Principled Governance or Politics as Usual?

capitol-dome

By Gordon L. Anderson, UTS Class of 1978

GordonUnificationists live in a contemporary culture that champions democracy and instills the idea that politics is about influencing government to provide things or benefits that we desire. Like others in society, Unificationists generally support political parties and special interest lobbies designed to pressure lawmakers into delivering goods and services they believe in.

Politics is War by Other Means

However, “politics” in this sense is the application of “fallen nature” and not of Unificationism. In On War, Carl von Clausewitz described politics as “war by other means.” He meant that people engage in politics to manipulate the government in their fight for control over resources and power, or to gain another benefit for themselves at the expense of society. In this war by other means, people often use the rhetoric of justice and goodness and advocate rectifying the perceived social problem using everyone’s tax dollars. This political behavior is divisive and socially destructive. To the extent Unificationists engage in politics as a form of war, they are at odds with principled governance.

Unificationism is about principles. The main text is the Divine Principle, whose primary hypothesis is that principles underlie the entire created order, and that knowledge of and application of these principles is essential for living a life of happiness. This idea of collective happiness is not unique in political theory. Aristotle began his Politics by stating that the end of politics is human happiness. James Madison, in “Federalist 62,” reaffirmed that the object of government is the happiness of the people. Indeed, Buddha, Confucius, and the founders of the world’s great civilizations sought to explain how people should live and societies be organized in order to be happy.

Principled Governance is the administration of a society to achieve common ends

Any system, whether it is a social institution, the human body, a mechanical machine, an entire social system, or the universe, is governed by principles. When the principles that maintain a system cease to operate, the system breaks down and disintegrates. The design of any system requires knowledge of the purpose for which the system is being created, and the principles necessary for the system to fulfill that purpose.

Governance of a dynamic system after it has been created requires operation according to its design principles. For example, we call a speed control on an automobile engine a “governor” because it maintains the operation of the engine within limits that enable it to run, without quitting if it runs too slow, or blowing up if it runs too fast.

The American Founders created a constitutional framework that served as a governor, in which American self-rule would be restrained and only laws that served the well-being of the entire society would get passed. There were to be legislative processes and checks and balances that prevented individual and group (factional) cooptation of government for personal or group gain. And, through the Senate, states could provide a check on democratic fads that undermined the government. However, from the day the Constitution was ratified, U.S. citizens and groups have sought to escape the bounds of these constitutional limits in order to gain advantages for themselves or social sub-groups. In Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, I outlined five core principles in the founding philosophy. I also explained how the system has been subverted and infected with viruses, much like computers get infected, so that special interests have been increasingly able to use government for their own benefit. I also recommended some key changes that could be made to restore the U.S. system to principled governance based on five core principles:

  1. Security
  2. Subsidiarity
  3. Checks and balances, dispersion of power
  4. Transparency
  5. Voluntary affiliation (the right to secede)

Administration vs. Legislation

Once a principled system of government is established, it needs very little new legislation. It only needs new laws to adapt to new and changed social conditions, and these laws should reflect principles learned through collective experience and not the selfish desires of special interests.

For example, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the United States had no national or international corporations. Nearly all businesses were privately owned by families. There were no laws to govern the behavior of such institutions. When large corporations developed, their freedom to operate extended into areas that harmed citizens. Through the lobbying efforts of railroads and other large industries, laws were passed that gave them subsidies and protections at the expense of citizens, rather than laws that extended core principles of governance to the regulation of corporations. This faulty process of law creation has been repeated in many areas, causing an increased load on the system and burden on the citizens.

The entire history of U.S. governance has been one in which legal “worms” and “viruses” have been written to redistribute power and wealth to special interests, and to hijack the entire system to be redirected to their service rather than the service of the happiness of the citizens and the common good.

The Housing Bubble: An Example of a Worm

Home mortgages are a social subsystem in the economic sector. If I sell my house at market price for cash, that is a simple market transaction. However, if the buyer goes to the bank and gets a loan, and the bank pays me cash and the buyer pays the bank over time, a new economic micro-system has been established. This micro-system, the home loan, has developed sound principles of operation over centuries of lending experience, and these principles are readily known. The diagram below explains this system in a cybernetic diagram:

mortgage loop

A cybernetic view of a stable mortgage lending system

A loan will not be given to the borrower unconditionally. Over time, lenders have learned not to issue loans unless the following criteria are met, such as:

  • A down payment of 20% that guarantees minimum equity to cover a sale in the case of a default.
  • A monthly payment not to exceed 28% of borrowers after tax income that provides some assurance of ability to pay.
  • A credit history that shows the borrower has consistently paid on other loans he has taken.
  • An evaluation of any other loans the borrower has outstanding to ensure he is not overextended.

