An Introduction to Philosophy Part 6 Politics 2 - Transcript

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Stef's Introduction: Plunging into the Exciting World of Politics

[0:00] Hi everybody, hope you're doing well. It's Stef. It is time for the next round in the gripping world of our plunge into the exciting life of understanding politics.
So we've gone horizontal, you see, this is the kind of variety that you can expect from quality shows such as this.
So what I'd like to do is to talk about how we can begin to understand the process of sort of of what is called or what is meant in the realm of democracy.
Now, the first thing to understand is that democracy is, let's just say, a bunch of people, a bunch of people, always three, a bunch of people, who have the option to choose, right, the possibility of choosing.

Introduction to the Basics of Politics and Government

[0:53] Another person, politics we will put in blue, choosing another person who is the sort of titular head of this thing which is called, the government right so i mean i'm sorry to be so obvious i just sort of wanted to go over the the basics here right so there's a possibility of choosing a person who represents uh the the government now you don't get to choose the government itself you don't get to choose the bureaucrats or the teachers or anything like that how is the light oh still pretty bright and so the real question is what does this process mean where in some voters and i think in some, democracies these days it's like a third of eligible people come out to vote in various in various situations.
What does this mean when we break it down using the ethical theories that we've put forward so far in our analysis?

Problems with the Contractual Standpoint of Government

[2:01] What does it sort of mean and how does it occur?

[2:05] Now, of course, the main thing to understand is that we have to look at this from a contractual standpoint, and there are several problems with this from a contractual standpoint.
The first problem is that nobody asks you whether you would like to have a government at all, right? This is sort of a fairly important criteria.
Nobody asks you whether you want a particular group of people who have exactly the opposite ethics than you do and get to use the aggression principle while you are bound by the non-aggression principle and they are bound by the non-aggression principle when it comes to their private lives as well nobody asks you fundamentally whether you want the government to do what it does but you are supposedly allowed to choose the leader who represents a particular claimed ideology or or claimed perspective, a leader who represents that, who may or may not occur, that may or may not occur when he or she gets into office, and you are then bound for four years, and you are bound by the decisions of the majority for four years.

Criteria for a Legitimate Democratic Vote

[3:18] So there's a number of sort of things that I think would have to occur for a democratic vote to be legitimate, right?
So now that we've had a quick quick look at that, let's erase our magic colors of deep philosophical analysis, and let's look at what would have to occur in order, I would say, for a vote to be considered morally valid.
In other words, for a vote to have the same sort of moral criterion as something else like, you know, getting into a contract to buy a car or something, right?
So, let's say that person A A is the politician, right?
So politician equals blue, right?
So we have this politician who wants your vote and who says, I'm going to do X, Y, and a Z. A Z, I think, is an intern.

[4:17] And what happens then is that you say, yep, really like X, really like Y.
Z's kind of hot. So I'm going going to go ahead and give this person my vote.
Now, what has to happen is that your contract, so to speak, your vote is for this particular person, person A, and you give him your vote.

The Validity of Choice and Freedom

[4:53] Now, in order for that to be valid, then obviously, it seems to me, you would have to have the choice to not have X, Y, or Z, or anything that it represents. as.
So, for instance, if we were to say that if you were to go, you have a daughter, right?
She's of marital age, and you go to her and you say, daughter, Sue, you have to choose between these two fine young gentlemen, one of whom is a landowner, the other of whom is a, I don't know, know, like a factory owner, you have to choose between one of these two fine gentlemen, and, you will have to accept their rule over you, right?
This is not exactly feminist times that we're talking about here.
Then, of course, your daughter would, I think, quite reasonably have the right to say to you, well, daddy, what if I don't like either of them?

Lack of Freedom in Political Choices

[5:53] Well, then, of course, you as a father, taking the political metaphor, would say, no, I'm sorry, you have to choose between the two of them.
And if you don't choose then um i'm going to make the choice for you right there's not exactly a free situation there right you can choose but um but uh but i if you don't choose i'm going to choose for you and you don't have the capacity not to choose right if you go into a showroom to buy or if you're even vaguely interested in buying a car if you go into a showroom and the The salesperson locks the door behind you and says, you can choose either the minivan or the sports car, but you're leaving here with a car.
And you say, no, I'm just curious, just looking, maybe you don't want to buy it. It's like, sorry, you don't have that choice. You have to buy one of these two cars.
You can choose not to, but then I'm going to buy it for you and send you the bill.

[6:47] We would probably have some problems with a showroom that operated like that.
We would have some problems with a father who forced his daughter to marry one of the two men, and if she didn't choose, he would choose for her, right?
So, the first thing that you would have to have is the right to say, I don't want person A.

