Partisan Politics — A Fool's Game for the Masses

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Because I despise politics in general, and the two major parties in this country in particular, I go through life constantly bemused by all the weight that people put on partisan political loyalties and on adherence to the normative demarcations the parties promote. Henry Adams observed that “politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” This marshalling of hatreds is not the whole of politics, to be sure, but it is an essential element. Thus, Democrats encourage people to hate big corporations, and Republicans encourage people to hate welfare recipients.

Of course, it’s all a fraud, designed to distract people from the overriding reality of political life, which is that the state and its principal supporters are constantly screwing the rest of us, regardless of which party happens to control the presidency and the Congress. Amid all the partisan sound and fury, hardly anybody notices that political reality boils down to two “parties”: (1) those who, in one way or another, use state power to bully and live at the expense of others; and (2) those unfortunate others.

Even when politics seems to involve life-and-death issues, the partisan divisions often only obscure the overriding political realities. So, Democrats say that anti-abortion Republicans, who claim to have such tremendous concern for saving the lives of the unborn, have no interest whatever in saving the lives of those already born, such as the poor children living in the ghetto. And Republicans say that Democrats, who claim to have such tremendous concern for the poor, systematically contribute to the perpetuation of poverty by the countless taxes and regulations they load onto business owners who would otherwise be in better position to hire and train the poor and thereby to hasten their escape from poverty.

If the unborn children happen to be living in the wombs of women on whom U.S. bombs and rockets rain down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, however, all Republican concerns for the unborn evaporate completely, as do the Democrats’ concerns for the poor children living in the selfsame bombarded villages. Both parties’ positions would seem to rest on very flexible and selective morality, if indeed either party may be said to have any moral basis at all, notwithstanding their chronic public displays of “moral” wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for LewRockwell.com. His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.

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