A loan based on these principles tends to create both happy homeowners and happy banks.

The 2008 mortgage bubble and an unprincipled act of government

The mortgage bubble that burst by 2008 was made possible, in part, by a government intervention that ignored these basic principles of lending. This intervention was instigated by political lobbies — from construction companies, banks, and advocates for unqualified borrowers — that sought to pass laws in which the government could guarantee home loans to unqualified borrowers. This “guarantee” acted like overriding the governor on a car and holding the pedal to the floor.

mortgage loop tampered

Legal guarantee holds lending throttle wide open

The immediate impact of the legislation was increased lending to unqualified buyers that increased demand for housing artificially, drove up the prices of homes, and stimulated housing development. This was followed by massive numbers of foreclosures on the unqualified borrowers, the inability of the government to cover the massive losses, a crash of real estate prices, and the “walking away” of qualified borrowers from homes with mortgages higher than the value of the house they lived in.

The housing bubble is an example of legislation through politics rather than based on principle. This legislation could pass both because checks and balances established by the Founding Fathers to check the creation of such legislation had been circumvented, and special interest groups in the private sector were able to hijack the system for their own benefit through unprincipled legislation. Weak legislators caved into politics and did not act on principle. The result was that honest, hard-working citizens suffered because of the unprincipled behavior of special interests and the complicit government.

Conclusion

One of the most important tasks of government reform today is the creation of systems of governance based on real-world principles, and the expungement of laws passed that serve the interests of lobbyists, politicians, or agency heads at the expense of the common good. Governments, like machines, are human creations. They can be designed to perform their job well, like a finely-crafted Swiss watch, when they are based on sound principles of governance. However, when laws are created by politics and not principle, we find society fractured and dysfunctional, engaged in “war by other means,” not unlike the tribal rivalries to control post-colonial states.

I wrote my book to encourage citizens to study, learn, teach, and implement core principles of sound governance in our society. Many Unificationists, along with other citizens, simply accept the political system they inherited and fight on sides in divisive political wars rather than working to implement principles of unselfish governance that can serve the survival of the social system and the happiness of its citizens. This is the task of applied Unificationism in the governmental sphere.♦

Dr. Gordon L. Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal on World Peace and President, Paragon House Publishers. He is author of many articles and books, including Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0 (2009).

4 thoughts on “Principled Governance or Politics as Usual?

  1. Didn’t von Clauswitz actually say that “war is politics by other means”? Not, politics is war by other means. War is a means to violently achieve a political purpose when non-violent means won’t succeed. In the American system, a war mentality has intruded into the normal political sphere where a non-war mentality has failed to achieve a goal, and in this sense it can also be argued that political war is fair-minded politics by other means (that is, politics with graceful losers when they don’t get their way). “Politics,” as a thing, merely describes the activity of human beings living together to advance their personal interests, while at the same time advancing what they believe is the best interests of the larger society in which they live. Politics is essentially a neutral activity. It is good or evil based on how it is pursued by people. The American system was designed not to be principled, or even good, but to provide effective restraints on the well-understood selfishness of human beings and their ability to corrupt anything. The solution to bad governance is good people, not a different means of governance. Any existing governing system in the world today, from American democracy to Chinese communism, can be a good, peaceful, harmonious means to provide a just and prosperous society for its citizens so long as the people operating it are good people, principled people, lovers of justice, of harmony, of human life and happiness. Agitating for a different government is always a failure because the problem isn’t government, the problem is human standards, which always, in the final analysis, rest on either selfish or unselfish love. The founders of the American system had an unselfish love of country, and they designed a system that had the best chance of resisting the selfish love of those who followed them. We see this when George Washington refused to be a king, when the Founders decided the president should be called Mister, and when Washington stepped down at the end of his term to set the precedent for peaceful transfers of power. But no political system is impervious. It is easy to craft laws that circumvent the Founders’ intentions and the best interests of the people, and to fool people into believing such laws are in their best interests. The best defense to this fallen nature is to expand the realm of Principled love and living so that good people make laws that benefit the people as a whole, while remembering that the individual is sacred. As Star Trek once put it, the one must sacrifice for the few or the many…yet at the same time, the many must sacrifice for the few or the one. This was ultimately the teaching of Mencius, too. Anyway, messing up Clausewitz kind of derailed your article.

