Hobbits & Hooligans

What kind of voter are you?

Just curious, do you consider yourself a Hobbit, a Hooligan or a Vulcan? Not sure?  Well, are you politically well informed?  Do you perhaps vote in accordance with your best buds, your BFFs, your clan, your family, friends or grossly defined political party (largely disregarding the issues associated with a particular candidate)?  You wouldn’t by chance make a habit of either choosing a candidate without even knowing who or what you are voting for or (perhaps more likely) do you not vote at all?  If you recognize yourself in two of these three descriptions, according to political philosopher Jason Brennan, you should be excluded from the voting rosters of your community.

Coming to a Voting Booth Near You

01 -theme imageHow would you like to be screened as a voter based on your knowledge of the proposed candidates and the issues surrounding any given election?  If you are well informed, know what is going on, can identify the platforms of those folks running for office, you must be a “Vulcan” and well worthy of casting your ballot.  On the other hand, if you are a “Hobbit” (not to be confused with the large-footed creatures of the Tolkien variety), if you possess negligible knowledge of or interest in politics, according to Mr. Brennan, you should hit the road as a voter.  You don’t get to vote anymore, or at least until you can prove your epistemic (knowledgeable) worth within the electoral arena. The same goes for “Hooligans”.  You might not be an apolitical Hobbit, but since you only want to emote and/or manipulate your way around the sociopolitical landscape, you don’t get to vote either. In a world fashioned by Mr. Brennan’s political ideas, your exclusion, along with that of the Hobbits, would insure (1) a purified, well-informed electorate worthy of the votes they cast and (2) a resulting team of elected officials (presumably) worthy of the offices they come to hold.

“We should experiment with apportioning political power
according to competence to use that power.”
~ Jason Brennan

What do you think about the above statement, this idea proposed by Georgetown University political scientist Jason Brennan advocates for some type of screening system for voter rights?  This notion, falling under the general title “epistocracy” attempts to advance the notion that voting should rest in the hands of “informed individuals” who possess the “knowledge” to “appropriately” elect government representatives to office. (Sound good so far?) Simply stated, some sort of metric—a test of political knowledge—would screen out those who should not vote due to their lack of knowledge of political issues.  What could possibly go wrong with such an idea?

Participatory Democracy

Should everyone have the right to vote? Why?  On what basis should anyone make such an assumption?  Furthermore, is “universal suffrage” a requirement of “democracy”? Should the freedom usually associated with the idea of “democracy” extend to (or perhaps embody) voting privileges?

against democracy coverWhen we think of “democracy” as an abstract concept, we usually imagine a sociopolitical arena in which The People are engaged with the ongoing governance of their macro and micro-level communities.  Democracy in common parlance usually includes the scent of “freedom”, “choice” and other lofty ideas often associated with a so-called free, open world (as opposed to fascism or some other more restrictive and coercive form of governance).  As journalist Fareed Zakaria so aptly pointed out, this general idea is perhaps better defined as “constitutional liberalism”.  “Democracy” more formally only involves voting, which we usually package with some notion of “rights”.   As such, if we really want to talk about democracy per se, then we should focus on voting—not freedom—as its central theme.  If “democracy” is about voting and the system is in certain ways demeaned by lack of voter knowledge and political diligence, perhaps we should not even seek such a lofty egalitarian ideal at all.  Instead, as Mr. Brennan proposes in his book Against Democracy, perhaps we should strive to achieve a more pragmatic “epistocracy”—a system which seeks efficient governance as its primary goal rather than voter freedom.

This theme of pitting electoral pragmatism over against freedom is picked up by Arlen and Rossi in their article “Is this what democracy looks like (never mind epistocracy) ”. In this critical analysis of epistocracy (which appeared in the journal “Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy”), Gordon Arlen and Enzo Rossi take issue with Jason Brennan’s assumptions regarding the potential efficacy of epistocracy.  In the article’s title along with the title of Mr. Brennan’s own book, they highlight the fact that the exclusionary ideas espoused by notions of epistocracy make no attempt to masquerade as democracy, certainly not one built on inclusion.  In Mr. Brennan’s own words, inclusion is not the goal; exclusion is the ideal.

