President Trump’s America First rhetoric is motivated by a stated desire to protect native-born citizens and advance their interests. But by doing so, he takes away from individuals the ability to define their interests for themselves. Immigration is often made palatable in terms of the value brought by new citizens to communities with established social and cultural traditions, as if immigration were an act of utility, benefitting primarily the community receiving an individual who, for…View More Immigrants and Utilization: Why Social and Economic Value Shouldn’t Drive Immigration Policy
A divisive politics is not necessarily a dysfunctional politics. Life is individualistic; an individual’s experiences are filtered through the lens of his or her own person. Personality, past experiences, values and desired ends: all of these create nuances in the rational process. The conclusions around which individuals orient their lives are moved by the substance of their lives, despite the absolute nature of reality. Two important codicils can be drawn from this: First, any politics…View More Is Individualism Compatible with Democratic Strains of Thinking?
In terms of public actions, there are few more selfish acts than voting. Voting is an individual act: a vote for or against a candidate or a ballot question is ultimately a reflection of that voters’ interests and value-judgments. And a reflection of that voters’ interests and value-judgments alone. The voting booth asks citizens to grade politicians. The metric for this evaluation? The individual’s interests and the degree to which they have been protected by…View More Voting Is Selfish. Which Is Why Get-Out-The-Vote Drives Are Unseemly.
Democratic government has its fair share of drawbacks, and perhaps none of these contributes to dysfunction so much as the constant pressure re-election exerts on the minds of politicians. Desirous of retaining their influence and position, the temptation to use voting power as a lever and extort kickbacks for interest groups in constituencies who are powerful enough to sway electoral outcomes overpowers whatever duty a politician has towards the drafting of well-grounded public policy. Constant…View More Lights, Camera, Politics
Political reform, whether it favors sweeping institutional overhauls or looks to fixes tailored towards more narrow problems, operates under the assumption that government dysfunction ultimately stems from some flaw within government. This statement might seem blatantly tautological, but in fact it reflects a deeper problem with American politics: a fundamental misunderstanding of the complex role of the polity in structuring and directing the machinations of government institutions. Though “democracy” is likely the first word that…View More The Missing Element of Political Reform Debates
There is a strain of modern political thought that equates specialized knowledge and topical expertise with elitism, itself rooted in anti-populism. Such thinking contributes to high levels of political inefficacy as the operational premise of representational government is that legislators, who dedicate their time to informing themselves on issues that affect their constituents, will use their knowledge of both the issues and their constituencies to make political choices calculated to promote the interests of residents…View More Congress Is Inept Because It Was Never Meant to Be the Primary Political Problem Solver
There is perhaps nothing so indicative of an increasingly oligarchic trend in government as language from politicians signaling their actions are oriented around what is most convenient to others of their ranks. By way of example, a recent story in Roll Call detailed how, in the waning hours before the government shutdown took effect, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) attempted to broker a three-week stop-gap spending measure. Though one might hope his motivation was some respect…View More The Shutdown Highlights Oligarchic Attitudes in Government