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Sketch of the US Capitol Dome. Drawing by Brady Dale, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

The ideal political system

The ideal political system is one that works without asking anything of its subjects.

The problem is that not everyone agrees on the definition of what “works,” but let's set that aside.

Most of the political systems so far devised require really active participation from subjects. This shouldn’t be very surprising. Political theorists like politics. Naturally, they will imagine systems where people take an active part. In fact, the more activity by the more people, the better.

Liberals imagine a world where people actively participate in the state through voting and activism. Their analysis argues that people are apathetic because they have been disenfranchised from state power. They know they don’t have much of a voice so they don’t try.

Libertarians imagine a world where participation is a market phenomenon. People make active informed choices in the market that regulates the state. This seems like a lighter lift but without the state it’s really not. In that world, a person would need to study milk vendors or pay for third party reports on them to know which brand is least likely to make their kid sick.

Conservatism is of course a complex and ever changing set of ideas, but it favors a centralized authority and that has been a fairly unifying theme over time.

One guy. One party. One religion. At the end of the day in comes down to preferring a central authority, which isn't exactly what I think people really want but it's close enough, based on the premise I laid out above.

The reason Conservatives so often ascend I think is because they are the most ready to offer a vision that asks the least of the governed. It’s not so much that regular people love the Conservative vision so much as they like not being asked to engage. If a strong figure stands up and says he’ll take care of everyone’s messes, that’s appealing.

And this isn't to say lots of people don't think engaging is important, but it's boring-but-important. They don't enjoy engagement. They just know they should.

People with a vision for ends that counter those of Conservatives need to work to articulate a just and efficient architecture of authority that can largely be left on autopilot. The trouble is that so many of conservatives opponents also envision asking a lot of the governed. A lot of non-fun work.

People want good things. Safety. Freedom. Clean air. Justice. Education. But what they really want is all those things along with their regularly scheduled programming.

TL;DR: non-political theorists can’t understand that regular people just don’t find the state much fun. If it did what they needed and they didn’t especially need to engage with it, the vox populi would mumble contentedly.

—Brady Dale
January 5, 2019

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