Manifesto and PlatformJohn Uebersax PhD
The Compelling Logic for America's Renewal:
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As a thought-experiment, let's design an optimal third party platform.
Based on a review of the current major third-party and independent candidate platforms, noting their strengths and weaknesses, why not see if we can design an optimal platform by taking the best ideas from each?
In reviewing the current platforms, several things are evident. One is that there really are some good ideas being presented. We have plenty of reasons, then, for optimism and confidence that society can improve.
A second observation is that there seem to be basic structural problems with the current third parties. One is that their platforms grow by accretion. They start with a plausible core ideology -- like political reform or improving the environment. But then they add side-issues until they become a confusing patchwork of loosely related ideas; the original motivating ideology becomes unrecognizable.
They do this to increase their base of potential voters. What they don't reckon on, however, is that, while these controversial side-issues may attract some new voters, they also alienate or antagonize many others. So we see, for example, parties that have as their original goal political or environmental reform -- things we all agree on -- getting distracted with hot-button issues like gun control, gay rights, abortion, and school prayer. Further, these side issues have a serious side effect: the emotionalize, trivialize, and dumb down political discussion in the country.
A third, surprising observation is that there is not currently a national political party that sets attainment of peace as its primary objective. (The Peace and Freedom party is somewhat misleadingly named; it's core ideology is actually socialism.)
The most striking observation overall is that (a) a large number of Americans seem to agree on a set of basic issues which the country must address, but that (b) most of the energy in political discussion today is spent not on promoting these universally agreed on issues, but on arguing about the controversial ones. It seems we equate politics with contentiousness, argument, finger-pointing, and name-calling. We seem chronically unable to conceptualize social change in anything but angry and negative terms.
Hence our current thought-experiment. The idea is this: let's design a political party which has as its platform only those issues which are more-or-less universally agreed on, areas of social progress that are achievable and of clear benefit to all.
In essence, the idea is to divide our priorities for social change into two categories: (1) those that benefit everyone (core issues, like eliminating or preventing wars, cleaning the environment, improving quality of life, etc.), and (2) those that benefit only special groups. The plan will be to elect a government committed first to addressing the core issues. This will benefit all.
Further, and very importantly, all special interest groups will benefit more from addressing the core issues than by addressing their special interests. "Wealthy fat-cat industrialists" and "bleeding-heart liberals" (to cite two stereotypes) breathe the same air, live in the same congested cities, and drive on the same roads. A corporate magnate can be as rich as Crassus, but won't enjoy his or her wealth if the air is too dirty to breathe. The fact that Joe Liberal may disagree with Peter Conservative on issues of corporate taxation has no bearing on the fact that they should agree to clean the air.
It's a simple exercise in collective decision theory: if factions do nothing but fight, they all lose; but if they put aside their differences long enough to focus on common problems, they all win. Moreover, each individual always gains more under the cooperative scenario than he or she would prevailing under the non-cooperative scenario. In game theory terminology, cooperation here is a dominant strategy, because it is better than the competitive strategy in every circumstance.
Thus, we need to solve the common problems, the big problems first. Then, when we have clean air, good housing, a better standard of living, free time, respite from constant stress and worry, and better political institutions, we can, in this much more favorable climate, proceed to debate issues about which there is more disagreement.
I therefore propose we initiate the Peace Party (there doesn't seem to already be a party with this name; if there is, we can pick another). The aim is to attract candidates who will commit themselves to the core platform issues listed below. These issues are non-contentious and seek to benefit all individuals in society. Foremost among them is the abolition of war and the attainment of world peace: the United States will commit itself to abandoning war and military intervention as a foreign policy tool. Other core issues aim at achieving political reform, social progress, and a global improvement in quality of life for Americans.
Peace Party Platform
This, then, I propose, constitutes a set of core issues that we can all pretty much agree on. All of them can be accomplished. The only possible objection is that there are, arguably, new categories of expense (e.g., free university tuition), with a simultaneous call for a balanced budget and lower taxes. This is not unreasonable. The whole idea is to improve the overall quality of life, allowing American workers to rise to their natural level of enthusiasm, ambition, energy, and productivity.
Is this idea foolish and unrealistic? I don't think so. Some may object, saying, "If it is so easy, why hasn't this already happened?" The reply is that there have been definite factors which have prevented us from seeing and applying even the most obvious solutions. Four factors in particular stand out:
The basic pattern is that a ruling power structure has emerged which operates to suppress the natural, healthy, progress-oriented consciousness of the individual. Debilitated, people are not able to rise up and challenge the power structure. Central to all these mechanisms of control is the fostering of a constant state of fear, anger, agitation, and pessimism.
But the truth is that life is good, and the solutions are all available. Everything we need is already here. We know a better life is possible. We have an innate vision for how the world can be. Basically all we have to do is to stop working so hard to prevent it!
Nothing is so clear as that we must end war. We'll end up spending at least one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) for the Iraq war in direct and indirect costs. Imagine how much better that same money could have been spent in other ways. The simple fact is that war, except in the case of legitimate self-defense, is both morally wrong and useless as a method of foreign policy. In the long run, all it accomplishes is making more enemies. Let's make our stand on this issue. Peace first. Then we may discover how naturally the solutions to the other problems come.
This, then, is my thought-experiment. The Peace Party, as outlined here, is at present only hypothetical. But it doesn't need to remain that way.
John Uebersax PhD is a social scientist and former RAND Corporation analyst.
vers. 1.0: 14 Jan 2007
vers. 2.1: 15 oct 2012