Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Populism; What is It?

Populism as a term has burst forth on the political landscape. In a recent Nature article, the classic scientific journal turned political commentary sheet for the left, notes:

Right-wing politicians in the crop currently making headlines are populists in that they want the will of the people to be the point of departure for political decision-making. This ‘general will’ should, according to their populist message, be translated as directly as possible into actual political decisions. All institutions, rules and procedures that stand in the way of such a direct expression of the general will are conceived of as liabilities that should be removed as quickly as possible. Minority rights? They hamper the direct expression of the will of the people. Checks and balances? They delay the decision-making process. Political compromises? They lead to the dilution of policy proposals and therefore to a lack of decisiveness. Free media? It only represents the interests of the ‘established order’.

Imagine that, the will of the people is bad. Yes, indeed, when the people voteŠ± if the elite think they are wrong then the will should be disregarded.

This is an example of two extremes. Populism is a rule of the majority; Progressivism is a rule of the "elite" or "smart" minority. Frankly neither of them make any sense. As we have written, the concept of Individualism, in the context of de Tocqueville, is in essence what made this country great. Simply Individualism is respect of each person equally, namely there are no special advantages, there are no minorities, because each is equal under the law.

The challenge going forward will be respect the individual. There are no winners or losers, there is only an amalgam of equally persons under the law. There is no Galbraithian group of great thinkers who we look to for guidance. There really is no great wisdom from Harvard, in fact there may just be a collection of disaffected persons.

Thus is one understand Individualism as not being one of isolation but as one of being equal inclusion then we need not fear the tyrants of the Academy nor the Tyranny of the Majority.

The Nature author continues:

More academics must speak out and warn about where we are heading. Part of this is immediate self-interest. There is no reason to expect that academia will be immune to the kind of populist interferences that we are now seeing in Hungary and Poland. Populist attacks on checks and balances and media freedom might well spill over into attacks on academia as well. After all, populists not only attack political and economic elites; they also target ‘snobby intellectuals’ in academia. In fact, such attacks on academics are happening in Turkey right now. Academics also have a moral obligation to protect liberal democracy. By promoting social and political pluralism, the system produces the circumstances under which researchers can do their jobs and science can flourish. Researchers depend on it.

Perhaps Academic should first listen to the people. Academics truly have no idea about the real world. Over fifty years I have seen this phenomenon become greater. They live is an ever diverging echo chamber. leaving behind reality. Unlike Socrates and the Agora, namely teaching in the market where counter ideas flowed from the people, Academics dictate from their positions of power. There is no room for "what ifs" with the Academy. It is the 21st Century version of a religious cult. The Individual is berated, suppressed, so no wonder it emerges as a revolt of the Populace.