US political culture - How did we get here?

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cphite
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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby cphite » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:48 pm UTC

Jonesthe Spy wrote:There's actually a very simple answer to this - Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine of the FCC. From the 40's to 1987 TV and radio broadcasters were required to present different points of view on important public issues as part of the responsibilities that being given a broadcasting license entailed, to make an effort to be as accurate in their reporting as possible, and to give people who were personally attacked on a broadcast the opportunity to respond. For instance, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers used the Fairness Doctrine rules to be given airtime on the radio station that allowed members of the White Citizens Council to attack him on the air.

It is absolutely no coincidence that the totally partisan broadcasts such as Fox and Limbaugh and assorted clones appeared after the Fairness Act was done away with, and I think that the incredibly partisan media outlets are EXACTLY why we're in the state we're in. Imagine if, for instance, Limbaugh had to allow Sandra Fluke on his show to respond after his vicious, grade-school attack a few months ago. You can bet that the tenor of the national dialogue would be very different.


The Fairness Doctrine made some sense when radio and television were still almost exclusively local, because the media outlets in a particular region were all people had access to. Today media is mostly national. So even if Sandra Fluke didn't get to respond directly on Rush Limbaugh's show; she could (and did) respond before a national audience. It was important for Medgar Evers to be able to respond on the same radio station that was used to attack him, because that was the most reasonable way to ensure that he got to defend himself in front of the same audience that heard him attacked... Today, Medgar Evers would respond on several national networks.

Aside from that, while the desire to make media outlets "fair" is noble, in practice it's just far too subjective. What is fair? The folks on FOX News probably believe they are being fair and balanced; and so do the folks at NBC News. And yet both networks are obviously biased, just in opposite directions. Who gets to decide what is fair and balanced? Do you really want the government deciding when something (especially something about the government) is fair or when all sides have been adequately represented?

I see potential for abuse of power when the government (be it by agency, committee, or however they do it) gets to make a determination about how "fair" a media outlet is being, or gets to decide when that outlet needs to allow time for a conflicting point of view.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Derek » Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:34 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Nobody is going for the demographic argument? Rising minority populations threatens the status quo/white power bloc so desperate people go for desperate measures.
Personally, I'm hoping we'll get a hint as to who's right in the next election, and resolve it by the election after that. At the very least, I want to see how the GOP plans to win future elections. I say this because they need higher and higher percentages of the white vote just to stay in power, and you can't go past 100% when there just isn't enough white voters to get elected anymore. (If I was the GOP, I'd court latinos since businesses want cheap immigrant labor, and Hispanics are mostly conservative catholic value people.)

Well Hispanics are the primary minority that is growing. In 2008 they were 67% for Obama, 31% for McCain. That's not especially bad for the Republicans, certainly not bad enough that you could say they are only in power because of White voters. Within Hispanics, Cuban-Americans have traditionally voted Republican, for anti-communist reasons, and this trend still holds, but the proportion of Cubans among Hispanics has declined. I am somewhat surprised that Republicans haven't tried to court Hispanic voters more, for the same reasons you mentioned, but at the moment is looks like the anti-immigration side of the party has won over the pro-business side.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:54 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:Suspicion is appropriate, but the argument they present is fairly strong. And we should be able to accept the fact that it's possible that one party is at fault, otherwise what are we supposed to do when one party actually is at fault? If we just assume that "both sides say ridiculous things" and leave it at that, then it opens the door to a party just being able to base their entire campaign on lies, and assume that we're not going to call them out on it.


The possibility exists, yes, but the argument they make isn't particularly strong at all. First, there's the assumption that the divisiveness of late is unusual. This is the root assumption upon which all else is built, and it's unconvincing. I don't know that republicans hate Obama now any more than they hated Clinton. Hell, I heard exactly the same overblown things about both of them. And yknow, what...dems acted basically the same way about Bush. Each and every time, the side not in charge of the presidency will gleefully pop out the hyperbole. Looking over historical documents, this isn't at all new, either. Oh, you have the occasional popular president like Reagan or FDR, but even they had some detractors, and those were mostly historical aberrations.

