Re: Origins of Political Beliefs

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Apr 29 2001 - 11:35:51 MDT

On Saturday, April 28, 2001 11:25 PM James J. Hughes wrote:
> In my parlance, majoritarian means trying to building a political
> party/movement that can win a majority of folks to support it. In
> I'm not very majoritarian, since most of my political passions
> taxation, drug legalization, polygamy legalization, world government,
> minimum guaranteed income, Mars colonization, freedom for transhuman
> enhancements, etc.) are supported by less than 5% of the population. But
> since winning these policies electorally requires majorities, there is
> little choice but to try to win over the masses. In that respect
> majoritarian is just the opposite of elitist, putschist or John Galtist.

There are some problems with this. One, it is not the common definition of
majoritarianism. The common definition is "the philosophy or practice
according to which decisions of an organized group should be made by a
numerical majority of its members." If you want to change definitions,
that's okay, but it can be confusing to others, especially if you redefine
them in a way that makes them politically or morally charged. The way you
use the word, you are making into a false choice between being a
majoritarian or being an elitist.

Two, it's contentless on the philosophical level. Someone who holds vastly
different views than you and a vastly different political philosophy could
be a majoritarian. One could be, e.g., for censorship, legally mandated
racial segregation, English-only, publicly beating homosexuals, and killing
drug users and still be a majoritarian. It seems like only a tactical move.
Remeber, according to polls, the majorities in some places accept some of
the views.

Three, in actual extant societies, it's rarely a majority that decides. In
the US, hardly a majority of the population even votes. (I'm using voting
here because this is the means we get majoritarian rule, no?) In all
nations, too, there are limits on who can vote. Typically felons, children,
the legally insane, and recent immigrants are not allowed to vote. So, you
still have to define which majority. Also, if, as in the US, a majority of
even those who can vote don't, then are you willing to not certify an
elections results. (As a side issue, would this mean the offices are not
filled or decisions are not made -- or that the status quo is maintained? I
bring this up because school board elections in most of the US usually net
less than 10% of the registered voters. Other elections typically get four
or five times that many voters. What would you recommend in such

Fourth, a minor point is that Ayn Rand basically believed in convincing the
majority too. She was not a radical democrat for sure, but she thought, in
the long run, the majority rules. Her view was, of course, that any
movement always starts with one person or a tiny minority than influences
more and more if and until it reaches prominence.

As for John Galt, he was more a separatist than a putschist. The
juxtaposition kind of makes me think you believe there's no difference.
Someone who wants to otherthrow a government is a lot different than someone
who just wants out.

> >Which is so trivial an assertion as to be of no consequence whatsoever.
> Apparently not so trivial that it failed to give you any humility in the
> certitude of your own beliefs. But then, since you don't come from a
> libertarian family or environment, converts are often the most fervent
> evangelists.

Which is pure ad hominem -- even if true.:) I think one problem with the
context argument is that it does not get us anywhere. I came from a
basically Leftist familial background, though throughout my life I was
exposed to people from various political and apolitical camps, from
Situationists to neoNazis. I suspect all of us have this too. I didn't
spend most of my time, with my family. I was in a government school for
most of my waking hours or with friends. Now, all of these people weren't
libertarians. Most were either, in American parlance, Liberals,
Conservatives, or Moderates.

My point is not to say, well, we can never know, but that just arguing from
backgrounds does offer us the answers to political or any problems. The
point should be to transcend our backgrounds. If we can't do that, then
forget this thread and let's talk about areas we can work on together.

> I'm sure that's comforting to you, that your libertarianism is simply the
> result of reason and an open mind, but I feel the same way about my
> If the degree to which you disagree with your parents and school about
> politics was an indicator of the degree to which reason guides your
> politics, skinhead Nazis would be the most reasonable of all.

Let's take this to another level. What is the purpose of politics? What
needs does it answer? In other words, why politics?

> >> But there is no certainty in values or politics,
> >Here's a loathable self-defeating statement.
> Well, there are some wonderful French philosophers I could recommend you
> read, such as Camus, Foucault and Lyotard, but I suppose you probably
> already have.

I would recommend Camus. Foucault is another story. I think he basically
distorts the facts to fit his theories and even hides these behind dense
prose. Of course, I'm reading him in translation, but that goes for Camus
too.:) I have yet to get to Lyotard or a host of other thinkers...

To stick with Foucault, read Karl von Schriltz's "Foucault on the Prison:
Torturing History to Punish Capitalism" (in _Critical Review_ 13(3-4), the
current issue on newstands now). Focusing on _Discipline and Punish_, von
Schriltz shows how Foucault "reconfigure[s] history" to support his

I think there is some certainty in these areas, but it has to be worked at.
Or, better, one can at least find out the wrong way to do things. I think
it was Georges Clemenceau who responded to the idea of uncertainty and
relativism in history with something like, "We might not be able to tell
what caused World War One, but anyone who claims Belgium invaded Germany is
quite wrong." (This applies to political philosophy as well and not just
because history should inform political thought.)

> For me, it all comes back to Hume, and the unbridgeable gap between the Is
> and the Ought. One can prove the Is, but the Ought is always, at root, a
> leap of faith. If you have an airtight reason why your idea about the Good
> is better than mine, I'd love to hear it.

What about the bridge offered by Rand in her and Nathaniel Branden's _The
Virtue of Selfishness_?


Daniel Ust
    See more of my droolings at:

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