I love politics because……?

Indecent exposure
Good Cop - Bad Cop


At the last Libertarian Party convention, we were approached by a few guys making a documentary about fringe parties. They want to find out what motivates people to fight for apparently hopeless causes. They interviewed a few of us during the convention and revisited some of us before, and after the federal election with some questions.

During the last follow-up sometimes in late November they did a ‘rapid fire questions’ session with me where I was supposed to complete sentences such as “I am a libertarian because…..”; “I love politics because……” 

I had to stop there as that was a question I could not answer. I DON’T LOVE politics, I don’t even like it. That is why I am a Libertarian. Because I HATE POLITICS. I want as little of it as possible. There is nothing I wish more than to be free from it. Again, that is why I am a Libertarian.

My wife is a bit resentful if the idea of me running in elections. In her mind, all politicians are dirty. Or corrupt, or stupid, or whatever negative adjective you can come up with. When I see how politics is conducted, I must agree with her, but that is far from being my only reason to dislike politics.
To understand why politics should be disliked, we need to understand what politics is.

What is politics?

It is a good question. Is it ideology or is it the practice? Is it idealism or is it cynicism? Is it diplomacy or is it corruption? Is it the expression of the ‘volonté général’ or is it just naked oppression? Is it a principled representation of political ideologies or a game of deal-making and compromises?
I asked a student of political science once what are they teaching them at university? His answer was: how to gain and retain power. That, I’m afraid, is what politics really is.

In a previous post, “The Failure of Politics” I offered two possible interpretations of politics, a positive and a negative one, the idea and the reality of politics. Here I will stick to a definition more in line with libertarian perspectives.

It can be said that there are two ways to acquire goods in this world, the economic way and the political way. The economic way is making or trading; work or voluntary exchange. The political way is acquiring it by force, fraud or proxy. We could also extend the idea to just about any kind of human action.
You can convince someone or shut him up. You can make love to someone or rape her. You can make a contract with or force it on someone.
The choice is always between free exchange and violence (or the threat of it).
Politics, as it is commonly understood is the institution of violence by proxy. Politics is what makes violence ‘civilised’. Democracy, the dictatorship of the majority is what makes it ‘justified’.
What is there to love about it?

I want to be ignorant

There is nothing I wish more than to be free of politics.
I wish I could be a geek. Trying to understand the past and to speculate about the future. Understanding the mind and the wonders of nature. To marvel about the wonders of technology and human achievement. I also wish I could be a beach or a ski bum. Trying to understand the wind, the waves, the snow and finding the best gear to handle them. There are many other things I could fill my life with, but I do not think that I have the luxury.

Ignorance is not bliss

At the beginning of World War II, the underground Hungarian Communist Party had 120 members. The Hungarian Buddhist society had 6,000. Nobody at that time would have thought that after the war Hungary will turn into a communist country. We live in a world where most people live either in blissful ignorance, complacency or denial. I know where it leads. I grew up in its miserable reality and I am seriously alarmed knowing how many people are unable to see where the path we are on leads us.

Altruism, however, is not the main reason why I am involved. I am involved not because I like it, not because I want to, but because politics does not leave me alone. No matter what I do, I get irritated by politics. It is in my face all the time. Every aspect of my life is touched and invariably made more difficult by politics. I cannot take a shower or turn on my light without being reminded of politics. I could try ignorance, complacency or denial, but lying to myself doesn’t really suits me.

The people who love politics are the ones who want to wield its intoxicating and addictive power.
I am involved in politics because I want to do whatever I can to help creating a world with less of it.

A world of freedom is a world without politics.

4 replies on “I love politics because……?”

  1. Dave Burns says:
    Equating economics with free exchange and politics with compulsion is not quite accurate, though it comes close. Economics is the business of the household or individual. Politics is the business of the city (polis) or the collective. Economic activity can include coercion, deception and unfair manipulation unless we create an enforcement regime that constrains it.
    Perhaps we could create such constraints without entering the area of politics. Would politics cease to exist? If we eliminate all collectively owned property, what remains for politics to accomplish? Well, office politics will remain, politics within organizations. And perhaps we inevitably must own certain resources (the ocean, perhaps?) in common.
    So I disagree with your implication that seeking economic power always creates a benefit and seeking political power always create harm (though perhaps this is a good short-hand). Legitimate power, whether economic or political, rests on the voluntary interaction among the participants within effective constraints that prohibit clear harm.
    • zorkthehun says:
      I am desperately trying to remember who came up with the idea of this distinction, but it is not talking the economy and politics as such, but about contrasting the economic WAY (cooperation) and the political way (coercion)
      How good the analogy is may be debatable, I find it illuminating.
      • Dave says:
        Franz Oppenheimer, I think. Albert Jay Nock picked it up. I don’t think it works as literal truth, metaphor, analogy, whatever. It is confusing. When a mugger steals your wallet, that is not politics and it is confusing to call it the political way of interacting and gaining wealth.
        I prefer to distinguish cooperation from coercion. While it is true that the economic way of interacting is mostly cooperative and politics throughout history has been primarily coercive, it does not line up perfectly. I prefer to say what I mean.
    • zorkthehun says:
      As I said, Dave, the meme is not mine, but I do find it somewhat useful and descriptive.
      I am not going to build a theory on it, but in certain contexts, describing voluntary exchanges as economic and coerced ones as political can be a good analogy.

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