From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #37
June 25, 2021
Can Save Politics #3
GOOD POLITICAL IDEAS
Ultimately, all of human life as we know is a function of the ideas that we think. That’s why the quality of life depends on the quality of our ideas— our thinking. It is the old idea, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we think about politics— about group life, getting along with others, managing our communities and societies, our relationships, etc. that thinking makes all the difference in the world. In this, there are good ideas and there are bad ideas. Historically, we have mostly operated from some bad ideas.
At the heart of all bad ideas is the concept of separating people— there are the elite royals and there are the common person. There are the people who have power and the people who have no power. There are those who are superior and those who are inferior. And worse yet, is the idea that one cannot move from one class to another. Sadly this has been the majority of the experience in the history of the human race.
When the idea of democracy, the idea that “all people are created equal by their creator and endowed with certain inalienable rights— life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” first arose in the 18th century— it was radical. It was revolutionary. In fact, it created the American Revolution and it began a historical process that continues to this day as we continue to make that actionable in everyday life. This political idea puts equality as a matter of personhood. Obviously we are not equal in intelligence or talent. We are not equality in the way we were parented. But in the eyes of the law, we are equal.
That idea, in turn, opens the door to other ideas. Primarily the idea of social movement— we can move around in our social world. The idea that anyone can move to any position in a society depending on his ambitious or depending on her goals. No one is any more stuck or locked into a class or position than they think they are. In American culture this has shown up in the statement, “Any boy or girl could grow up to be President.”
Coming out of the dark ages, once the world discovered democracy, that idea spread all around the world. First America, then Europe and eventually to every other continent. The age of Kings and Queens, of Dictators and Tyrants was over … well almost. The twentieth century saw desperate world events arise which brought out the worst in people— creating a desperate fear and need for a Big Daddy to protect us and take care of us.
In the 19th century, nation after nation condemned slavery and sought to end that practice, the idea that “all men created equal.” This seed took root deeper and deeper in the human heart. By the 1950s it blossomed in the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. articulated best in 1964 in his famous “I have a Dream” speech that it was now time to cash in on the promise made at the beginning of the self-government experiment. And now, over 5 decades later, we have elected men and women of color and “race” to every position in government, including President. And until recently, the idea that we should treat people apart from their skin color, ethnic background, economic status, etc. seemed to be pretty much universally accepted. Then critical race theory came around attempting to set back the gains of the Civil Rights Movement to a racially divided time.
Critical Race Theory is a very bad idea. Teaching people to make discriminations based on skin color was the toxic poison that promoted slavery for centuries. Falling back to “identity politics” is a regression to a darker time and leads only to more racial divide, partisan conflict, and social unrest. It is not the solution, it is the problem. As it is teaching black children to hate white children, it is contributing to the difficulty. It offers no solutions.
Both communism and socialism are also very bad ideas. Ask those who have fled from Cuba, , Venezuela, etc. The socialism that we see in some Latin American countries has proven to be very bad for the people. Rather than working out to create equality among people, it results in dictatorships that are abusive and ruthless. It presupposes that people are not able to be self-determining or self-resourceful; they need someone to “take care” of them. And the communism that we have seen in Russia and now in China and other places shut down free speech, forbids debate, and imprisons those who disagree. Ask the young people in Hong Kong.
What are the best ideas for politics? They are those which are generally associated with the liberalism of the Enlightenment. What are these main tenets? Political democracy, limitations on the powers of government, universal human rights, equality for all before the law (not equity), freedom of expression, respect for diversity of opinion, honest debate, respect for reason and evidence, separation of church and state, freedom of religion.