History of Philosophy in 16 Questions 4: How Should We Govern?

History of Philosophy in 16 Questions 4: How Should We Govern?



alright ladies and gentlemen thank you very much for coming out once again fourth lecture in the history of philosophy and 16 questions so last time we talked about ethics right how should we live and part of the question of how we should live of course is how do you govern people who are living that way whatever the way is and it suffers from precisely the same problem which is once you ask how people should be governed there's so many possible answers that it essentially becomes chaos this is this is the net result of asking that but prior to asking the question of how people should be governed it's important to remember how society was structured first very small-scale societies were communal and they were organized by hey we're all in this together we don't want to die think lifeboat right you might have a little hierarchy in a lifeboat but you need everybody to pitch in so you can all survive everybody's different skills or manifest and so you have a place it's important you don't do a lot of top-down abusing in this kind of situation because you know everybody it is valuable in their own way when you get a little bigger then you get the problem of how should you make decisions historically the answer to this was the most dangerous person was put in charge and they got to make the decisions this is why the favorite story one of my favorite stories from the Middle Ages is Beowulf if anybody's familiar with Beowulf now Beowulf was an important person because he was clearly totally insane how when he had to fight the monster Grendel everybody else had been slaughtering Knights left and rian killing the zoo so like your favorite shows up and says you know what I don't even want to use weapons against Grendel I'm just gonna rip it apart with my bare hands that'll be fun and that's exactly the kind of person you want in a society that is ruled by brute force and main violence because when you go to battle you have to Matt in fact the earliest cave paintings we have some of the earliest cave paintings we had is of a battle and and what you have is you have people with ranged weapons Spears and arrows and clearly there's two groups and they're sort of faced off against each other and there's some arrows just like when you're like the third grade you drew it this is what they what they did and it tells a story that a humans haven't changed that much to that the value there is in the person or people who are willing to sort of run it arrows to chase off the other people and generally these were battles of demonstration you were trying to kill them you were just trying to scare them off killing people is very dangerous and the risks were too great so you just want to have a show of force but if you have one crazy person like Beowulf who will just go oh look they've got arrows great I'm just gonna go rip their heads off with my bare hands he's really great he's an incredibly valuable asset and you tend to put him in charge now then when you get societies that are a little bigger this doesn't become that functional everybody works out pretty quickly that yeah having the most homicidal maniac in charge of your society may not be that productive of a positive outcome and so you have this struggle that there might be a few seats seats in the back are there any seats left in the back there maybe yeah a couple throw a couple around back there although we'll get there yeah or maybe grab a chair and bring it in with you that might be best okay we're so proud so much okay so when you get a little bigger you realize that just having the largest most dangerous person in charge is not that great and this is the central tension by the way in the Iliad Achilles is the greatest warrior nobody questions this but Agamemnon is in charge and the question that Achilles asks is why is Agamemnon in charge when I do all the killing and Agamemnon says hey because the gods love me and because I'm Agamemnon what he really means I'm the head of the bureaucracy I'm the number one guy in the bureaucracy of the ancient world and so that's why I'm in charge I'm not a forties not a bad fighter but he's not like even fifth or sixth on the ranking chart and Achilles gets really really pissed off about this and that central struggle is why should an Achilles leave well because as the you had worked out by that time which is you know 800 ish BC it's really having someone like Achilles run your country it's not that great of an idea it's not clear that rather than Agamemnon run your country is that great of an idea either by the way but it's killing certainly not and so you go a little further and you get a greater sense of humanity and you go right if it's not going to be the strongest person and it's not going to be the quote-unquote best person how do you organize people how do we make this work and again it's important to note that people like to live in groups we're group grouper uppers we love cities we have since time immemorial even a small city like Jim become where we are now of Port Townsend in the ancient world would have been considered considerable size there would have been significant population bases and so how do you organize these population bases is a real ongoing troubling question and the answer is believe it or not given by Rousseau many years later and he says every man is born free and everywhere he's found in Chains or shackles depending on your translation but he goes on to say but what you have to do is come up with a social contract that makes the chains worthwhile that's the deal he doesn't say you should free people from chains people always get this wrong about me so what he's saying is living in groups requires compromise requires a certain amount of shackling of the individual to the group and so what you need is social contract that makes the shackling worthwhile that makes most of the people most of the time go okay this is good enough by the way no one ever thinks wow this is the spectacular best thing ever see that's what that's a dream but historically it's pretty clear that people are like yeah okay not as bad as it could be the neighbors have it