Politics – A Primer
Alvin Lowi, Jr.
by Alvin Lowi, Jr.
derives from the Greek word for civics, which is Latin for the art
of governing. In ancient Greece and Rome, governing was the privilege
of a minor fraction of the population known as citizens.
government as we have come to know it was originally confined to
cities (polis in Greek). The "polity" of the republics
of Athens and Rome were the privileged citizen class. From that
usage our terms "policy" and "politics" derive.
Indeed, our modern political traditions are merely variations on
a theme by Plato.
statement of purpose for political participation, said to sum up
the views of professional politicians, is as follows:
participation is an instrument of conquest because it encourages
people to give their consent to being governed...(And) even when
voting does not itself produce a clear sense of public willingness,
the purpose of participation is nevertheless fulfilled because...deeply
embedded in the people's sense of fair play is the principle that
those who play the game must accept the outcome...even if they
are consistently on the loosing side. Why do politicians plead
with everyone to get out and vote? It is because voting is the
simplest and easiest form of participation by masses of people.
Even though it is minimal participation, it is sufficient to commit
all voters to being governed, regardless of who wins."
J. Lowi, Incomplete
Conquest: Governing America, Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
New York, 1981, p.25.)
participation enables a few to rule many. This is the other side
of the meaning of the official motto of the United States: E
in politics is to submit to conquest. The sinister genius of the
political ruler consists in his ideological coup d'état by
means of which sufficient numbers of people volunteer
for servitude. Curiously, people are persuaded in
numbers to abandon their inherited autonomy in favor of a promise
of protection from the forces of nature without effort on their
part. The promise is wholly without merit but the prospect is nonetheless
enchanting, to say the least. So perhaps the politician is not so
much the genius as the opportunist.
plebiscite differs from military conquest only in the sense that
the former is bloodless and volitional. The result is the same.
The victims sanction their own servitude and then cooperate in their
own regimentation. Ideally, the only violence that occurs in politics
in the normal course of affairs is to truth and logic. Physical
violence is concealed under the umbrella of "rule of law"
administered by the so-called criminal justice system. Note that
the system is preoccupied with victimless crimes. The criminals
are having their way with the system. Who says crime doesn’t pay.
If crime had not always existed, politicians would have to invent
related electoral rituals are not the only forms of political participation
that lead to conquest. "Cooptation" is another. Cooptation
is defined as "a political strategy for recruiting members of
the opposition for the purpose of weakening or eliminating it."
Cooptation characterizes the proceedings of legislatures
where the elected representatives of the people receive special
dispensations of legal privilege by compromising their constituents'
rights. Plaintiffs retain the right to petition for relief. The
petition is prima facie evidence of conquest. A more ingenious
scheme for exploitation can hardly be imagined. Had cooptation not
been invented by the Greeks of antiquity, it would surely be legislated
arguments for political participation assume humanity has no alternative
for enjoying private life than to submit to the kind of public order
brought about by political process and apparatus. (Theodore J. Lowi,
Life and Public Order: Problems of Modern Government, W.W.
Norton, New York, 1968.) Most people are convinced that community
and other social accouterments to their private lives are gifts
from government. So the common idea of "doing something"
to improve human circumstances almost always takes the form of a
political initiative of some sort to get the government (somebody
else) to do something individuals would never consider undertaking
by themselves for themselves on their own recognizance. Individuals
never consider politics appropriate for themselves alone because
they shun violence, which is the ultimate recourse of political
initiative. Politics seeks to legitimize violence by institutionalizing
it on behalf of the multitudes – "one for all and all for one"
– never mind the possibilities in the real world. Thus, politics
collectivizes the population and subordinates ordinary individuals
to the herd. So politics makes a mockery of human dignity.
sustained by a self-fulfilling prophesy: More politics to obtain
more government is supposed to be the remedy for all social inadequacies,
which are supposed to be due to "poor" government. In
other words, politics is the cure for the problems caused by politics
in the first place. That politics is mere ritual seems to elude
recognition. Political government is the premier social problem
because it preempts self-government, which is fundamentally the
only real government in society.
always fails to govern, but it never fails to coerce. What government
there is at any given time depends on the existence of self-governing
individuals. So before there is self-government, there is no government
whatsoever. Self-government consists of pursuing one’s own wants
while adjusting to the similar pursuits of others. It amounts to
autonomy and discipline. A modicum of self-government is all it
takes for a human population to become a stable society. This condition
can be called economic democracy because every ballot is the clear
and irrevocable mandate of the buyer through which he expresses
his will, his aspirations, his freedom, and his personality. In
this balloting system, the votes (dollars) are never wasted, elections
are held every hour of ever day and the voting booths are the market
places everywhere in the world. In this balloting system there is
no tyranny by the majority. Every voter wins in the elections in
which he participates. If he reckons he can’t win, he does not have
to play, or pay.
exists without a political overseer. So who needs political government?
As it turns out, only the prospective political overseer needs it.
Accordingly, a political vote is a vote for the dictator of your
conflict resolution via voluntary human action, which is the only
type of human behavior that is social. To the extent politics inhibits
voluntary human action, politics diminishes society. Whereas nature
ordains that the best place in society to find a helping hand is
at the end of your own arm, political government aims to monopolize
is urged on fellow sufferers as a sort of self-defense measure.
safety is to be found in numbers, never mind the fact that there
is no safety in numbers or anything else. Clearly, running
with the herd runs a great risk of getting run over in a stampede.
A solitary course might be lonely but it might also avoid that risk.
Yet, there are always other risks. Indeed, there is no such thing
as life without risk. Come what may, life is an adventure. Get used
prudence dictates taking along some insurance. Contracting with
a fiduciary entity to share certain risks with like-minded individuals
is both practical and prudent. Indeed, insurance is a metaphor for
voluntary government. (Peter B. Bos, "The Societal Implications
of Risk-Sharing," The Heather
Foundation, P.O. Box 180, Tonopah, NV 89049, April 8, 1997.)
Lowi (send him mail) has
been a professional engineer in private practice in Rancho Palos
Verdes, California, for the past 40 years.
© 2007 LewRockwell.com