The Matter of Political Philosophy

When an individual studies political philosophy, it is usually with the intent to understand the core principles that govern the political life of a city, a region, or a nation. What is it that motivates or causes a mayor to be just, or to be corrupt? What influence does the general consensus of the people have upon the government? In what way does the government manifest its power with the least amount of justice? In what way does it manifest its power with the most amount of justice? What definition exactly can we give to the term the general will of the people? All of these questions are ones that interested people will ask themselves and others in an attempt to gain answers. They will look back to philosophers like Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau, Plato, among others, to try and find some opinion that has validity. To a large extent, when political philosophy scholars attempt to uncover the answers to these questions, it is not just to help defeat Fascism, or help bring about Communism, or help in strangling Socialism, or generally to aid or destory any other -ism; rather, these questions are asked because people are genuinely interested in discovering what method of government is best for the people.

Political Philosophy is the study of government,The Matter of Political Philosophy Articles of power, of authority. It is a question of who is in power, why they are in power, how they can maintain their power and how the public will respond to this power, and what powers certain authorities hold in certain societies. It is all these questions and more. In our modern society of today’s world, some political philosophy questions would be “To what extent does the authority of the policeman extend?” and “In what justification does a court issue a search warrant?” The reason why it is important and relevant to understand Political Philosophy is to help ourselves better understand, and perhaps one day alter the current society, with social justice as an end. By understanding these concepts, we are better able to grasp the problems that society has withstood for a great deal of time.

There are some basic facts that should be understood clearly before one progresses in depth the study of Political Philosophy. First, there is the question of the issues at hand. Every generation will have its own issues of social justice or political rightness. Those who have only a brief knowledge of history will be able to confirm this. There was a generation whose intent was to liberate all African slaves, another generation that wanted equality for a second class of citizens called Plebians, and at least five generations that worked for the equality of the sexes. Every culture has its rebellious side to it, its nay-sayers whenever the body politic combines. So we have seen groups work for reforms, for changes, for revolutions in all facets of life. We see Animal Rights activists working for similar principles as did the Abolitionists. On the other side, we see Christian Fundamentalists trying to implement an ideology in to the government. There are those who want to create a Communist nation, with free healthcare and education to everyone. And there are those who want to resurrect the Inquisition to deal not just with religious heretics, but with political and social heretics as well. Civil Rights, Free Trade, education, healthcare, freedom of speech, etc., etc.. These are all issues at hand. When we look to the issues, we must understand that they are not related to the study of Political Philosophy.

One might easily make the misunderstanding of associating these issues with Political Philosophy. The error stems from the fact that government bodies are often responsible for enforcing or not enforcing these issues, and the association that one is responsible for the other. While this may be true in some cases, there is a clear difference between Political Philosophy and the current political atmosphere of a nation. Political Philosophy deals with who possesses authority, on what grounds they possess this authority, and how this authority can be used on the public. As far as the issues go, it doesn’t specifically concern Political Philosophy. A dictator might issue a mandate enforcing a strong Civil Rights bill as much as he might issue a mandate enforcing the Bible as law. On the other hand, it might be an elected president who issues a mandate agreed upon by congress to reinstate the draft, or to invade a foreign nation, or to nationalize all industries involving food, housing, and clothing production. Political Philosophy is the question of who is in power, who has authority, and on what grounds that authority is shifted from person to person.

Before we immediately dive in to the tastey depths of Political Philosophy, creating a Utopia in our mind by using a system of checks and balances, or enlightened despots based on a certain religion, or some form of majority rules, or constitutional ethics, etc., etc. — before we jump right in to Political Philosophy to take a stand on what the ideal political state would be, or what the ideal state of mankind would be, there are some other facts that should be recognized. These facts should be recognized only insomuch that they will help guide us to creating a system of politics that will allow the greatest amount of social and political justice. The study of Political Philosophy is a sociological study, not dissimilar to economics in many respects. Much like economics, there are certain stern laws to Political Philosophy that ought to be followed. By understanding these evidenced laws, we are in a better position to make judgments about the body politic, about what is just, abotu what is unjust, etc., etc.. And, by being able to comprehend the outcome of certain actions better, we will be able to theorize a more ideal state of civilization. We’ve already recognized the principle that Political Philosophy is not a study in achieving Nazism any more than it is a study in achieving racial equality. It does not promote one social issue over another. It is the study of how conclusions to these social issues are reached.