worse at least we're not those people at least we're not French right or whatever that is what the English always said he goes hate the French French right says it's whoever the people you don't like at least you're not them this has no like basis in fact by the way it's just it's just this concept of yeah but the important thing to note here is what is a social contract what it is is it's a story a nation any group of people of any size is ruled by a narrative by a story by a tale that we tell each other our children adults and is told repeatedly over and over again and then you begin to live that narrative what is it what is a nation a nation is a fictive thing like if you look at the world from space you don't see like all these lines on the globe let's see how this really knighted state starts that's where Canada is you know Hawaii's part of United States see that wouldn't make no sense right well it's what United States doing way over there that makes no sense historically what's going on right but we have this narrative that oh the people in Hawaii are somehow very much associated with the people in New York City which is probably factually inaccurate right I think just it's just not true but we have a story that makes it true this is the key thing and as long as we love our story said enough not perfectly but as long as we love our story we tend to be happy when our story begins to break down in various ways we tend to be unhappy revolutions major changes in cultural history tend to happen when various kinds of narratives fail people talk about military wars and all this this is sort of vaguely true but a lot of that is driven by and associated with changing narratives the entire Reformation which is probably the most important event in the last 1500 years in the Western world or last 500 years in the Western world in the 1500s was simply a collapse of the notion that the Roman Catholic Church really was the universal Church of everything everybody had ever seen and once that story collapse people were like well why should the church have you know half the land in my area and everyone was like we don't know anymore we used to know yesterday we knew oh because this Roman Catholic Church rules everything universal Church all time all space all dimension and then people started going oh wait we met some Chinese people and they're not Catholic at all oddly and we went we've been trading with the Moors and we've been traded to the middle eat in there and we went around the Cape of Good Hope and we found the Pacific Ocean and that wasn't Catholic at all and all seven people went oh huh there you go so why should we give half our land to them or allow them to have you know all this in the narrative just collapses but what happens is is then people get really really unhappy so so one part of this is the question of narrative which we're going to return to what are the stories that we tell to decide how we should govern people the other part of it is your narrative has a sort of direction it's may call it teleology as the fancy word for but just means it's going someplace there's an end point that you're going to arrive at in your narrative and and that is the goal of your society so your your societies generally aren't described as these stagnant entities that just exists for all time unchanged eternally sometimes that happens Catholic Church tried to pull that off anyway but but that but that's generally not the narratives like oh we're going to form here my first example we the people are going to form a more perfect union that's what we're here to do we're gonna form a more perfect union to establish justice insure domestic tranquility provide for the common defense promote the general welfare secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to posterity and do ordain and establish the Constitution United States of America we've all heard this is the preamble of course of the Constitution there's our story what are we here for to establish justice domestic tranquility common defense the benefits of Liberty to us and all posterity right when people talk about manifest destiny or white man's burden this is the part of the net we are bestowing gifts upon the rest of the world whether they want them or not right that's the head that's part of those people give it give it give this gift back you know that's but this but that that's the narrative that we're moving through history towards this end goal of perfect justice perfect tranquility perfect peace perfect welfare perfect embodiment of the ideas of Liberty of course the tricky part about this is these are often mutually contradictory and there are really complicated to work out but as long as you're going with this as long as you have a fundamental belief that yeah generally speaking this is a good idea then your narrative holds up so I want to give you a couple comparison ones here from different I just too that are very similar to ours the rights of man from France and the founding document founding law of Germany guca suits that we'll give you slightly different takes but both are documents influenced by the Enlightenment and so the rights of man you get a little bit of difference said men are born and remain free and equal and right social distinctions can be found it only on the common good now this is we don't have that line and our because what's happening is we didn't really have a domestic nobility in the United States when the Constitution was formed the domestic nobility was over in England so when we got rid of the King we got rid of all of that in France they very much had it and so when the first thing they wrote down is none of this nonsense about Nobles let's get rid of that so that's that's very powerful in their theory of who they are also the nation thing the principle of sovereignty resides essentially into the nation now France of course if you look at that geopolitically are in the middle of Europe and nation-states are just being created by the way they're a newish thing they've been around for a while but not a long time and so they really had to emphasize look we are a nation that's where everything comes from from be what the hell is a nation again it's just a made-up clue fact and so what