If it's the status quo all the time, you can't reasonably blame it on one party.

The other good argument this raises is that we got here because of low voter turnout, which allows the extreme parts of a party (that get the highest turnout from their supporters) to dictate the agenda for their party. The republican party has really used this to their benefit, and shifted their focus to their highest turnout areas, which also supports the furthest right wing part of their platform.

If voters turned out in the same proportion as they were registered, than the political landscape in this country would be very different. It would be somewhat more liberal/progressive, but it would be much more moderate/centerist as well.


Low voter turnout is a problem...but it's a problem that affects both parties roughly equally. The dems certainly haven't had a massive surfeit of voters, we've just had the usual back and forth swings.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby TrlstanC » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:22 pm UTC

Voter turnout is a problem for both parties in the sense that over 1/3 of registered voters, don't. But low voter turnout, including policies that restrict voting, tend to benefit republicans. It's also why we're seeing laws aimed at restricting voter turnout being enacted by republican state congresses, it's going to affect both parties, but it's going to affect democratic and independant voters more.

Here's great summary of the historical difference, and also the impact that higher turnout could mean on the political landscape, in an environment where elections are usually won by a few percentage points, a 3 percentage point difference is huge: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.co ... d-up-base/

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:27 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:Voter turnout is a problem for both parties in the sense that over 1/3 of registered voters, don't. But low voter turnout, including policies that restrict voting, tend to benefit republicans. It's also why we're seeing laws aimed at restricting voter turnout being enacted by republican state congresses, it's going to affect both parties, but it's going to affect democratic and independant voters more.

Here's great summary of the historical difference, and also the impact that higher turnout could mean on the political landscape, in an environment where elections are usually won by a few percentage points, a 3 percentage point difference is huge: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.co ... d-up-base/


Voter turnout for Obama last go-around was pretty solid. All the minority groups saw pretty solid gains(7%ish was common), so the gap between different demographics was a lot smaller than it's historically been. However, the effect on both parties is basically the same...they play to their bases to drum up support. So, on an ideological level, it's not that remarkable of a factor.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby faranim » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:45 pm UTC

I found some data from the 2008 election and was kind of surprised by the numbers.

Code: Select all

Age Group   %Registered   %Voted    %Voted/%Registered
18 - 24       58.5         48.5        83.0
25 - 44       68.2         60.0        88.0
45 - 64       74.9         69.2        92.3
65 - 74       78.1         72.4        92.7
75+           76.6         67.8        88.6


I'm kind of surprised that over 80% of registered voters actually voted. Was expecting that to be lower.
But when you look at the overall # of potential voters (including non-registered voters), the younger voters have really poor turnout compared to older people.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:42 pm UTC

That's basically always been the case. Unregistered voters in particular indicate a lack of involvement/likelyness to vote. I wouldn't usually consider them a major factor in the election as anyone that hasn't registered until now is not likely to care much, or even be particularly well informed(and an educated voting public is also good, of course).

I worry a lot more about voters being informed/making decisions for illogical reasons than I do about them not voting.

I'm also ok with reasonable anti-fraud measures, like requiring some form of photo ID...but I do suspect that a lot of the people pushing these laws are doing so for purely partisan vs anti-fraud reasons.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Yakk » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:05 pm UTC

like requiring some form of photo ID...

Requiring photo ID doesn't reduce fraud by any significant amount, because we are pretty damn certain there isn't a huge amount of misrepresentation of identity in order to vote. In order for that to be reasonable, you'd have to first come forward with some evidence that it is a problem to be solved.

If you want to reduce fraud without disenfranchising people, try banning electronic voting machines who don't produce a secure audit trail, which have been shown to both generate inaccurate results, and are an easy means to generate massive vote fraud without having to recruit huge masses of people (some of whom will blab).

On the other hand, voter photo ID laws are great at disenfranchising poor people.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:14 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
like requiring some form of photo ID...

Requiring photo ID doesn't reduce fraud by any significant amount, because we are pretty damn certain there isn't a huge amount of misrepresentation of identity in order to vote. In order for that to be reasonable, you'd have to first come forward with some evidence that it is a problem to be solved.


We're not, actually. The studies I've seen on this have been location specific...and there's a notable difference between "not much fraud here" and "not much fraud everywhere". Additionally, the biggest problem with fraud is that when it's done successfully, it's not really trackable.

You do, however, have instances like in 2004 when the Milwaukee police department reported having 4500 votes than voters, though. So, clearly, there's some fraud going on.

IDs probably won't fix all of it, as other ways to game the system also exist, but it does cover one possible path to fraud.

If you want to reduce fraud without disenfranchising people, try banning electronic voting machines who don't produce a secure audit trail, which have been shown to both generate inaccurate results, and are an easy means to generate massive vote fraud without having to recruit huge masses of people (some of whom will blab).

On the other hand, voter photo ID laws are great at disenfranchising poor people.


Requiring a photo ID shouldn't amount to disenfranchisement...it's more like mildly inconvenience. Photo IDs are already pretty pervasive, and are not immensely difficult to acquire.

That said, crappy electronic voting is also a concern. Got Diebold machines here in MD, and I'd have to say, I'd be happier with good ol' paper and pen(and I'm a technophile!). The political focus on one kind of fraud instead of all types is one reason why their motives concern me.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby firechicago » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:28 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Requiring photo ID doesn't reduce fraud by any significant amount, because we are pretty damn certain there isn't a huge amount of misrepresentation of identity in order to vote. In order for that to be reasonable, you'd have to first come forward with some evidence that it is a problem to be solved.

If you want to reduce fraud without disenfranchising people, try banning electronic voting machines who don't produce a secure audit trail, which have been shown to both generate inaccurate results, and are an easy means to generate massive vote fraud without having to recruit huge masses of people (some of whom will blab).

On the other hand, voter photo ID laws are great at disenfranchising poor people.


There is one type of voter fraud that's fairly common, where people hired to collect voter registrations (who are often paid at least in part on how many they're able to collect) just fill out a bunch of forms under fictitious names to up their numbers for the week. This is a problem, and illegal, but it's not a threat to democracy, since no one actually shows up to vote under the name of "Donald Duck" or whatever they put down. The only real victim here is the organization who's paying these people for their fraudulent forms.

This site found about 2,000 accusations of election fraud made in the whole country in the last 12 years. (Keep in mind, that's election fraud of all types, including many different types, like absentee ballot fraud, that id laws would be completely ineffective in combatting.) Of those, only 10 were voter impersonation, and 5 of the 10 were someone who illegally tried to vote on behalf of a family member.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Yakk » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:48 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Yakk wrote:
like requiring some form of photo ID...

Requiring photo ID doesn't reduce fraud by any significant amount, because we are pretty damn certain there isn't a huge amount of misrepresentation of identity in order to vote. In order for that to be reasonable, you'd have to first come forward with some evidence that it is a problem to be solved.


We're not, actually. The studies I've seen on this have been location specific...and there's a notable difference between "not much fraud here" and "not much fraud everywhere". Additionally, the biggest problem with fraud is that when it's done successfully, it's not really trackable.


You do, however, have instances like in 2004 when the Milwaukee police department reported having 4500 votes than voters, though. So, clearly, there's some fraud going on.

Which, from the top google, was attributed to wholesale not retail fraud. Ie, the accusation was that someone stuffed a ballot box.

Retail fraud, where someone walks up and says "I'm Bob, let me vote" is what voter ID is aimed at.
IDs probably won't fix all of it, as other ways to game the system also exist, but it does cover one possible path to fraud.

There are an infinite number of possible paths to fraud.

Some of them require only a few people to generate a huge amount of fraud, and have a low chance of being caught.

Others require a huge number of people to generate a huge amount of fraud, and have a high chance of being caught.

Retail voter fraud belongs to the second category. Ballot stuffing, or machine vote tampering, belongs to the first.

Passing laws that actually disenfranchise people (actual real people) in order to catch retail voter fraud... is like installing snipers to shoot at jaywalkers.
On the other hand, voter photo ID laws are great at disenfranchising poor people.

Requiring a photo ID shouldn't amount to disenfranchisement...
It does. Actual people are unable to vote because of actual voter ID laws.

I suspect you don't care? I mean, it isn't that many, and it isn't you, and you can craft a story that blames them!

Can I do the same to do? Can I craft a story in order to make sure that you, and people "like" you, are unable to vote? Would you be ok with that?

What kind of photo ID do you own, a driver's license? Guess what -- that isn't universal. So actual real people are going to show up at polling booths without a photo ID, and be unable to vote because of laws you support, when (except for those laws) are perfectly legal voters with a right to vote.

Some of them won't own a photo ID. Some of them have no legal path to gain a photo ID, because the laws are set up presuming everyone has a driver's license. Some of them will have forgotten their photo ID, or have lost it.

Papers please.
it's more like mildly inconvenience. Photo IDs are already pretty pervasive, and are not immensely difficult to acquire.
Land isn't difficult to acquire. Being able to pass a literacy test isn't difficult. Paying your annual poll tax isn't difficult either.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby bantler » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:00 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Papers please.


Godwin's Law Hurray!

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Yakk » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:04 pm UTC

I was referencing Communist Russia actually.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Derek » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:23 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:What kind of photo ID do you own, a driver's license? Guess what -- that isn't universal. So actual real people are going to show up at polling booths without a photo ID, and be unable to vote because of laws you support, when (except for those laws) are perfectly legal voters with a right to vote.

Some of them won't own a photo ID. Some of them have no legal path to gain a photo ID, because the laws are set up presuming everyone has a driver's license. Some of them will have forgotten their photo ID, or have lost it.

I'm pretty sure that every state issues non-drivers photo IDs. As it turns out, they're kind of a requirement to do just about anything, even just getting a job.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby omgryebread » Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:11 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
Yakk wrote:What kind of photo ID do you own, a driver's license? Guess what -- that isn't universal. So actual real people are going to show up at polling booths without a photo ID, and be unable to vote because of laws you support, when (except for those laws) are perfectly legal voters with a right to vote.

Some of them won't own a photo ID. Some of them have no legal path to gain a photo ID, because the laws are set up presuming everyone has a driver's license. Some of them will have forgotten their photo ID, or have lost it.

I'm pretty sure that every state issues non-drivers photo IDs. As it turns out, they're kind of a requirement to do just about anything, even just getting a job.
And we all know that everyone has a job.
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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:43 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:
Derek wrote:
Yakk wrote:What kind of photo ID do you own, a driver's license? Guess what -- that isn't universal. So actual real people are going to show up at polling booths without a photo ID, and be unable to vote because of laws you support, when (except for those laws) are perfectly legal voters with a right to vote.

Some of them won't own a photo ID. Some of them have no legal path to gain a photo ID, because the laws are set up presuming everyone has a driver's license. Some of them will have forgotten their photo ID, or have lost it.

I'm pretty sure that every state issues non-drivers photo IDs. As it turns out, they're kind of a requirement to do just about anything, even just getting a job.
And we all know that everyone has a job.


Providing identification is a federal requirement for employment, yes. It's a form I-9. If you ever got a job after 1986, your employer was legally required to complete it, citizen or not.

Now sure, I get that people become unemployed. But when you do, I don't believe it's common practice for them to confiscate your ID on the way out the door.

So, unless you've not been legally employed in over two decades, this shouldn't be a real hurdle. If that DOES apply to you, and going to get an ID is just too damned hard...I'm not gonna miss that vote.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby capefeather » Sun Sep 09, 2012 12:47 am UTC

It's nice to say that people should make an effort to be more informed and remove their biases and all that. Ultimately, though, it's advice at the individual level. The efforts of individuals rarely change anything; trends do. Societal trends, as we have seen over and over again, can be easily manipulated. Even something as asinine as supermarket walking patterns can be exploited. Elections are games that politicians play to win. Realistically, you can't just tell people to be informed and expect it to happen, since different people have different reasons to do so or not to do so. And that's where suggestions like electoral reform come in.

There is a different thread on electoral reform, so I suppose I'll try to keep this short and relevant to this thread. I get that 3+ party systems aren't necessarily better than two-party systems, and that this isn't a compelling reason to adopt a different system. Yet, I'm not really convinced that extremists are necessarily more successful under alternatives to FPTP. I'd personally rather see an extremist party embarrass itself because it has to pander to its base, than extremist elements hiding behind "invisible" coalitions posing as cohesive parties. I mean, we clearly already have people saying ridiculous things in the media, with little for anyone to do about it. More importantly, I think things would simply be better if we had systems that could better represent the will of the majority. If nothing else, I really find it ridiculous that one person can have 4-5 times the voting power of another based on where both of them live, or that a party can attain majority status from 37.2% of the vote (Canada 2011).

I just really hate how the Conservative Party of Canada railed so hard against alleged coalition plans when it not only considered forming party coalitions itself, but also is actually a conglomeration of something like 3-4 conservative parties, with more extremist elements at the helm.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Diadem » Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:08 am UTC

cphite wrote:I see potential for abuse of power when the government (be it by agency, committee, or however they do it) gets to make a determination about how "fair" a media outlet is being, or gets to decide when that outlet needs to allow time for a conflicting point of view.

Sure, there's potential for abuse. But the current situation is that the media massively abuse their position to undermine the way democracy works.

I'm not saying that a fairness doctrine is the best or even a good way to combat this, and I think careful thought is needed on any law that limits media freedom. But the argument "there is a potential for abuse" against a law, is a bad one, when without said law there is actual abuse going on right now. You will need to show that abuse is both very likely and more serious than the abuse currently going on.
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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby capefeather » Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:10 am UTC

That's a really good point that I think people miss when arguing about these things. With freedom comes abuse, and with cooperation comes restriction. We can't somehow get rid of abuse or restriction by redefining freedom or cooperation. Sometimes the bad outweighs the good, and other times the good outweighs the bad. There is no hard and fast rule to determine which it is.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby aydee » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:42 am UTC

Hi.. An Aussie chipping in with a POV...

We have a moderately similar situation at the moment. We have an incompetant in charge, and an incapable wanting to be in charge.

At the end of the day, I have to ask myself.. "Who benefits *ME* more?"

Selfish huh? This is not a Labor/Democrat or Liberal/Republican thing... But it's a DEMOCRACY thing. Think of it like this. If it benefits you more, than you'll be earning more money and thus be paying more tax, and from there benefiting AMERICA more. (unless you are awesome at tax dodging. Therefore... Well. You're going to vote for your own reasons anyways so point kinda still stands in a sad way)

I detest people that "Vote <x> because that's what we always do". That's stupid. You deserve to be an inbred moron. If <x> happens to benefit you best, then you have voted for your country and done the right thing.

If <x> happens to be someone that provides zero benefit to you, well you deserve to be an inbred moron with a weird growth coming out of your forehead. (Yes. Exageration... But you get the idea).

Change happens when the majority request it. If the govt believes that they don't have to do anything because they have your vote anyway, then they will NEVER help you.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Yakk » Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:09 pm UTC

It benefits me more to cut taxes on whatever "type" of income I earn to zero, while providing extensive whatever "type" of government services I consume.

