Why Politics Matters

August 23, 2014 Nemes Politics

My Principles and Public Policy Center associate Yuval Levin, who edits the quarterly National Affairs, just recently was spoken with by William Kristol as part of his “Conversations With” series.

In the course of their discussion Mr. Levin, in discussing policy, states it’s about problem-solvingnot supreme troubles but practical ones. This is vital in allowing a society to operate well and to become its finest self. And he included this:

Politics in the end is moved by arguments. The intellectual work does matter. I believe it does absolutely shape results. However it takes place in a way that relies on a kind of food chain. Things need to move with our intellectual world and it does not move straight from that sort of work to policymaking; there needs to be some time to digest, to think it with. I think that happens on a great deal of important concerns in our politics. So I am amazed with how ideas move politics however you understand it’s not a direct process. Not an easy one.

This is crucial to rememberto bear in mind. In thinkingconsidering politics, after all, people are irritated with the gridlock and the dispute, the deal-making, the maneuvering, and the ordinary. They are disenchanted with the pace and direction of change and those who are in public life for individual aggrandizement. Americans are aggravated and angry with political leaders, with politics, and with one another. And so it’s important is very important to remind ourselves, as Levin does, that politics is moved by argumentshaltingly, imperfectly, but unavoidably.

(It’s probably worth adding here, if just as a side note, that in America we tend to romanticize our past. Even the Constitutional Convention of 1787which featured the most extraordinary collection of political minds considering that old Athenshad its own low moments, disappointments and intense, polarizing fights. It was among our greatest creators, James Madison, who in Federalist # 55 composed, Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob. And our biggest president, Lincoln, administeredcommanded a country that was a good deal more polarizedlethally polarizedthan ours is today. So some perspective is in order.)

There are numerous layers to public and political arguments. Among them is focused on difficult realities and empirical information, on social science and various governing techniques associated with a range of issues like criminal offense, education, health care, welfare, financial development, and social mobility.

But the other, much deeper layer relates to arguments grounded in political theory, handling matters like liberty and equality, specific responsibility and civic duty, justice and human dignity. The greatestThe best specialists of statecraft have the ability to make both sets of argumentsto reveal a proficiency of public policy and the capability to articulate a public philosophy. To describe the means and the ends of government and the great society.

At the core of every social, political, and economic system is an imagean image of human nature, to paraphrase the 20th century columnist Walter Lippmann. The method that picture developments identifies the lives we lead, the institutions we construct, and the civilization we develop. The political approach of Madison produces one set of outcomes; the political approach of Marx produces another. So yes: ideas move politics in one direction or the other, toward justice or far from it. Like all things human, it’s imperfect, frustrating, and fraught with failure. It’s a long, hard grind. And its not constantly visually pleasing. However cynicism that causes political disengagementthe world-weary, pox-on-both-your-houses, what difference does it make, I don’t offer a damn attitude that seems rather stylish and trendy these dayscan lead to disaster. Because someone’s ideas will certainly prevail. If ones that advance justice and human prospering win out, it wont be by mishap or by default. Itll be the item of determined effort; of those who do not grow tiredburn out in doing excellent.


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