Politics (Sometimes) giving people what they want
What is the point of government? • People want stuff! • Healthcare • Security • Education • Cat food • Shelter • Orange juice
Two faces of politics • Descriptive • Collecting facts • Making models • Predictions • Normative • How politics should work • How society should be organized • Who should get what • What is the best/worst form of government? • What is “best,” “fair?”
Politics is very political • Honest, rational debates are not always possible, because vested interests have a stake in the arguments out come • Hot, flashy, political terms lose meaning from misuse • Conservative, republican, liberal, democrat, pinko, flip-flopper, mormon, environmentalism, national security, abortion, gay rights, gay marriage, teen pregnancy, vaccination, the second ammendment, gun control • Marx: “I am not a Marxist anymore!” (paraphrase)
Governments are rule makers • You must pay a portion of your salary to the government (taxes) • You must wear clothes in public places (indecent exposure) • You must not yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre (constraints on free speech) • You must not kill others (manslaughter, homicide) • You must not drive your car too fast or too slow! (traffic laws) • You can’t drive you’re car one day/week (Beijing traffic law)
How do governments enforce laws? • Fines • Jail time • Beating • Humiliation • Execution
Life without government • Perfect freedom or perfect chaos? • Hobbes social contract: “…that a man be willing, when others are so too … to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” • Do you gain more than you give up? • A move away from the state of nature, where violence is a legitimate means of acquiring things, and only the strongest (or most ruthless) survive, as all others fear that person or persons • A very unequal set of circumstances – are we better off when a government alone holds the power of violence, and its authority makes outside violence “uninteresting,” or not to the advantages of the people. Does this give us safety, harmony?