Often, our less formal, more colloquial definitions of “democracy” imply that we are “free” and that together we govern as an inclusive whole.  In a zeal for such inclusion, one of our colleagues within the seekingGood community has promoted the idea of a “draft Congress” in which all voting age people would be obligated to serve in Congress similar to jury duty.  To say that some of us voiced strong objection to this proposal is an understatement.  After the laughter subsided, we offered rather strenuous objections to the idea of a House of Representative (a “House of Commons” ?), for instance, full of “just plain folk” having no experience with policy, legislative process nor the  research and skillful negotiations necessary to successfully carry out the duties of a responsible government representative. Interestingly, the grounds for many of those objections when applied to voters, are exactly the issues raised by Mr. Brennan, namely, that if folks have no idea what is going on, why should “we” (who work at understanding politics and its implications) subject ourselves to the legislative opinions of the less informed?  Mr. Brennan takes this objection further, suggesting that democracy might not be a “just” system.Proposing what he calls an “antiauthority tenet”, Mr. Brennan suggests that…

When some citizens are morally unreasonable, ignorant, or incompetent about politics, this justifies not permitting them to exercise political authority over others.  It justifies either forbidding them from holding power or reducing the power they have in order to protect innocent people from their incompetence.  (Against Democracy, p. 17)

Comparing the “right” to vote over against other rights, Mr. Brennan offers “A right to participate in politics seems fundamentally different [from choice of job, spouse, diet, for instance] because it involves imposing your will upon other people. So I’m not sure that any of us should have that kind of right, at least not without any responsibilities.

In this regard, the epistocratic idea holds that if the entire community is subject to the expressed relative ignorance of certain individuals, perhaps a means of excluding those individuals from the electorate is not only practical but an attempt to achieve justice for the population as a whole.

Exclusion Principle

03 -portrait - stphen brennan - 2In principle, the United States champions and has worked to achieve universal suffrage—everybody gets to vote (again, at least in theory). For many of us the very notion that we might systematically exclude certain people from our voting rosters is unthinkable. Is it? Before dismissing this notion out of hand (as some do), consider that a large number of people in the U.S. have no interest in voting and, in fact, do not vote.  Presumably, inveterate non-voters could not care less whether the U.S. implemented a voter screening system.  Such “Hobbits” would simply opt out of the process voluntarily.  Pair this with our routine practice of excluding children within a certain age range as well as certain individuals deemed “mentally incompetent” from the voting rosters.  The reason for such exclusion is a presumed inability of these individuals to vote “appropriately” by virtue of their lack of “knowledge” of the purpose and intentional outcome of such a ballot casting activity.  Is this exclusion so different from exclusion on the basis of a general lack of political knowledge?   Considering Mr. Brennan’s search of better voters, some believe he has latched onto a logical inconsistency in our electoral system. Indeed, at least on the surface, the epistocratic idea of exclusion and our common practice of excluding young and mentally challenged individuals from voting appear identical in principle. This epistocracy idea is not so far from common exclusionary practices. Since we already implement a degree of competence-based exclusion, Mr. Brennan basically asks ‘why not exclude adult persons who lack the political knowledge to make appropriate choices?  What is the downside?

Mechanics of Exclusion

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This idea of exclusion is a harsh one if considered from certain perspectives.  However, from his book and from various interviews, one might tend to come away with mixed reaction to the somewhat tempered (and at times, less than specific) proposals actually offered by Mr. Brennan as indicated in an excerpt of a Vox interview below:

Jason Brennan:

Everyone can vote, even children. No one gets excluded. But when you vote, you do three things.

