By Principle, not Desire

By Principle, not Desire


B: Let me define as “politicians” those would-be public servants who promise to do what they perceive to be what the majority wants (i.e., “people-pleasers”), and as statesmen those elected officials who do for the government what they feel is best for it, regardless of how the public feels.  You might have noticed, that sometime over the past couple hundred years or so, the U.S. ceased to be ruled by statesmen, and has instead been ruled by politicians.

A: Was it ever ruled by statesmen?

B: I’m not sure, but regardless, why shouldn’t it be now?  One problem with being ruled by politicians is that those groups of people to whom those politicians in office pander benefit, in general, more than those to whom they don’t – speaking of “benefit” as receiving whatever is desired.  But whatever is desired isn’t necessarily best for the people, even if the majority votes for it.

Here’s a somewhat simple example: suppose some politician promises $1,000 for every person who votes for him, if he’s elected.  This would undoubtedly be attractive to a large number of people.  But is it “right,” morally speaking?  How’s the politician going to finance that, anyway?  A natural question, which, when it is asked of the politician, may yield the reply, “with raised taxes on the rich.”  In other words, a large number of people will be rewarded at the expense of some few.  Sure, everybody wants some extra dough…but is it a proper thing to exact it of somebody else, regardless of who they are?  How could that be called anything but legalized theft?

Another example may involve people being faced with the situation of risking the loss of their job if they don’t take away certain rights of other citizens: suppose some governmental institution, employing many local residents, supposes that it will lose its funding if taxes are not increased.  Each person who works for that institution will then have the choice to vote for the tax increase – reducing freedom, both for themselves and for others, to some degree – or not, resulting in the potential loss of his job.  Voting for what’s “right,” whatever it is in this case, may be especially difficult.

The problem here, as with many other circumstances, is that people may be tempted more to vote for what may benefit themselves and those they care about the most, rather than what is morally correct – which may be best not only for the community and country as a whole, but it may also ironically turn out to be best even for those very people in the first place.

A: People are out to get “theirs,” as always.  And what’s wrong with that?  Not everybody agrees on what is “morally right” anyway, so what’s the point in trying to vote according to what’s supposedly right?

B: I believe that people can at least agree on one fundamental government tenet, which should be that freedom of citizens should be preserved as completely as possible, even enlarged if possible, and not at the expense of others’ freedom, unless those others may have forfeited it by criminal actions or similar behaviors.  Perhaps this preservation of freedom shouldn’t be described as “moral,” but regardless, it’s my opinion that it should be of utmost importance, even on parallel with moral behavior.

What’s wrong with people who are only seeking “theirs,” and those politicians who pander to them, is that they typically try to lobby for laws that will give them special privileges, while taking away the freedom of others.  Once others get wind that the law is so flexible, they move to alter the law to their own liking themselves.  And what can the law do?  When it’s already given exceptions to one group, how can it withhold itself from another group, in the interest of fairness and justice?

If citizens would take it upon themselves to always vote according to what preserves the greatest amount of freedom for everyone involved, then voting becomes a hugely important responsibility indeed.  And everybody should take that responsibility seriously, to the point that even when it inconveniences them personally, they should still vote for whatever upholds the ideal of preserving the greatest amount of freedom (for individuals), regardless of how they feel about others (meaning whether or not they approve of another’s beliefs, habits, lifestyle, etc.).  The degree to which this kind of discipline is exercised not only by each voting citizen, but also by each business or organization (public or private) in conducting its own affairs, will dictate the speed by which we approach an ideal state of unity.

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