If I can make a type-clump with 51% of the other voters, then we can collectively screw the other 49% by placing on them the tax burden and not providing them any services.

Nobody but an economic illiterate or a libertarian would think that unbounded rational self interest is sufficient to decide what your vote should be.
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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:59 pm UTC

aydee wrote:If <x> happens to benefit you best, then you have voted for your country and done the right thing.


What is best for you is not always what is best for the country as a whole. I would rather have people not vote at all, or vote blindly along party lines, then vote for obviously immoral things that may personally benefit them--like, say, race-based slavery. The idea that selfishness is a virtue is utter nonsense.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:54 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
aydee wrote:If <x> happens to benefit you best, then you have voted for your country and done the right thing.


What is best for you is not always what is best for the country as a whole. I would rather have people not vote at all, or vote blindly along party lines, then vote for obviously immoral things that may personally benefit them--like, say, race-based slavery. The idea that selfishness is a virtue is utter nonsense.


Selfishness can be used torward virtuous ends, though...you just need to take a longer look at things.

For instance, slavery tends toward a type of stagnation. Those in power tend to want to remain in power, and the best and brightest in the slave class are often not used to their full potential. On the other hand, if you look torwards technology as an alternative means of handling mundane labor, that offers us a lot more in the long run. So, from a purely utilitarian viewpoint, it's possible to condemn slavery on purely pragmatic grounds. It just isn't the best way of using human potential.

Now, consider the voting angle again. If you vote solely on what is best for you in the short term...you will often vote for things that benefit you now, but will lead to long term, severe problems. Screwing over 49% of the population, for instance, is going to likely result in them gleefully screwing you over when they're in power, and the end state of seesawing back and forth between screwing them and getting screwed is probably a lot less desireable than some sort of compromise. There's nothing wrong with a bit of self-interest, you just have to avoid short sightedness.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:21 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Selfishness can be used torward virtuous ends, though...you just need to take a longer look at things.

For instance, slavery tends toward a type of stagnation. Those in power tend to want to remain in power, and the best and brightest in the slave class are often not used to their full potential. On the other hand, if you look torwards technology as an alternative means of handling mundane labor, that offers us a lot more in the long run. So, from a purely utilitarian viewpoint, it's possible to condemn slavery on purely pragmatic grounds. It just isn't the best way of using human potential.


Well, from a utilitarian viewpoint, slavery is wrong because there are large numbers of people living in misery, and this would lead to lower well-being overall, which is antithetical to the aims of the philosophy. Utilitarianism does not particularly value your own well-being over that of others; it simply seeks to maximize total well-being. If reducing your own well-being leads to an overall greater increase in the well-being of others, then that self-sacrifice is the correct action to take. Whether or not one should behave selfishly or altruistically in a utilitarian ethos depends entirely on which action produces better utility.

I would venture that at least some utilitarians would probably, in fact, tolerate a small amount of slavery in society if the result was a rather large increase in the well-being of everyone else.

Anyway, in the example you give, while such stagnation does certainly occur, it probably does not occur within the lifetime of any given individual in a slavery supporting society. If the long view extends beyond one's own lifespan, it can hardly be considered selfish.

Tyndmyr
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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:01 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Selfishness can be used torward virtuous ends, though...you just need to take a longer look at things.

For instance, slavery tends toward a type of stagnation. Those in power tend to want to remain in power, and the best and brightest in the slave class are often not used to their full potential. On the other hand, if you look torwards technology as an alternative means of handling mundane labor, that offers us a lot more in the long run. So, from a purely utilitarian viewpoint, it's possible to condemn slavery on purely pragmatic grounds. It just isn't the best way of using human potential.


