Monday, November 17, 2008

Ideological Dynamics

So which is the superior end of the political ideology spectrum: liberal or conservative? Each is appropriate at a particular point in the history of the state. The ideological needs of a people tend to cycle from one extreme to the other. This is because each political ideology addresses certain of the people’s needs while ignoring others.

Liberalism addresses our need for freedom; but in doing so it can ignore our need for security. This is because by not accounting for the worst aspects of human nature liberalism often fails to address the needs of certain segments of the society to be protected from them. In addition, the anarchic tendencies of liberal states can undermine the defining structure of a society.

In its effort to manage the worst aspects of human nature conservatism addresses our need for security; but in doing so it can ignore our need for freedom. This is because conservatism attempts to suppress divergence from the cultural normal. But in the process it often suppresses the best aspects of the human nature and as a result conservatism denies certain ideas and avenues of expression that can facilitate the advancement of the culture.

When a static ideology is right for the times there is relative equilibrium in the state that is governed by it. But, over time, the needs that are being ignored by that ideology become paramount in the political discourse. As these needs continue to go unaddressed by the leaders of the state, the ideology that was once the source of equilibrium will begin to undermine it. Eventually, the degree of dissonance will exceed the tolerance of the people; leading them to replace their leadership with one that espouses the complementary ideology.

During the times of equilibrium produced by an alignment of the needs of the people and ideology of the leaders, the state tends to run in a relatively smooth and efficient operational mode. But the longer the leadership ignores an increasing divergence between their static ideology and the changing needs of the people, the more significant a project it will represent for the leaders to restore political equilibrium. In other words, the longer this growing divergence goes unaddressed the more potentially disruptive the realignment will be.

The forces required to reverse this divergence sometimes produce a thrashing condition in which the corrective action overcompensates for the initial delay in addressing the needs of the people and the newly installed ideology veers too far to the other side. This can trigger an ideological recoil in the other direction, which depending on its strength, can cause a bounce back to the other side again and so on until at some point the ideology of the leadership comes back into alignment with the needs of the people. At this point the political system has returned to its equilibrium state.

In a bipartisan political system one of the two major political parties will invariably embrace a more conservative ideology while the other will be consistently more liberal. But parties are not required to be bound to a static ideology and members of a given party are even less so.

On those rare occasions when the leadership of the political party in charge chooses to transcend static ideology, they can remain in power indefinitely by adapting to changes in the ideological needs of the people. In order to accomplish this, the leaders must be willing to abandon policies and dismantle programs (even those they put in place) that were consistent with the waning side of the ideological cycle and replace them with those that are in keeping with waxing side, which is shaped by the unaddressed needs of the people. To be successful, this leadership must remain attuned to the greatest needs of the people rather than being focused of scoring ideological points.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Political Ideology

From a political perspective the conservative and liberal positions represent opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Conservatives are characterized by a fundamental suspicion of human nature that manifests in their tendency to impose limits on the rights of the people. In this context, they generally believe rights should be earned. By contrast, liberals ascribe great value to human nature and so are inclined to maximize the rights of the people. This is because liberals typically believe most rights are innate.

People will invariably prefer a situation in which they have more rights over one in which they have fewer. As such, the more their rights are limited, the more oversight will be required to keep the people from circumventing these limits and thus undermining the stability of the encompassing political system. This is why the more conservative systems of government require greater oversight of the people, which usually manifests as more pervasive internal security forces. The underlying principles of liberal states lead them to impose less oversight of the people. As a result, the more liberal a government is the closer it is to anarchy.

An interesting juxtaposition of the liberal and conservative positions occurs in the context of corporations. Liberal states have a tendency to treat corporations in the same manner that conservative governments treat the broader population. As such, while they believe that the people should have the maximum rights; liberals also feel that corporations require greater oversight. The latter point implies that liberals judge corporations as deserving fewer rights. It can be argued that this judgment is based on the liberal perception that corporations’ greater capacity to influence society through their economic power provides them with the potential to abridge the rights of the people. In other words, liberals tend to view corporations as a prospective threat to any state-guaranteed rights of the people.

By contrast, contemporary conservative states are inclined to treat corporations in the same manner that liberal governments treat individuals. As such, while conservatives believe the people should have fewer rights, they also feel that corporations require less oversight. The latter position indicates that conservatives regard corporations as meriting more rights. This is because conservatives often interpret the relative success of corporations as proof that they have earned more expansive rights. Conservatives are inclined to regard corporations as having transcended the more dubious aspects of human nature.

The liberal manner in which conservative governments are inclined to treat corporations and the conservative way that liberal governments often deal with them indicate that today the practitioners of these political ideologies are not as far apart as one might think. By embracing qualified forms of these ideologies, today’s liberals and conservatives each have insight into the other’s position through which they could conceivably work together for the common good.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Remembering the Future II

Remembering the future is less likely to be effective in time-critical situations. This is because, if one of your future memories has a date-specific event in it, and that date passes without the event occurring, this will undermine your disposition and the likelihood of the future you remembered. The primary purpose of this technique is to shape what will happen, but not necessarily when.

To effectively remember the future you must be able to accept that events will happen when they can in the context of your disposition. As such, this technique requires a great deal of patience. This sort of patience can be maintained by focusing on small degrees of progress towards the future you are remembering. One way to do this is to analyze noteworthy changes in your life in the context of whether or not they represent progress towards your remembered future. The more you do so, the more you will see that they do.

Based on the level of commitment required to make remembering the future work, it should obviously not be used trivially or maliciously. Going through this intricate process to get something that you can obtain by simply deciding to get out of your own way is, at best, inefficient. In addition, since this technique is based on fundamentally changing your disposition, using it maliciously will incline you to become increasingly cruel.

Initially it is best to attempt to remember longer-term futures whose narratives benefit others as well. This because it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to make the major changes in your disposition necessary for it to be consistent with a future that is significantly different from what you believe would occur otherwise. Remembering a future that benefits others harnesses their preexisting dispositions towards that future, thus providing you with more opportunities for positive reinforcement.

I have a somewhat time dependent set of future memories that benefit everyone. These memories shape the primary narrative of my life. In their context I am in a hospital bed being stabilized before I go home in order to die surrounded by my loved ones. The time dependent aspect of it is that I am either 90, 95 or 99 years old. I am pain-free and completely clear headed as I dwell on the wonderful life I’ve lived. I have made my share of mistakes but it is undeniable that I will be leaving the world a significantly better place than I found it and thus I am completely at peace with my life. I spend much of my remaining time reassuring a multitude of loves ones that things will only get better as a result of what we have accomplished. As I write these words I honestly cannot say for sure whether I am the nonagenarian remembering his past life as the person writing this essay, or am I the writer remembering the end of his life (not unlike Billy Pilgrim in “Slaughterhouse Five”). Either way works for me.

Remembering the future is my way of controlling the chaos underlying the Butterfly Effect in order to shape significant events in my life. It is also what I do in lieu of prayer when people I care about need more than words of comfort. Beyond the fact that I believe it gives me control over the primary arc of my life, it invariably works for me simply because it provides me with the means of feeling good about the future.
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