they're saying is the foundation of all of this is a made-up concept this is what people always complain about our money being fiat money right which means it's not backed by anything and they say well yeah but our whole country is not backed by anything our whole country is backed by a belief in the fact that our country exists just as our money is backed by the idea that our money exists if people don't believe that United States exists it really doesn't exist it turns out in large numbers of course it's a social construct social constructs incredibly powerful but not to be confused with something that really exists so Frances saying Nations these things that just have sort of been evolving over the last hundred or so years are really where everything is at and we're one of them and and you can tell because we wrote it down in our document here they say we the people of the United States of America who we're the United States of America does not exist when they said we the people of the United States of America you just write it down and look back that's the key never looked back we wrote it down and we're good to go right now Germany later this is a later Constitution written at the end of World War two when they had a few issues they were trying to straighten out and they said equality for the law all persons shall be equal before the law men and women by the way shall have equal rights the state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantage that now exists notice this requires the state to actively intervene they can't just say well ask the way things all right no it has to make it good no person shall be favored or disfavored because of sex parentage race language homeland and origin faith or religious or political opinions no person shall be disfavored because of disability now this seems shockingly modern because it's the first constitution written after the horrors of World War two when they made a list of horrors they did not wish to see repeated and then they wrote them in the document and required the state to prevent that and right now people may know Germany is struggling with the influx of refugees if you read this you understand why they're struggling because it says right in there you can't discriminate against them but culturally they really want to discriminate against them it's a built-in tension between the notion of the opening and welcome and wanting to incorporate people in your society and a sense of specialness and separateness and not wanting to have to encounter all the foreigners it's very strong you may be familiar with this from your own country right this but this this is much stronger there and it's in that that conflict that they're living in is written right into the document because it says you cannot do this because it has a painful history but those are three clearly related notions that come out of the Enlightenment a story that we tell about how countries are supposed to be formed and what they're supposed to be formed for they're supposed to be formed to secure individual rights to help people be equal now if you go back through history and read the libel laws of Hammurabi your biblical texts ancient other texts yet you don't run into this concept Beowulf didn't say hey I think we're all equal here let's take a vote and see what we should do next he said excuse me please get on my way I'm about to kill things and if you're in front of me I'll kill you too right it's that very direct use of force but the problem is this is what the outcome of several thousand years of evolution when you have a king and everything flows from the king the narrative is very simple very easy if you're familiar with Shakespeare this is all the Shakespearean history plays the king is good the king does well everything is good with the kingdom and we always think that is hilarious like why would people believe that if the king is good you're going to get good weather etc etc but it's the same concept that was the narrative we believe in the king if the King does well and the king prospers then will prosper if the king is a bastard and he's wrong and he's cheating and doing immoral things then the country will suffer there the country is the king the king is the country that was the story that was the narrative and it took a revolution in almost every country that had kings to break that narrative and come up with a new one many of which were of course examples that were reading here but is a very strong notion the problem that happens though is the first time this is sort of broken that we have historical records of in the West is an ancient Greece of course and they said hey in Athens and some other Greek colonies they said let's do a democracy or let's have a republic they came up with all kinds of different ways to governments have an oligarchy and the problem when you do this is again just like with ethics once you start asking how should you live there's an infinite number answers what is the purpose of your city-state in this case its Athens purpose to make everybody in Athens happy is it to be the most powerful city-state in the Peloponnesian area is it to fight with Persia endlessly is it to make Sparta look bad is it to prosper with trade you know its ah what is your country supposed to be doing and when you have a democracy it turns out what happens is you vote for everything which is great would they start doing this immediately which is what you know Plato and Aristotle are complaining about is you vote for war literally on one day and then the next day they want oh that was a bad idea then you vote for peace you send a ship out to get the people who are going out to make war and with that note saying no no no no no we meant peace let's not go to war and then like two months later you go yeah we meant more let's go to war and then they go right so this this you know this kind of Wow what are we supposed to be doing and like with ethics you have this problem of oh if your country is just supposed to be making everybody rich then what happens when everybody doesn't get rich at what point do people start going hey this system does not work for me or if your country is to say let's have everybody maximum individual liberty if people