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Old 11-08-2012, 11:43 PM #1
TheSilentAssassin
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Critique me

I am going to try to write out my political ideology, and I would like you all to critique it for me. I have references for things that I am not going to link. Ask and I will share it. If you don't understand something, please ask for clarity before going on a tirade about something you misunderstood. To do this, I am going to have to redefine some things from my perspective which may be unusual. Please pay attention to that. I don't pretend for these to be thoughts of my own. They are heavily influenced by writers such as David Brooks (I am using a book of his for structure).

--

Firstly, I believe both the left and the right to be flawed. Both parties are guilty of creating very individualistic views in which society is a contract between autonomous individuals and in doing so have promoted policies designed to expand individual choice instead of focusing on social and communal bonds, local relations, and invisible norms. The right emphasizes the individualism of the market and are "defenders of the state's assault on individual economic choice". Their focus is on maximizing economic freedom.
The left, on the other hand, embraces individualism in the social sphere by defending the state's assault on choices of marriage, women's roles, abortion, drugs, and death. The want to maximize social freedom. Regardless of who was in power, we have been moving towards autonomy, individualism, and personal freedom, while moving away from society, social obligations, and communal bonds.

We have entered a world in which all of our solutions to social problems are attempted to be solved through a economic lens. The right promotes the market as the end-all-be-all solution to our deep social problems. If marriage is failing, the right wants child-tax credits. If the education system is failing, promote school vouchers. Liberals emphasized public spending instead. If the schools are failing, fund them more. If college completion rates are low, increase student aid subsidies. Both sides assumed a direct relationship between improving material conditions and solving deep social problems. They ignored character, culture, and morality.

Before we move past this, I want to give two more examples that will lead into my next point. In the 50s and 60s, we saw America had created a large amount of run-down neighborhoods, ghettos, and tenement houses. These old neighborhoods may have been decaying and decrepit but they contained social support structures and community bonds. We saw a movement to buy, destroy, and replace these old communities with new projects. People had been made materially better but socially they were made much worse.

Secondly, we can look at the movement of Wal-Mart taking over local shop owners, global financial markets taking over small banks, and a million other scenarios of local being surpassed by mega. Economically that may have been great. We may now pay lower prices and have a greater variety of choices, but we sacrificed a network of local business, friendship, and community in the process.

I see our society suffering from a disease causing social death, put upon us by the left through government policies and by the right through the market. This causes a host of problems but I would like to identify a couple:

1) As these relationships and communities wear down, we lose social capital and make society weaker. (see: Bowling Alone)
2) I believe that the two 'solutions' of our modern political parties has lead to a polarization of politics along market/state lines instead of coming together along social and cultural lines.
3) The decimation of social institutions has lead to a lack of means of support. When times get bad (now), we have lost those social institutions needed to prevent collapse.

After taking a new socially-centered approach I have come across three truths that I think are vital to rethinking politics. Firstly, freedom should not be the ultimate ends of politics; the character of a society should. We, as humans, are social beings shaped by our political, religious, and social institutions. Our goal should be to create settings that foster virtuous choices. Secondly, we have put utility-maximizing at the core of our political thought, and I believe we must now put the health of social networks at the center. Finally, we must move from economo-centric to socio-centric. We must change the way we look at our problems and how we solve them. We can't simply stand for pumping money into poor areas while ignoring the cultures inside them. We have to address the cultures creating the poverty. If the right are focused on markets and the left is focused on government, I want to change our focus to society.

To be very specific, I feel there are things out there weakening our culture and character that must be addressed. Welfare programs, while well intentioned, can sometimes reward people for not putting in the effort. That is a degradation of character and must be addressed. Markets also must be focuses on providing societal structures that foster character. For instance, the market must supply structures like universities that are active in civic society and local entrepreneurship instead of profit-creating job centers. Infrastructure must be designed for creating downtown hubs and community centers. Local business must thrive again (Walmart can be a local business).

To end, I want to go way back to Aristotle who wrote that "legislators habituate citizens". If we want to thrive, we must create communities and cultures with virtue and character; social responsibility and self control. I put that resonsibility not on the government but on the political and social sphere. It may not be the easiest approach. It may not be the simplest. It may first require us to stop and understand the problems of our world before addressing them. But I believe that's what politics is intended to do.

