The politics of the future

3 minute read

tl;dr: I start a new series of semi-random posts on political themes for the 21st century.

If you’re like me you may be tired of reading (or participating in!) Twitter tiffs and Facebook free-for-alls about political issues, but not necessarily tired of thinking about the future of Howard County, Maryland, the United States, and the world. If so, I invite you to take a break from social media and speculate with me about the long-term trends and themes that may drive politics in the 21st century:

How long might our current period of political conflict last? What political ideas and arguments might gain traction in the coming years and decades? What about the political implications of social and technological changes and other “macro-trends”? I very much doubt that my readers will agree with everything I write, but at least I hope that I can say something interesting that can’t be captured in 140 characters.

Unlike my previous series on the Chrysalis and Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, I don’t have a list of posts planned out ahead of time, although there are particular ideas and themes I definitely plan to touch on. However I can at least sketch out what I intend this series to be (or not be):

  • Non-partisan. Although I am a life-long registered Democrat, I am going to try to write in a way that is fair and civil to people of different political parties and persuasions. (If you think I’ve failed in that aim, see the sidebar for where to send complaints.)

  • Non-current. No commentary on current events—whether today’s, this week’s, this month’s, or even the next four years’—and no comments about anyone currently holding or seeking to hold political office.

  • Non-local. Although I’m writing from a Howard County perspective for a Howard County audience, I’ll typically focus on politics at a national level (mostly the U.S.).

  • (Mostly) non-technical. Long-time readers know that I love to throw in mathematical, statistical, scientific, and technological material from time to time. (See for example my past posts on income inequality and maps of election results.) I’ll try to curb that tendency but won’t be able to avoid it entirely, because science and technology will likely play a significant role in the politics of the future.

Although my intent is to be non-partisan, it would be stupid to deny that I have particular opinions and interests that influence what I think about political issues. Here’s the perspective from which I’ll be writing:

  • I am skeptical of attempts to justify particular political systems based on pure deductive reasoning and/or unrealistic ideas about human nature. I am partial to ideas that take into account what we know (or can reasonably conclude) about people, the societies they live in, the culture and institutions they create, and the history of the world.

  • I tend to judge political systems by how well they improve the lives of people as individuals, including in particular individuals marginalized within their societies. I am skeptical of those who think political systems exist primarily to serve one’s family, ethnic group, nation, or God.

  • I don’t believe that political philosophy is a search for truth (for example, what types of political, economic, and social arrangements are provably most just). I believe it is a search for plausible and persuasive arguments in favor of our own ideas and feelings about how society should be organized. I also believe that—if approached correctly—that is not necessarily a bad thing.

So, that’s what I’ll be writing about in the coming months. Apropos of my last point above, for my next post I’ll talk about how political philosophy is (or should be) like selling, only with a really long sales cycle.