 First, you tell us what you want. You cast your vote for a politician, or for a party, or you take a position on a referendum, whatever it might be. Second, you tell us who you are. We get your demographic information, which is anonymously coded, because that stuff affects how you vote and what you support.

 And the third thing you do is take a quiz of very basic political knowledge. When we have those three bits of information, we can then statistically estimate what the public would have wanted if it was fully informed.

 Under this system, it’s not really the case that you have more power than I do. We can’t really point to any individual and say you were excluded, or your vote counted for more. The idea is to gauge what the public would actually want if it had all the information it needed.

As to what is included in the “test”, Mr. Brennan offers the following:

Let democracy decide what goes on the test. Randomly select, say, 500 citizens. Pay them a bunch of money and pass a law that says they can take time off from work without any kind of detriment to their career. Let them deliberate with one another, let them work together. They get to decide what’s going to go on the test. And then we use that test to weigh votes.

Mr. Brennan’s proposals represent just one idea.  However, Murphy’s Law applied to general processes suggests that if we can corrupt a system, we will.  So what becomes the negative fallout from such a corrupted system? In a system which actively seeks egalitarianism (as the U.S. system purports to do), failure of fairness might occur.   In a system which actively seeks exclusionary hierarchy, failure of fairness is likely.

As noted above “the test” could be generated “democratically”.  However, voting districts as currently determined also represent the result of the so-called democratic behavior of democratically elected officials. Can epistocracy successfully escape the commonly occurring abuse currently afflicting the electoral process (e.g., gerrymandering)?  In a Vox interview, even Mr. Brennan himself admits that the use of some sort of screening test is perhaps the worse way to implement epistocracy. On specifics such as this, a Brennan-fashioned epistocracy begins to waver a bit.

Beneficiaries (Who Wins?)

05 - epistocratic control 01Are so-called Vulcans really free from Hooligan-like skewed intentions?  Of course, the Vulcan metaphor is just that—symbolic—and inevitably breaks down at a certain point.  However, pushing it to its logical conclusion within its own metaphoric reference, anyone who has actually watched Star Trek immediately realizes that Vulcans, while utilizing logic, tend toward a restrictive conservatism and rigid, even dogmatic exclusion of “others” not like (which is to say, “not as worthy as”) themselves.

Does or should an electoral process guided by and limited to a political intelligencia result in “better” governance?  Who among us actually believes the inevitable meritocracy created in the wake of an entrenched epistocracy will ultimately benefit “common people” (the implication here, of course, is that so-called “common people” will not become an active strata of the epistocratic ruling class)?

The general notion of a knowledge-based screening system to purify voting outcomes appears to contain a logical fallacy. A system based purely on knowledge ignores the ever presence of intent.  Indeed Mr. Brennan’s “Hooligan” category brackets a section of the electorate that might lack political knowledge but that do tend to latch onto pet issues, their votes driven more by their emotions and ideological attachments than by reason (can someone say “Tea Party”?).  The dubious assignment of detachment to so-called Vulcan voters notwithstanding, this Hooligan category represents the most likely seat of the most destructive uses of any kind of exclusionary system, least of all one based of some contrived notion of knowledge differentiation.  That someone successfully answers a set of questions does not mitigate against their potential Hooliganism.  That a voter is knowledgeable about political issues does not guarantee that voter will cast ballots in a “helpful” or “community friendly” manner.

To his credit, Mr. Brennan is aware of the essential disparity between knowledge and intent as reflected in his response to the Vox interview excerpted above.  The intent issue apparently is meant to surface through queries regarding the potential voter’s affiliations, interests, etc. (in other words “what do you want”?). The assumption here is that the voter’s responses present predictive metrics for understanding the voter’s intent.  And yet how are such responses, once collected, to be evaluated? Who is to perform such evaluations?