    • Christopher, you are right that I misquoted Clausewitz’s words, and I have to apologize. But I did not mix up the idea that politics and war are a continuum along which human beings act selfishly. In this sense terms in the quote are interchangeable–they are simply two methods of contesting over power and resources. It seems as you missed the main points of my article as a result of this. The main point is that politics should be conducted within the bounds of principles. From this standpoint, I am not clear whether you think that just because people are good-hearted their political negotiations in an unrefereed society would lead to a good result. As we know the road to hell is littered with good intentions. Many Marxists have good intentions. Unless the people with good intentions are acting according to principles that enable society to work properly, their political behavior might be totally fruitless or counterproductive. As such, democracy is an unsustainable system, whereas a constitutional republic that defines the principles that keep politics more neutral is a primary framework for the politics. Without such limits, politics defaults to war by other means, regardless of whether most people are good.

      • Politics always has been conducted within a framework bound by principles. The question is, which principles? What are good or evil principles? And will people respect those principles, either way?

        It is not a surprise that a Prussian like Clausewitz would take such a jaded, cynical and one-dimensional view of politics. The view that politics is just an ever-increasingly vicious contest over power and resources is also a leading Marxist view, and isn’t even accurate. All human beings are pursuing their lives. We were created to experience happiness through love, and that’s what people pursue. But what is happiness, and what is love? Unification Thought tries to answer these questions in a better light than previous religions or philosophies, but it still leaves us with this fundamental need: two or more human beings must find ways to co-exist. Politics is merely the term for the activity that arises when two or more people work together (or at odds) to realise both personal and public goals. Healthy, God-centred living must include both the private and the public, both the self and others. It is fallen nature that corrupts the balance between the two, and obscures when one should retreat in temporary favour of the other. That politics and war are simply a continuum along which human beings act selfishly is myopic. That viewpoint must logically conclude that politics is a dirty business and can’t be pursued in a Godly way…perhaps meaning human beings need a saviour to dictate. The issue is neither politics nor war. The issue is human nature.

        Clausewitz’ view, and yours, it would seem, too, might be seen in the example of Cain and Abel: the two practiced “politics” in a “cain-type” way until Cain decided that “war” was the means to solving the problems “politics” couldn’t. In this sense, it’s fair to say that “politics” and “war” were a continuum along which Cain and Abel acted selfishly. I say they practised “politics” in a “cain-type” way because, ultimately, both parties ended up alienated rather than harmonised prior to Cain’s fateful deed. On the other hand, there’s Jacob and Esau: both parties met to advance their personal and public interests (Esau with significant hostility), except this time the parties (instigated by Jacob) practised an “abel-type” politics, and the result was a peaceful encounter and an outcome meeting both parties’ private and public needs; plus, it served God’s efforts. I use the term “abel-type” politics in this example because both parties ended up harmonised, rather than alienated. The point I tried to originally make in my comment is that regardless of the type of political system, the outcome depends on the nature of the human beings involved. So the system itself doesn’t matter so long as the system can restrain fallen nature from going too far, or else fallen nature is not even a factor.

        I did not argue that politics should be unrefereed. I specifically stated that unlike most systems, the American founders built excellent restraints on fallen human nature into their system so as to effectively referee fallen nature and as a result Americans were able to pursue their private needs and support a public outcome that resulted in a politically peaceful and individually prosperous society. But other systems have also had very good, even Godly, constitutional principles restraints on fallen nature set up that provide a framework…but in those cases, people simply ignored them in practise. In America, those principles and restraints were taken seriously and voluntarily respected. Why the difference? Because Americans were more willing to trust one another, to compromise and cooperate to create the society they wanted. Soviets, Chinese, North Koreans, Albanians, and other Communist states did the opposite…they did not trust one another, did not compromise or cooperate. They imposed. People who impose never have good intentions, no matter how lofty their dreams. Imposition is violence which negates cooperation and compromise. Even democratic systems such as in the UK, Canada, France, etc., become routinely unstable because they lack some key mechanisms the USA has that fosters compromise and cooperation for the good of the whole.

        But, again, as I said originally, the USA isn’t immune, either, and today we see some of those key mechanisms breaking down as people lose motivation to compromise and cooperate and find ways to circumvent them in pursuit of either selfish needs or public principles that are corrupt. The issue is not the framework in which all this happens. If it was, the framework wouldn’t now be eroding in American politics. The issue is the human beings involved and their loyalty to principles that foster a healthy give-and-take between the public and private.

