Simple. Because politics is the most basic, and dangerous, human practice in our lives. And that's because we don't live on an island, even if we do.
Let us start with the premise that each human being has a basic right to be left alone by everybody else—and most Americans think that sounds reasonable.
Problem: there are too many people in the world for us to leave anybody alone.
Everything we do in the world impacts everybody else. If you think your little individual existence cannot impact somebody in China or India or Timbuktu, just consider how the obesity of American consumption is supported by Chinese production workers, Indian customer-service operators, and right next door, Bangladeshi garment workers.
Not so long ago, you probably thought that was a purely fanciful name for a faraway place.
However, if you were paying attention to world events last year, you will know that the French, operating with American logistical support, and an African coalition force, liberated the ancient Malian town from yet another pack of low-rent Qaeda-guys. Can capitalist exploitation of the last frontier of dirt-cheap labor be far behind for the grateful Malian collaterals?
The French, for their part, after assuring the Malians they would just be coming to conduct a temporary anti-terrorist police action, and would then be leaving, have changed their minds. It seems fighting terrorism will now require the old colonial power to leave 1000 soldiers in Mali on a permanent basis.
Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? It is a definitely a complicated thing.
Because most (sane) people, including in Timbuktu, don't want Qaeda guys running their towns. But is the only solution to that inviting the colonial powers back into a military presence in their former colonies?
It doesn't take a village. It takes a world—a tightly interwoven fabric of peoples and ideas about how to live, that has to be thoughtfully engaged in order to begin to get a picture of what's really going on, and to understand it in such a way that it might be used to accomplish something, a political policy for example, that could help instead of hurt people.
So, what kind of politics should we have? And why is one opinion about this more correct than another?
Answer: it all depends on your values. And what exactly are those, and upon what should we base our estimates of good and bad in this life?
The majority of people in the USA wear the little crosses of Christianity. But the USA's grasp and expression of Christian values is non-existent. Now, that's actually supposed to be a good thing, because religious values, we are constantly told by low-rent secularists, are not supposed to impact political policy-making in our mutual (allegedly inclusive and consensus) enterprise.
But if not from Jesus, where do you get your values?
Once upon a time I pointed out to someone that capitalism was a moral system, meaning a system made up of moral decisions. The person insisted this could not be true, since capitalism was just an impersonal mechanism, hardly more than a dull record of grazing cattle and sheep at the marketplace. And besides, she was getting her masters degree in business from the University of Phoenix, and nobody there had ever mentioned morality having anything to do with economics—not especially business.
But then I asked, how do you explain the fact that Adam Smith, whose expertise was in moral philosophy, spoke repeatedly of the moral assumptions affirming and afflicting the players in the economic system he was describing?
For example, Smith says that there are two basic kinds of morality in every sophisticated society: the liberal morality of the wealthy, and the morality of austerity practiced by the poorer classes. Now, by "liberal", what Smith meant is that rich people tend to be quite forgiving of behavior amongst themselves, which they would view as a sign of a moral failing amongst poorer people. By austerity, Smith meant the brand of harsh and unforgiving judgment forced into the moral assessments of the poor by their economic condition.
In plain terms, the rich can afford to be kind and generous, especially to themselves, and the poor, inspired by the vile treatments they suffer from the rich, often emulate, as an expression of the good, the austerity of spirit shown them, actually inflicted upon them, by their alleged betters.
While this moral phenomenon is not exclusive to capitalism, it is a feature of that system the rich find quite appealing. The technical term for this affirming benefit to wealthy moralizers: "gravy".
As Herman Melville said, in a razor-sharp satire on American indifference to poverty, "Poor Man's Pudding":
Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.
And, of course, a lot of the preposterousness about poor people and the values that made them so has issued from the dubious presumptions and prescriptions of economists. To have a well-considered political understanding, you must have studied at least the basics of economics.
Every economist has argued from a moral perspective. After all, economics is the science of scarcity, and more pertinently, the science of distribution of wealth and resources in a system fundamentally characterized by scarcity. This condition implies a possibility, and it is actually a probability given the unrestrained freedom of people to take advantage of each other, that considerable levels of injustice will build up in any economic system.
This is of course precisely our situation in the capitalist-drenched world. One might argue that the levels of social and economic injustice are much less than a century or two ago, and that much progress has been made to "lift up" the poor everywhere. But, if one means by this argument to conclude that the system of grossly unequal distribution of wealth and resources is the cause of this improvement, there are certain facts that will have to be dealt with or ignored.
While it is may be true that the absolute conditions of poverty have been successfully redefined in some parts of the world, what is counted as "progress" by the world's rich masters is that the poorest of the poor, who still make up about half of all human beings, have recently gotten a pay raise—from $1 a day to $2 a day! Yes, that's a 100% increase in their almost non-existent resources.
And we should note that most of the studies on these questions are pre-2008, and fail to take into consideration the devastating effects of the global economic crisis, which pushed millions more people into poverty, even in industrialized nations. A recent, 2011 Unicef working paper on global poverty reported:
As of 2007, the wealthiest 20 percent of mankind enjoyed nearly 83 percent of total global income.
The rich are always getting fabulously richer of course. But that's because the 80% or 99% or however you want to figure "the rest of us" who don't matter, let them get away with it.
When you hear capitalists and their media stooges complain about how "extremist" the politics of economic and political liberation, of equality, of justice, sounds to them, you should point out that extremism is actually dropping nukes on cities, for example, as a power play. Extremism really is not demanding that poor people in the world stop being treated like garbage by the rich.
Meanwhile, back where a few hundred rich galoots (in Congress) order about trillions of dollars of debt, the concern is to make as many of these things as possible, so the cost per death machine can be lowered to something more affordable—like over half a BILLION dollars per death machine!
Death Star anyone?
Maybe not. But in the UK, where supposedly economics is dictating the necessity to force poor people to endure increasing delights of austerity, or belt-tightening—or let's call it what it is—slow strangulation of the slaves by the rich masters, they have just announced some really good news!
None of that austerity remedy is going to get in the way of the UK's future death-dealing powers: