Limitations of Politics


photo credit: RSzepan

Over the course of my writing here I have been asked why I focus so much on political issues and not so much on promoting a moral society. I think it’s a great question and I have thought much about it. The short answer is that my focus on this site is on the political system and how it impacts society as well as how we can have a positive effect on the system that is currently in place.

For some time now I have found myself falling back in private political discussions to the position that all the best efforts and intentions with regard to political activity are no more than a bandaid over the ills of society and that true progress and stability in society are utterly dependent on the underlying morality or righteousness of the society being governed. It is exactly the same with a wound: a bandaid can help keep it clean and impede further infection but real healing is an internal function of the body. From outside the body the most we can do is create an environment that is conducive to healing.

What does that mean with regard to political involvement? A couple of things:

The most important thing it means is that we must recognize that no matter how pure or even effective our political efforts may be they cannot finally solve any of the problems we face. We must keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that actual solutions must begin and be rooted in the basic cells of society, our families. With that understanding we might be more careful in the laws that we support to make sure that we are supporting and enabling healthy families rather than passing out casts and crutches for the broken homes which we have in ever increasing abundance. (We should also recognize that “broken” homes include more than just the poor or single parent families that get so much public sympathy.)

The second thing that means is that we must recognize that even though we cannot force people to be righteous, or smart, or tolerant through legislation what we establish in law is a baseline of decency and goodness in society—in other words, what we legislate is what we can and should enforce as a society and the bare minimum of what we should adhere to as individuals. When we remove or alter existing legislation we should consider whether we are truly promoting liberty or whether we are aquiescing to the destructive forces operating on our society.

Third we need to recognize that the vast majority of those who wish to use legislation to do more for society than it can actually do, in other words those who would use legislation as a tool for social engineering, are good and honest in their intent even when they are misguided in their efforts. Those who recognize the natural limitations of political action must work to help them recognize those limitatons and also work to expose that small minority who are actually using the power of government under the guise of social justice who are not acting honestly but instead are seeking for their own power or for the destruction of that which supports a moral society.

In summary, political power can be used to define and enforce a social baseline for conduct and expectations but it cannot be used to make society good—even if we want it to—and those who seek to use political power for more than that generally do so out of ignorance or misunderstanding rather than out of malice.

1 comment for “Limitations of Politics

  1. May 14, 2010 at 9:28 am

    “…a bandaid can help keep it clean and impede further infection but real healing is an internal function of the body.” I absolutely agree with this. Our political efforts will just try to cover up the surface problems of the government but it will not completely heal or eradicate the problems. There must be internal healing and regeneration before the wound or the problems can vanish.

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