In this particular piece, Pie ponders people’s perceptions of pragmatism pertaining to politics, particularly partisanship. Is it just me or does this blog need more alliteration?
This is, as you know, the most important election of our lives. This is a time to be pragmatic; there is no place for philosophy or idealism. It is important to stop Insert Candidate Here and now. For every other country, add names of parties, rinse, repeated. This is something I am often faced with people when I try to discuss principle. A call to pragmatism is what I get. People do not have time to read and debate the fundamentals of economy, philosophy, and ethics. They are pragmatic. They care, mostly, that the party they oppose loses this time. This time is important, we will think of principle after. Unfortunately this time is every damn time. So is this truly pragmatic? Yes, my candidate has many flaws, but the other is worse and this is not the time nitpick a bit of theft and fraud here and there.
The question I would ask, as a libertarian, is when and how can we get to the point where the election is not that important and we can think principle? Also, if so many crucial elections were lost by the side The Great Pragmatists support, it is obvious The Wrong People will inevitably end up in power and the Most Important Election will be lost. So would it not be a good idea to reduce government power and make these often wrong elections less crucial? Of course not. This time, we cannot allow the wrong lizard to win. And when Our Side gets that elusive Permanent Majority, we will have the time to think upon the fundamentals.
This permanent pseudo-pragmatism is rather obviously, to me at least, engineered for a very clear purpose: a way to keep people alarmed by the next election. Create urgency so people do not think long term, or in perspective. Many blame politicians for thinking only about the next election, but regular voters do the same. And more importantly, vastly lowering the expectations placed on politicians. Some Romanians have been voting the lesser evil for going on 30 years now, and are constantly screwed. And the lesser evil gets worse and worse, as it is no longer expected of politicians not to steal, but to be the lesser thief in the election. And this led to exactly what they wanted. So how fucking pragmatic is it, in the end, to constantly vote for the lesser thief? Maybe it would be better to vote on some clear principles. Maybe the lesser evil might lose until it becomes not evil? Maybe … eh who am I kidding?
This so called pragmatism often leads to missing the forest from the trees, to miss the fundamentals of what a government should and should not do. In the end, to hardly notice that the parties are not all that different, and not in the positive aspects, if there are any. That certain people make bank whomever is in power. That lobbyists thrive, that laws are getting complicated mostly for the benefit of special interests. That year after year things are not improving nearly as much as they should.
Each election we try to fix the cracked window, but what about the rotting foundation of the house? Well I don’t have time to think of the foundation, I am, after all, a pragmatist. That crack in the window is crucial, so it needs fixing. Laws and regulations are constantly patched without thinking if they are so bad to need constant patching maybe, we should rethink them. But people are pragmatists and they patch and patch and one year later a new patch is needed. Not unlike software, a point comes where the code is too complicated and full of bugs; you need to outright rewrite it.
Beyond ideology of left and right, if people were actually intending to create a good society , some things would be a lot more bipartisan, like make things as clear as simple as possible, constantly analyze if things work and if not change, don’t patch. But they do not intend that. They want to push their little pet projects, protect their sacred cows and care not a jot about anything else.
I used this Douglas Adams quote before, but I will again, ’cause I like it:
“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish…