Political Philosophy and Ethics discussion

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Political Philosophy and Law > Political Polarization, Social Divisions and the Future of Democracy

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message 1: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments Dear politically interested and concerned,

I am interested in finding books whose author look for answers on how to bridge today's polarized societies - similar to Putnam's Book "Better together" (which is from 2004).

Background is that there are many new books out, like "How Democracies Die" etc., that deal with the raise of populism, identity politics and democratic disconnection, but in my eyes many of them lack really a hands on approach about what to do now.

I will soon publish a book called "Overcoming Social Division", but my main focus is on public conflict resolution, and therefore I think it would be great to establish a collection of more timely books or ideas that come with a positive response to our increasing polarization and divisions - adding different angles from philosophy, ethics, sociology, psychology, communication, art, economy, or the like.

Books can also make a difference.

Many thanks for your response.
Anatol

How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future
Overcoming Social Division: Conflict Resolution in Times of Polarization and Democratic Disconnection
Better Together: Restoring the American Community
The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It


message 2: by Mike (last edited Jul 28, 2018 11:21AM) (new)

Mike Takac Anatol wrote: "Dear politically interested and concerned,

I am interested in finding books whose author look for answers on how to bridge today's polarized societies - similar to Putnam's Book "Better together" ..."


Dear Anatol,

I embrace your interest and I feel optimistic when humanity comes to understand the constructal law, one day, a future generation of leaders may begin to realize that no man-made law or philosophy can change a physical law in nature; with such maturity, the application of the constructal law may help in ways to develop new social/political tools to enhance the evolution in governance throughout the world.

Perhaps, you may find the following publication aligns with your objective:
https://www.academia.edu/37021128/Sci...

Professor Adrian Bejan, the one who discovered the constructal law, the scientific community recently celebrated his contribution to science at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. http://www.fi.edu/franklin-institute-...

Best regards,
Mike


message 3: by Anatol (last edited May 24, 2018 09:31AM) (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments Many thanks Mike for your insights, that briefly reminded me of Spinoza Benedict Ethics

We at the disrupted societies institute work on a instrument called responsive policy design, that that involves agile, educational and mediative elements and is based on our younger generations’ interwoven understanding of today’s complex challenges. But there are also many challenges to institutionalize such a process. Still, I share your optimism, since there are new initiatives trying to bridge the political chasm. Yascha Mounk also just wrote about one: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2...

Just came across some further new books that weigh in on the status and prospects of Western democracies, such as:
One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy


message 4: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Anatol wrote: "We at the disrupted societies institute work on a instrument called responsive policy desi..."

Anatol, please check your hyperlink to the "disrupted societies institute": it doesn't seem to link to the site you intended. Thanks.


message 5: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments fixed!


message 6: by Charles (new)

Charles Gonzalez | 259 comments https://nyti.ms/2LCuxkB

An interesting piece by Ross Douthat of the NYT on the larger effect of the Trump presidency and subsequent moral crises and political crises. While his focus here is with the dynamics of the Southern Baptist Church whose internal conflicts are starting to be made public, Douthat makes the point, an important one I think that the effect of this man is not just directly on the governance or non-governance of the country but its/his laying bare the moral inconsistencies and contradictions of leaders everywhere without regard for political bias. Today’s NYT mentions two such effects, Roseanne and Gov Greitens of Missouri. Perhaps, as Douthat says, we as a culture and people are suffering this for an outcome, however unintended or unanticipated-that pushes back on the dark forces in our culture.
To be continued as they say.......


message 7: by Charles (new)

Charles Gonzalez | 259 comments I thank you for the link to the society - its creative and solution focused research will hopefully lead to concrete and implementable solutions to what ails us. The article by Y Mounk about “The conversations we need to have”, was excellent in describing the efforts and goals of the Patriots and Pragmatists group. The authors new found clarity and understanding of the “moral seriousness” of the “other” side is his main point, but it underscores a greater problem.....if enlightened progressives like him need to be convinced that their opponents are serious and moral and not evil, the path to greater understanding in our culture is a long one indeed. Same for the other side I might add.
As long as there is disagreement in the world, and there has been forever, we humans need a bit of humility to allow for a peek into the experiences and beliefs of others. That at least is the beginning of common ground and truly valuable conversations.