Incidental occurrences of intentional hooliganism, despite knowledge, can represent potential problems for any attempt at epistocracy. Worse, however, implementation of such a system could easily lead to sociopolitical stratification based on a knowledge economy.  The political arena becomes a free market system in which so-called “free knowledge” represents the currency driving voter access.  This “free knowledge” is already present in our current system (just like the illusion that everyone is free to succeed economically). However, the epistocratic difference presents a systematic enforcement of this stratification possibly devolving into a sociopolitical caste system (the dividing lines of which could appear curiously similar if not completely coterminous with current lines or economic inequality). The general notion of epistocracy seems tinged with the same inherent falsehood as the notions behind so-called “trickle down economics”—a few rise to power while all others are permanently left behind.

Some of us within the seekingGood community literally spend many hours per day reading, attending to various media sources and discussing political issues, all of which we consider  avocational obligations.  Others maintain more “normal” lives that require the focus of the majority of their available time.  Should those who are more active represent those who bear the lion’s share of the governance of the community? Perhaps. Perhaps not.  What do you think? Why? If you (like most people) do not spend the majority of your free time focused on political matters, would you want to be excluded from the voting rosters of your community? A person’s political knowledge does not insure the mitigation of that person’s less than egalitarian intent.  In such cases, some folks are going to be left behind precisely because of the intentions of certain “officially knowledgeable” participant in the epistocracy.

Left Behind (Who Loses?)

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As noted above, any kind of exclusion of the sort proposed by the idea of epistocracy most likely leads to some form of stratification.  Indeed, by his own admission, Mr. Brennan seeks to cull the electorate of those who would sully the system with ignorance and malicious (or at least self-serving) intent. In theory, political knowledge wins the day.  But who loses?  Those in power (in any system) will too often, by whatever means possible, gain more power and attempt to hold it, again through any means possible. Vulcan idealism notwithstanding, it is what we do.

While the conflation of (knowledge-based) capability and intention can lead to abuse in the hands of the knowledgeably unscrupulous, another danger lurks within this dynamic. The fact that a voter might not possess “adequate” knowledge to appease what Mr. Brennan calls a “competence principle”, does not begin to address the more positive (community oriented) motivations that might drive a person’s voting behavior. Such intentionality, unlike many Hooligans, might find personally meaningful expression and inspiration in the act of voting, regardless of the specifics of the ballot that is cast.  To lose access to this freedom of expression undercuts the sense of inclusion felt by such a voter, diminishing their self-empowerment within the society as a whole.  Even in situations where the deck is already stacked against the “common person” (as some might characterize many so-called democratic systems), the perception (or even the illusion) of self-direction and participation in governance can be vital to the cohesion of any given society’s health.  The rationalist presumptions naturally embedded in notions of epistocracy tend to ignore the real human cost of exclusion.

However, the question still remains—is the inherent messiness of widespread voter inclusion worth the deleterious effects of such egalitarian efforts?  Some might say the presidential election of 2016 and its aftermath are a clear indication that some corrective to the U.S. electoral process is in order. As such, given that a full participatory democracy largely populated by political ignorance or overzealous ideological intent is not a desirable condition, some form of electoral remediation does seem appropriate.  But what should it look like?  Is some form of epistocracy really the answer? In an exclusionary system, some portion of “us” gets left behind. Some portion of We, the People, becomes disbanded as a vital force within the society.  Is this cost one we can afford?

Political Participation Corrupts (?)

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A subtlety in the epistocracy idea (not necessarily Mr. Brennan’s construction of it) is that we need to consider the difference between the ideas (1) everyone should vote so everyone is represented (2) everyone should have the opportunity to vote.  On the surface, these ideas might seem the same.  They are not.  The first focuses on political participation. It promotes the idea that all people should participate in the political process.  Only this level of participation insures that their individual interests become a part of routine governance.  The second idea is about freedom, suggesting that everyone should have the opportunity to vote is a different issue.  The latter represents what Mr. Brennan addresses—that perhaps everyone should not have the opportunity to contribute ignorance into the political space.