Among these stern laws that govern the body politic of a society, there is the one that everyone differs in opinion. All throughout history, whether seperated by culture, language, race, or even era, we have found that people will disagree with each other. One tends to think that opinions become much more conformed when looking within the same society, that a low-income Chinese man in Hong Kong is more likely to agree with another low-income Chinese man in Hong Kong. When comparing this one man with, say, a low-income American man in San Francisco, opinions will differ, and probably greater if the man is from New York City, and then even greater if it is a middle-income man, and even greater still if it is a high-income man. Change the gender, the social background, the political background, the development environment from childhood, etc., etc., and the more likely you are to find yourself with a conflict of opinion. However, regardless of these statistical differences, there will always be differences of opinion. When we take two people of the very same background, even brothers of the same bood, we will find differences of opinion in such a great quality.

What is the point of observing the differences of opinion? Well, among one of the important reasons for observing this difference of opinion, it is to understand how government officials and the public will act when in conflict for each other. You cannot design a political system and define each sheriff or police officer as “having a complete and honest understanding of justice and fairness.” Nor can you design a political system in which the mayors and politicians believe in one issue over another, in Marijuana reform or in Isolationism; nor can you define the public in this political system as supporting Liberalism in every case, or opposing Communism in every case — you cannot design a political system where the thoughts of the subjects and the rulers are already in place. This is a dilemma that many political theorists are pointed to in their own designs of a perfect utopia. Some may be thinking right now that pointing out such an observation is overly obvious, overly simple, etc.. True, it is simple and it is obvious, but it is a stern law of Political Philosophy. You can argue for an enlightened despot that believes in the gospels and enacts them, but his interpretation of them might very well be different from yours. You have to understand that a society will breed, grow, die, whither, change, and alter with every passing month, and that it is the citizens, ruled and ruler, that are responsible themselves for making these changes. A political theorist, then, acts much like a parent — they can steer, but cannot control; it is their duty to instruct, not to legislate. This law of Political Philosophy of difference of opinion is just as solid as the law of competition in Economics. The fact that people will buy products and services of higher quality with lower pricing is as true as the fact that laws or social structure are incapable of creating the mentality of the people.

For example, imagine that you choose the system of enlightened despot as the ideal system for society. It might just so happen that the people are brutes, ignorant and thougthless, violent and cruel, and it is the king’s rule that protects the innocent and punishes the wicked. True, this could very well happen. However, it is just as probable that the king would be the brute, and his people would be just, and that it would be the rule of this king that would inflict so much damage upon the morale of these people. Hopefully, this example will illuminate the importance of this law of Political Philosophy.

Every study or field of interest should start with basic premises, certain provable assumptions, and perhaps even an ideology, a method of guiding towards progress. In medicine, it is the Hypocratic Oath, an agreement to never harm your patient. In chemistry, it may be the idea of aiding technology and the prosperity of society. In physics, it is to find higher truth about the philosophical nature of the universe. In history, it is to understand the truth about the events of the past, in an objective and relevant manner. Every field of study has its own ethical theorem, its own particular fascinations about philosophy, its own place in society. In Political Philosophy, the premise can be stated as follows: to create the most advanced state of human cooperation and co-involvement through theory and practice. It is a sociological science, yes, in that it observes and makes predictions about society and behavior roles of people. In sociology, the ethical theorem is to study the mechanics and dynamics of society, in order that we ourselves can be more knowledgeable, and thus able to make more-informed decisions about our actions in society. But, in Political Science, the ethical theorem is to create a utopia, or at least the closest thing accomplishable to a utopia. A utopia in this sense being defined as a method of cooperation and organization in social affairs that creates a long-lasting prosperity for everyone, justice available to all classes, and equity in the laws and contracts. How to create such a utopia, how to set certain powers or certain rights or certain privileges so that the human world becomes a better place to live, it is this study that all political philosophers have argued and bickered about for centuries. Many of them used logic based on the preceding philosophers, others of them used their own unique arguments. But, it is this field that is a study of how to improve the lives of everyone… And that is why it is a valuable study.