Goodreads is one such place, and this Group in particular is. Alas, we are a self selecting group and not a mirror or useful example for the greater society.

I wish Godspeed to the disrupted society group!


message 8: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments Dear Charles,

thank you very much for your supporting lines, which I read with great joy. Indeed, merely offering more dialogue, participation or empowerment will not have much impact on reducing social polarization. At the same time though, it is illusionary that the institutionalized majority-guided approaches will facilitate more social cohesion.

Hence, as you said, reaching among diverse social groups is a strenuous but necessary task, if we don't want to end up in dysfunctional societies. But that certainly needs new forms of policy making, which goes beyond the ordinary give and take of politics, which we signaled out here:

http://disinstitute.com/wp-content/up...


message 9: by Diana (new)

Diana K. | 5 comments Hi Anatol,

This isn't really my area of expertise, but is suggest looking into social constructivism (AKA constructivism). It's a pretty abstract theory but I honestly believe it would add to your ideas. :) look at Katzenstein's "The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics" (1996); Martha Finnemore books, and Alexander Wendt texts :) I hope this helps.


message 10: by Feliks (last edited Jul 28, 2018 09:19AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments Excellent! re: #10. I too, am inclined to think that 'opposition' and 'contrast' are in the end, more desirable than stultifying globalism and homogeneity.

I'm not a party to Social Darwinism but I do believe that hardship and challenge build fortitude in a people.

And the good 'ole democratic process should provide us an elastic medium to bind it all together --no matter how inchoate it all may appear. Trust in the US Constitution!

(Of course, all this flies in the face of the dendritic branching, but...oh well...)


message 11: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jul 29, 2018 04:34PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Re posts 10 [now deleted: see note below] and 11 [Feliks's post now identified as post 10]:

These are very abstract, theoretical propositions that have little contact with the lessons of history.

On this logic, we should have welcomed the bloody American Civil War of the mid-nineteenth century as the inevitable working out of inherently violent social evolution. Or, for that matter, the Third Reich.

In an age when our political polarization is reaching proportions that are reminiscent of the years before the American Civil War, I welcome any attempt to temper the fierce passions that may end up destroying the republic here and in similar democratic republics abroad. Although I am not optimistic about the prospects of success, I welcome the attempts of Anatol and his colleagues to inject reason and moderation into public discourse.

7/29/2018 Note: The author of the original post 10 deleted his comment (quoted or partially quoted in Mike's immediately following post), which has caused a confusion in the subsequent numbering of the posts, starting with Feliks's immediately preceding post.


message 12: by Mike (new)

Mike Takac GradianGuy wrote: "I'm not sure I understand the purpose of attempting to unify politically or ideologically divisive groups. Isn't ideological diversity important to the long-term survival of an intelligent species .... Why not our ideals and societies as well? "

GradianGuy, Good point about evolution! Evolution is everywhere and it is known today as the physical constructal law, the law of evolution. We have a constructal discussion group, within the “Political Philosophy and Ethics.” It is true “our ideals and societies” also evolve generating “dendritic” configurations both within us and outside of us.


message 13: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jul 29, 2018 04:38PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
My post 11 applies to post 12 as well as to post 10. Human beings possess speech and reason, and human nature is to be understood as a whole, not reduced to the subhuman "dendritic" patterns of physics. Otherwise, everything is inevitable, and everything is lost.

(Edited to reflect current post numbers after poster's deletion of original post 10; see note on my post 11.)


message 14: by Mike (last edited Jul 29, 2018 12:21PM) (new)

Mike Takac Alan wrote: "My post 11 applies to post 12 as well as to posts 9 and 10. Human beings possess speech and reason, and human nature is to be understood as a whole, not reduced to the subhuman "dendritic" patterns..."

Is it not those “dendritic” configuration of neurons provide “human beings possess of speech and reason, and human nature is to be understood as a whole”? Otherwise, our whole life experience may be one of a singularity, the pursuit of survival absent of speech and reason.


message 15: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments Alan wrote: "These are very abstract, theoretical propositions that have little contact with the lessons of history."