Regarding the first issue, that everyone should vote—which is to say everyone should exercise some involvement in politics—represents a general notion most often supported in modern democratic life.  This idea also represents the antithesis of Jason Brennan’s ideas about governance.  Mr. Brennan proposes that blanket participation in the political process promotes partisan divides, corrupting the intent of such participation.  He highlights the proposals of philosopher John Stuart Mill and historian Alexis de Tocqueville who advance the notion that when the public becomes involved in political life, they become more aware of the needs of others.  These theorists ground their assumptions in the notion that such participants learn to react with more sensitivity to the lives of those around them. Mr. Brennan counters this idea (which he calls the “education argument”) with the suggestion that political participation not only does not make folks more aware of the need of others, but actually creates hyper-partisanism.  If increased political participation is the avenue for creating “better voters”, the outcome is exactly the opposite.  Proposals such as that of our colleague who advocates for a draft Congress plays into the hands of the Hooliganism Mr. Brennan seeks to combat.

Believing that increased political participation is not the correct path for improving the knowledge capability of the electorate, Mr. Brennan does not advocate for increasing the knowledge of voters at all. Instead, he takes an exclusionary approach—to allow the level of political ignorance to remain and to merely exclude those not already informed.  Here is where the issue of motivation arises.  Why would he (or anyone “like” him) adopt such an approach?

Rather than attempting to level the field through some form of education, why choose a more exclusionary approach, building a mote around a castle to keep the barbarians out? Does this not violate the intent of “democracy” and a “free society”?

The simple answer to this question is boldly stated in the title of Mr. Brennan’s book: Against Democracy.  Inclusion is not the goal of any epistemic approach. Epistocratic practices forsake the idea of participatory democracy, opting instead for a stratified meritocracy, a hierarchy.  The Brennan reaction to the side effects of political participation are not necessarily incorrect.  However, the use of such an argument in support of an exclusionary system appears somewhat misguided, even myopic. Epistocracy, at least in the form currently proposed, appears to represent a process of paving a highway to a place “we” do not want to be, a place of stratified restriction and politically expressive limitation rather than freedom.  Jason Brennan’s primary focus on the mechanical operation of voter-based systems trumps any understanding of the human experience and benefits of collective participation.

Self-governance Ennobles

What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

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Seeking True Power

Epistocracy primarily focuses on altering an electoral system rather than on the electorate, on improving mechanics of voting rather than the acumen of voters, and on altering the efficiency of processes rather than the capabilities of people.  Through such an approach, power is expressed through an inherently coercive system which subjects people to its control. Epistocracy presents control of the populace as its primary goal rather than empowerment of us by us. Ultimately, the epistocratic ideal obliterates the notion “We, the People” (who embody a society) in favor of herding the masses (residing at the base of a societal hierarchy and directed toward the agenda of a ruling class).

In this regard, to the extent to which we can separate the notion of “power” from ideas of “domination”, Nietzsche’s incite applies to the question of the appropriateness of epistocracy, although not necessarily the way you might think.  Instead of defining “power” as “control over others”, we can just as easily define it as personal and collective “wherewithal” to express ourselves among others.  In his essay On the Psychology of the Unconsciousness, Carl Jung stated that “Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking.  The one is the shadow of the other.”  However, we need not, as Jung’s words suggest, juxtapose the idea of power over against love, for instance, assuming the two to represent polar opposites.  Rather, just as expressed through the Eights of the Enneagram, for example, we might consider power the capability to express magnanimity in the world.