feel constrained then of course the tension comes from there let's be the world's greatest superpower will just be mighty and powerful and that will be great by the way this was our narrative for about 50 years in 1992 with the fall of the wall in Berlin and the fall of the Soviet Union that narrative collapsed one reason we're living in such confused times we have no idea what our narrative is we used to know it was to be better than the Soviets they have 10 missiles we'll have 20 they have 10 orchestras we'll have 20 they put a satellite in space we'll go to the moon by the way there's no good reason to go to the moon but the Soviets were in orbit so they'd be so we had to beat him to something and the moon is like the next thing and the Soviets of course immediately started to plan to go to Mars because that was the next and if they had gone to Mars with like right we're going to Saturn screw this we're just gonna blow all the way through because our narrative was our system is good and we know we're good because look at the Russians the Soviets are so bad so we felt good about ourselves and we knew why we did things no matter what the problems were we thought we knew what was going on well that narrative collapse and now we're very confused what is our country supposed to be doing is it supposed to be making everybody healthy is it supposed to be remaining world superpower are we supposed to intervene all over the place or intervene nowhere maybe we should work on the environment that would be good education how about that right we just don't know no priorities were confused because part of a big part of our underwriting narrative just collapsed and the first collapse again took place in ancient Greece and so what happens is people say why is ancient Greece so important philosophically why has it always come up well one reason is because again once you have all these different political systems begin to show up all of the problems of all the different political systems begin to show up and so if you want to know anything about political history you can learn it all from reading in Greeks because they had every system and they all failed in different ways and they all talked about all of them and complained about all of them so Greece was a direct democracy an indirect democracy a republic and oleg Archaea tyranny and about you know 150 years just rolled right through them and then back to a democracy then they got invaded and so then there were a satellite nation Rome was of course as quasi Republic and then sort of vaguely Republican then really just an Oleg Archy and then it was an empire straight tyranny all in about you know four hundred years they just click right through it and so all the people who are watching this we're like oh this is no good that's what they keep by the way no matter what you had people sit around saying oh this is no good when when Athens was a democracy that's when Socrates was saying bad things and particularly Plato no use for democracy whatsoever Aristotle not much more while they were a democracy then when they were an old darky everybody complained about them being an oligarchy of course everyone complained about tyrants nobody liked tyrants except for tyrants who kept arguing that being attire is quaint right and so what what should you do what should be the best thing what is the best story to tell ourselves about how we should organize ourselves as a people different stories different systems different ways of living and the third element here so you have one you have the narrative two you have the goal and then three both of those things require people so you have to have a theory of the citizen who gets to be a citizen what is the nature of a citizen well the responsibilities of a citizen how do you tell if someone's a good citizen or a bad citizen and those change radically so you can have a democracy like an ancient Athens very direct democracy by that I still love this idea I wish we would do it where you major offices were filled by lot that is so great it's like a lottery command Genovese meant in this show on TV the ratings would be off the charts everybody would have their number and you would sit down and you'd watch TV and then your number had come up and you'd go congratulations your Secretary of State you're like boom Secretary of State I better get a map you know that's sort of you know it'd be just like wow people would be so excited you think of the investment we would make an education because you'd have to look around and go oh my god buddy in the entire area could be the next Secretary of State right so so they had this I mean what a great idea I love that idea I think would just be chaos it'd be great but you know that but it's a whole different way of looking at it ah why could they do this well they could do this because it didn't let almost anyone be a citizen a very restricted franchise relative to anything in the ancient world wildly liberal franchise but relative to anything we would consider it unbelievably narrow you had to be a citizen basically means you've been born there you had to be male of course because women you had to be relatively well-off and so this meant that only about needs the estimates vary but let's say 15 percent of the population at any given time was actually able to participate and that's actually a wild exaggeration because to participate you had to be there in person and while we always think of Athens as this Athens the city it's actually a lot of the surrounding agricultural land and so even many of the citizens who theoretically qualified to participate are out working their farms because they have to and so active participant numbers we're probably in the low thousands and this is in an area that has a population of 150,000 said give or take the area not the city itself but the population from which they're drawing and so you're talking about a franchise at the tiny percentage of the population and so they felt a little more comfortable but even then people thought this was crazy and of course now we would be all in favor of this maybe right we can see where this would be troubling so you have the notion of who gets to be a citizen should it be rich people see an Oleg our