I agree. It's a bit wifty on my part anyway. My contribution is all of that.

Alan wrote: "On this logic, we should have welcomed the bloody American Civil War..."

But this strikes me curious. Imagining that we could identify it as a traceable pattern down throughout history; why would we then apply it as logic? Does it need to be applied? It would probably be borne out as appearing naturally on its own. I take Grad's comments as more of a "why should we censure this, if it's true?"


message 16: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jul 29, 2018 04:46PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Subsequent edit: Any reference to post 9 (Diana) in today's series of comments is incorrect; post 9 is a comment made 20 days ago that does not relate to today's discussion.

Mike: According to you and Bejan, as I understand it, all nonliving and living things in the universe contain dendritic patterns. However, the subhuman things, plants, and animals of which we have knowledge do not possess speech and reason. Therefore the presence of dendritic patterns is not dispositive regarding human ethics and politics, which depend on human discourse and reason. The matters we have in common with other things, plants, and animals may be necessary for human nature, but they are not sufficient. Aristotle explained this quite well in Book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics with reference to biological systems that we have in common with the nonhuman animals. Human ethics and political philosophy cannot be reduced to physics.


message 17: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Feliks wrote: "Alan wrote: "These are very abstract, theoretical propositions that have little contact with the lessons of history."

I agree. It's a bit wifty on my part anyway. My contribution is all of that.

..."


I have to attend to something else right now and will respond later this afternoon.


message 18: by Mike (new)

Mike Takac Alan wrote: ".... Aristotle explained this quite well in Book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics with reference to biological systems that we have in common with the nonhuman animals. Human ethics and political philosophy cannot be reduced to physics."

“Human ethics and political philosophy cannot be reduced to physics.” That is a very strong claim! The evolution of scientific understanding today is much different from the time of Aristotle. I do understand the spectrum of one’s philosophy is subjective including to one’s preferred following. In addition to one’s philosophy, including the philosophy of a scientist, a new discovery may resonate as a conflicting paradigm regardless of how open minded one claims.

According to our scientific understanding, there is no question life is a product of the physical laws of nature. It is those physical dendritic configuration of neurons within one’s brain that brings about “human ethics and political philosophy. Otherwise, if the electrical activity throughout this dynamic dendritic configuration resulting in one’s philosophy is not physical, it must then be spiritual.


message 19: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jul 29, 2018 02:11PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Mike wrote: "Alan wrote: ".... Aristotle explained this quite well in Book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics with reference to biological systems that we have in common with the nonhuman animals. Human ethics and pol..."

I will at some point read your and Bejan's books and respond with a detailed and comprehensive critique. It will not be soon, because, as I have repeatedly stated, I have other things that have priority. I may include my critique in my forthcoming book on ethics, which will not be published for several years. Suffice it to say, for now, that I disagree strongly with your position.

I created a separate topic for you on your constructal theory so that you wouldn't feel the need to inject it into every other topic of this Goodreads group. I would appreciate it if you would, for the most part, confine your advocacy of that theory to the constructal theory topic. I suppose that you think that it applies to absolutely everything and that you therefore feel compelled to bring it up on every conceivable occasion. Please, however, consider whether it is relevant to a particular topic before injecting it in the topic. If you want to establish an entirely new Goodreads group on constructal theory, by all means do so. But don't convert every topic in this group to a discussion of constructal theory. At some point I am going to have to put my foot down. As I believe I previously stated, this Goodreads group is focused on political philosophy and ethics and not on physics.

Alan E. Johnson
Founding Moderator


message 20: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Jul 29, 2018 02:48PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Feliks wrote (post 15): "But this strikes me curious. Imagining that we could identify it as a traceable pattern down throughout history; why would we then apply it as logic? Does it need to be applied? It would probably be borne out as appearing naturally on its own. I take Grad's comments as more of a "why should we censure this, if it's true?""

Questions:

What do you mean by "it"?

Where did either Anatol or I refer to censuring anyone?

When you use the term "censure," do you mean legally censure, as in curtailing by law the right to freedom of speech? If so, where did either Anatol or I support such governmental suppression?

When you use the term "censure," do you mean verbally censure? If so, would it be accurate to say that you then accept the moral pacificism of turning the other cheek and not resisting evil? Accordingly, would you not verbally censure the antebellum slaveholders and rebels but rather have let them have their way, thereby averting the American Civil War? Additionally, would you then not censure Hitler but rather let him establish his expansionist and totalitarian regime without even verbal opposition? Lest you think I am drawing straw persons in the sky, I remind you of the Charlottesville Riots and President Trump's reaction to same.

Because I have no idea what you are talking about, I am unable to respond to your post 15 unless and until you clarify the foregoing.


message 21: by Mimi, Co-Moderator (last edited Jul 29, 2018 03:58PM) (new)

Mimi | 96 comments Mod
Political polarization is to a large extent the result of people developing and rigidly adhering to their pet theories involving patterns they see, to the extent that our society comes apart.

Free Market economists on the Right have done this by believing that human behavior follows nonexistent (to humans) rational economic patterns like the laws of supply and demand, and the Communists did it on the Left by detecting nonexistent patterns and laws of history.

Emergent properties put the kibosh on the notion that all human activity follows the same patterns as physical particles. Life emerged from physical matter and operates according to chemistry and physics, but the evolution of life does not follow the laws of chemistry and physics per se. Life adds something that wasn't there before, so it behaves differently.

A sense of morality and ethics emerged from the brains of social mammals and is influenced strongly by characteristics evolved through evolution, but the moral sense does not follow the patterns of evolution per se. A moral sense adds something to the dog-eat-dog behavior of living things that was not there before. It is inherently different.

When one property emerges from another, everything changes. In the cases of evolution and morality, chance is thrown in. Survival of a species depends as much on sudden climate change or a random asteroid hit as it does on how well an organism passes its genes on to the next generation. Whether a person behaves immorally or not depends as much on the culture he/she happened to be born into, or the peer group he/she happens to fall in with, as it does on evolutionary success.

When people try to describe human behavior with mathematical formulas, they fall flat.

Humans rank high among the pattern-seeking animals. Seeing patterns in the natural world served us very well in our evolutionary past, but we have a nasty tendency to go overboard, see patterns that are not there, try to organize human society using them, and bring the whole thing crashing down on our heads.


message 22: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments Alan wrote: "Feliks wrote (post 15): "But this strikes me curious. Imagining that we could identify it as a traceable pattern down throughout history; why would we then apply it as logic? Does it need to be app..."

Alan regarding your message #20: there seems to be a 'missing' post in the thread. You are quizzing me on the clarity of my message; but I find I can't refer you to what I myself, was responding to. The item is gone.

I was replying in my message #10 to GradianGuy who immediately prior--had written about the idea of healthiness of competitive diversity, the vitality of cultures who remain steadfastly opposed to each other. (I'm paraphrasing him, he'll have to excuse me).

You came in around there and pointed out that we were dwelling in abstractions, that these musings did not reflect history. At the same time, you asked whether it would have been logical to embrace the conflict of the US Civil War when it was looming.

My reply (and I will add detail here) was to question whether if we did find the trend of 'healthy oppositions' all the way down through history, coming down to us from the Greeks--whether we would then choose to promulgate conflicts all the more. Rather like finding two schoolboys on a playground, who resent each other--strapping gloves on them and insisting they duke it out. This is not what I am suggesting; for of course it would naturally lead to recriminations. One wouldn't encourage a civil war because 'aggression is healthy'.

One of your examples was the US Civil War and so I asked whether --or even, why--we would even think of promulgating conflict that bloody. The example doesn't seem to fit a purely academic question. "Is competition among cultures healthy?"

My question is, why wouldn't we simply be able to agree with GradianGuy that 'it' (competition) could be a valid historical trend? Doing so, ought not mean we encourage cultures to clash. Seems to me it's more like just reminding everyone that its okay for cultures to retain their identities, and not to absorb or assimilate each other ('globalism').

p.s. The word 'censure'--no, I wasn't using this term in the legal sense; merely in the sense of 'recriminating' or 'regretting' or 'gainsaying'.