Seeking True Value

09- value 2Jason Brennan advocates that an unfettered voting populace is not practical in that the end product is not valuable to the society. But what represents true societal valuable? Furthermore, by what metric should we determine the most salient value within a society?  In a world racked with widespread famine, for example, is cannibalism an appropriate solution? In such a world, if we seek to preserve humanity, does a course of feeding on ourselves provided a reasonable alternative to starvation? If so, who is for dinner?  Just so, in an electoral climate in which ignorance and malfeasance appears widespread, is the system and the processes therein (regardless of their presumed efficiency) more important than the people that system is intended to serve? Furthermore, if this system is not designed to serve all equally, on what basis do we determine the most appropriate lines of stratification?

The system only becomes more important, more societally “valuable” than its people, when that society has decided who wins and who loses, when the hierarchy of the value of individuals has been determined and codified in a system that successfully maintains itself at the expense of its people. Epistocracy represents a system of exclusion, a pragmatic facilitation of a system of governance which pays less attention to people and their psychosocial needs and desires per se with more focus on the practicalities of controlling that society. If “of the people and for the people” is a valuable idea for a society, indeed, if such an idea is a corner stone of a free, participatory system of governance, epistocracy falls short.

Seeking True Education

10 - mandela - powerful-education 2Instead of enacting an electoral triage as epistocracy advocates, education rather than exclusion might present a more useful, long-term solution to our electoral shortcomings.  However, “education” here does not refer to the heuristic side effects of increased political participation as proposed by Mill and others.  Jason Brennan suggests that such an approach to political education is ultimately counterproductive. He is, at least in part, probably correct. Tossing a person into the deep end of the pool might not result in the person’s death.  However, does such a person actually learn to swim?  In fact, the person, through clawing and sputtering, might learn how not to drown.  Swimming might come later, through practice.  Swimming well probably comes only through instruction.

We might employ the “fishing construct” (giving a fish vs teaching fishing) to provide some clarity here.  A more “informed” electorate might develop through increasing the political knowledge of the general populace.  This approach falls into the “giving a fish” category.  But who is to provide this so-called “education”?  Most likely, such efforts will amount to little more than thinly veiled facades for propaganda (as much so-called “news” currently represents). We could attempt to teach the populace to “fish”, or, in this case, to teach the general public methods of gaining accurate information about current events and issues.  This is a worthwhile endeavor which preserves the personal choice of individuals.  This allows the responsibility for their decisions to rest firmly in their own hands. (Indeed, this blog, initiated in the midst of the post U.S. presidential election confusion and dismay of 2016, and has been maintained since January of 2017, was launched with the explicit purpose of this “teaching to fish” intent).

We might, however, consider a third option which goes one step further.  Instead of just giving folks political “facts” (fish) or providing avenues of access to information (teaching to fish), we could attempt to instill a sense of civic duty and responsibility toward each other as experienced and expressed through routine socio-political action (teaching the love of fishing).

Seeking True Nobility

11 - crown -.2When you think of “nobility”, what comes to mind? Consider your own thoughts on this word and the synonyms you routinely attach to it.  Compare that with a definition offered on Wikipedia.  Now, expand ideas about royalty, social status, and privilege to include yourself—that you, “just plain folk” should be the nobility of what we like to think of as a free and open society.  If you are not “noble” then how do you become so?  Consider developing a love of “fishing”, so to speak.  Consider adopting habits and interests that expand the urgency of EveryDayLife to include a broader, more civic minded set of exigencies of each day’s activities. Consider becoming noble through self-elevation into the “ruling class”. The epistocratic approach likely results in a general populace that is disenfranchised relative to its own governance—a “reverse coronation” of common nobility. Conversely, a society peopled by individuals who feel a personal responsibility to knowledgeably participate in the routine governance of their own lives perpetuates an ongoing desire to not merely to “know” but to express that knowledge within the society and its governance.

