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Intro to politics

First of all, what is politics?

Politics arise when a group bigger than a single person needs to make a decision of what to do or how to handle a specific situation or type of situations.

Politics are about:

These questions are unavoidable for any group. This is politics.

I want you to know right now that it’s fine to hate dealing with that stuff, to want to stay out of it, to want to be all “I’ll be in my room, let me know when you’re done”. 100% legit.

It’s like on a boat: you have some people wanting to go one way and other people wanting to go the other and if you feel like you just wanna stay out of that conversation, because you don’t care about where we go, that’s fine. There’s this “participation hype” in politics that I don’t get behind. Not everyone needs to be into politics.

So it’s fine to want to stay out of politics, healthy even, but, the group as a whole does need politics. Being adrift on a boat without steering is fun and all but there are waterfalls and malströms that we don’t want to fall over. Climate change being the big one.

Market capitalism does have a couple of problems. I think of them as “bugs”, since it is, in some sense, software (but for interactions, for how transactions are conducted, rather than for electronics).

One is that the rich gets richer at a faster pace than the poor does, causing ever-widening wealth- and power gaps. It often does so off the backs of the workers themselves.

The other is that transactions often have problems and costs unaccounted for, such as pollution, or using up limited resources.

I usually talk about these two problems separately.

But they are also intertwined.

There’s a “leak” where the costs of burning fossil fuels are not accounted for or paid for as part of transactions; it’s “external” to the transaction. Our system is set up to exploit that leak to create wealth.

Just like a combo in a game. “Oh, there’s this card that gets me 20 mana in one turn and this other card that converts mana into damage? Burn, baby, burn!”

Systems, all systems, benefit those who exploit the loopholes, both those who deliberately do it and those who sorta end up doing it.

Now, we on the left can not start to get smug about this because we’re not sitting very pretty. A lot of our own ideas have the same externalities vulnerabilities or have—as history shows us—been exploitative. Like it or not, shitshows like the USSR and the CCP were both originally presented as left-wing projects!

It’s important to note here that the truth is not “somewhere in between”. We can’t compromise between 2+2=4 and 2+2=5, we can’t say “OK, it’s 4.5, let’s ship it”.

Exploitation and externalities are huge problems, made urgent by climate change.

Conflicts around policy are driven by cleavage points. Some of these, it’s good to respect. Cities vs countryside is a good example of where compromise would be great. We need both. Cities are efficient for resources like electricity and heating and distribution, while the countryside is better for growing plants safely, away from polluting traffic and construction. The needs and concerns of urban vs rurals sometimes do clash and it’s not a good idea for the urbanites to just be able to outvote the rurals.

There are other cleavage points where compromise is a bad idea. We can’t be like “Oh, we need to compromise between the KKK and black people, how about lynching, but not on Sundays?” That would be beyond fucked up!

There are also political issues that aren’t really cleavage points, its just illusory. Climate change is the perfect example. I know some try to set themselves up as the comfiest sobs on the cinder, but the armageddon they’re brewing will harm them too.

We need to fix it, for everyone’s sake.

It’s true that exploiters will want to exploit any system but there’s a question of degree, and of opportunity.

Economically, we have a system that actively rewards exploitation, that’s actively bleeding out through externalities. It’s pretty imperative that we patch the system, or replace it.

Systems can have systematic outcomes and market capitalism rewards exploitation and concentrated capital, and that’s what happened. That’s what we need to figure out a way to fix.