How to Save The Public Interest from Two-Party Politics

Created: 04 December, 2015
Updated: 18 October, 2022
5 min read

Dissident Politics advocates a set of three political principles or morals that foster objectivity in politics. The proposal comes despite the innate intuitive-subjective nature of human cognition and American politics.

Two core premises underpin the argument. The first is that modern politics is subjective and ineffective because the two-party system understands the intuitive aspect of human behavior and relentlessly exploits that biology to its own advantage, usually at the expense of the public interest.

The second premise is that, despite a fundamentally intuitive biology that often unconsciously distorts fact and logic to fit personal morals, it is possible to define a set of political morals or principles that will decrease this unconscious distortion.

In essence, an objective intellectual framework for politics pits unconscious subjective human nature against a consciously objective political ideology or nurture. It is a matter of intuitive-subjective nature vs. rational- objective nurture.

The public interest component of objective politics

The modern understanding of human cognitive biology points to three morals or political principles that would promote objectivity. As described before, the three morals are (1) fidelity to unbiased facts and (2) fidelity to unbiased logic that are applied to (3) serve an objectively defined public interest.

Seeing the desirability of unbiased (undistorted) fact and logic is straightforward. No one says they distort facts or logic, consciously or not, notwithstanding the science that clearly shows distortion is very common.

People who consciously distort facts and logic to get what they want or to convince others are simply mendacious and nothing can be done to fix that. However, people who unconsciously (intuitively) distort facts and logic but deny any distortion are being honest but human. Something can be done to improve that.

That aside, it is harder to see how service to the public interest can be defined objectively. Every political, religious, philosophical, and economic faction claims that its ideology and policy choices best serve the public interest or general welfare. There is no significant exception to that rule.

Given that, the concept of the public interest is objectively meaningless, at least as it is used in America’s subjective two-party political system. However, that does not mean that the concept has to be meaningless for objective politics.

Facts and logic in modern two-party politics are mostly subjective, so it is no surprise that core concepts are also subjective.

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How is it possible to inject some reasonable objectivity into a subjective conception of the public interest? Looking at how the concept is subjective points to an answer.

Each conception is pinned to, or trapped by, personal morals or political ideology. For example, conservative ideology tends to foster dislike or hate of government, taxes and regulation. Facts and logic are trapped in that small ideological box. Facts and logic must conform to policies that reflects conservative principles, otherwise a “liberal” or “centrist” policy might seem to be the best choice.

That would be unacceptable.

Conservatives, like liberals, never distort fact or logic to undermine their own ideology and policy choices. Conscious or not, fact and logic distortion always supports personal ideology or self-interest.

The ideology trap and the big box

That is the fundamental biological basis of human cognition. It is intuitive-subjective, not rational-objective. Subjective politics is first and foremost a matter of morals and intuition. Facts and logic are secondary and surprisingly mutable.

Although facts and logic are “bigger” than and independent of personal morals or ideology, they are trapped and distorted by each person’s moral or ideological beliefs. It is very unusual for fact and logic to break out of the ideological boxes that people trap them in.

That is especially true for hard core ideologues. The stronger the belief in an ideology or the smaller the box, the more powerful the distortion (i.e.,

motivated reasoning, which occurs when fact and logic contradict the ideology).

To make the concept of service to the public interest as objective as the human mind will allow, it makes sense to have the concept so broad as to more or less fit the “size” of facts and logic, which don’t care about anyone’s ideology or morals. That can be done by incorporating into the public interest objective competition among all of the core concepts that underpin the major political, economic, religious, and philosophical ideologies.

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A public interest defined to include consideration and balancing of all relevant interests and ideological morals or principles traps facts and logic in a much bigger box. Fitting big facts and logic into big ideological boxes requires less distortion compared to fitting them into small boxes.

For example, a conservative moral of lower taxes would tend to distort fact and logic to support that proposition in the mind of the conservative. However, unbiased consideration of (i) the liberal moral of support for tax revenue and (ii) the conservative moral of fiscal responsibility would distort fact and logic in another direction.

The net effect would be less fact and logic distortion than if the issue were simply considered from a narrow liberal or conservative point of view. Simply put, the public interest concept is meaningfully objective by forcing unbiased consideration of all major and relevant morals or political principles.

Not perfect, but better

That will not be perfect, of course. But it will be better than the unresolvable fantasy-based partisan disputes that drives two-party politics and its often incoherent rhetoric. Admittedly, it does take some faith to believe that objective politics can exist in the face of (i) overwhelmingly subjective human cognition, (ii) a selfish, relatively corrupt two-party system, (iii) freedom of speech that protects spin (lies, misinformation, unconsciously distorted fact and logic, etc.), and (iv) an ineffective press-media that is economically constrained, inept, and/or ideologically co-opted.

Regardless of the current reality, an objective, biology-based political ideology could one day takes its place on an equal footing with the other great drivers of modern political reality and thought. It is possible that, if enough people reject the emotional liberal vs. conservative paradigm and become comfortable with looking coldly but rationally at problems and competing solutions, some reasonable consensus on at least some of the issues that divide Americans may form.

Reduced fact and logic distortion will necessarily reduce ideologically-driven differences in perceptions of reality and opinion. As long as those differences are subjective or “religious/faith-based” in nature, they will remain unresolvable.

Like all new ideas, a theory of biology-based objective politics has to start somewhere. Explaining the rationale is the start.

Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / shuttterstock.com

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