"Thou shalt not extinguish thine anger, but shall master it, that thy conscience may not be blunted by adjustment to wrong causes."
-The Dutch Ten Commandments to Foil the Nazis


Random election thoughts:

*By my estimation, this is the fourth Most Important Presidential Election of Our Time in a row (this is, n.b., all the elections I've been eligible to vote in), which suggests to me that perhaps the 'most important' designation is somewhat overused.

*I have enjoyed, as dark comedy, the way in which left and right have switched sides from the 2004 election and no one seems to have noticed (I particularly liked a "TOO BAD THE POPULAR VOTE DOESN'T MATTER" facebook post commenting on Romney's sometimes national polling advantage. 2000 is presumably different for some reason).

*Analogy time: the average American's relationship to politics seems not unlike the difference between dealing with a car salesman and an F&I officer when buying the car: the salesman's job is to assure you that everything with the car is the best that it could possibly be, and the F&I guy's job is to convince you that your car will immediately fall apart if you don't buy another $10,000 in additional warranty packages. In other words: half lulling you into complacency to ignore details, half convincing you the world's going to come to an end if you don't do what this guy tells you needs to be done.

*History time: there are a bunch of areas where it really doesn't matter who gets elected president (e.g.). I remember having a conversation with a very smart political scientist in early 2009 who couldn't quite understand why I was positive Obama wouldn't close down Guantanamo when the colleague was so certain he would (because he had promised to). The most positive spin that can be given to Obama's civil liberties record is that he's a wash compared to GWB; one could plausibly argue him to be worse; one could not plausibly argue him to be better. Nor would Romney be a step in the right direction, either. The fact is that the office of the president is one that accrues powers and never lets them go, promising instead to only use them for the right purposes ("the last guy made bad decisions, but I'll make good ones. Promise!"). No one's going to turn down more power if it's given to them, and no one's going to voluntarily relinquish it if they don't have to, or at least not anyone who gets nominated as a major-party candidate.

*Yesterday in class we discussed Aristotle's argument for keeping certain people out of governmental decision-making for lack of virtue. The idea is something like: people who are virtuous can connect their intended causes to intended effects--the ability to plan and follow through makes their actions deliberate and effective. But most people can't do that: they can only partially or haphazardly reflect in this way, and people who can only haphazardly do things are not the ones you want making political decisions. The class found this to be logical, as it indeed seems to me to be logical. And yet they rejected this as a basis for restricting the franchise or political decision-making in our own time (n.b. this does not constitute an endorsement of that position on my part). We're stuck with allowing irrational people to decide things, whatever the cost.



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