key basically is it is a city state or a nation with 50 citizens and the qualification for being a citizen is to be really rich and powerful there you go and then you republics tend to be refined versions of bollig are keys where you go all right 50 is not enough we're gonna have 5,000 or 50,000 and then various forms of direct democracy by the way we have the initiative system in Washington state many states in the United States too which means anything we want to vote for it gets on the ballot there's a process but once it's on the ballot it's a straight up or down vote by the citizens this is direct democracy and so sometimes crazy stuff passes which is always great because it's it's it it lets you know that people like direct democracy but what they actually end up voting for is often surprising and gives you sometimes a better sense of the people sometimes a worse sense by the way cuz tend to be what happened is we vote for tax cuts and for services these are our two things we vote for we want better education and less taxes more roads and less taxes or environmental policies and less taxes and so it's just because we want everything which is great I appreciate people that work and so try how you square that is always a problem for governing but if you don't have a theory of the citizen you can't have a theory of how to put a country together what do people really want what do they really need governments always have to ask what do people really need Rome here is a beautiful example because Rome worked out that what people want is cheap food and entertainment and as long as they delivered bread and circuses Rome the city seemed to be perfect every time you had a riot in Rome every time you had significant civil unrest in Rome it tended to be because bread prices skyrocketed which meant that the average person was afraid of starving or going hungry which is a reason to riot right and so they should feed the people give them some entertainment they don't have to worry about things everything is okay but if that doesn't get taken care of em again think of the collapse of the Soviet Union the example I just gave it's pretty clear that the Soviet Union didn't collapse because of gulags that would be nice if that was a reason for torturing people or sending people to work camps our betray arrests are totally and completely inefficient legal system unbelievable levels of corruption the government now it turns out they couldn't make color TVs and when other people get color TVs and you don't apparently that is enough for you to just go fine right done with this political system but by there's only a slight exaggeration the the inability of the soviet union's deliver basic consumer goods to a population who saw other people around them getting those consumer goods just undermined completely the sense of Worth and of efficacy of the Soviet system so much so that one thing that hastened the fall of Eastern Europe in particular was they were borrowing huge sums of money from the West so Germany was loaning vast sums of money to East Germany so that East Germany could buy consumer goods for their part to keep the population happy and of course this is unsustainable because East Germany had nothing to sell and so the debt grew and grew and grew until one day they're like ah okay fine we have to cut off the imports we have to lower food subsidies if you don't have any money anymore and we have this huge debt boom there went that was it all over Eastern Europe this happened repeatedly it undermined the basic story of the Soviet Union which was workers paradise we deliver the goods for you your life will be better today better tomorrow better in the future and then pretty soon it was not getting better and then it was getting worse but worse relative only to surrounding countries I mean ups and downs of course every economy has that but it was really the surrounding countries doing so much better that hastened the final demise of that system which is curious it's the narrative broke down different narrative than ours but again and once it breaks down chaos another example here by the way is this is a Chinese could this preamble to preamble to the Chinese Constitution totally different China is one of the countries are the longest histories in the world by the way the next lecture which is on China is called why was the past so great China is one of the countries the longest history in the world the people of all nationalities in China have jointly created a splendid culture on have a glorious revolutionary tradition feudal china was gradually reduced after 1842 semi-colonial and semi-feudal country the Chinese people waged wave upon wave of heroic struggles for national independence and liberation and for democracy and freedom great and earth-shaking historical changes have taken place in China in the 20th century the revolution of 1911 led by dr. Sun yat-sen abolished the feudal monarchy and gave birth the Republic of China but the Chinese people had yet to fulfill their historical task of overthrowing imperialism and feudalism so notice our art preamble has nothing about the past there's like no there's nothing it doesn't start in the beginning we came here the Indians had some stuff and we took it and then we moved west and took some more stuff and then we had a revolution we kicked out English people who weren't here what yeah so that we don't start there because it's really confusing China starts with its history the narrative of Chinese political structures is one of history and the development of historical forces in a way we just we just don't have it at all it's not abstract rights of people it's heroic waves of the Chinese population building a better future freeing us from feudalism and imperialism which is actually historically pretty much a factory um but the Chinese after waging hard protracted torturous struggles armed and otherwise the Chinese people all matched nationalities led by the Communist Party of China with Chairman Mao Zedong as its leader ultimately in 1949 overthrew the rule of imperialism fuel ism and bureaucratic capitalism won the great victory of the new Democrat evolution and founded the People's Republic of China thereupon the Chinese people took