Politics – A Primer


Politics 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.

Political 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.

An authoritative statement of purpose for political participation, said to sum up the views of professional politicians, is as follows:

“(Political) 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.”

(Theodore J. Lowi, Incomplete Conquest: Governing America, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1981, p.25.)

Thus, political participation enables a few to rule many. This is the other side of the meaning of the official motto of the United States: E pluribus unum.

To participate in politics is to submit to conquest. The sinister genius of the political ruler consists in his ideological coup d’tat 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.

Conquest by 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 it forthwith.

Voting and 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 forthwith.

Typically, 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, Private 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.

Politics is 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.

Political government 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.

Economic democracy 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 choice.

Politics inhibits 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 all arms.

Political action is urged on fellow sufferers as a sort of self-defense measure. Somehow, 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 to it.

Thus, 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.)

June 16, 2007

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