The basic logic behind politics

As before, assume my basic premise that politics is the continuation of violence by other means.

How does this work in practice? Let’s imagine the most basic scenario of scarce resources: a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Each person has the singular material interest of staying alive for as long as possible to increase their probability of being rescued. In this case, the most ideal scenario for each person is to maximize their share of the food.

Because the game is obvious to everyone, they will agree at first to a proportional program of rationing. This is because anyone who immediately tries to eat a large share knows he’ll get thrown overboard in short order, and furthermore lose all trust in the ensuing political game. After the continued scarcity becomes obvious, the survivors are going to start forming alliances.

The logic behind this is simple: any group with a simple majority can overpower the minority group and throw them overboard, thus increasing their individual rations. But the individuals in the majority have to watch out for subgroups on the winning side, because they might suddenly get thrown overboard in a second attack. The combination of in-groups and out-groups alone creates an environment of shifting alliances- a subgroup within a majority may reach out the minority, offering to turn the tide of the battle in exchange for a disproportionate share of the spoils. Or the subgroup could openly reveal their unreliability and auction off their violence.

Further, the strongest man may decide to set up a sort of government through the threat of force. Maybe he’s a benevolent king, maybe not. Or a weaker man could hold the food over the side of the lifeboat and yell “everybody does what I say or all of us will starve”. This is the sort of weak government that cannot last any longer than the weak man can stay awake and vigilant.

Add in a few more dynamics and the picture quickly becomes complex. Some loyalties are more fixed than others, like a mother’s loyalty to her children vs. the father’s (depending on their respective character and constitution). Some consumer goods are more scarce than others, prices fluctuate, ideologies and moral considerations form, and if this and all the rest weren’t enough…we’re living in a relatively post-scarce world. And slavery is a huge economic topic of its own, never having been more relevant or complicated than today.

Anyway, all of that aside, this is the basic model of politics at its core (as distinct from moral considerations). Economic scarcity creates competition for resources, which gives rise to the use of force, which gives rise to these shifting group alliances. Probably the most important dynamic in this system is that between relative ignorance, intelligence, rhetoric, and deceit. And the static state to which it most often settles is that which I’ve described before: the upper class (<1%) allies with the masses (80-95%) to keep the middle class (5-20%) from getting any funny ideas.

About Aeoli Pera

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2 Responses to The basic logic behind politics

  1. Pingback: SF/F is for the middle class | Aeoli Pera

  2. Pingback: Why confidence works | Aeoli Pera

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