Well, from a utilitarian viewpoint, slavery is wrong because there are large numbers of people living in misery, and this would lead to lower well-being overall, which is antithetical to the aims of the philosophy. Utilitarianism does not particularly value your own well-being over that of others; it simply seeks to maximize total well-being. If reducing your own well-being leads to an overall greater increase in the well-being of others, then that self-sacrifice is the correct action to take. Whether or not one should behave selfishly or altruistically in a utilitarian ethos depends entirely on which action produces better utility.

I would venture that at least some utilitarians would probably, in fact, tolerate a small amount of slavery in society if the result was a rather large increase in the well-being of everyone else.

Anyway, in the example you give, while such stagnation does certainly occur, it probably does not occur within the lifetime of any given individual in a slavery supporting society. If the long view extends beyond one's own lifespan, it can hardly be considered selfish.


You're correct, I probably shouldn't have used utilitiarian there...pragmatic would have been a better choice.

Tolerating slavery for the benefit of mankind runs into some ethically sticky ground, though. It's much like the premise of "if killing a few people in gladitorial cage match entertains the entire population, is it ethical to force them to do it?", which most people will say no to. After all, most of us aren't really happy with the idea of being forced to fight to the death, utilitarianism be damned.

So, in a way, selfishness does guide many of our actions.

Additionally, I would posit that a selfish person could still care about events beyond his lifespan....consider the most selfish person you've met...does that person crave attention? They basically all do, and I'd have a hard time calling narcissism anything other than selfish. So, what do rich, selfish, narcissistic people often do? They strive for immortality in one way or another, be it their name plastered all over buildings, or giant statues, or whatever. They still care about what happens after their death, even if it's only about attention given to them. That's still a tool that can be used for good. Hell, I'd wager that plenty of charities with the founder's name plastered upon them exist exactly for this reason.

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Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby pizzazz » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:32 am UTC

It's amazing how everyone's examples of political partisanship manage to come from the right (Fox et. al.) even though there are many more networks that are equally or moreso biased to the left (CNN, MSNBC, and basically everyone but Fox).

Derek wrote:I think the Republicans are particularly uncompromising, and I say this as a Republican, but they also didn't become this way in a vacuum. For example, in 1988 George Bush (senior) ran on a slogan of "Read my lips: No new taxes". As president he ran into opposition from a Democratic congress, and eventually reached a compromise that raised taxes. He was promptly skewered on this in the 1992 election and lost to Clinton. I think this is largely why you will never see a Republican vote to raise taxes now, even as part of a perfectly reasonable compromise or in the face of an obvious budget shortfall (while advocating a balanced budget). Other examples have also shown that they have little to gain (politically) from compromise. If they break a campaign promise, they lose. If they concede some part of the President's agenda, they lose. So they have largely just stopped, and instead hope to make Obama look ineffective by passing as little legislation as possible for him to sign.

...

So while removing the Fairness Doctrine may have increased partisanship, it also increased freedom, and it would have been rendered moot by the rise of cable TV and internet news anyways.


Both of these are good points (though I'm not sure the Democrats are any less willing to compromise--just look at the Health Care debacle*), but I think part of the reason Republicans are so wary of compromise it never turns out to really be compromise. The Republicans threaten to let the government shut down rather than borrow more money, the Democrats drive enough of them away from that position by promising to cut spending next time or claiming an Immediate Crisis That Has To Be Solved Right Now to borrow more, and then renege on their promises to cut spending because the only leverage the Republicans had was the shut down.

Another example Boehner revealed a few weeks ago that he and Obama had agreed to a budget plan with about 800 billion in new spending, and Boehner had apparently managed to convince (or thought he could convince) Congressional Republicans to accept it. Then (at least according to Boehner), Obama asked for another 400 billion in spending right before he was supposed to take the deal to Congress, and Boehner knew that would never pass, so it never went to a vote.

*for anyone who doesn't recall, or doesn't pay attention to American politics, the Democrats had the presidency, the house, and a supermajority in the Senate. It still took them a year of some of the most obviously corrupt politics I can remember to pass their health care bill, because the Democrats couldn't even compromise with each other. For example.


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