        Human beings do not contest only just power and resources, either. That’s a humanistic view, which is why militarists and fascists of all stripes advance it. Quite often in human history (maybe, at root, always) conflict is motivated and carried out over a clash of principles. Right now, democrats and republicans are clashing over principles. People seldom become more outraged or violent than when their principles are violated. But such principles can be good or evil in the sense that they carry people closer to or further from God or happiness. Just because a person has principles that guide their life doesn’t mean those principles are good. Hitler had principles to which he was ruthlessly loyal. So did Rev. Moon. But they were polar opposites. Nevertheless, however good or evil, they are principles nonetheless. So, perhaps, we’re in agreement there. Without principles built into the political system, and the human will to respect them, war is ultimately pursued as politics by other means. But politics is never war by other means. That’s a cynical view that sees humanity as violent and brutish first and foremost, only practising politics because it’s easier than war.

        In fact, history proves that human beings in general seek compromise and cooperation first and foremost, and only resort to violence when pushed too far. This doesn’t include the crazies out there who are violent and brutish by nature and operate within those parameters first and foremost, and use the guise of compromise and cooperation as a means to gaining sufficient power to then impose their will through violence. That’s the story of Cain killing Abel. But there’s also the story of Jacob serving Esau. These are two sides to human nature as it stands. Whatever political system is in place, its justice and harmony depends less on the framework (which, I grant you, is a critical linchpin), and more on the willingness of people within that system to respect that framework. Ultimately, you cannot have the one without the other. But the framework depends on people’s willingness to respect it, while people’s willing to respect does not depend on the framework. In fact, many frameworks encourage disrespect.

        Finally, it is incorrect to say that democracy is unsustainable and a constitutional republic is the only way to go. There is no such thing as democracy without restraint or framework, no matter how basic or primitive. A constitutional republic IS a framework for democracy, and it gives us the best method so far of attaining a peaceful, prosperous society. But Rome had a constitutional republic, too, and it collapsed into dictatorship because Romans lost the will to respect its framework, and violent people stepped into that vacuum. Whether such a framework is mutually agreed upon or imposed, that framework is meaningless without the cooperation of its people to respect it. And that’s when war is pursued as politics by other means.

  2. It is not a surprise that a Prussian like Clausewitz would take such a jaded, cynical and one-dimensional view of politics. The view that politics is just an ever-increasingly vicious contest over power and resources is also a leading Marxist view, and isn’t even accurate. That viewpoint must logically conclude that politics is a dirty business and can’t be pursued in a Godly way.

    Clausewitz’ view, and yours, it would seem, too, may be seen in the example of Cain and Abel: the two practiced “politics” in a “Cain-type” way until Cain decided that “war” was the means to solving the problems “politics” couldn’t. In this sense, it’s fair to say that “politics” and “war” were a continuum along which Cain and Abel acted selfishly. They practiced “politics” in a “Cain-type” way because, ultimately, both parties ended up alienated rather than harmonized prior to Cain’s fateful deed.

    On the other hand, there’s Jacob and Esau: both parties met to advance their personal and public interests (Esau with significant hostility), except this time the parties (instigated by Jacob) practiced an “Abel-type” politics, and the result was a peaceful encounter and an outcome meeting both parties’ private and public needs; plus, it served God’s efforts. Both parties ended up harmonized, rather than alienated.

    The point I tried to make in my previous comment is that regardless of the type of political system, the outcome depends on the nature of the human beings involved. The system itself doesn’t matter so long as it restrains fallen nature or keeps it from being a factor. The American founders built excellent restraints on fallen human nature into their system so as to effectively referee fallen nature and as a result Americans were able to pursue their private needs and support a public outcome that resulted in a politically peaceful and individually prosperous society. Other systems have also had very good, even Gody, constitutional principles with restraints on fallen nature. but in many cases, people simply ignored them in practice. That’s when war is pursued as politics by other means.

    Why the difference? Americans were more willing to trust one another, to compromise and cooperate to create the society they wanted. But the USA isn’t immune, either, and today we see trust breaking down as people lose motivation to compromise and cooperate and find ways to circumvent them in pursuit of either selfish needs or public principles that are corrupt. The issue is not the framework in which all this happens. The issue is the human beings involved and their loyalty to principles that foster a healthy give-and-take between public and private concerns.

    Human beings do not contest only just power and resources. Often, conflict is motivated and carried out over a clash of principles. Principles can be good or evil, but without principles built into the political system, and the human will to respect them, Cain-like politics and war is the ultimate outcome. Abel-type politics is never war by other means. That’s a cynical view that sees humanity as violent and brutish first and foremost, only practicing politics because it’s easier than war. In fact, history proves that human beings in general seek compromise and cooperation first and foremost, and only resort to violence when pushed too far. Whatever political system is in place, its justice and harmony depends less on the framework (which, I grant, is a critical linchpin), and more on the willingness of people within that system to respect that framework. There cannot be one without the other. A framework is meaningless without the cooperation of its people.

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