Emma Does Politics

There is such a thing as society. It's called politics.

Politician-Speak and Trains of Thought

I must admit I haven’t studied Marx, or Orwell, or Rand, or Smith, or any of the other notable political and economic thinkers of the last couple of centuries. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not necessary. This is of course a piece of heresy against the cult of the expert.

My usual approach is to work out solutions from first principles, rather than trying to find out what the great and not-so-great philosophers of yesteryear would have done. It probably takes longer, but on the other hand, the old thinkers didn’t have the contextual knowledge of the present situation we do. Karl Marx didn’t have the Internet. If he did, he might have called kittens the opiate of the masses instead of religion.

This approach has a couple of consequences. It means I never have the One True Answer to the world’s problems, which will remain now and evermore the way to fix the crisis of the day. That definitely leads to accusations of having “politicians answers,” and not keeping a stable political position, but dodging and weaving as the need demands. Nonetheless, it has to be the case. No answer will always apply in all situations. Much as we would want to make-believe otherwise, society and the global political situation changes, and we need to have the flexibility to change with it. Giving an answer to a problem as the One True Answer Now And Evermore simply sets us up for failure.

I prefer to find solutions that work in the present situation and cause no unforeseen bad consequences, and acknowledge it might not be the right answer the next time something apparently similar comes up. Because it probably won’t work (the fact that the apparently same problem had come up again would show that solution didn’t work first time, after all).

I also rather dislike the idea of using the word “politician” as a bad word. Simply by expressing a political view, we are all politicians — Society *is* politics. Being a “politician” is something people should embrace, instead of hiding behind other labels, such as lobbyist or pressure group campaigner or concerned citizen or environmentalist or writer of letters or citizen-journalist. We are all politicians!

Part of the reason I try to work my ideas from first principles is because it acts as a learning process and helps me to better understand and explain my own ideas. It also means I don’t fall into a rut of following the old thinkers’ ideas just because it is easier to do when it might not be quite right for the present situation. I prefer to look at problem, think up solutions, think up problems with those “solutions,” think up different solutions either to the original problem or as patches the the flawed solutions, think up problems with those new solutions, and so on. It’s an iterative process. I basically play devil’s advocate against myself.

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One thought on “Politician-Speak and Trains of Thought

  1. ‘I also rather dislike the idea of using the word “politician” as a bad word. Simply by expressing a political view, we are all politicians’

    Well I don’t know. For one thing, I disagree with this idea that one can never be objective about anything – that’s too much the sort of thing a post modernist/arts graduate would come up with, and I favour a scientific approach.

    Of course politics isn’t science, and there are certain things I care about that aren’t anything like rational observations. But professional, top-of-the-greasy-pole politics is such that it attracts and rewards a certain sort of behaviour. To survive and thrive UK MPs have to become very good at managing currents of opinion, and how to deliver a message with plenty of spin. At the same time they are ‘calibrating’ their message to appeal to factions within their political group/party

    They do so much of this for such a long time that one worries that they’ve become incapable of thinking about matters clearly, they routinely misuse misleading statistics, respond to interview questions inadequately etc

    It’s difficult to imagine the mindset these people adopt. Politicians in different systems aren’t too different I think – they just use different methods.

    Anyway interesting blog, cheers.

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