Hope this clears up my part in the little tangle that developed here.


message 23: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Feliks, I noticed the deletion of the original post 10 and edited my previous comments accordingly before seeing your preceding one. Since the issues are so confused at this point, I think it's best just to abandon this question at this point. I would observe, however, that my understanding of what Anatol's project is about is not clashes between cultures (meaning completing countries) but clashes within cultures. That's why I was confused about your comment, which didn't seem to me to relate to what Anatol was saying. But let's just let it go at this point.


message 24: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments Many thanks for all your comments. I feel at this stage it helps to clarify some of things:

There is no doubt that competition about the best argument, the best policy package or presidential candidate can have a positive impact on a nations prosperity. There are endless studies on cooperation and competition, and even if you rely to one or the other concept or both, there was for a long time a consensus that the electorate should have a choice for a clear differentiation of parties to vote for, in order to match it to their (changing) preferences.
Now here's the problem:
When Putnam wrote his book "Bowling alone" almost 20 years ago, he noticed that traditional communities were declining, and with it, social capital. Hence, you met less with people around you that you trusted and thus cooperated for mutual benefit with. Interestingly, these communities that Putnam analysed, (neighbourhood initiatives, churches, unions, associations and the like), were characterized by pretty solid cross-cutting identities. Meaning, you identified with your club members mainly on the essence the club was build upon, but it was likely that you mingled with people who had significantly other identities than yourself. Since that decline and the discomfort that was added by the ever accelerating, digitalized, automated and ethnical diverse world, many people looked out for new group memberships to strengthen again the social trust they had lost. And so, people began to regroup around needs. The more needs you shared, the similar your life situation were, the easier it was to trust a new "stranger" or a new group to become part you your life. In this process, many people re-aligned their identities (towards similar ethnicity, income, neighbourhoods, partisanship, worldview etc.), so that the new communities increasingly grew homogenous. Some scholars name that "sorting" other talk of social bubbles, etc.
At this point, I want to make clear, that our initiative (which is a Amsterdam based think thank after all) nor many others, does not aim to reverse this development or strive to make all social groups to be similar and inclusive, value the same, or share the same morals. Absolutely not. We don't even want them to become friends or mix up neighbourhoods (they certainly don't live next door anymore) and in our eyes, they can very well compete with each other, on how the future of their nation should look like.
But the real problem emerges, when these opposing camps do not compete about the best argument, the best policy or candidate anymore, but their competition becomes insidiously focused on wining against their opponents. The more you avoid contact and conversations with people that are different from you, the less you know about them, the more you think that they have extreme things in mind. Strikingly, recent studies in many culturally different Western societies show coherently, that people don't accept democratic decision anymore, if it is against their needs or preferences. They don't say, e.g. "well, I lost this time, but that's just how it is to live in a democracy, and next time, fortune will be on our side". Worse, every seeming blow on your group/community will feel like an attack on you, makes you even more angrier and emotional. And what happens when you need to win, because your wellbeing and the shared destiny of your group depends on that? Then, not for all, but for many, the means will justify the ends. If you know you cannot win with the actual proceedings of democracy, against the current public debate, the corresponding media, the appointed judges, then you need to undermine, manipulate or abolish it. Very easy to rationalize this behavior against your group members, because it is the system that is rigged.
Hence, to sum up, polarization is healthy to a certain degree, if we are not polarized on everything that identifies us. And when we do, like right now, we certainly need some elements that we share, like Stings song "Russians love their children too". But much, much more than that, we need to restore public debates, policy making and governance, to be more aware and responsive of our "sorted" and "bubbly" society, to come away from the need to win, to the need to cooperate (at least from time to time).


message 25: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Thank you, Anatol, for your explanation and clarification.


message 26: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments Dear all,

here's a preview of the first chapter of overcoming social division, that is released tomorrow:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0815368062/...


message 27: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments and then the "look inside" button above the cover.


message 29: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments And here is a commentary on the book
http://politics.co.uk/comment-analysi...


message 30: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Dec 09, 2018 07:00PM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Anatol wrote (#1): "
I am interested in finding books whose author look for answers on how to bridge today's polarized societies - similar to Putnam's Book "Better together" ..."


