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Thread: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

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    Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Over two hundred years experience with party politics informs us that, when politics is based on partisanship, the partisans form oligarchical power blocs that become an end in themselves and ultimately transcend the will of the people.

    Partisanship is a potent tool for those with a thirst for power but it does not foster government by the people. It results in government by a small fraction of the people. For the people as a whole, the flaws in party politics are devastating. Their cumulative effect victimizes the public by the most basic and effective strategy of domination --- divide and conquer.

    Parties are important for the principals: the party leaders, contributors, candidates and elected officials, but the significance diminishes rapidly as the distance from the center of power grows. Most people are on the periphery, remote from the centers of power. As outsiders, they have little incentive to participate in the political process.

    The challenge of representative democracy is not to divide the public into blocs but to find the best advocates of the common interest and raise them to leadership positions as the people's representatives. To meet that challenge, given the range of public issues and the way each individual's interest in political matters varies over time, an effective electoral process must examine the entire electorate during each election cycle, seeking the people's best advocates. It must let every voter influence the outcome of each election to the best of their desire and ability, and it must ensure that those selected as representatives are disposed to serve the public interest.

    How can those ends be achieved?

    Fred Gohlke

  2. #2
    Midas Guest

    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred Gohlke View Post
    Over two hundred years experience with party politics informs us that, when politics is based on partisanship, the partisans form oligarchical power blocs that become an end in themselves and ultimately transcend the will of the people.

    Partisanship is a potent tool for those with a thirst for power but it does not foster government by the people. It results in government by a small fraction of the people. For the people as a whole, the flaws in party politics are devastating. Their cumulative effect victimizes the public by the most basic and effective strategy of domination --- divide and conquer.

    Parties are important for the principals: the party leaders, contributors, candidates and elected officials, but the significance diminishes rapidly as the distance from the center of power grows. Most people are on the periphery, remote from the centers of power. As outsiders, they have little incentive to participate in the political process.

    The challenge of representative democracy is not to divide the public into blocs but to find the best advocates of the common interest and raise them to leadership positions as the people's representatives. To meet that challenge, given the range of public issues and the way each individual's interest in political matters varies over time, an effective electoral process must examine the entire electorate during each election cycle, seeking the people's best advocates. It must let every voter influence the outcome of each election to the best of their desire and ability, and it must ensure that those selected as representatives are disposed to serve the public interest.

    How can those ends be achieved?

    Fred Gohlke
    A very simple answer, but undoubtedly a great deal more complex to put into practice, but true proportional representation with the same balance of power at all levels of government from the smallest community through to national government, coupled with public referendums and on-line voting on all matters of local and national importance. The resultant public vote from these referendums carrying an agreed percentage of the overall vote at whatever level of government the matter related to.

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    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Good Morning, Midas

    There are a wealth of proposals for proportional representation. They all bog down on bagfuls of arcana and they all ignore the fundamental point that proportional representation implies partisanship and partisanship carries the seeds of disaster.

    * Parties represent ideologies.
    * Ideologies inspire conflict.
    * Conflict is destructive.

    Societies encounter difficulties. The difficulties are real --- no ideology can resolve them. They can only be resolved by objective examination of their elements and the effect of those elements on the society. Partisans, by definition, are not objective.

    The destabilizing effect of partisan representation (whether proportional, or otherwise) was brilliantly described by Stafford Beer in Designing Freedom:

    http://grace.evergreen.edu/~arunc/te.../beer/book.pdf

    Beer explains why variety makes systems unstable and shows that, counter-intuitively, the only possible stabilizer is greater variety:

    "Requisite variety for running things properly exists with the people who generate the world's variety in the first place, and that means everyone."
    The counter-intuitive nature of the solution makes it difficult to grasp: government by the people does not mean people voting on the choices of others. It means the people making the choices themselves. If we are to improve our government, we must forgo partisanship and provide a means by which every voter can influence the outcome of each election to the best of their desire and ability.

    How do we do that?

    Fred Gohlke

  4. #4
    Midas Guest

    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    I think the short answer is that it's impossible to remove partisanship and true objectivity from people; we all have different ways of looking as issues, which by their very nature then lead us to different solutions. Certainly in the political and social spheres my own views are a mixture taken from right across the spectrum of opinion, albeit biased more toward the right, and I'd defy anyone if they're honest, however radical, not to say the same to some degree or other. I still hold that by employing true proportional representation backed up by referendums, which takes account of all those different views and reaches a consensus on the best way to resolve them in the interests of the majority, is the only way to go forward.

    I'm not entirely sure that conflict is always destructive. Yes, in some areas it certainly is, and I don't think I need to point out the hundreds of examples from around the world where this is so, but conflict can also be constructive as it leads to deeper thinking about various issues, which in turn can often lead to more radical and more far-reaching solutions. The trick is to try to maintain a sensible balance between the two, and certainly in politics I can't see any other alternative.

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    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Perhaps the best idea for us might be to ditch all this 'people' stuff and find us a benevolent dictator, except for that warning about "absolute power...". That could be a sticky bit.

    Actually Midas is right about some conflict being good. Its that civil friction, that rubbing of one idea against another that leads to innovation and a coming together, unless, of course, it leads to death and destruction.