With this law of difference in opinion in political philosophy, we are given guidance on some of the proposed systems of government or rule. For example, we see an error in a system of an enlightened despot, whether that system goes by the title of despotism, dictatorship, monarchy, or aristocracy. Either way, it’s just as possible for the ruler to be the negative element as it is for the population to be the negative element. In fact, with the evidence that we have today, we are much more inclined to believe that the powers of authority will be in the wrong than the actions of the people be wrong. Power corrupts the best, as the phrase goes. If we know this fact, then by giving power to one person and one person only, we are allowing for corrupt power to reign. We also understand that, since the purpose of Political Science is to discover the best means for operating cooperative society, we cannot put all the power of a nation in to the hands of one person. By doing this, we are chancing the lives, liberties, and happiness of all the people in to the hands of one person, whose opinion could be of anything. This is but a simple deduction, and one of the early ones discovered in the science of Political Philosophy.

With all these bases covered, the understanding of difference of opinion, the purpose of Political Philosophy, how Political Philosophy is not a matter of discussing the social issues of the day but determining who has the power to control such issues, etc., etc., with all this covered, I think there is chance to get in depth in this study.

The interest of Political Philosophy is to uncover a method of society that will allow for the greatest prosperity. Who is in control? and In what way does this power structure operate, insofar that it effects society? are the questions asked by this noble science. When uncovering the difference of opinion law in this field, there is a new question that opens the door to hundreds of other ideologies in Political Philosophy. The question is this: in what way can the law of difference of opinion be extended? For example, are people more likely to believe one idea over another, and how universal are these inclinations? In what cultures and societies do we see these tendencies — and, are there reasons for these tendencies to exist in one culture and not within another? We might also ask whether there are particular or specific conditions responsible for people believing certain opinions over other certain opinions. There might be economic or political or social conditions that exist within a society that cause its inhabitants to fear everything they don’t comprehend, or to believe every claim made by religious authorities, or to become inhibited when it comes to expressing their will. We might also ask whether a difference exists on how these conditions effect the ruled as opposed to effecting the rulers. The opinions that people might hold, whether its reverence or irreverence for power, whether its respect or disrespect for tradition, whether it is value for truth or value for self interest, whether it is an affectionate association with dissenters or a staunch affiliation with established authorities — all of these opinions are capable of being altered (if not completed destroyed or created) by the conditions of society. We are attempting to understand all of these questions, all of these open-ended ideas, because we are interested in understanding the matter of Political Philosophy. That is to say, we are interested in knowing what organizational setup of society will best serve the interests of mankind, in pursuing justice, achieving peace, and realizing happiness.

So, then, what is the answer to all of these questions? What can be said about the inclinations of mankind towards believing one idea over another? Volumes and volumes of books have been written on the subject, by at least one million partial authors. An in depth study in to the matter is not necessary, but some guiding points could prove rather invaluable. Perhaps, expressing my ideas through analogy and example would most sufficiently prove my point. Look at the setup of the American government. There are three established branches of the US government: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The reason why these three branches of the United States government were chosen, that is to say, the reason why the founders of the United States government decided to create these three branches is because, in their minds, these three branches would act in a way to maximize the happiness of the people while protecting their security and liberty. What was the philosophy behind three branches? It was what our history books call a system of checks and balances. Each branch of the government was independently responsible for a certain part of administering the law. One part creates the law, one part enforces the law, and another part interprets the law; again, according to our history books. The reason why different branches are responsible for a different part of carrying out the law is so that each branch can act as a check on the other branches. Through this method, the intent of the majority of the people is more likely to be carried out than the intent of a single person whose opinions are out of line with the majority of the people. If, for example, members of the legislative branch want to turn a bill into law, and the bill will inevitably violate the rights of the people and create a greater misery, then the members of the executive branch are granted the right to veto the bill. And, if it still passes the executive branch, then there will be a situation where a person is standing in court, face to face, with a member of the judicial branch, where the law is questioned and examined. Unfortunately, our schools do not and have not ever taught why there are different branches of the government, but only how they work. Odd; it is almost as though they want people to believe in tradition and heritage, rather than believing what Rousseau professed: “…the voice of the people is in fact the voice of God.” [“A Discourse on Political Economy,” by Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1755.]

