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the ideologies at play

Political philosophy is hard. Over the last three hundred years, the ideas of how to govern have varied dramatically. What has made it more difficult is the sheer number of humans on the planet who want to be more active in the process of governance. Not only are there seven billion people on the planet, most of them want to have a say in how they're governed, even if that say is the freedom to not care. The world at play today is a mix of socialism, democracy, communism, anarchism, monarchies, and so forth. A lot of people have strong opinions on how to govern the masses, and it is incredibly difficult to find a common vocabulary for every facet of political idealism.

This presents a major problem for those who have even a passing interest in governance, which systems like democracy are based on. Being an informed citizen requires a lot of work to fully comprehend all the options. For a sustained, stable, practical utopian system to work, this difficulty needs to be alleviated. Some societies have answered this problem in disastrous ways. For example, America clings onto a two party system, artificially splitting politicians between "democratic" and "republican", even though those terms do nothing to describe their actual ideological foundations. While technically you can run for office sporting any ideology, it seems impossible to win any major election under any label outside of "democrat" and "republican". All other parties are swept beneath an umbrella of "independent", which signifies just as little as the other two labels.

So if a limited-party system is not the answer, what is? The answer is simple, though hard to execute: we need better education through clearer, agreed-upon definitions of ideological foundations. The problem with these clearer definitions is that they are extremely difficult to agree upon in the first place. One could easily draw a spectrum of political philosophical systems based on the power/size of its governance model, from anarchy (no government, total individualism) to totalitarianism (all government, no individualism). However, on each point of any such spectrum you'd have to draw more spectrums of each ideology. For example, a libertarian government has its own spectrum: from libertarian socialism to anarcho-capitalism to consequentialist. There really is no way to accurately visually represent a comparison of political philosophies, as there are simply too many relevant dimensions to consider.

Nevertheless, we can agree upon broad simplifications that successfully embody the core values of a philosophy. Such simplifications should communicate the implications of a philosophy, while leaving the historical discussion of the ideal as an exercise for those interested. It is the social responsibility of anyone who believes in a philosophy to understand its ideals, considerations, implications, strengths, and weaknesses. It is the social responsibility of the whole group of citizens to make sure that the widespread simplified understanding of a particular philosophy is accurate. One of the first ways in which a society breaks down is the lack of collective accountability for the very definitions we base our society upon. Without them, we are not governed, we are not functional, we are merely lucky to be continuing as a governed society at all.

Utopia itself is a difficult word to use in the context of political philosophy, which is why I've added the word practical as a necessary prefix. In my belief, "utopia" does not mean "perfect" in any traditional sense. Both "utopia" and "perfect" can be defined in this context as balance. The practical utopia I seek is defined as reaching an equilibrium between many ideals, balancing competing ideologies that each serve their own beneficial purposes. Indeed, the very notion that one ideology could provide a singular all-encompassing answer is inherently wrong in my practical utopia. The founding fathers of the United States knew this as well, which is why they built the Constitution and Bill of Rights as documents which outline systems that act for and against each other, in order to form "a more perfect union" between competing interests. They knew something we seem to have forgotten: there is no single right way to do things, since that inherently discourages outside thought which may benefit society.

Let us enumerate a few ideologies that will inform further discussion, their strengths and weaknesses, so we can examine how they may work together to form a practical utopia. We, as a society, can learn something from any system of thought and governance, from anarchism to communism to monarchy to republicanism. In the practice of governance, it can never be acceptable to reject an ideology outright without consideration: any ideology which truly is evil will make itself apparent to an informed citizenry. The difficulty lies in keeping the citizenry properly educated, which is why education itself may need to be the first priority of any government.

Libertarianism, the right of the individual to be in charge of their own destiny without interference from a governing body; freedom of self above all. This ideology works well if you have a group of people who have the full capacity and understanding to be wholly responsible for themselves. It begins to fall apart if you believe that we, as a species or as citizens of the planet, should look after one another. Within liberalism, the chief component is the individual self and the limitlessness of its potential. Libertarianism is often paired with capitalism, but there is debate over private vs public ownership of capital. One common criticism of libertarianism is that it posits that the individual "knows best" for themselves, which places too much responsibility on the individual to ever behave for the benefit of anyone else, since there may be absolutely no incentive to do so.

Socialism, the right of the whole to exist safely together by means of shared ownership and governance of all things. This ideology works well if you have a group of people who are willing to be selfless and understand that their value as an individual is best represented as a unit of the value of the whole group. Socialism works well if you have a cultural consensus that we should all look after each other, and that one of the key uses of government is to form a safety net for the less fortunate. The betterment of the self is for the betterment of all. Socialism can take many forms, from communism to democratic socialism to libertarian socialism. One common criticism of socialism is that it posits that the government "knows best" for its citizens, which inherently restricts the freedom of those citizens to self-determine.