Although it is not a book, see this website. A couple of weeks ago, I heard an NPR radio interview with some of the people involved in this project. It sounds similar to yours, albeit perhaps without the scholarly foundation. In any event, the effort appears to have been somewhat successful in bridging communication gaps between urban progressives and Trumpian rural people in the United States.


message 31: by Anatol (new)

Anatol Itten | 10 comments Dear Alan,

thanks for sharing, haven't heard of them before.

some other food for thought: An opinion why there's no point in bridging the lines: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/20...


message 32: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Dec 10, 2018 06:06AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Anatol wrote: "some other food for thought: An opinion why there's no point in bridging the lines: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/20......"

I think it depends on the individuals involved. When (as in the website and NPR radio interview I linked), people have real and legitimate problems/issues (loss of coal-mining jobs versus the need to combat climate change, for example), there is room for people to use their rational abilities to try to work out a solution—or at least to understand the reasons for the differences. Where, however, the differences are due to racial or ethnic prejudice, for example, there is likely no solution outside of opposition (though I recall seeing another piece a year or two ago where a neo-Nazi was successfully "deprogrammed").

The recent demonstrations in France against the carbon tax may be an example of a conflict that can somehow be mediated through discussion. A substantial carbon tax may hit low-income people worse than others. Progressives in the US are, in view of the French situation and the American opposition to increased taxes (even in progressive states), reconsidering the carbon tax and, instead, focusing on other ways to deal with climate change. See this article. It is not an ideal situation, but then no such issues are.

It all comes down to whether people are willing to use reason and evidence to try to work out differences. If one or both sides are unwilling to do so, it's hopeless. But the more that your organization (and similar efforts) can encourage people to take a more rational and evidence-based approach to resolving issues, the better off we will all be.


message 33: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments Came across an interesting observation in a fiction book this week. The story is set in Ireland and Africa and addresses the politics of each. Anyway the author suggested in passing that a large middle class acts as a buffer against extremism; (he says) its difficult for agitators to rouse a more-or-less complacent body of people who have adequate means of living comfortably. I've surely encountered the idea before --articulated in other ways--but this time it struck me as fresh.


message 34: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments Question: in general, does a nation with an apolitical bureaucratic infrastructure (as perceived by citizens) stand a better chance of sustaining itself, over one where all the government agencies are suspected of over-zealousness in support of a party or a monarch?


message 36: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments unrelated question

I'm wondering which US presidents (say) between the tenures of Lincoln and Wilson, are considered 'successful examples of conservative policy' --from the perspective of today's conservative mindsets? Who are the "conservative heroes" of the 1800s --as far as the Office of Our Chief Executive is concerned?


message 37: by James W Vice Jr (new)

James W Vice Jr | 44 comments RE; The Electoral College
I pass along four personal experiences that make me doubt the advisability of switching to direct popular vote.
In 1955, when the elder Richard Daley first ran for mayor of Chicago, I was hired by the opposition Robert Merriam (Independent/Republican endorsed) to check the voter registration rolls—”short job; maybe two days.” I was given a voter list and sent to a neighborhood about 2000 South. It was a much shorter job. I found a few vacant buildings that permitted me to identify addresses. All the rest were vacant lots where buildings had been torn down. There was not a single resident—just a lot of prospective Democratic votes.
In 1958, my father was the Democrat on the 3-man county election board in my home county (Wabash) in Indiana. When the ballots were turned in, one rural district turned in more Republican absentee ballots than there were registered voters in the district. When my father pointed out the discrepancy, he was out-voted 2 to 1. The certified results were then certified by the Republican Secretary of State. Upon complaint to the US House of Representatives, the House refused to seat the certified Republican incumbent and seated his opponent instead.
During the same years, my mother was a precinct committeeman in Wabash, the county seat. She described going to the two nursing homes to get absentee ballots for and later “voting” elderly known Democrats who were not up to casting their own votes. I think this may now be called “harvesting.”
In the mid-‘60s, the cook at my fraternity at UC (I had remained active as an alumni adviser) told me she wouldn’t be serving lunch on election day and explained that she would be a Republican election judge at her local precinct. When I expressed surprise at her party affiliation, she further explained that “there were no Republicans available to serve” in her precinct so Democrats got the jobs.
If the Electoral College is abandoned and the national popular vote will determine the Presidency, there will be good reason to cheat in every precinct in the Country. Jim Vice


message 38: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
James W Vice Jr wrote: "RE; The Electoral College
I pass along four personal experiences that make me doubt the advisability of switching to direct popular vote.
In 1955, when the elder Richard Daley first ran for mayor ..."