state power in their own hands and became masters of the country you Chinese citizen are part of a historical narrative everything the country does you do everything the country achieves you achieve this the struggles of you and your ancestors that have made us great and it's that struggle at going forward that will continue to make us great it's not abstract all that later on it gets to certain rights and all that but the the narrative it lays down is not one of rights and benefits it's justice it's literally a clear story that we're historical actors in the drama of Chinese history that's how to understand us so when China launched its first aircraft carrier there was a wave of enthusiasm all over China because everybody felt like they had contributed to achieving this we do military stuff all the time and we don't pay no attention to it we don't have we don't feel invest as far as I can tell as a country we don't feel vested in any way we don't go yeah we invaded Afghanistan yeah we're in Iraq yeah we have military bases in Germany still for some reason you know it's just like oh the military is out there we know we have the military we might complain about spending too much on the military we might even not like what the military does but as far as I can tell most Americans have no direct attachment to it they don't feel like the military is them and they're part of the military it's not our me it's our our story it's very different historically by the way because it's a different political environment again very challenging so you have to have a theory of people you have to have a narrative and you have to have a goal and when any of those things go awry then your ability to govern go seriously awry and you get transitional periods where people have to come up with a new story a new narrative and we hate this by the way you really really like to hang on to our old stories so I'll think about this notion of tradition tradition is the keeping of the old stories alive because it gives you a sense of order and coherence and continuity and human civilization requires order coherence and continuity it doesn't exist without it and so we're heavily heavily vested in things continuing more or less give or take the same way they have been at least in the ways that we think are most important so think about all of the technological changes that have happened in the last 40 years I mean a true world shattering unbelievable technological evolution cell phones satellites telecommunications of all kinds medical evolution genetic I mean wow doesn't bother us generally speaking I mean there's problems here there people are they watching us you know where the ethics of genetics should you be modifying the genome of unborn babies you know sure we have questions but none of them feel seriously undermining because they don't touch any of our core narratives our core narratives don't talk about technology if we were a xenophobic or technologically averse society this stuff would be driving us mad by the way this is where the problems of Middle East is facing very leery of Technology because they're built on strong core traditions that are suspicious of it and so any influx of technology they just ODS there's a lot of resistance cultural tension creates all these problems very vexing and we're just like men that's fine anything has to do with economic prosperity ooh now we're getting touchy because we expect a great deal economic prosperity in theory right we like the notion of that very powerfully and so this is why if you want to know what the government spend all their time worrying about the city county state national level it's it's you know taxes spending how's the economy doing I mean this is what they spend probably 80 percent of their time worrying about because they know any sort of economic destabilization or unease will bother us probably more than anything else because our narrative is about that we're going to go west and you can grow you could get free land you can prosper you're going to go further west that's endless you can go to college everybody can go to college your children can have opportunities that would never dream to buy your parents they can look they can prosper every generation will do better than the generation before we know all this stuff because it's the stories that we've been told the United States for Generation Y are we better than the Soviet Union really big color TVs I actually just think this is why TVs keep getting bigger and explicably is because we know that's good because we're really showing the Soviets now because they're like 80 inches right I mean that's just amazing how big they've gotten pointlessly but amazingly but that because that's where we go that shows that were prosperous we know we're prosperous we're know we're doing better until we get the suspicion that we're not and once you get the suspicion that you're not people get really pissed off and weird starts to happen you may have noticed this people go what's going on what's going on with one thing one of our narratives has collapsed we're not fighting the Soviet Union anymore second thing the promise of future prosperity for a large part of our population regionally organized has fallen apart and they aren't imagining it by the way it's not like they're woke up one morning and we're living in houses of gold and discovered that they were houses of gold no they're like wait we're not doing better than our parents we're not even doing better than we were ten years ago what the hell is going on this was not what I was promised and so that notion that different you know those narratives start to collapse and sort of work like they said this is what happens societies have weird things happen to them everyone goes but nobody could see this coming you can never tell what's gonna happen by the way but I can guarantee you anytime narratives start to fail really strange things and this is history is perfectly clear on people all of a sudden just start to get leery they don't know what to do they're in a void they want a new narrative this is what kings were always crowned by you know religious authorities ordained by God to rule on earth this is by the way not a Christian idea at all goes