import tariffs are proper, how old should one be to recieve welfare benefits, how much control over telecommunications should the government possess, how many months after conception does abortion become illegal. Few issues are now framed qualitatively. Such a qualitative debate can only occur when there is a difference of opinion regarding principle. Only then, is there a meeting of two minds; otherwise, the debate is more of a stuttering monologue. A political debate which devolves upon a matter of degree, only offers an opportunity to slow down the direction of a political movement. It is a compromise of the same sort an executioner gives when he offers the convict a decision between death by hanging or by guillotine. A political debate which devolves upon a matter of principle, however, offers the opportunity to achieve a real difference of belief. The outcome of such a debate is qualitatively different than the outcome of a debate over degree. It also, incidentally, makes more visible the political differences between the two parties.

To that end, I propose the following. In most political discussions, the first question one asks is of quantity. "How large should the minimum wage be?" or "how many people should be eligible for this medical aid?" I ask that those seeking actual political moderation, a meeting of opposing minds and principles, ask first a qualitative question. Ask not how much of a policy should be implemented, but whether it should be implemented at all. Only then can one begin to delve into quantitive issues. And, it makes debaters far more honest about the origins of their politics.

Tom - Hamster Motor


Hmmm. Since I do not have a thesaurus handy, let me see if I can get this
straight before I begin.

Tom is basically, pointing out that there is no longer a TRUE Democrat
Party, or TRUE Republican Party to represent the original idealogies of the
founders of both parties today in America. He is saying the country is
being run by "Republicrats" and "Demicans", and that all people in either
group are "socialists" of varying degrees in the end. Then, it seems the
point of his post is for all of us to admit that before we engage in a
discussion.

Okay, Tom; I admit it. We're all a bunch of socialists to varying degrees.
Now, with all due respect, what was the point of your post today? You've
left me grasping at straws, my friend.

Are you calling for more weight to be given to the arguments and ideologies
of 3rd parties? If so, I agree, which is why I am no longer a died in the
wool Democrat, but a proud independent voter. I am able to see the line
between the two major parties has become blurred, almost beyond the point of
distinct recognition.

IF this was the point of your post, then I am in FULL agreement with you.
The problem with 3rd parties is the fact that their voices are suppressed by
the mainstream media and the Government. When is the last time a 3rd party
candidate was given a fair voice in a major campaign? Look to the last
Governor's race in California, where nearly EVERY ideology was represented
in the debates. It was a beautiful thing. As for a Presidential race, look
to the year where Ross Perot was given fair voice and was able to take
nearly a 5th of all casted votes, and was even able to win the electoral
votes of a state (Alaska). We need more of this. It *used* to be the
"American Way", and it helps keep the Government honest.

If this was NOT the main point of your post, please clarify for the sake of
the benefit of "lesser minds" such as mine, please.

Carl - The Gun-Toting Liberal


Wow! This is a deep one. I don't even know if I fully understand it all, but I'll give it a shot. There were many issues touched upon. The main question asked were whether certain things should even be done, instead of the question of how much they should be done. What can one say? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.

In the better angels of our nature there is a human quality of soul that shines in its goodness like the sun, and pierces the darkness deep within even the most evil. It struggles against the greed and selfish evil in our nature. We stand there grey in the middle.

A little poet came out there, and is trying to say that our human nature is divided, and it is reflected in the bigger self of society. Both of these parties exist in the experiment of society, the left and the right. Both have portions of our nature. Democracy should enable us to use our collective concioussness to decide where this society meets in the middle. However, both parties are corrupted with the evil temptation of power.

One party has the power, and the other desires it. One seems to have lost its mind in its tactics to regain it. Political moderation can not exist when both parties are obsessed with power instead of policy. Our founding fathers put the checks and balances in to balance this power. Thank God the true power is really in the people. Sadly too many don't fully realize this.

One party puts itself on the empowering of the individual, and the other believes in the power government guided society. One relys on competition, and the other on compassion. Both of these are within mankinds nature, and a functioning society needs a balance of both.

It all comes down to Reason and Passion. I may have missed the entire point of this discussion, but I will end it with one of my favorite poems.

Reason And Passion

By Kahlil Gibran



And the priestess spoke again and said:

"Speak to us of Reason and Passion."

And he answered saying:

Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against passion and your appetite.

Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.

But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or our rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.

For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.

Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion; that it may sing;

And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.

Surely you would not honor one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields and meadows - then let your heart say in silence, "God rests in reason."

And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky, - then let your heart say in awe, "God moves in passion."

And since you are a breath In God's sphere, and a leaf in God's forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.
Jay - Stop the ACLU
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