    • �For the two of us, home isn't a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.�


  6. #6
    Major Sinic Guest

    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    Perhaps the best idea for us might be to ditch all this 'people' stuff and find us a benevolent dictator, except for that warning about "absolute power...". That could be a sticky bit.

    Actually Midas is right about some conflict being good. Its that civil friction, that rubbing of one idea against another that leads to innovation and a coming together, unless, of course, it leads to death and destruction.
    Many a true word is spoken in jest. The economic measures necessary to prevent Britain becoming an economic basket case like Greece, are likely to be so draconian that only the strongest government will have any chance of seeing the recovery through.

    By definition a coalition government is never going to be as strong as a single party with an overall majority, and for this reason in particular I have reservations. I have little doubt that Cameron, Clegg, Cable, Hague and most of the rest of the coalition leadership are committed to making it work, and despite the expected whingeing from the party that got us in this mess, they seem to be determined to put Britains interests first. However I am concerned that the smaller, more partisan and pedestrian minds on the right wing of the Conservatives and the left wing of the Liberal Democrats are going to derail the coalition train.

    I am also of the opinion that a large proportion of the British electorate would rather live for today, and the devil with tomorrow and their childrens' future.

    The arrival on the scene now, of a dictator with an iron fist in a velvet glove would almost seem to be the answer.

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    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Quote Originally Posted by Major Sinic View Post
    I am also of the opinion that a large proportion of the British electorate would rather live for today, and the devil with tomorrow and their childrens' future.
    Unfortunately, a near universal truth.

    • �For the two of us, home isn't a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.�


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    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Good Morning, Midas

    "I think the short answer is that it's impossible to remove partisanship ..."
    I agree with you. Partisanship is natural for humans. We seek out and align ourselves with others who share our views. Through them, we hone our ideas and gain courage from the knowledge that we are not alone in our beliefs. Partisanship gives breadth, depth and volume to our voice. In and of itself, partisanship is not only inevitable, it is healthy.

    On the other hand, partisans have a penchant for denigrating those who think differently, often without considering the salient parts of opposing points of view. They seek the power to impose their views on those who don't share them, while overlooking their own shortcomings. Communism and National Socialism showed these tendencies. Both had features that attracted broad public support throughout a national expanse and both degenerated into destructive forces because their partisans gained control of their governments.

    The danger in Communism and National Socialism was not that they attracted partisan support; it was that the partisans gained control of government. In general, partisanship is healthy when it helps us give voice to our views. It is destructive when it achieves power. All ideologies, whether of the right or the left, differ from Communism and National Socialism only in the extent to which their partisans are able to impose their biases on the public. Even our sacrosanct Capitalism curses us with its seamy underside.

    Partisanship is a vital part of society ... provided it is always a voice and never a power. The danger is not in partisanship, it is in allowing partisans to control government.
    "I still hold that by employing true proportional representation backed up by referendums, which takes account of all those different views and reaches a consensus on the best way to resolve them in the interests of the majority, is the only way to go forward."
    If each of us could influence the outcome of an election to the full extent of our desire and ability, that would be 'true proportionality' without what George Washington called the "potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government ..."

    We have the tools to devise an electoral process that lets each of us participate the the full extent of our desire and ability, but do we have the wit and the will to create it?
    "I'm not entirely sure that conflict is always destructive. Yes, in some areas it certainly is, and I don't think I need to point out the hundreds of examples from around the world where this is so, but conflict can also be constructive as it leads to deeper thinking about various issues, which in turn can often lead to more radical and more far-reaching solutions. The trick is to try to maintain a sensible balance between the two, and certainly in politics I can't see any other alternative."
    Well said.

    Personally, I wouldn't characterize our examination of these questions as a conflict, but the sense of what you are saying is clear and correct. Indeed, it is my fervent hope our discussion will have a productive result. I've always learned more from those who disagree with me than from those who agree.

    Fred Gohlke

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    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Good Morning, Don
    "Actually Midas is right about some conflict being good. Its that civil friction, that rubbing of one idea against another that leads to innovation and a coming together, unless, of course, it leads to death and destruction."
    I, too, think Midas made an excellent point. I'm not inclined to think of a search for understanding as a conflict, but perhaps I should see it so. The problem, for me, is that I'm not seeking a winner. I make my points with as much force as I can, not to 'beat' anyone but to seek the most rational refutation available. Often, the refutation affects a portion of an assertion --- as in this case, the description of 'conflict' --- but it is important because it helps broaden the understanding.

    Fred Gohlke

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    Re: Partisan Politics - Divide and Conquer

    Good Morning, Major Sinic

    I am not competent to offer an opinion on British politics, but I'd like to take issue with your closing comments:
    "I am also of the opinion that a large proportion of the British electorate would rather live for today, and the devil with tomorrow and their childrens' future."
    I may not be British, but I'm human and, because I share that quality with the British electorate, feel competent to disagree. Like the rest of us, the British people must meet the needs of today while we use whatever tools we have available to meet the concerns of tomorrow and our children's future. In politics, those tools are worn and ineffective. Give us the tools to improve our future and we'll use them.

    "The arrival on the scene now, of a dictator with an iron fist in a velvet glove would almost seem to be the answer."
    I'm glad you included 'almost'. You may be a major cynic, but that condition is treatable. Suicide is not.

    Fred Gohlke

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