I am tired of the Congress being blamed for “paralysis” and “partisanship”. When Obama claims that the House Republicans are “playing politics” he implies that he is in touch with some “General Interest”, “Common Interest”, or “The National Interest”. This is a very dangerous delusion if believed or an equally dangerous lie if mere rhetoric.
It is foolishness to believe there exists a singular Common Interest. But it is hubris to go further and to claim to know it! Ayn Rand would often add “for whom?” when asked about the “Common Interest”.
Humility prevents us from presuming to know the “Common Good”. We can hope , however, that the unsightly horse-trading, compromising and other finagling in Congress so long as legal, offers the best approximation of a national interest. Partisan politics is the sausage-making machine. Principles are fine, but we send our representatives to the State Capitals and the US Congress to lobby for us and our best interests, as we understand them.
The clashing of the various utopians and political philosophers is undermining the pragmatic functionality of our republic. Teachers and pundits have misled us into the belief that it is our duty to consider the Good Of The Country and to elect those who share our ideals. It is not. Representative government only functions correctly when human beings act like the self-interested individuals that they are.
Most of us are lucky if we know our own best interests! But now we expect the voters to have a well-developed Political Philosophy and an opinion on the best way to create a perfect world. The media tell us that our politicians must have “the Vision Thing” as that most pragmatic senior George Bush put it. That Vision Thing is at the root of all radicalisms. Americans and the Anglophone world in general have differed from Europeans in our (until recently) pragmatic distrust of Idealistic Zealots.
We must return to the less glorious and lofty thoughts that are our own interests. This is our duty in a Representative Republic. It is only through each of us voting for our own perceived self-interest that we may approximate a sort of common interest. We must never capitalize those two words. They are NOT writ in stone. Our interests change all the time.
Vote for your own self-interest and do it as a self-sacrificing idealist if you must. But just do it! If not we will only continually elect Dreamers of Utopian Fantasies. It is not the American way! It does not end well.