Another concept to examine is that of the constitution. In schools, we are often told how the Constitution works: it establishes rights and responsibilities of the people as well as of the government. We are not, however, told in depth the reason why we have a constitution. But, any person who is somewhat fluent in political science will be able to tell you the answer: we have a Constitution because the rulers of the people have always been so flagrant and disrespectful when it came to protecting the rights and liberties of their people. If you want to know the history of government, you will start standing on the pavement of Auschwitz in Germany and you will stop in standing on piles of skulls in South American dictatorships. You will uncover the omnipresence of secret police in nations with unstable governments; you will find people imprisoned and tortured for their beliefs about justice; you will find nuclear weapons programs started by mass murderers. This is all agreed upon by the historians as much as it is by the common man. It is just rarely talked about by the people who argue for more power for the rulers of a nation (i.e. the politicians). The reason why a constitution exists is to let the people know that they have rights that the government is not allowed to infringe upon. That is the reason why constitutions tend to be short and relatively simple — they are not speaking just to the rulers, but they are also speaking to the ruled. Essentially, they are telling the people, “You have the right to revolt and overthrow the current government when they have failed to meet these standards.” Of course, the United States government’s constitution includes what is called an “Elastic Clause” — strictly interpreted, it reads: “The American people have no rights, whether it is the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or the right to a trial, when the ruling class decides that you do not deserve these rights.” With the rights of the people defined, the purpose of the constitution is to grant a considerable amount of power to the people, or the ruled class. It tells the ruled class what they are to expect of the ruling class, and what it is expected of the ruling class.

The constitution and a branched government are both concepts of government that came about during the Enlightenment. As far as human civilization is considered, they are relatively early concepts. Consider some of the other, earlier concepts that were used in the processes of government. The courtroom, for instance, was created so that the grievances of the people could be heard by a figure that has authority to redress such complaints. The right to petition and freedom of speech is so that the rulers are capable of understanding the injustices done to the ruled class. All of these simple concepts are a part of all just governments because they allow people of different opinions to come together and express with each other the reasons for disagreement. Yes, in a courtroom, the judge ultimately has the right to throw away the rights of any who come to him — but without any judges, then the ruling class would never directly hear the difficulties of the ruled class. Without the right to petition or the right to freedom of speech, people could never come together in order to advance their cause. All of these rights and freedoms that the governments granted to their people (never out of their own accord, but out of the insurrection of their own people), all of these liberties exist for the sole sake of people having a greater leverage in the policy-making pocess. The right to life, to liberty, to happiness, to a trial by peers and the right to escape unusual punishment, all of this is granted to the people for two reasons and two reasons only: (1) that the ruled people can have a voice in the politics of the government, and (2) that the ruled people are living in a society that is organized to take into account their happiness.

Ultimately, the difference between the ruling class and the ruled class is very simple: it is a matter of knowledge and information. When the ruling class grants itself full custody of controlling the flow of information, it seriously debilitates the ability of the people to defend their own rights. The conclusion that can be made is this: when the government and the leaders of the world control the information, they will make sure that the people are only fed knowledge that reinforces the will of the ruling class. For this reason, and mostly for this reason, every person who supports Democracy, Anarchism, Libertarianism, and every other philosophy that enforces the rights of the people over the rights of the rulers, we must always stress the right to freedom of information. Every censorship law, whether it is founded on the principle of defending the population from indecency or whether it is simply protecting the prejudices of the people (both are the same) — regardless, all censorship laws simply work to debilitate the will of the people. When a member of the ruling class argues, “The people have no right to the books or pamphlets of the Anarchists. They have no right to hear the arguments of Communists or Socialists,” when the ruling class argues this, as they have done in the past, are they arguing for the rights of the people, or the rights of themselves? Are they honestly trying to advance their own nation, their people, and their culture, or are they interested in advancing their own interests? Do they want to rule indefinitely, taking the advantages that come with such rule, or do they really believe their people are better off being deaf, blind, and voiceless? All information and voices must be free.