"Statecraft is inevitable soulcraft." - George F Will

--

Thoughts?
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Old 11-09-2012, 12:41 AM #2
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*cracks knuckles over keyboard*

Where to begin?

Wait, we actually agree on a lot of goals. Our methods to reach those goals may differ, but the ultimate goals are not irreconcilable. I will let some others post more before I dive in further.

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Old 11-09-2012, 12:41 AM #3
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From a twenty year old college student who just got into politics this year, don't take this to heart,

I like it

Quote:
Firstly, freedom should not be the ultimate ends of politics; the character of a society should. We, as humans, are social beings shaped by our political, religious, and social institutions. Our goal should be to create settings that foster virtuous choices.
Who decides which character the society should have? Wouldn't this create divides in our society, if different groups want different character?
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Old 11-09-2012, 05:49 AM #4
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Excellent post, a little idealistic though. What specific virtues do you think society as a whole should promote?

My personal thoughts are that America is a melting pot, and we are filled with different cultures and sub cultures-many of which have incompatible ideas of what a virtuous person is. Pragmatically I think that consumerism is as close as we will get to a universal American culture.
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Old 11-09-2012, 06:01 AM #5
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I'm not going to argue, but I'm curious. Has there ever been a time in our society, or a great society (large or small) that held these values?
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Old 11-09-2012, 06:25 AM #6
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Great concepts, but very idealistic. I love the underlying intent and goals.

however, Its too easy in American society for one person, or one idea, to begin decaying society. Then the whole thing falls apart. A person is smart beyond words, people are stupid. We look for immediate results, immediate satisfaction. This is only getting worse as society and life get more complex. You need to have a structure, or a system, or even a person for people to rely on. Until this changes, your way, which is probably the right way, will probably not work. The real question is, how do we change people to be more thoughtful about society and our country? What will force us to change? Global warming? Military threat?
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Old 11-09-2012, 08:31 AM #7
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You're a douche. Oh, sorry, you meant for me to read your post, and THEN critique you. Got it.
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Old 11-09-2012, 09:52 AM #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
I am going to try to write out my political ideology, and I would like you all to critique it for me. I have references for things that I am not going to link. Ask and I will share it. If you don't understand something, please ask for clarity before going on a tirade about something you misunderstood. To do this, I am going to have to redefine some things from my perspective which may be unusual. Please pay attention to that. I don't pretend for these to be thoughts of my own. They are heavily influenced by writers such as David Brooks (I am using a book of his for structure).

--
Firstly, I believe both the left and the right to be flawed. Both parties are guilty of creating very individualistic views in which society is a contract between autonomous individuals and in doing so have promoted policies designed to expand individual choice instead of focusing on social and communal bonds, local relations, and invisible norms. The right emphasizes the individualism of the market and are "defenders of the state's assault on individual economic choice". Their focus is on maximizing economic freedom.
The left, on the other hand, embraces individualism in the social sphere by defending the state's assault on choices of marriage, women's roles, abortion, drugs, and death. The want to maximize social freedom. Regardless of who was in power, we have been moving towards autonomy, individualism, and personal freedom, while moving away from society, social obligations, and communal bonds.
I've mentioned in another thread that Left and Right represent different ethos. I don't think this country is a good use of the dichotomy. I believe both left and right in this country are inherently left. I'll explain this if I need to.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
We have entered a world in which all of our solutions to social problems are attempted to be solved through a economic lens. The right promotes the market as the end-all-be-all solution to our deep social problems. If marriage is failing, the right wants child-tax credits. If the education system is failing, promote school vouchers. Liberals emphasized public spending instead. If the schools are failing, fund them more. If college completion rates are low, increase student aid subsidies. Both sides assumed a direct relationship between improving material conditions and solving deep social problems. They ignored character, culture, and morality.
Ironically, the free market is as individualistic as it comes. Even hunter-gatherer societies required large kills to be divided. The right needs to solve all problems using culture, then goverment. If you cannot have a strong culture, you cannot solve problems using government.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
Before we move past this, I want to give two more examples that will lead into my next point. In the 50s and 60s, we saw America had created a large amount of run-down neighborhoods, ghettos, and tenement houses. These old neighborhoods may have been decaying and decrepit but they contained social support structures and community bonds. We saw a movement to buy, destroy, and replace these old communities with new projects. People had been made materially better but socially they were made much worse.

