Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lesser Evil Voting

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- The other day I came across a remarkable document.
- Go on.
- An Eight Point Brief For Lesser Evil Voting, published on the Internet site of Noam Chomsky last year before the election. It argues that since none of the good candidates have a chance of winning we should vote for evil Clinton because evil Trump would probably cause more harm.
- 'Probably'.
- Yes. You wonder how that probability has been determined. The answer: based on Trump and Clinton's stated intentions.
- As if Noam Chomsky for fifty years has not been pointing out how politicians do not act on their stated intentions.
- He with his co-author suggests that the Vietnam war could have been shortened if Lessor Evil voting had been practiced.
- But how can we know? Is history a science where given initial conditions we can make predictions of what will come next?
- There appears to some to be a feedback mechanism in operation in what we can call material history.
- As opposed to what? Spiritual history?
- We'll get to that. Apparently every fifty or hundred years in recent history a revolutionary crises occurs, where the rich take more and more from the poor until the poor feel they have nothing much left to lose. After the revolutionary attempt, the poor recover some resources, and the cycle starts over again. There are also smaller cycles of boom and bust in financial speculation, and larger cycles of rise and fall of empires, where having robbed the world the leaders rob or in wars express disregard for the lives of the led of their own country, and even larger cycles are claimed, where wealthy civilization is followed by dark ages followed by a renaissance.
- But as far as I know these theories are based on so little information that no exact predictions can reasonably be made. Or am I wrong?
- You're not wrong. There is a complementary proposal that goes along with that of cyclic history, that of the influence of the Great Man. Without Lenin, it is argued, the Soviet Union would not have formed or lasted.
- On what science is that claim based?
- None. An intuition of probability.
- Since the Soviet Union turned out to be not anything new, not socialism, but only state capitalism, what difference did he really make? One kind of slave society was replaced by another. Not to mention that another Great Man might have come along if Lenin hadn't. If great men don't really go against the direction of history, and material history is not going anywhere but circles, perhaps there is a spiritual history: the progress of enlightened ideas, as Kant and others have claimed?
- How are the ideas "stored" in the material world they are supposed to guide? What is the cause and effect relation, how do ideas work on, work their way into the material stuff of history?
- Haven't a clue.
- Perhaps they are not stored there? The problem with the Lesser Evil argument is that any such compromise loses the power of ideas to affect history, reduces them to actions lost in the meaningless cyclic repetitions of material history.
- What then? Our ideas float above the material world, as our thoughts somehow float above our bodies? How do they, as you put it, get stored in history so they can accumulate?
- Chomsky and his co-author say that voting for a third party candidate that is better but probably won't win is mere self expression, an empty act of vanity or narcissism. I'd say rather it is a moral example made.
- Ideas persist because the are embodied in examples of ethical actions that are emulated.
- Yes.
- So history itself doesn't go anywhere, and great men don't escape its material cycles, but ideas do.
- Maybe do.
- Maybe do. No exact science here. But if this argument is correct moral compromise is not indicated as a practical choice.
- The spiritual is more practical.
- So it would seem.

Further Reading:
* An Eight Point Brief For Lesser Evil Voting