Human experience can be conceived as consisting of desire, action and outcomes. Epistocracy attempts to intercede in this progression at the action stage, attempting to control the actions of individuals in order to achieve a specific outcome (ultimately not necessarily set by those controlled individuals). Such is the nature of the will to power that Jung rightly juxtaposes over against love. The education paradigm described above, unlike Mill’s proposals, is not about the act of political participation.  Rather, it focuses on the desire and inner sense of responsibility that becomes, that is, which grows into such participation.  Unlike epistocratic ideas, this more empowering educational focus addresses the beginning of the progression, at the desire stage.  If the findings of Moral Foundations Theory are to be believed, most of us place “caring” (avoiding harm) high on our moral scales.  As such, if we are honest about what we want for ourselves, by extension, the noblesse oblige of the common human is to extend a hand of caring toward others. All political participants, stripped of hierarchy and presumptive privilege, become the “nobles” of the land.  Their nobility is grounded in neither heredity nor economic nor intellectual privilege. Rather, each individual becomes noble through responsible participation in the lives of others as expressed through civic actions. The crown no longer indicates hierarchical status relative to others but rather, true nobility represents a self-respect relative to ourselves precisely because of the way we relate to others.

Seeking Ourselves

12 - we-shall-not-cease - 2We are not so different from one another.  As one of our colleagues likes to say, “everybody has a mom”—the point being that we all share common values and desires which can be accommodated if we are willing to allow others the same benefits we seek. The John Stuart Mill “education solution”, rejected by Jason Brennan, seeks to thrust uninitiated individuals into political arenas for which they are most likely not prepared.  The idea is that those individuals will become more aware of the needs of others. However, perhaps a more useful approach—one suggested by philosophers and spiritual leaders throughout the ages—is to understand and become more sensitive to the needs of the world by better understanding ourselves. We already know what other people want to the extent to which we know ourselves. As Nelson Mandela suggests, education is the most power weapon we can use to change the world.  Just so, education about ourselves is the most power weapon we can use to change ourselves, and through that life altering experience, to have the world change through us.  Such self-education must rest in a profound and honest self-appraisal of what we think we really want.  The true test of the worth of such desire comes when we consider the seat and eventual outcome of such desire. If from a place of ego-fulfillment, we will always require some form of control structure to winnow the populace with regard to who benefits and who loses. (“For me” constructs always require a “not me” shadow side). However, if our desire arises from a place of magnanimity, we are automatically extending the benefits (who wins) of that desire fulfillment to others.  Such desire defines us as for The People . Such nobility expresses a desire that everyone wins; there are no scapegoats.

By what ideals do and should we direct out society and ourselves? Necessity might dictate that we implement certain stop-gap measures in order to achieve the semblance of free, democratic ends for an intended free, democratic society.  But such bandages should remain clearing in the temporary category and never supersede our more profound, even Utopian ideals. A confident populace that believes in its own sense of self-determination rather than ego-driven predilection toward hierarchy, dominance and coercion is vital to a society which purports to represent “freedom and justice for all.”  Epistocratic ideals do not achieve such ends, nor is such the intent.

A truly free society governed by the people for the people represents a society of individuals consisting of a self-indwelling in which we are who we are rather than merely constituting the dueling voter factions wielded by ruling parties. Individual identity transcends itself by identification with a larger human ideal of mutual, universal care. This ideal settles into more “local” expression as an identification with a government (rather than an ideological tribe) precisely because each individual feels herself or himself to be an active part of the society’s governance.  The result is the Good Citizen grounded in a love of a country, a system, the elected officials and a presence in the world all of which generates pride and personal ownership not just through willing but also eager participation—a love of governing.

Seeking Good

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Change of the profound sort described here, change of ourselves toward becoming “better” individuals, “better” collections of individuals and “better” collections of collections does not happen overnight.  Rather, with baby steps, day after day, we can become more of what we believe we should be.  We have previously eluded to such change in previous posts, most notably the Inside/Outside activity described in a post from  March 2018.  But possible methods of self-improvement that can eventually lift the worst electoral slackers among us are as varied as we are.  The seed of such change is a decision to do so—a love of improving.  Once begun, the journey produces itself.