Thoughts on ideology

“Democracy is an experiment the goal of which is to keep the experiment going. The purpose of democracy is to enable people to live democratically. That’s it. Democracy is not a means to something else; there is no higher good that we’re trying as a society to attain. When we compromise with democracy in order to achieve some other purpose, even when the purpose is to defend democracy, then we are in danger of losing it.”

This quote from Louis Menand in the New Yorker (Mar 4, 2013, p71) really got me thinking. It’s such a basic point and one that should be blindingly obvious, yet I’d hazard it’s a subtlety that’s often lost on politicians.

The piece in the New Yorker, incidentally, was a review of a book about the New Deal. Menand was arguing that Franklin Roosevelt’s success as a politician was rooted in his being “a political pragmatist, someone who is less interested in the ideological provenance of a policy than in its effectiveness” – which sounds like a good thing to me. But it must be pretty rare to rise to the top in politics without a strong ideology, right?

I don’t pretend to know enough about politics or philosophy to be able to say more myself, but I like what Menand has to say.

Democracy rules

If you do nothing else today

I believe in democracy. I believe in using my vote. I believe in you using your vote, even if I don’t agree with your political views. I am very excited about tomorrow’s election and the possibilities that it holds. Whatever else you do tomorrow, if you are eligible to vote in the UK then use your vote.

Stephen Fry, of course, said all this more eloquently than I could. But I will try to explain briefly. Politics is important because it’s not just boring old men bickering about complicated stuff in London. Politics is everyday life, your life. It’s everything from how much tax you pay to how and when your rubbish gets collected, from the number of nurses staffing a hospital ward to how quickly potholes get fixed. Your biggest opportunity to have your say in all those things is to use your vote.

If you don’t yet know which way to vote there are some great websites to help you make up your mind – VoteMatch, VoteForPolicies, and of course the manifesto of each party is on their website. More specific to your local area, you can read about your MP candidates at TheyWorkForYou.