Secondly, we can look at the movement of Wal-Mart taking over local shop owners, global financial markets taking over small banks, and a million other scenarios of local being surpassed by mega. Economically that may have been great. We may now pay lower prices and have a greater variety of choices, but we sacrificed a network of local business, friendship, and community in the process.
Not much input here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
I see our society suffering from a disease causing social death, put upon us by the left through government policies and by the right through the market. This causes a host of problems but I would like to identify a couple:

1) As these relationships and communities wear down, we lose social capital and make society weaker. (see: Bowling Alone)
2) I believe that the two 'solutions' of our modern political parties has lead to a polarization of politics along market/state lines instead of coming together along social and cultural lines.
3) The decimation of social institutions has lead to a lack of means of support. When times get bad (now), we have lost those social institutions needed to prevent collapse.
The merit and function of any social institution ought not be up for debate. Every attempt to relativise social institutions has destroyed their merit and function.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
After taking a new socially-centered approach I have come across three truths that I think are vital to rethinking politics. Firstly, freedom should not be the ultimate ends of politics; the character of a society should. We, as humans, are social beings shaped by our political, religious, and social institutions. Our goal should be to create settings that foster virtuous choices. Secondly, we have put utility-maximizing at the core of our political thought, and I believe we must now put the health of social networks at the center. Finally, we must move from economo-centric to socio-centric. We must change the way we look at our problems and how we solve them. We can't simply stand for pumping money into poor areas while ignoring the cultures inside them. We have to address the cultures creating the poverty. If the right are focused on markets and the left is focused on government, I want to change our focus to society.
Wealth is a means to an end. Not an end itself.

It doesn't matter how much sex education/abstinence programming we put out there. Our youth are bombarded with the opposite the moment they leave the classroom. Everything in the culture and subsequent peer pressure outweighs all other influence. The same is true of adults. Which is why maximizing individual autonomy is so stupid (I'm looking at you libertarians). This is just an example to further your culture centric idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
To be very specific, I feel there are things out there weakening our culture and character that must be addressed. Welfare programs, while well intentioned, can sometimes reward people for not putting in the effort. That is a degradation of character and must be addressed. Markets also must be focuses on providing societal structures that foster character. For instance, the market must supply structures like universities that are active in civic society and local entrepreneurship instead of profit-creating job centers. Infrastructure must be designed for creating downtown hubs and community centers. Local business must thrive again (Walmart can be a local business).
You have to promote the correct type of character.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
To end, I want to go way back to Aristotle who wrote that "legislators habituate citizens". If we want to thrive, we must create communities and cultures with virtue and character; social responsibility and self control. I put that resonsibility not on the government but on the political and social sphere. It may not be the easiest approach. It may not be the simplest. It may first require us to stop and understand the problems of our world before addressing them. But I believe that's what politics is intended to do.

"Statecraft is inevitable soulcraft." - George F Will

--

Thoughts?
It may not be easy from our current position, but this is literally how every society functions at some point in its lifecycle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scienceguy View Post
I'm not going to argue, but I'm curious. Has there ever been a time in our society, or a great society (large or small) that held these values?
Yes of course. It's quite common throughout history.
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Old 11-09-2012, 02:16 PM #9
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Originally Posted by tsbalr120 View Post
From a twenty year old college student who just got into politics this year, don't take this to heart,

I like it



Who decides which character the society should have? Wouldn't this create divides in our society, if different groups want different character?
Yes it would, which is why the union would likely be dissolved. I imagine the end result would be 3 or 4 meta-states. There is hardly much of a union these days, it is really beginning to show. It's held together by the federal government and nothing more. I don't see us remaining The United States of America indefinitely.
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Old 11-09-2012, 02:39 PM #10
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I don't have time to make an elaborate post, so I'll keep it simple. For starters, some virtues are just acceptable. There has never been a society that encouraged cowardliness. There has never been a society that encouraged lying and deceit. Or we could say that a society in which those are encouraged is hardly a healthy one. We could see the devastating effects of those on a society. So, maybe, take virtue and character to mean character traits that encourage better societal function.
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Old 11-09-2012, 03:06 PM #11
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I don't have time to make an elaborate post, so I'll keep it simple. For starters, some virtues are just acceptable. There has never been a society that encouraged cowardliness. There has never been a society that encouraged lying and deceit. Or we could say that a society in which those are encouraged is hardly a healthy one. We could see the devastating effects of those on a society. So, maybe, take virtue and character to mean character traits that encourage better societal function.
No society encourages lying, cowardice and deceit. However, when a society encourages and panders to lowest common denominator interests, unvirtous character is required to survive.
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Old 11-09-2012, 03:18 PM #12
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I'd rather focus on this part in regards to what virtues we strive for: "So, maybe, take virtue and character to mean character traits that encourage better societal function."

