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November 22, 2011

LOCKEAN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PARTISAN GRIDLOCK

by profbartling1

The bipartisan committee of twelve lawmakers appointed by party leaders to trim $1.2 trillion of the national runaway debt over the next decade on the day their report is due have crumbled. Failing to reach a compromise  just how to lower the federal deficit is resulting in the gridlock  blame trading game. political parties  accuse one another for the failure. Republicans reject out of  hand any new taxes, especially any targeted on the affluent. Democrats , on the other hand, insist that there be no money changes in social programs such as Medicare, or Social Security.  A combination of  spending cuts and new tax revenue is their solution. How to meet this impasse? Obviously political compromise is in order. How approach this partisan dilemma? Obviously both parties are politically posturing looking to the results of the election of November next year with the hope of control ing both congressional houses.

Recently my wife read Stacy Schiff’s  “Cleopatra: a Life”  and pointed me to the following quote (p.148), namely,  “politics have long been defined as the systematic organization of hatreds”.  An exaggeration, perhaps, but an element of truth.  No political talk is allowed in the Becketwood workroom since it is seen as a threat to friendships.  Recalling a graduate course at Minnesota University regarding American government a repeated observation made reference to the American commitment to individual freedom and the rights of private property.  This emphasis rests in major degree upon the political philosophy of John Locke. Lockean ideology is clearly reflected in the Federal Constitution and structures of  state government.

John Locke, 1632-1704, is remembered as the father of  liberalism in Enlightenment thought.  His political thought reflects the results of the 1688 Glorious Revolution.  This ended the English Civil Wars that began the struggle between Cavaliers (royal faction) and Roundheads (parliamentary faction) resulting with the regicide in 1649 of Charles I. Struggle between the factions continued  until the triumph of  parliamentary political authority in the Glorious Revolution.  The monarchy no longer could  govern without Parliament.

Natural right,  in Locke’s view, held that all  individuals are by nature free and equal and not dependent on monarchy. Individual liberty and right of property are independent of the laws of a particular society.  The individual’s legal rights are guaranteed by legitimate government based upon the social compact and agreement of the governed. Protection of  life, liberty, and property are  an individual’s right demanding protection by government.

Money is a form of property.  How, then,  balance freedom, equality, and property rights in an egalitarian gridlocked democracy?  Regarding budget cuts , one faction insists  no new taxes, especially on the affluent. The other faction tolerates no reduction in social entitlements?  Both views  ought to seek  policies not as a means of restricting or furthering income but preferably in a uniform manner in proportion to individual income or wealth.  Neither freedom before equality of property rights, , or equality before freedom and property rights. .  The art of political compromise rather than gridlock suggests movement to the center of the political spectrum with a fair and balanced  approach to budget cuts  affecting the property rights of the citizenry. We probably must wait for election results next year to discover the direction lawmakers will take. Will property rights of individuals be dealt with in a fair, just, and equitable manner?

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