03 November 2012

Plumping for a Reason

I know there haven't been any new posts around here (In ages! Jesus.) on the Days, but in the twilight of this electoral season my mother wanted to know how it is I'm leaning.  More than just a 'who you vote for' question, I guess it gives me pause to think more deeply about what it is I believe in, a 'why' sort of thing.  A good think for any of us to ask of ourselves, from time to time.

I guess I'd have to preface all this by saying that I can't believe in immutable rights, beyond those that are agreed upon as societal norms (which for better and for worse, do change with time). I trust that there are certain values that are almost universally held, which may seem self-evident when thought about objectively. But as there isn't any compelling evidence for a god (or gods), there really isn't anything proscribed or impossible except that which society will crush one for in reprisal. Moral values are then a product of human coexistence and the changing dynamics therein, rather than being a simple given. The nature, means, and measure of power - which to my mind is a thing of inevitability in any social grouping, the implementation of who gets what, how and when - isn't just innate; one can argue it to be beholden to a number of factors, like technology, economy, and even geography.

From that viewpoint then, I'd say our current, past-century set of circumstances make government the arm of the common good, ostensibly there to protect and better society in ways individuals can't or are unwilling to do, modern society being large, complex, and as a unit fairly unwieldy. The tumultuous nature of the free market system upon which we base our daily existence lends itself to conflict, inequality, and discord - conditions that the nature of said system cannot thrive in. This isn't medieval Europe, where power is measured by the crops you grow and your ability to wrest what you will by force. Force is still a potent means of control, but is by no means the end-all appropriation.

In terms of governance, the problems I have with the private sector are absolutely borne from a personal cynicism held that a for-profit motivation is inherently going to be selfish; when one tries to apply free market principles (which are great, from a business perspective) to what one might call the 'social good', you necessarily find gaps where there's no profit to be had. Worse yet, conflict of interest dictates that a money-making approach to government invites corruption and further solidifies the placement of 'haves' and 'have-nots', simply because people who can afford to invest and turn a profit (call them 'producers') will become the focus and primary beneficiaries of any such government. 

Conversely, one can make the same argument that governments are poor at running businesses. This is generally true because the motivations and goals of government are intrinsically different from those needed to successfully maintain a business. In a successful economic system such as ours, it wouldn't be too insane to suggest the existence of a symbiotic relationship between the two, the one being the engine powering the other, which maintains the stability the former requires to do its thing.  Kind of the essence of Keynesianism, really.

So I voted Democratic because I believe in people, and in society. There's a disparity that has been widening in America over the past forty years, and I believe our democratic virtue requires us as a society to redress them. That's my problem with the Tea Party, in that they are actively working to redefine those values that make us 'American'. Not that there's any problem inherent in evolving public interest, or with debating policy. But it's the cheap political tactics and fairly transparent self-interest that I disagree with the most strongly.  No system is perfect, just as our very bodies - while standing the tests of time and selection - are neither perfect nor even well-suited for all contingencies. But at some point we need ask what best serves the greatest common denominator.

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