The Right to Choose or Represent Yourself in Voting

[7:08] I don't want this person to represent me. I don't want to be represented by anyone, right?
I mean, if you choose someone to represent you, like a lawyer in court or an accountant in a tax dispute or something, you at least want to have the choice to not have... You can choose whoever you want to represent you.
You should, of course, have the choice to represent yourself.

[7:29] So the first thing in terms of a vote is that you have to agree with X, Y, and Z.
You have to have the option to not have anybody provide the services.
And then in order for that vote to be valid, then this person A has to be able to deliver, X, Y and Z so you vote for this person because you want X, Y and Z and you have the perfect right not to vote for this person and to provide X, Y and Z yourself to farm X out to one person, Z out to another, Y to another and so on, but if you do vote for this person, you say I do want X, Y, and Z, then the vote has to be for that particular person.
You have to want X, Y, and Z as provided by that person. You have to have the right not to vote for it.
And last but not least, this person...

[8:22] Has to be able to provide X, Y, and Z. So if you go online and you order from a grocery store eggs, milk, and bananas, then you kind of expect when you hand over your order that the grocery store can deliver X, Y, and Z.

[8:39] So, of course, the politician has to be able to deliver these things.
Now, in a democracy, of course, we have a separation of powers, judicial, executive, legislative, and so on. So there's no politician who can guarantee X, Y, and Z.
So let's say that a politician says, I'm going to introduce vouchers for education into your system.
I'm not saying I approve of that, but let's just say that's what he says.
I'm going to let you take these credits and go and apply them to whatever school that you want.
And if you vote for that person, then that person should be able to, or has to be able to, for it to be a moral transaction, to either give you your vote back so to speak if they can't deliver what they have said that they would deliver in order to get your vote but of course there's no guarantee that this person is going to be able to deliver what he or she says he or she is going to deliver and so it's really not not the case at all they can say well things out of my hands and so on it's like you order something from the grocery store and they say sorry the banana shipment was late we can't ship them to you.

No Refunds for Unfulfilled Political Promises

[9:45] It's out of our hands, but we've already got your money, so we're not going to give you any refunds, right?
You can't get your vote back if you vote for someone and they end up not delivering what it is that they have been expected to deliver.

[10:00] Now, of course, the vote fundamentally is secret, right? This is a sort of fundamental thing.

The Problem with Direct Contracts in Democracy

[10:10] It is a secret vote. So, of course, the politician has no idea whether you voted for him or her or not. It's sort of a fundamental thing.
So there really can't be any direct contract between you and a politician because the vote is secret.
And, of course, in some democracies you vote for the party rather than the person and so on.
So there's no possibility of a direct contract between you and the politician because the politician doesn't know whether you have voted for him or her so for these and many many other reasons uh the fact that it's it's time uh length it's the length of time as well so it's four years between votes the longest that it could conceivably be that you would vote even for a particular particular politician would be four years, and if you then withdraw your vote because you don't like what he's done but other people vote for him, then your contractual obligation with that politician, no longer would be valid.

[11:13] Now, we've just talked about a particular politician, but if we look at a system as a whole, and Lysander Spooner has a lot more to say on this than I do, but if you look at a particular system as a whole, if we look at something like the Constitution of the United United States, or the, this is more of a common law tradition in England, or the Constitution of Canada, then the people who voted for the Constitution, of which I think only one-sixth were able to vote in the United States in the late 18th century, the people who voted for the Constitution should have, of course, had a clear idea what it was about, and of course, given the constitutional wrangling of the past few centuries, we can be fairly sure that the Constitution is not exactly a clear document that is easy to interpret.
You talk to 10 people, they'll come up with 10 different things.
It's a living document, which is, of course, the death of liberty. But.

The Validity of Political Contracts and Obligations

[12:04] The people who voted for the Constitution, who were the one-sixth of people who bothered to get up and vote, who we don't have any idea who the identities were because it's anonymous, those people, long dead, lost to history, unknown to anyone, have no right to bind those who come after them, right?
I have no right to go and buy a car and send you the bill. I have no right to pass on obligations.
I, as an individual, I'm not talking about the state with public debt, I, as an individual, have no right to pass on obligations to my children's children's children and to sign a contract and then have them be obligated to fulfill it.
So within a particular political environment we have a problem with the longevity and the non-specificity of any contract between voters and individuals because you have to take the whole package, you have to vote for the person, and they have to be able to deliver it, and of course, given that we have checks and balances and a separation of powers, there's no guarantee that the politician you vote for is going to be able to deliver what you want, even if you did want the complete package, and the politician has no direct relationship with you, and so there's really no validity to the individual politician and his programs, but in a larger sense...

