A recent Robert Higgs essay in the Independent Institute blog referred to a Henry Brooks Adams quote denigrating the nature of politics. “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” How much more cynical could one be? It is intriguing though. And, it may very well be true!
Politics is about destroying your opponent. If you can’t destroy the opposition, then you are to weaken it as much as possible. Compromise is unacceptable. It’s a violation of one’s principles. Compromise often leads to the fall of politicians who stray from the party creed.
In his essay, Higgs contrasts political transactions with economic transactions. In economics, you rarely succeed by destroying your opponent. That’s not the purpose of voluntary exchange. In fact, commerce requires that both parties feel like they’ve won. If one party is unhappy, then the exchange has failed. Many social interactions mirror economics. Other than games, sports, and war, politics may be the only human activity where destroying your opponent is necessary.
Robert Higgs wrote:
“Parties recruit followers by exploiting hatreds. Bureaucracies bulk up their power and budgets by artfully weaving hatreds into their mission statements and day-to-day procedures. Regulators take advantage of artificially heightened hatreds. Group identity is emphasized at every turn, and such tribal distinctions are tailor-made for the maintenance and increase of hatred among individual persons who might otherwise disregard the kinds of groupings that the politicians and their supporters emphasize ceaselessly.”
Perhaps this negativity is why so many people don’t like politics. They don’t want to discuss it. They don’t want it on their Facebook news feed. They just don’t want to think about it. It’s important work though, and good people need to stay in the game to steer us to a better course.
There is a way to be involved in politics while avoiding the organized hatred. Promote positive ideas. Promote a philosophy of liberty. Believe in the inherent goodness of people. Acknowledge the inherent value of your allies and of your opponents, but don’t compromise in the battle of ideas.
Since the very start of the Tea Party movement, I’ve felt that we were in a war of ideas, not personalities or politicians. We have a positive message, one that believes in people, not political parties, government programs or organized hatred. Unless we can win the minds of the American people, we cannot succeed. We cannot win with cynicism and hatred. As we enter this very important season of Presidential politics, promote your candidate by articulating the good ideas and the good character that he or she has. Leave the organizing of the hatred to the professionals.
Worcester Tea Party