Much has been made of populism for over the past several months. We've seen populism on both the conservative and liberal sides. We should note here that the Left in America does not have enough people to claim to be a populist movement.
And so the question that is implied, by the existence of the conservative and liberal flavors of populism, is which one should we choose? Here we should note that not all populism is really populism. Quite often, the Republican and Democratic Parties want to co-op the respective forms of conservative and liberal populism. However, when this occurs, populism dies for the people of a populist group become followers of the elites who have co-opted them. Many who followed Sanders during the Democratic Party primaries learned this unfortunate lesson after Hillary obtained enough delegates. As for the Tea Party, though it has some independence, it works either under the leadership of the Republican Party's elites or under rogue elites like President Trump.
What we should note about populism is that it isn't just a movement, it is a practice or method. The method or practice is that of the people making their voices heard by their representatives so that they have more say in governmental decisions.
In one sense, populism, like elite-centered rule, is a neutral state of affairs that becomes good or bad depending on the quality of decisions made. Of course the difference is that populism is democratic while elite-centered rule is not. But the value of populism depends on the quality of the decisions made by its participants. And the advantage of populism is that more voices are being heard and thus more concerns are, hopefully, being addressed in the decisions being made.
There are two traits that make populism more constructive than destructive. The first of these traits is that the people in a given populist movement are more 'person-oriented' rather than 'thing-oriented.' These terms come from Martin Luther King Jr. And what it is meant here is that people are counted as being more important than things. The things King had in mind were gadgets, profits, and property rights. But our problem with getting people to be more person-oriented than thing-oriented is that our Capitalist economic system is constantly teaching us that happiness is achieved through materialism, through the growing acquisition of things. And the reality that comes with people being more thing-oriented than person-oriented is that their focus will be UNNECESSARILY on increasing their acquisition of things for themselves and for those in their groups. This means competition starts to push sharing and cooperation out of the picture. We should note that we are talking about 'unnecessarily' increasing the obtaining of goods because there is nothing wrong with those who live in poverty to want and get the basics of life.
The second necessary trait for any populist movement that wants to contribute to society rather than take away from it is that it must open rather than insular. What is meant by a group being insular is that the group obtains all of its information about the world from its own members only. There is no learning from those outside the gruop. And because there is no learning from others, there is no need to listen to them. And why should those in an insular group listen to those outside when a group is insular because those outside the group have been demonized?
Without these two traits of being person oriented and not being insular, populism will merely maintain the status quo. That status quo is a king-of-the-hill competition between members of a society in order to see who gets to rule over all others.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10