Category: Political Philosophy


Earlier I had written a blog titled “The Fall of the American Republic“, which had also been published on my own blog.

This is really just a response to a comment in in that post, but it ended up being long enough (me? long winded? never) that I thought it might be a good regular post. As such, there may be a couple references that allude to people or topics that seem a little random.

For context, I was more or less told that I think the people are stupid, and that I think we should have an Plutocratic oligarchy. My response:

 

 

 

I never said that the masses were slobbering fools who must be led by those who are better, and the reason why I didn’t is because I don’t believe so.

What I said was that we need to find the best amongst us to serve as our leaders, and that those leaders must rise above the desire to do whatever the people want simply because that’s what’s popular at the time.

Such an idea isn’t new, and it was one shared by many of the founders and framers of our nation and the Constitution.

The reason why originally only Representatives were selected by popular vote, with the Senate and President being picked vicariously through several layers of democratic process, was to try to insulate policy and our laws from fickle desires of the majority, and to try to ensure that those at the top were the best we had to offer.

Whether that worked out as intended then is as questionable as whether what remains of those systems works for that purpose now, but the reason for them remains.

As for “career politicians”, that’s a nice buzzword, but that’s all it is. Except at the very smallest of localities (and to a limited degree, the State), politics is a full time job because the business of running a community has full time needs that require attention.

Whether we are talking about the farmers who traveled for weeks to get to the capitol in the 1700′s or the Governor of a State in 2011, political office almost always requires a full time (or at least majority time) commitment. Part time politicians isn’t practical, nor has it ever existed at the levels I was addressing.

But I suspect that wasn’t what you were talking about, rather I would suspect you meant those who spend years in various offices and make it a “career”. Quite simply, raging against such is stupid.

I’m guessing that you’re one of the Hill’s associated with the Utah gun loving group, so I’ll try to draw a comparison: Suppose you opened a gun store and wanted to hire a gunsmith (you may be one yourself, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume you needed to hire someone else). Would you rather hire a master craftsman, with years working on various types of weapons, or someone who is eager and energetic but knows little beyond what they read in magazines and on the internet? My bet would be that you would take the one with tears of training and hands on experience.

Running a city, county, state, or nation isn’t easy, and balancing the many issues while at the same time dealing with other politicians involves just as much, and perhaps more, skill and attention as running any company. That’s why a prime criticism of Pres. Obama during the election was his lack of experience in administration, whether in the public or private sector.

Now, I’m not saying that just because someone is in office means they are smart, wise, or even particularly good at what they do. Sadly, many aren’t, and until we as a people require better out of our leaders than what we currently do, that won’t change.

Our founders and framers tried to build a system, full of checks and balances, not just between the levels and powers of government, but between the government and the people. They didn’t trust the people or government to make the best decisions, and so they built a system where the people check the government through collective wisdom manifested through democratic process, and where the leaders check popular but bad ideas through republicanism.

It is a return to that system, a system which I believe has been weakened over the last 100 years through various progressive (crap, getting closer to Glenn Beck than I like again) democratic reforms. These reforms didn’t make politics, and politicians, any more reflective of the good ideas and lasting values of the wisdom of the people, but rather made them more reflective of the hot button election cycle issues and arguments.

This, I feel, is a bad thing. Thus, the point of this article and my feelings on the matter, is that we would be best served by a system more similar to the one we had for our first 120 some-odd years of nationhood.

This video is of Green Day’s cover of the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero.” I think this song serves as a good reminder of the social outlook that goes along with the socialist political and economic program. It is this outlook that I so very much relate to. It is probably the reason that I am comfortable with the socialist label. While Lennon’s song “Imagine” addresses a  form of a social utopia, this song addresses socialist social theory, in particular the concepts of alienation and exploitation.

Green Day covered this song as part of a Save Darfur album that was put together by Amnesty International. The best part of the above clip is that this performance was at the American Idol charity show. Like so many charity events, little mention is made about the root causes of poverty and suffering. It is more about the advantaged feeling better about themselves. Green Day brought the issue to the table.

Lyrics to Working Class Hero :

[By John Lennon]

As soon as your born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and despise a fool
Till you’re so f###### crazy you can’t follow their rules
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religon, sex and T.V.
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still f###### peasents as far as I can see
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

There’s room at the top I’m telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
Working Class Hero is something to be

Yes, A Working Class Hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Schumpeter and the Future?

            Brad Delong argues that while dead almost six decades, Joseph Schumpeter’s economics are to the 21st century what Keynes was to the 20th century.[1] This is interesting to me because Schumpeter seemed to me to be very much stuck in past eras, particularly the industrial revolution and the Great Depression. But to view Schumpeter as a figure of the past is to confuse his economics with his politics. Delong admires the economics, while he dismisses the politics.

            For Delong, the primary contribution of Schumpeter was his attempt to put long-term economic growth, emphasizing entrepreneurship and enterprise, at the “top of the discipline’s agenda.”[2] Schumpeter bemoans that the success of capitalism, which is rooted in entrepreneurship, ultimately leads to a bureaucratic society which will stifle, rather than encourage, that very entrepreneurship. These anti-entrepreneurial bureaucracies include both large corporations and government agencies, both of which rely on capitalist success, but neither of which produce the type of enterprise that Schumpeter sees as the heart of capitalism

            I found it interesting that Schumpeter condemned government bureaucracy for undermining entrepreneurial creativity since he is also a fan of capitalist monopolies. Could it not be argued, and is it not now argued by free-market capitalists, that monopolies undermine entrepreneurial activities by squeezing out the smaller and newer innovators from the market. So while Delong thinks that Schumpeter’s focus on entrepreneurship and enterprise might define the next phase of the American and Western economy, Schumpeter might just be a historical footnote to a renewed interest in entrepreneurship and enterprise within the discipline of economics. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Karl Marx

With Karl Marx’s birthday coming up on Tuesday (he was born on May 5, 1818), I though that I would share some thoughts. Enjoy. Happy Birthday Karl.

In “Marx’s Contributions and their Relevance Today,” John G. Gurley takes an interesting approach to viewing the contemporary economic world through the lens of Marxist analysis. He asks us to consider what Karl Marx himself would say if he were “to rise from the dead and survey our world of theory and practice.” Gurley approaches the question by looking at what he views as the seven major contributions of Marx to economics. Continue reading

Keynes on NPR

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Keynes by Duncan Grant

I am working on some posts about John Maynard Keynes and Keynesian economics as they relate to our current economic situation. For now I want to draw your attention to a profile of Keynes done on NPR’s Morning Edition last Friday. In many ways Keynes best represents my view within the schools of political economy, in particular I have a particular affinity for the left-leaning Keynesianism of Paul Krugman. More to come.

New York and the Examined Life

This clip features two of my favorite philosophers: Cornel West and Peter Singer. While I tend to disagree with them on certain philosophical grounds, I love their respective styles.

Singer discussing poverty in the context of extreme excess is classic.

Both of these men address issues that are dear to me. It is within this spirit that I am glad that I decided to be a political philosopher.

This is a trailer for a larger documentary. I cannot wait to see it.

A hat tip to Thom Brooks at The Brooks Blog for bringing this clip to my attention.