Ah, Mayor Daley's Chicago. Those were the good ole days, eh? In about 1965, a friend of mine (a fellow University of Chicago student from my home town in Minnesota) was also working for the opposition to the Daley machine. He got around the neighborhood on a bicycle. He discovered one day that his bicycle wheels were punctured.

Thank you, Jim, for your personal observations. Consider, however, whether the situation becomes even worse when a few votes can change the Electoral College result. For example, JFK may have won in 1960 because of Mayor Daley's shenanigans in Chicago and LBJ's shenanigan's in Texas, though it's not clear whether the voter fraud in those states was sufficient to change the result. Additionally, the results in Alabama were bizarre, since that state's ballot only identified electors (by name) and not who the electors supported. The names of JFK and Nixon were not even on the Alabama ballot.

And, of course, the Supreme Court decided the Election of 2000, even though Gore received more popular votes than Bush, and Trump won in 2016, notwithstanding the fact that he lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes. I am not aware of any credible allegations of voter fraud in those elections. And, in fact, the party that appears to specialize in voter fraud is the Republican Party. But that gets into many current hot-button issues, and I won't go down that rabbit hole here.


message 39: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 142 comments Saw this article today on "The Most Politically Intolerant Americans."

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/art...

A PredictWise poll commissioned by The Atlantic produced results — based, it should be said, on a combination of data and aggressive extrapolation — that Ripley, Tenjarla, and He found “surprising in several ways.” The core finding, contrary to their expectations, was that “the most politically intolerant Americans” lived in neighborhoods that tended to be home to a higher proportion of whites and people who were “more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.” Drawing also on the research of University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz, the authors explain that “white, highly educated people are relatively isolated from political diversity. They don’t routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents.”

[...]

According to the interactive map of the distribution of partisan prejudice across the country that accompanies the authors’ article, Middlesex County in Massachusetts occupies the 100th percentile. That “means that 0 out of every 100 counties are more prejudiced against the political ‘other.’” Middlesex County is home to Harvard University.

New Haven County, home to Yale, falls in the 85th percentile; Mercer County, where Princeton is located, ranks in the 86th percentile. In California's Bay Area, Santa Clara County, the location of Stanford, occupies the 82nd percentile; Alameda County, the site of UC-Berkeley, made the 90th percentile.

Our leading colleges and universities are not only situated in places that are overwhelmingly “more prejudiced against the political ‘other.’” They also duplicate within their academic communities the conditions that foster partisan prejudice.



message 40: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments That's a juicy article. Whew!


message 41: by Modern (new)

Modern Culture (modern_culture) | 3 comments About Fake News as a polarization tool that threatens democracy and public discussion, please consider the following title:
Fake News: The Post-Truth of the Web


message 42: by Robert (new)

Robert Wess Growing income inequality is one of frequently discussed social divisions in our time. Here are some numbers from Bill McKibben's Falter (2019) that chart its growth. Maybe someone has additional and/or better numbers.

This inequality was lowest in 1978, two years before Reagan became president. That year the top 1% saw their share of the nation's wealth fall to 23% (84). This inequality has been widening ever since.

One could measure this growth precisely if one knew the share of the nation's wealth that the top 1% enjoy today, but McKibben does not have that number. The closest he comes is in the following sentence: "The richest tenth of 1 percent own about as much as the poorest 90 percent combined" (86). His other numbers are striking but less informative: "the three richest men have more wealth than the bottom 150 million people taken together" (86); "the Waltons, of Walmart lineage, have more wealth than 42 percent of American families combined" (87). McKibben doesn't name the three richest men but I assume they are Bezos, Buffett, and Gates, though I could be wrong.


message 43: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla | 85 comments This is not directly responsive, but I think it is relevant and noteworthy. According to Gallup’s take on the data, the year that Americans were happiest was 1957. The highest marginal tax rate then was about 80%, trade unions enjoyed their greatest influence. the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the nation (the GI Bill) was in full bloom, and the country was at its happiest.* Wealth does not make for happiness. Fairness makes for happiness. Justice, kindness, generosity and selflessness are critical to the happiness of the human community, or so I would like to argue.


