Letter to Jason: My Political Views
Some time ago my good friend Jason Tse wrote a blog post concerning his political views, and asked that I do the same. I protested that it is impossible for me to consolidate my political opinions into a concise and comprehensible bullet-list of precepts; yet he insisted that I would be able to, and I thus set out now, months later, to fulfill his request and prophecy.
Here is Jason’s post:
I find myself in some degree or other of agreement with each of Jason’s six principles. In particular, I align myself with the paradoxes of points one and two and points three and four, the precept of point six, and generally the ideal of point five (though I take this last one as a given, and factor it into my aesthetic and cultural tastes rather than my political understanding.)
Perhaps it would be fruitful for me to exhibit my influences, codes, and models.
The two primary sources of my political information are a Texan geopolitical think-tank, called Stratfor, and a centrist-rightist magazine that comments on American politics and policy, called The American Interest. I take from both their analyses and their worldviews.
The American Interest:
Two codes which have generally shaped my view on things are as follows.
I am, in strategic terms, generally of the Realist school, but a blend between traditional power-balancing Realism and its American brother, a more maritime, international-system-maintaining Realism. Hans Morgenthau’s Six Principles of Political Realism, particular its first four precepts, strongly inform my views.
Temperamentally, I am of that odd mix of conservatism and progressivism that historians will one day define as ‘Liberal’ but my conservative intuitions far outweigh my progressive ones. This, by the way, is not the contemporary American idea of conservatism, but a far subtler and more stately notion of it. Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles, particularly the first, fourth, sixth, ninth, and tenth, are endemic within my thought.
So far as models are concerned, I have many. But there are two in particular, who, however much I disagree with them on a wide array of philosophical and governmental issues, generally exhibit the broad ideas I deem necessary for the proper political ends. These are Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt.
Now that the reader has a general context and plenty of resources, I shall detail the points I believe to be salient to my political understanding:
A. Political Philosophy
- There is good and evil in all things, and thus all things should be seen as morally neutral- neither perfect goodness nor total evil on Earth.
- Balance and Progress are the two principles which govern the world of politics. All political entities have forces within them driving their development, not necessarily towards a specific end or good- this is Progress. All political entities face a variety of internal forces and outer constraints, in relation to themselves and in relation to each other- this is Balance. These manifest politically in the Balance of Power and in Political Development.
- Correspondingly, Prudence and Vigor are the two principles which can bring Balance and Progress under control. Prudence weighs all entities and interests to find the proper place and proportion of each in relation to all others, thus attaining Balance. Vigor keeps all entities developing at their natural maximum speeds, harnessing their natural power and keeping them moving, thus attaining Progress.
- It is primarily by internal drives and external constraints that political activity is influenced and determined. No political entity can be considered without also a consideration of its physical and political environment. Thus political evils tend to produce political goods, as territorial insecurity leads to a drive for territorial consolidation. Men are rather irrational, but they are rational enough that they know how to pursue their interest.
- Human beings are flawed and imperfectible, self-interested and self-justyifying. They indeed have potential, and indeed can improve; but their capacity should not be overestimated. These qualities are present among all humans, regardless of race, class, religion, personality, or station. Human Nature is of critical importance for political study.
- A series of objective laws governs the universe and governs human nature, while a series of moral laws is perceived by human nature. These laws do not change, though circumstances and manifestations always do change. They form the foundations of human society.
- There is no moral progress among human collectives- only complexification and simplification.
- Though all manifestations of human activity- economic, intellectual, social, cultural, etc- affect politics, the primary factor has always been and will always be power.
- There is no “Ideal Society.” The closest representation of one might be one where the largest possible number of individuals are reasonably safe, reasonably healthy, and reasonably wise. Clearly, these evolve with history, and no set definition can create the ideal for which all posterity ought to strive.
B. Contemporary Policy
- Maintain unity, order and stability within the boundaries of the United States.
- Maintain favorable balances of power with neighbors, to preclude all political threats to the homeland.
- Maintain favorable balances of power around the world, to preclude the rise of any powers which could potentially threaten the homeland. Where a balance of power is threatened, intervene either actively or passively, through force or through manipulation; use whichever tools would be the most prudent and the most effective in each situation.
- Maintain the Anglo-American international trading and cultural system.
- Seek out opportunities to better the American geopolitical situation when possible.
- Seek the proper level of economic regulation, to keep conditions safe for consumers, without stifling enterprise.
- Seek the proper level of vigorous investment in technology and infrastructure, the chief means of economic stimulation.
- Encourage private enterprise and innovation.
- Conduct systemic reform of bureaucracy in the interest of effective governance.
- Encourage localism in governance in all matters save those better served by national governance. Give people a stake in the governments that direct them. These need not necessarily be democracies or republics.
- Encourage public virtue.
As can be seen, I am no policy wonk, and have much to learn. But these form the cores of my political thought.