These are all things that must be taken in to consideration. They must be considered by all people who are genuinely interested in creating a better society, in creating a world in which the will of the people is the direct creator of social conditions. Ultimately, we come to the final question of political science, the one question that has almost been deemed a quandary. This is the question of political science that few political theorists offer solutions to: what is to be done when the will of the ruling class violates the will of the ruled class? To Anarchists, the answer is simple: the ruling class has no right to violate the rule of the collective people. But, if we advance that argument further, we have this next question: what does one person do when his will is to violate the will of the majority? What if, for example, a person desires to drink alcohol or smoke Marijuana, when these practices have been banned by the majority of the public? What if a person is interested in cross-dressing, homosexuality, injecting heroin, reading illegal books, or anything else that a majority might make illegal? Well, the greatest argument behind Anarchism and Democracy is this: when the will of all people, average and otherwise, is what determines social policy, then we are more likely to be living in a society that is just and in line with equity. When the will of a one person, or a small amount of people, is what determines social policy, then we will find ourselves living in a society full of persecution, violence, and injustice. But, it is always possible (at least, every political theorist will argue), it is always possible that a true Democracy will ban a practice that is generally harmless and in sync with our own beliefs.

What is it that I mean by that last statement? What I mean is this: it is possible that one day, we will reach a state of civilization where laws are determined by the genuine will of the people. A bill will never become law when it violates the desires of the people. And, in this society, it is possible that a bill becomes law when it violates the will of a single person. Perhaps the majority of a population is interested in keeping Communist literature illegal, while a certain minority is interested in reading such books. Maybe it’s not even just to “familiarize ourselves with our own beliefs,” but rather, it’s a few people who want to become well-rounded and to hear the arguments of every side of an issue. As a far as any valid system of ethics goes, there is justice in the idea of Freethought, of exploring and discovering foreign ideas. What is to be done when a society, even if it is an Anarchist society governed by the will of the people — what is to be done in this society when the right to Freethought is violated without any justice or reverence for goodness. It seems to be the greatest question at hand, asked by every political philosophy, reasoned by some, and finally argued over and over by certain thinkers. In what way can we create a social process so that certain individuals are capable of escaping such persecution? Can we create a committee for personal rights violations? Can we create a department for public education principles based on philosophy and free ideas? What alteration can be added to the organizational setup of a society so that the majority does not violate the rights of the minority? This has always been the final question that so many political philosophers could never answer.

The reason why political philosophers could never answer this question is quite simple. The answer they sought out was a political answer. Political philosophers are men of systems, of protocols, of organizational setup. They wanted to a create a self-contained power system. They wanted to create a system for society where the will of the majority was enacted without violating the innate rights of the private sector. However, in between their constitutions and their branched government, their systems of checks and balances and their systems of rights of the rulers versus the rights of the ruled — in between everything created by political theorists to further advance the ends of justice, in between all of this, it seems that every attempt to master a system of justice has always fallen short. It has always fallen short because it is possible that a democratic collective could outlaw an activity that was both completely harmless and completely necessary to a certain minority.

The answer to a just society that outlaws a just activity is amazingly simple and might surprise a few political theorists. It is thus: crime is necessary in any just society. That is to say, the violation of chosen laws and policy is necessary for any society to find itself closer to the ideal of justice. It is true that Martin Luther King violated certain laws and regulations in order to broadcast the plight of his people. And it is true that Harriet Tubman violated property laws when freeing slaves from the south. It is true that a great deal of legislation was violated in order to attain a greater sense of justice to the people of any nation. This is not what I am arguing for. These people who violated the law so that their voices were heard were arguing for a greater sense of Democracy. They didn’t want to create a lawless society necessarily — they wanted to create a lawful society in which the laws expressed their direct will. To quote Martin Luther King Jr. himself…

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. [“Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” written while in jail by Martin Luther King Jr, 1963. Quoted from The Portable Sixties Reader, edited by Ann Charters, a Penguin Classics, page 29.]