*We should not ignore that Gallup’s data was for middle class white folks. That is a very important qualifier, but the main point is deserves are careful consideration, nonetheless.


message 44: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments I admire that longstanding economic rubric about wealth and consumption ...can't recall what the name of it is but it goes something like, 'a rich man can't eat any more meals in a day, than a poor man can'. It might be a part of the 'diamonds vs water' analogy.


message 45: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments ::unrelated to posts immediately above this:

In the past we have discussed the dangers of a voting population which allows itself to be swayed by emotional appeals made by leaders.

Question: what of the converse situation? In cases where a population has made its feeling very plain --leaning sharply to one side of some controversial issue --is it the wisest course for leaders (or would-be leaders) to fight that sentiment? Can deep-seated public sentiment be turned with logic? Does it succeed enough to be relied on, or should leaders follow (for lack of a better term) a 'general will'?


message 46: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments In New York City, clinics and private practices are beginning a new trend. If you establish a monthly account and pay a higher fee (probably with an auto-debit agreement), you receive 'concierge service to health care'. This means: access to the doctor's personal phone number, 'priority care' (pushed ahead of other patient appointments?) and other perks. Maybe free parking in the clinic lot. Just incredible.


message 47: by Alan, Founding Moderator and Author (last edited Feb 25, 2020 10:55AM) (new)

Alan Johnson (alanejohnson) | 4330 comments Mod
Feliks wrote: "In New York City, clinics and private practices are beginning a new trend. If you establish a monthly account and pay a higher fee (probably with an auto-debit agreement), you receive 'concierge se..."

Although this may be a "new trend" for New York City, it appears that the great metropolis is at least a decade behind the western Pennsylvania boonies. More than a decade ago, my primary care physician here in Pittsburgh informed me that he was leaving the medical practice with which had been associated to establish a "concierge" service such as you describe. He wanted to know whether I would retain him in his newfangled practice. However, he would not be accepting any insurance, and the subscription service was fairly expensive, so I declined. I gather that this service is for rich people, which apparently is why you felt it belonged in this topic.


message 48: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1516 comments Yes -- I was scratching my head as to where to insert this. And its probably true that there's been a lag between the time it was invented and the time when I detected its advent. Anyway it seems eerie and odd and undemocratic to me.


message 49: by Klaas (new)

Klaas Mensaert | 12 comments Hi all,

I've seen some interesting posts here concerning polarization and social division in (and out) politics. The best way to mitigate these is, as mentioned, to have different groups of people interact positively with each other.

Although this is being done in life on a daily basis in sports, etc. I think that these fields in society are increasingly being polarized by politics. Therefore, I think that the only way we can overcome increasingly polarization is to reorganise party politics itself. Instead of political parties in which one can be exclusively, we need a system that allow us to be member of multiple (and hence overlapping) political parties. This would allow us to have positive interactions with more different people. I have made some explanations in more detail over here: https://klaasmensaert.be/exclusive-pa...

What do you all think about that?


message 50: by Allen (new)

Allen Hi Klaas,

I am not sure how the idea would work in practice, but I think it is worth trying. I have tried reaching out to people who are different from me politically in my professional life and have had positive experiences. I would like to be able to do it on a more regular basis.

Because I am a software developer, I sometimes think about how overcoming social and political problems we currently face might be a question of devising the right app. Some work here that has already been done is an app called vTaiwan, which has had some success in the limited areas in which it has been deployed.

Currently, the internet promotes this style of social engagement where people are encouraged to post extreme ideological content and not seek consensus building or intellectual engagement with those who think and feel differently. I think that this is a problem of shaping incentives to encourage those behaviors. A real solution could just be around the corner.


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