The Lack of Validity in Inherited Political Systems

[13:23] There's no validity to the system that is inherited from prior generations.
Because the constitution that was ratified and voted on by an unknown minority several hundred years ago is in no way, shape, or form binding in any kind of moral sense upon people in the present.
Because there's nothing special about that generation. Again, we have a universally preferred behavior.
You can't say that this particular small group of white middle class intellectuals in America and the people who voted perhaps maybe to some degree for that measure based on their possible level of understanding of what the Constitution actually meant, that those people can bind subsequent generations to anything, right?
Because, of course, slavery was legal in the founding of the United States.
Does that mean that to get rid of slavery is now?
We have no problem breaking that particular rule, which I think is a damn good one to break.

[14:20] But there is no real validity in saying that subsequent generations are bound to the particular rules that may or may not have been voted on by an indeterminate number of somewhat educated people, which we can't identify in the past.
The politicians are dead, the people who voted for them are dead, and so it seems impossible to fathom why it is that rules set up a long time ago in the past would be binding to the point of violence, right?
To the point of if you disobey certain things that you end up getting shot or thrown in jail and so on.
So we do have a significant problem even in the realm of democracy.
It also seems rather impossible to understand why a plurality of people would be able to impose their will on the minority other than sort of in a brute force scenario.
And so it seems hard to understand.

[15:15] Why, you know, a hundred people can impose upon 99 people, because morality is about an individual.
It's not about a group. The group doesn't change the moral nature of each individual.
And the moments that you have a rule by a majority in a governmental sense, then you have broken universally preferred behavior.
And now you're in a state of nature, as we can sort of see with modern political systems, where everybody just grabs at everything that they can and so on.
So let's have a look at what actually happens right because there's a lot of talk in politics.

[15:53] About the ideal you know voting for democracy and having a say and if you don't like the system you should just run for office and this and that and the other well let's have a look if you don't mind for just a minute or two at the basic reality of all democracies throughout history what has occurred right so let's say that person a again is interested in running for office right so he's joe uh politician person he's interested in running for office now the government as we've talked about before is this big cloudy concept which uh runs on the aggression principle that people who are in the government claim the right and of course enact quite violently that right to force people to do what they don't want to do or to prevent them from doing what they do want to do.
So the government fundamentally is a big hunking.

The Government's Use of Force and Resource Transfer

[16:54] I mean, I don't want to put it too frankly, but I think it's important to understand that the government is the group that claims the legal right to initiate the use of force against usually legally disarmed citizens, or at least who has such overwhelming military force that even if you have a pop gun, it's not going to help you against the nuclear subs and the aircraft carriers and the nuclear weapons and so on, right?
So, the government is the group of people who claims the right to initiate the use of force against citizens.

[17:32] And the way in which that force is almost universally deployed is the transfer of resources from citizens, from the majority to the minority.
So, what happens is that the gun is pointed at each citizen, and the citizens, in order to avoid the kidnapping and incarceration that the state permits itself or is required to do, the people basically hand over dollars.
Sorry to be so North American-centric, but the dollars are handed to the people in the government, right? So you pay your taxes and so on.
Now, the money is then handed to the people in the government and the government then use some people in the government they use some portion of that right it goes to a minority of people and this is not i think anything to where are we in terms of being able to see that okay hey let me just erase that there's minority of people so the the money which then accrues within the state as the result of the guns being pointed at the citizens, accrue to a minority of people we will call a b.

[18:45] This is all fairly, I think, fairly well understood. You can call this a military-industrial complex, you can call this mercantilism, and so on.
But basically, guns are pointed at the citizens.
Each citizen is threatened with force by people within the government, and to avoid the consequences of that force, the kidnapping, the death, and so on, they hand money over to the government.

Politicians' Dependence on Special Interest Groups

[19:06] And now the government then takes this money, and part of it is used to pay the people who hold the guns, or the police the military and so on and then part of it is farmed out to a a minority uh people who have uh politicians in their pockets and this kind of stuff again i'm sure this isn't terribly surprising to you you just have to think about it for a moment without a doubt government is a monopoly it's a group that claims the monopoly of a right to use force in a particular geographical area you could call it a gang and so on but basically government is a group of individuals who claim the moral right to use force to initiate the use of force against usually disarmed citizens and then they take all this money and i know that they provide certain services back to those citizens so i'm not saying everyone in the government is evil but we're just talking about the institution as an ethical proposition right it certainly violates universally preferred behavior to have a certain number of people who are able to use violence to take out guns and point them at innocent people in order to get money from them it doesn't matter that the people choose the leaders because they don't, even if they did, right?

[20:13] Because if you're a slave, it doesn't matter if I come to you and say, well, you can choose from slave owner A, slave owner B, slave owner C, which one do you want?
Doesn't really mean much, doesn't make you free to be able to make a slave free to be able to choose his or her slave master.

