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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Political Defining Of Social Problems

Imagine if the game of baseball allowed for a variable strikezone where the strikezone for each batter was determined by each batter's own wheelhouse. Well, that is analogous to how our political leaders and their entourages define and address many of today's social problems. These problems are described only in terms of how each side sees its own strengths. 

For liberals, their strong suit is government and so our many of our most prominent social problems are defined by what government can do to address them. For conservatives, especially religious ones, their claim to fame is promoting personal responsibility. And thus they define our social problems by how individuals must change themselves in order to be more responsible. And since laws often fail to produce those changes, conservatives often resist using legislation to address many of our social problems.

So when we see a problem like gun violence. Liberals define the problem by what gun control laws could be passed while, on the other hand, conservatives reject the liberal definition and solution and opt for viewing the problem as one that revolves solely around  individual responsibility. Those who are responsible follow the existing gun laws while there is nothing anyone can do to prevent those who are irresponsible from breaking the existing laws. Thus, if there is nothing one can do regarding gun violence, it is no longer considered to be a social problem.

Now of course, liberals don't approach all  problems by using government control nor do conservatives do the same by appealing to individual responsibility. Abortion and the same-sex marriage crisis has shown us that. 

In addition, there are some areas where what is perceived as the wheelhouse for both liberals and conservatives is shared. Consider many of today's world problems. Because of their reliance on the power of our military, a good number of both liberals and conservatives define most foreign problems and, of course, threats strictly in terms of our possible military response.

So what we see in our elected officials and their respective political parties and ideological affiliations is a trend. Though their strikezone may vary from issue to issue, it is based solely on what they consider their strengths or our greatest resources to be. As a result,  we end up with elected officials and their cohorts who do not listen to and/or play well with others. In addition, their attempted solutions to our problems tend to be shortsighted and unbalanced and thus producing more problems than they solve. And why does this happen? It is because our elected officials and friends will acknowledge no other strikezone than what they consider to be their own wheelhouse. Thus, all other pitches are not worthy to be swung at.

What does all of this lead to? It leads to a barometer test for all candidates and some others.  If people are seeking power, this includes but is not restricted to elected offices, they might be using their definitions of social problems as a way to get that power. Thus, the more one excludes the concerns and thinking of others on a given set of social problems, the more one claims to provide the only solution to those problems and thus the only one who can solve our social problems. This is as true with conservatives and Republicans as it is with liberals and Democrats as well as with all others.

To give an example from my leftist perspective, Marx called for the proletariat to replace the bourgeoisie in ruling over others. He did this because he reduced all social problems to that of being caused by the bourgeoisie and their control of the state and society. So Marx called for a proletariat dictatorship and, of course, the only way to wrestle power away from the bourgeoisie was for the proletariat to conduct revolutions. Many who followed Marx identified with either the actual proletariat or some idealized notion of who they should be. Thus, people like Lenin and Stalin used Marx to seek power for themselves and their scapegoating the proletariat was not just the way they interpreted the status quo, it was their way of pursue power for themselves.

Those who advance the Free Market or who oppose gun control work in a similar way as just mentioned in that they defined the social problems associated with unregulated markets or gun violence as problems revolving around individuals being personally responsible. This allows them to gain power by appealing to those who stand to gain from a lack of government oversight. Those who state that the problems that arise from a lack of regulations on both our financial markets and the purchasing and owning of weapons played the other side of the same coin. They gained their power by appealing to those who, though may not have understood the characteristics of good regulations, would follow any candidate promising to pass laws to regulate the markets and the purchase and ownership of weapons.

Those who claim to have a monopoly on understanding our social problems usually have one-dimensional views of our problems such as illustrated by the above examples. Yes, legitimate gun ownership involves being a responsible individual, but we need limits to partially control the actions of those who are not responsible people. Thus, we need to balance individual responsibility with reasonable gun control laws.

And yes, we need the protection of private property in order to be successful in the business world. But the business world has responsibilities to the other parts of society and thus property rights must be balanced with regulations that control how businesses  treat other businesses people as well as the rest of us. In addition, businesses must pay for the infrastructure resources they consume which are provided by the state and society. Such includes paying for the kind of humane society in which businesses can be successful and that includes helping those in need.

So the one word that is not sponsoring the campaigns of those seeking power is the word 'balance.' In other words, many of our social problems require that we define and approach them using the concerns of multiple perspectives. Thus the word 'balance' applies because we mix and match competing concerns and perspectives. For example we have to allow for property rights, regulations, and taxes when creating laws and a cultural ethic toward conducting business. And often, achieving balance requires that we surrender some of the power we would use to advance our own agenda.

So from all what has been written here, are there any candidates for public office from either the 3rd parties, the Republicans, or the Democrats who are applying a balanced approach in both defining our social problems as well as in proposing solutions to them? If you know of any, please leave a comment on this blogpost.


  

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