way way way back ordained by God to rule on earth so that you know you're not just in a cycle of earthly things you're in the whole cycle of the heavens your life your afterlife your pre life is all explained by your political system you're participating in a narrative that takes the whole universe into account and so you're happy ish right that's the thing happy-ish maybe not perfect things go wrong but you have a story and you're sticking with it and then when somebody comes along and says yeah we don't believe in your story again this pisses people off and they will fight you but if they start to disbelieve in their story they freaked out this is like I said this is couldn't be in clear in history so when you ask the question of how should we govern you have to remember that's really three closely interrelated ideas all which have to be worked out simultaneously what kind of people are we governing what do they want who are they how should they live what do we expect from them whether they expect from their government to what is our goal as if prosperity is a military might is it looking really impressive right white people if you've noticed this over the last couple of years the Olympics are starting to only take place in dictatorships and the World Cup is seems to be going the same direction Oleg are thieves and dictatorships because it turns out that democracies have worked out that it's too expensive they don't care not that interested in getting this sort of impressive you know big gold ribbon that says we held the Olympics right in America we don't care if we hold the Olympics like okay that's great yay but in other countries is like wow we must be strong we must be powerful we must be great because we hold the Olympics which is to say we bribed a bunch of Olympic officials and paid a lot of money to hold the Olympics right and that because it's really valuable in certain countries for their narrative to do things like hold Olympics other countries just don't care a great example is if you look at a country like say oh I'm trying to think of a small country where this would be the case well a lot of small countries by the way Central American countries all over the place we tend to look down on them of course because there are small Central American countries or South American countries but if you look at their budgets they stand to spend a lot of money on like food for the people and education it's just me huge percentages of their budget and we just think that's crazy why would you do that why would you spend so much money feeding your people subsidizing food subsidized beer some countries have subsidized beer which i think is hilarious ah but but you know but an education and maybe healthcare and still we look at me go oh look they're still living in poverty done up but if you look at a percentage of their budget it's really a significant investment other countries invest a huge amount of money in the arts like it's a France or Italy huge amount of unimaginable quantities of money invest in the arts proportional to their size we spent nothing we don't believe in them we just don't we don't care it's not even clear by there that governments should spend money on the art that's always that sort of next notion but we just we really don't want our government to and we don't care whether they do or not generally speaking but a country like France spends billions and billions of dollars and proportional to the United States it would be as if they were spending sort of a significant percentage of our military budget was going to art that makes your country different and I think I'm willing to give it a try as an experiment but it's a different concept of what you're shooting for and then finally you have to ask what is the narrative we want to tell ourselves about who we are and how the world works and how we all live together in a community and that is how you build some sense of local city county regional state and national identities which overlap of course are not identical is to integrate some sense of that so that everybody can get along and feel moderately okay about what's happening and I would argue in conclusion that the question is really a time that the question should be asked now because I think our narrative is sort of in trouble it's wobbly and we're gonna have to come up with some new answers before we're going to be able to address some of the wobbly nasai think we're all feeling so thank you very much how should we govern

9 thoughts on “History of Philosophy in 16 Questions 4: How Should We Govern?

  1. The American Narrative is to Conquer the Whole Globe and Americans Love it.
    Just like Germans in the 1930s.

  2. Go France! And I'm superficially English, but the visual arts vs the art of war. I'll stick to Starcraft.

  3. Maybe the ancient greeks were right to both attempt and to be dissatisfied with a variety of approaches, maybe we're not there yet. If only they'd have been able to keep trying.

  4. An appreciable proportion of the population in a pool for random selection for bureaucratic/political roles. WOW! đŸ™‚ Very interesting, with obvious caveats but in the context of the current approach rather than in comparison with perfection.

  5. So many ways of making a colour TV, must've been infuriating to keep hearing "Whats a lens, whats a mirror, whats a laser, whats a filter, whats a wheel, whats a diode, whats parity? Who cares? What! Most of the diversity of designs efficient and janky sounding alike need multiple overlapping concepts at once!? Pretent… Well there must be a reason it's not like that, why would anyone want one or we'd have one already wouldn't we. Shut up and watch in greyscale, most normal people perceive colour after a while anyway their must be something wrong with you." from every angle, very literally at the exclusion of all else as if it's perfectly natural that the world's just ground to a halt, as if it's inconceivable that things won't just be forever from now on, like everything's over so at least it's a good reason to be smug.

  6. "Yeah, having the most homicidal maniac as your leader might not be such a great idea." I love this Professor a little.

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