Saturday, March 08, 2008

My Ideology

Over dinner the other night with my father, we started talking about suicide bombers, terrorists, and general distaste for the US across the globe. It made me start thinking about how hard it is to get my entire worldview across in any one discussion. It makes it difficult for me to actually be aware of my own ideology, so this is my attempt to explain it. If you disagree with some of my logic, I welcome the feedback, because I think it is very hard to conceptualize one's own ideology and perhaps someone else can highlight flaws in my thinking.

A philosopher I'm very partial to, Louis Althusser, wrote that ideology is a false understanding of the relationship between one's self and their society. What that means is that ideology is the way we think things are in order to make sense of what we do within that societal structure. This is inherently a false understanding because we can't objectively see our role in a larger society. Hence, here's my false understanding of my reality:

Generally, whatever god there is, she is clearly a hands off force (or being) as there is no provable divine intervention. If she were actively engaged in our affairs, then I don't think she would have quit meddling after Moses (or Jesus, or Mohammed). Since god is not actively engaged in the affairs of earth, our jobs as humans has been to better organize the earth over the generations to better ensure our survival.

This is where governments arose. They provided for the things that are needed to make societal life more stable. Traditionally, their main functions would have been mainly to serve the leadership (at least in Western tradition). To this end, they imposed stability through law enforcement and military defense. Law enforcement and military defense were the chief concerns of the moneyed elite, who had the resources to personally survive any other instabilities (without a revolt, they had the resources to personally survive famine, inclement weather, etc.).

However, over time power has generally become more distributed as technology advanced (again, at least in the West, but in a lot of nondemocratic countries as well). Distributed power meant that the common people gained rights. This often happened in phases (by race, by sex, by religion), but generally, over the history of time, we have become more pluralistic. Pluralistic societies provide valuable stability to many more people as they now have input into the function of the government.

So I have two foundations to my beliefs here:

1) Government exists to help ensure our survival (individually and as a society)

2) The extent to which Government is expected to provide for its citizens is tied to their involvement in the government

So that leaves the question of what our society needs to do to survive in the short, mid and long term.

Short term: To my way of thinking, when we see marvels of the modern age such as science and technology there is no way to think that any one entity deserves sole credit for that product. That product is a direct offshoot of the infrastructure and society that government has enabled to flourish. For that reason, it is understandable that the government should a) collect taxes on these items and b) want to provide some of these technologies back to the less privileged in our society. For example, I think that it is okay for the owners of say Johnson & Johnson to pay decently high taxes that help ensure that the destitute and struggling among us are able to afford basic healthcare that J&J got rich on. J&J would never have earned their riches without our roads, utilities and citizens. (This is actually a rich example because Woody Johnson was a big Bush supporter and ostensibly opposed to paying taxes )

There are many examples like this, but bottom line - people who complain about their taxes must fail to see how good we have it. This is the most advanced society in the history of the planet and taxes played a major role in this (WPA, Eisenhower Interstate, NASA, DARPA, etc). Our aversion to taxes have gotten us into a horrible financial hole because we don't always raise taxes to make up budget shortfalls. As such, Bush cut taxes at the same time as launching a $3 Trillion war in Iraq. We are fighting this war on debt and it has destabilized our entire society. This has largely happened because conservatives are so deeply invested in the myth that lower taxes increase tax revenue (the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard). Bottom line, our society has developed an unhealthy relationship with our government where we don't recognize the value we receive from it and so fall for the hucksters who convince us that we overpay for our government. Now we've underfunded it for about a generation (MY GENERATION to be exact) and there are serious financial repercussions that are developing.

The point being, there will be income tax increases and those are not bad things. A rich person has much more to gain from a stable society as they live the life of luxury during stability but have more to lose from disasters. Having a working health care system will make us all healthier as there will be less diseases spread. Having paved roads will make us all richer because it will be easier to travel and transport goods. Having educated children will make us all richer as we will have a more valuable workforce. We all benefit from providing for the weakest among us rather than overvaluing the value of property (be it financial, physical, or intellectual). Government's job is to keep this in balance. Unfortunately, since the Reagan Revolution we have undervalued the role of government in our lives and our government has been made unstable because of this.

We need to put our government back together because the world we live in was built by a central government and will fall apart without a solid one.

Mid Term: (Check back later, but this is my environmentalist/global culture rant)

Long Term: (This is my build spaceships rant)


Thank you, DNC!

As we hear the petty posturing by the Clinton and Obama campaigns, reconciling the realities of politics with the media's love for false outrage, it is good for us to remember the big picture here. John McCain is a disciple of President Bush. Just because someone is willing to look you in the eye while they damage the future of this country with outdated, disproved theories of governance doesn't mean they're a good person. A politician who thinks the proper way to deal with our enemies is to bomb, bomb, bomb them is naive and destructive in the modern interconnected world.

McCain is Bush's protege, and his theory of leadership is bankrupt.

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