Wednesday, August 29, 2012


FILAM STAR (August 29, 2012)

All the political pundits are equating Mitt Romney’s choice of US Representative Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate to the proverbial flipping of a switch. In this case, it is the flipping of a switch—a political tactic that the Republican nominee for president is well versed in—from running a presidential campaign as a referendum on the administration of Barack Obama to the heated question of which socio-economic ideology is best for America.

Much of Republican and conservative economic ideology espouses the free market, reduced government and taxes, deregulation, the individual over the collective, and an emphasis on balancing the national budget. Some of this ideology’s outstanding figures range from Adam Smith to Ronald Reagan. The Democratic Party favors an ideology that is also centered on the free market and individual freedoms. However, this ideology goes a long way towards associating itself with the welfare state, social progressivism, and an economic philosophy that works hand in hand with the ideas of John Maynard Keynes who famously proposed that an important, although not dominant, role should be reserved for governments in regulating the economy whenever necessary.

I want to link this choice of economic vision to the dichotomy between human nature and human nurture. It is something I have written about before, but this time around I will present it in a somewhat different light.

While my position on this debate can be described as being “left-of-center”, in other words trending towards the Democratic Party’s socio-economic landscape of social fairness and evenhandedness, the mental burden of maintaining this perspective is something that I could have avoided had I tried to push away some of my more conservative views. You see, I do believe in some conservative tenets like personal responsibility, individual liberty, and in a government that knows when to get out of the way. By allowing myself no more than a smidgen of conservatism, I have nevertheless put pressure on my more progressive views. But that doesn’t stop me from defending them against the worst of the conservative onslaught. In today’s national atmosphere of political polarization, this straddling stance either confuses, pleases, or infuriates people depending on where they‘re coming from.

Reserving the right to be critical of both sides, let me proffer that the Republican and Democratic ideologies are set in a human nature/human nurture binary. Essentially speaking, Republicans and conservatives press home their basic understanding that everyone deserves their lot in life whatever it may be; there is no one to credit or blame but yourself if things go right or wrong. If you lost your job due to layoff, you should have been prepared for it. If you lost your house due to foreclosure, you were just too stupid to keep it. If you’re poor, it’s because you’re a bum. No excuses, no scapegoating, no mercy. Sink or swim, that’s the name of the capitalist game. By hitting the loser because he or she is by nature exactly that: a “loser”.

Republicans and conservatives are quite self-righteous about this stark comparison to the progressive elements of American economic philosophy. And yet, an overriding factor in their Social Darwinian socio-economic narrative is that they will not own up to it publicly for fear that the American electorate will refuse to couple their misfortune to their own decisions and actions. Republicans and conservatives could never live down accusations that they were using the people as whipping boys for their economic missteps.

Democrats and liberals have developed a platform that casts the socio-economic debate in sociological terms and across a more inclusive cross-section of American society: the poor, the less well-off section of the middle class, and ethnic minorities. Democrats and liberals light a torch for the idea that people are shaped and informed by social structures, institutions, ideologies. For Democrats and liberals, there isn’t so much a compulsive human nature as there is the immeasurable power of external human nurturing that founds the communion between social forces and an individual’s fate in life. To use a metaphor—the car is to blame, not the driver.

As is the case with so many debates and arguments, the truth lies somewhere in between. But we can’t get there because of today’s considerably depreciated, corrupted, and fractured political environment. As far as the American voter goes, this political pathology has led to a government that is no longer by the people, but a government that is in spite of them.


No comments:

Post a Comment