No universally optimal political system.Posted: December 9, 2012
There is no such thing as a universally optimal political system. Name any one political system, even your favorite, and I can give you an example of a possible society that the political system would be horrible under. For example, the answer to “Democracy” would be a large open country, the size of the United States, where literacy is low, and people travel by horse. There is no electricity, and no systematized education, and the majority of inhabitants are farmers. The answer for why is immediately obvious: one of the prerequisites of democracy is that the populace is educated and well-informed about politics. A society where this is impossible would also be unable to function with democracy. This is the reason why historically speaking, democratic societies did not exist. Even the Greeks did not really have democracy, only a small population of the wealthy slave-owning males could vote.
Utilitarianism does not count, because it is a meta-political system, rather than a true political system. It is essentially by definition “A political system that is the best political system.”
The fact that there is no universally optimal political system seems like a really obvious fact, but when it comes to debating politics, it is incredibly easy to forget about it. People can debate about which political system is better for hours and hours, but within their minds, imagine two different societies, and as a result, never come to agreement. This happens more often than you think, because most of us live in completely different societies. Even within the same country, there are different subcultures and clusters and philosophies and ways of living. When you factor in completely different countries and cultures, and perhaps even start to contemplate societies far into the future, disagreements arise quickly.
You can say that both debaters are talking about this particular society, the one we live in, but even that does not solve the problem. Due to the affect heuristic, it is impossible not to imagine that the inhabitants of this hypothetical society are more similar to us than they really are. After all, if you could perfectly simulate every single human being on earth in your mind, you would be powerful enough to take over the world and impose the ideal political system at that point of time, rather than argue with people on the internet about how Libertarianism is stupid and Socialism is smart (Or how Socialism is stupid and Libertarianism is optimal).
Perhaps the person arguing for socialism is picturing the inhabitants of this hypothetical society as being similar to himself, and the person arguing for libertarianism is picturing the inhabitants of this society to be similar to himself. Therefore, both may be completely correct when saying that “Libertarianism/Socialism is optimal. (for a society comprised of inhabitants similar to myself)”
This simple concept is one of the primary factors that influences my political views. It is a lot easier to understand political ideology when we understand that when people assert that one political ideology is “best”, they are referring to that political ideology being “best” for a society comprised of people most similar to them.
It’s why I can talk freely about Anarchism, Anarcho-Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Libertarianism, Liberalism, Moderatism, Futarchism, Theocracy, Fascism, Democracy, Direct democracy, Social Democracy, Progressives, Reactionaries, ad infinitum, without being as mindkilled as most people do (that is not to claim I am completely rational. I still get mindkilled to a certain extent, and I have slight problems understanding right-wing christian neoconservatism). I acknowledge that each of these political ideologies have societies where they are optimal in, and that each of these ideologies have societies where they would fail terribly at. I also acknowledge that I cannot model society with perfect accuracy, and I could see each of these ideologies having the possibility of working, in our current society. (Because probability is a part of the map, from having imperfect knowledge of the territory.)
The inability to conceive that society, as well as its political requirements, change over time, is also one of the common reasons why most people are incapable of understanding Marxism/Socialism/Communism/Extropianism. In order to understand Marxism, it is important to understand dialectical Materialism, which essentially is a prediction of how society will change over time as our ability to harness technology increases. I’m not necessarily saying that Communism is right. I’m saying that you cannot even begin to argue if Communism is right or wrong if you don’t understand dialectical materialism, or the fact that not a single Communist since the invention of Communism until today actually believes that full Communism is feasible with our current society.
Thus, it just happens that many people think that Communists are stupid or irrational, because nobody ever told them that Communism is about a hypothetical political system being ideal for a certain hypothetical society, not about Communism being ideal for our current society. Some Communists I know are the most ardent supporters of Capitalism, including Marx himself, who claimed that Capitalism is absolutely essential for the its raw production power in advancing society forward.
So before talking about what political ideology is optimal, it is important to model the society that the political ideology is optimal in. Make sure your opponent has a similar type of society in mind. If you wish to find the truth, doing so is necessary.