If one further investigated the grievances of the Civil Rights Movement, one would discover that they wanted every person to have an equal voice in government. Their cause was not about violating the law; it was about changing the law so that every person’s opinion was considered in choosing what was enforced and what was not enforced. My argument is thus: crime is necessary to the sustenance of any just Democracy. When every voice is considered in creating the law, when every person’s opinion is valued in deciding what shall become standard and what shall become illegal, the violation of these laws is necessary towards creating a just society. This may seem illogical, but when a just Democracy outlaws something like Marijuana or alcohol or literature or speech, then violating the law becomes the only logical action.

Consider the laws, for example, that were made by the government’s forefathers. There are laws that prohibit search and seizure. There are laws that prohibit the government from violating your rights of a private and secure life. There are laws that prevent the government from investigating (to an unreasonable degree) the daily processes of your existence. If the government was truly concerned with upholding the law in every way possible, then these laws that protect your private life wouldn’t exist. They would have been overrun. I suspect that the only reason why laws exist to protect you from the government’s “unreasonable” actions is to uphold the rights of the people to commit crimes. If this is doubtful, then examine the court records of any trial. You will find police officers discovering pounds upon pounds of cocaine, and this evidence won’t be allowed in court, simply because there was no search warrant. You will crimes such as Possession of a Controlled Substance, Distribution of Subversive Literature, Thought Crimes, etc., etc., and the evidence is thrown out a great deal of the time simply because the police failed to follow proper procedure.

The reason why these laws and regulations exist, when these laws simply defend and protect criminals, is for a very simple fact: when criminals, or violators of laws, exist and do not disrupt the process of society, then there is a serious problem with the law. If the law prohibits women from speaking their opinion, and district attorneys try to prosecute women for organizing themselves, the reason why it will be so difficult to prosecute is because there are so many constitutional policies that inhibit investigation. Imagine, for instance, if it a police squad raided a home and found a drug den, with over a million doses of LSD and at least one hundred pounds of Marijuana. The entire raid was videotaped by third parties. When raided, suspects were discovered using these drugs, and it was entirely caught on videotape. There are so many reasons here to believe that the suspects are guilty of committing these crimes; there is evidence upon evidence upon evidence to prove that these people are responsible for committing these crimes. But, once at trial, it is discovered that a search warrant never existed. And, as far as legal policy is concerned, that means that all evidence that came to light from the raid is now void and no longer admissible.

True, there definitely exists a reason for these laws besides protecting criminals. These laws exist for the sake of protecting the public from unjust government intrusion. Imagine if the police of the district attorney were allowed entrance in to any private domicile, and if the evidence of any such entrance were admissible in to court. The police would be raiding any potential suspect’s home in search of evidence, simply because they were outside the realm of responsibility. But, that considered, there are still many policies incorporated in to our own government and many other governments that grant criminals a great deal of rights. The reason why there are so many rights for the accused, whether it is the right to a lawyer, or the right to remain silent (best policy if you’re being arrested), or the right to interrogation without torture, or the right to a trial by peers, all of this — one of the reasons why these rights exist is not only to protect the public from unjust government involvement, but to protect the minority from the unfair laws of the majority. District attorneys, detectives, police departments — all of them constantly moan and groan about how the constitution and other government policies are responsible for the release of so-called terrorists, drug-runners, drug dealers, and so many others that express the will of a just minority. If you ask any die-hard conservatives, they will tell you that the police should be granted the right to search and seize anything they want, that the rights of the people are nothing when compared to the rights of their government. When an honest person decides to consider every position and weigh every opinion, they will come to a very simple and elegant conclusion: crime is necessary to the free flow of any society. When a crime does not throw any society off

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.