Totalitarianism, the right of the government to dictate all aspects of its citizens' lives. In the extreme, this means that the government has the ability to censor, control, own, and restrict any part of society and its individual citizens. There is usually no guarantee of freedom or self-determination for any individual. It inherently places all power in the hands of one person or a closed circle of very few people. However, citizens may be agreeable to such a system if the government successfully provides for all the basic needs of the individual and does not cause any direct harm to the citizenry. The common criticism of totalitarian governments is that it inherently disparages the self-worth of the individual, which stifles self-determination and the ability for the individual to choose how they are governed.

Liberalism, the right of the individual to freely exist in equality with all others; the protection of the minority from the majority. Useful if you have a large collection of disparate groups that do not necessarily see eye-to-eye, liberalism is meant to divide responsibility for the whole so that no one group can outweigh and become tyrannical of the rest. This ideology mainly seeks to find a compromise between the ensuring the freedom of individual persons without damaging the equality of each person in the whole population. To some, this leans closer to socialism, where equality means opportunity, while for others it leans closer to libertarianism, where equality means responsibility. Liberalism also holds social progress as a strong goal that the government should stand behind.

Capitalism, the right of the individual to succeed and profit by whatever means; the acceptance of social hierarchy and potential disparity, whether via economics or nationalism. Capitalism is a bit like libertarianism in that it removes centralized oversight in order to create the conditions for potential individual excellence. Capitalism rests on the idea that the market will decide and make the best decisions for the group based on the needs of the many, expressed through money. If there is a need within a group, someone will come along to supply it. If there is an abundance of supply, someone will come along to innovate new uses for it, or they will go bankrupt. Most importantly, these systems of supply and demand (markets) are private instead of public, and they generate material wealth for the individual rather than the group. This individual, private materialism inherently creates a social hierarchy, while keeping the potential for mobility within that hierarchy a question of market forces. While these are many criticisms, the benefit of capitalism is that it is inherently a free system, that has no inherent governmental biases.

Conservatism, the belief that we should stop or slow the changing of society and/or government; that things were better in the past, that tradition should inform our decisions. It's important to remember that not all progress is inherently good, and sometimes you need to stop and think about the way things are, they way things were, and the way things could be. Conservatism is a good mechanism, a necessary mechanism, for providing a braking force against heedless progress that could damage the group. Conservatism leads to ideas like environmentalism, in which the main focus of the group should be to protect and conserve the planet we live on, rather than exploit natural resources to make more material goods.

Egalitarianism, the belief in the equality of all living things; the right of the group to make decisions instead of creating laws, favoring the removal of all social and economic inequality (free public education, free public health care, etc). While libertarianism favors liberty, egalitarianism favors equality. While socialism favors government as a "safety mechanism" for the whole, egalitarianism sees government itself as a force of inequality. However, like libertarianism, this ideal can only hold true and effective among a group of people who are fully capable and understand to be wholly responsible for themselves. In this case, they must be extremely mindful to behave as equal to all other living things; individuals must remain largely selfless or the system breaks down. Instead of creating hard laws that dictate life, the group must decide and agree on its collective actions. A common criticism of egalitarianism is that it is impractical given the "nature of humanity" to be selfish.

Democracy, the right of the individual to have an equal say in the whole of society's governance. In such a system, the government itself cannot be defined by a specific ideal, but instead a representation of the ideals of its citizens. The benefit of this is equal representation; the potential pitfall is the inability to agree on anything. In the worst case, it could lead to the tyranny of the majority, if the government is set up to function that way. Unlike some of the more extreme ideologies, democracy does not really require its citizens to be wholly and fully capable of individualization; democracy can function properly even if a lot of people do not participate, as can be seen in America. The right to not participate is an essential part of certain democratic systems, unless you enforce compulsory voting.

Republicanism, the system of electing individuals to represent groups. These representatives form the government. While this may seem like what democracy is, it's actually not: true democracy has no represented officials making up the government, but instead relies on the participation of citizens to form the government. Since this is impractical at large scales, we elect people to represent groups of like-minded individuals (in theory, at least). This is an important distinction, because these elected persons are the ones actually making the governmental decisions for us, instead of the citizenry truly acting as a single cohesive group. This is a form of compromise that is important for groups of immense size.

The hierarchy-less corporation, the idea that a group of people can work towards a common goal and self-regulate as a group while making profit, all without the need for a traditional, established hierarchy of control. While not a philosophical or political ideology, it's an important business idea because it encapsulates an oddity, as if a bubble of egalitarian socialism could thrive within a system that is driven by libertarian capitalism. The hierarchy-less corporation operates by making group decisions, relies on the individuals within the group to act in their own interests in the hopes that they form a cohesive strategy, and then distributing the results of that individual action back out among the group as a whole.

There are many more potential definitions to include here, some of which I may update as I write the rest of this document. If you have any ideas for terms that I should include here, let me know. If you think I've described anything incorrectly, let me know. Again, these are not perfect definitions, they are merely simplifications that I believe illustrate the core values of the ideology being discussed.

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