For example, trust is necessary for cultures, organizations, and businesses to thrive. It's well documented. For example, countries with higher rates of trust also have higher rates of stock market participation.
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Old 11-09-2012, 03:27 PM #13
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Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
I'd rather focus on this part in regards to what virtues we strive for: "So, maybe, take virtue and character to mean character traits that encourage better societal function."

For example, trust is necessary for cultures, organizations, and businesses to thrive. It's well documented. For example, countries with higher rates of trust also have higher rates of stock market participation.
You're walking a fine line dangerously close to falling into over-socialization which is horrible for us.

Virility, Honor, Duty and Chivalry above all else. Trust and good will are easily built when values are shared and an agreement is reaching on how we are expected to behave.
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Old 11-09-2012, 03:40 PM #14
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I think you are missing this: "Our goal should be to create settings that foster virtuous choices." If people aren't starving, they won't be as tempted to steal. If students are truly engaged, they will be less tempted to skip school, not study and then cheat, etc.
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Old 11-09-2012, 03:47 PM #15
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I think you are missing this: "Our goal should be to create settings that foster virtuous choices." If people aren't starving, they won't be as tempted to steal. If students are truly engaged, they will be less tempted to skip school, not study and then cheat, etc.
That's what selecting these values and reinforcing them with culture and, if required, law does. What you are suggesting is not possible, universally. Nobody wants starvation, disease, etc. But times aren't always going to be hunky dory. Hence culture as that backbone, to hold things together and maintain virtous behavior when it becomes temporally impossible to create or maintain these "settings" that would (theoretically) do the job otherwise. It could be argued that without the right set of virtues, these "settings" could never arise in the first place.

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Old 11-09-2012, 04:01 PM #16
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I think you are missing this: "Our goal should be to create settings that foster virtuous choices." If people aren't starving, they won't be as tempted to steal. If students are truly engaged, they will be less tempted to skip school, not study and then cheat, etc.
Traditionally societies have relied on family, community, and the church to teach virtue and reinforce positive behavior. Do you think these institutions still have merit, or do you believe some other entity (perhaps government) should take their place?
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:08 PM #17
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"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from it self." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:22 PM #18
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"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from it self." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan
So we agree then?
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:22 PM #19
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Traditionally societies have relied on family, community, and the church to teach virtue and reinforce positive behavior. Do you think these institutions still have merit, or do you believe some other entity (perhaps government) should take their place?
I didn't really comment on this because I was trying to focus on the duty of government. But, yes, I believe that family, community, religious organizations all still have merit and should also be part of the instilling of virtue.
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:25 PM #20
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That's what selecting these values and reinforcing them with culture and, if required, law does. What you are suggesting is not possible, universally. Nobody wants starvation, disease, etc. But times aren't always going to be hunky dory. Hence culture as that backbone, to hold things together and maintain virtous behavior when it becomes temporally impossible to create or maintain these "settings" that would (theoretically) do the job otherwise. It could be argued that without the right set of virtues, these "settings" could never arise in the first place.
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So we agree then?
I agree that culture is a necessary backbone and may have been necessary for proper governance to take it's place, but I disagree with your notion because now that we do have proper governance we surely can have positive (or negative) influences on culture via political/economic action. So, firstly, we must be aware of the social components of our action and secondly we should focus on action that creates the possibility and setting for society (culture, family, religious institutions, communities, civic institutions) to instill positive virtue.
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:26 PM #21
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I didn't really comment on this because I was trying to focus on the duty of government. But, yes, I believe that family, community, religious organizations all still have merit and should also be part of the instilling of virtue.
Do you believe government should make 'instilling virtue' into citizens one of its duties? If so, how should they go about doing it?
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