[20:30] So now you are, or let's just say I am, politician A, I come in and I say, I want your vote, right? So I'm politician A.
Well, what is it it that I'm actually talking to?
Well, of course, as we know, a political career requires a huge amount of money.
Always has, always will, until we make changes.
So, you need an enormous amount of money in order to be able to credibly run for office.
So, where are you going to get this money from? Well, you could be independently wealthy, but most people need the money from fundraisers.
Now, they will get some money from the people who believe that they will be able to provide the X, Y, and Z, and so on.
But a real question comes from these people, right?
These people who benefit from the flow of money within the state, they want to maintain this flow of money.
Now, there are competing groups within society who want money from the state, right?
Republicans, Democrats, or whatever, right? And they have different agendas, and they want money in different ways.

[21:34] For example, the Republicans traditionally associated with wanting money from the military, and the Democrats more for social programs, unions, and so on. There are different groups and they sort of compete for this.

[21:45] And so what you do if you are an aspiring politician is you go to particular groups and you say, I want to run for office.
And then they say that they will give you money.
And yes, sometimes I'm sure it's out of idealism and the pure noble democratic goodness of their hearts.
But I would say that by far, the vast majority of people who get significant sums of money from businesses or unions or particular social concerns get that money because they are going to provide favors in return for the money, right?
So let's see, it's getting lower and testing complicated here.
So you come to this group and you say, I want to run for office.
And they evaluate your chances and so on. And they say, okay, we will give you the money for office.

[22:33] To run for office, as long as, or on the understanding that, when you get into the government, that you will keep this money flowing from the taxpayers to us through the coercive mechanism of the government.
Right i mean this is all fairly well understood and fairly i'm sure non-controversial so the reason that you get someone running for office is because they have already made a commitment right to these people to continue to guarantee them the flow of money or it could also be to prevent the flow of money from going somewhere else or to prevent regulation or licensing or some sort of government coercion or control to enter a particular industry this might be the case with something like like the software industry.

[23:18] But, you know, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies and so on.
This is like old-style mercantilism, as we talked about two podcasts ago.
What they do is they give money to potential politicians in return for, like it's an investment, right?
They give $100 here, and they hope to get, you know, $10,000 here, continuing to maintain this flow of money.

[23:38] So, the interesting thing is that, okay, one more color, one more color.
The interesting thing is, of course, that the politicians, the potential politicians, the illusion is that the individual voters are looking at the politicians who've just sort of emerged out of their own altruistic goodness, like, I don't know, like geisters erupting from the ground, that these politicians have just appeared, and they believe that that the politicians are beholden to the voters and will talk about what the voters actually want.
The real question, of course, is how do the politicians get the money to run for office?
And, of course, they get the money from the people who are basically giving them the money with the spoken or unspoken understanding that once the politicians gain control of the violence, the gun of the state, right, once they grab the gun of the state, that they're going to point it and the money that accrues will go back to these groups who fund the politicians.

Voters' Limited Influence and Backroom Deals in Democracy

[24:39] So, of course, this is a fairly important thing to understand, that the voters are not getting to vote for anyone who's not already bought and paid for. I mean, this is a very important thing to understand.
By the time someone hoves into view for you as a voter, they only are in view of you as a potential candidate it because they have already made an enormous number of backroom deals with people who are going to profit from the resource reallocation that is the basis of the state, right?
The state is just this massive evil bag of guns that sprays out and points at people, gathers resources, and kicks it back to the relatively few who profit from this excess of force and this right to initiate violence within society.

[25:28] So, this is just something important to understand about democracy.
The primary relationship is politician to benefactor, politician to mercantilist organization.
This could be public, it could be, say, a public such as the bureaucrats who run government, it could be semi-public or unions, public sector or private sector, unions protected by the gun of the state.

[25:52] It could be private in that it's a relatively private industry that still wants beneficial regulations, or at least to avoid an excess of poor regulations or destructive regulations.
And so the primary relationship is here.
It's between the politician and those who are going to benefit from the politician's nominal control of the weaponry of the state.
The voters are not choosing objectively between people who have different policies.
They're choosing people who have already been bought and paid for, and that's fairly significant, right?
I mean, when you go to your doctor, you kind of want to know if the prescription that the doctor is giving you is being given to you because he's getting paid $1,000 per prescription from some pharmaceutical company.
Similarly of course you know that the you know excessive amount of money that it takes to run for office must come from somewhere and it's not people who have just some sort of massive idealism it's from people who expect that the politician is going to return the favor in many many ways and many fold over it's not his money so it's a mere investment into a return that the politician is going to provide it's an important thing to understand about democracy because we really do do want to start stripping off the nonsense that surrounds the basic transactions so that we can begin to make a little bit more sense of them which we'll go into more in the next podcast thank you so much for listening i will talk to you soon bye.

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