24 May 2010

of Power and Policy

Here's a post to check out. It's written from the perspective of a committed supporter of the Democratic Party, but it contains some ideas that can be translated into the terminology used in the Baha'i writings and by the Universal House of Justice. You should read it for yourself, of course. But here's my translation.

When we think of governance as as the pursuit of personal power, we fall into a false dichotomy between personal and collective interest, or into a Hobbesian view of the struggle of all against all. But if we think of governance as the pursuit of good policies that benefit society, these oppositions melt away, and cooperation arises naturally.

It seems to me that for the latter approach to prevail over the former requires a spiritual transformation. Individuals can't continue approaching positions of authority as a means  for serving the promptings of self and passion. Rather, they should be filled with a desire to promote the interests of the broader society. This is something that can only happen in the heart. No technical prescription or cleverness at statecraft can bring about this change. It requires going person to person and assisting them to see the folly of the first and the benefits of the second.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful post. A bit more on this important topic from the Prosperity of Humankind:

    "The institutions of society will succeed in eliciting and directing the potentialities latent in the consciousness of the world's peoples to the extent that the exercise of authority is governed by principles that are in harmony with the evolving interests of a rapidly maturing human race. Such principles include the obligation of those in authority to win the confidence, respect, and genuine support of those whose actions they seek to govern; to consult openly and to the fullest extent possible with all whose interests are affected by decisions being arrived at; to assess in an objective manner both the real needs and the aspirations of the communities they serve; to benefit from scientific and moral advancement in order to make appropriate use of the community's resources, including the energies of its members. No single principle of effective authority is so important as giving priority to building and maintaining unity among the members of a society and the members of its administrative institutions. Reference has already been made to the intimately associated issue of commitment to the search for justice in all matters.

    Clearly, such principles can operate only within a culture that is essentially democratic in spirit and method. To say this, however, is not to endorse the ideology of partisanship that has everywhere boldly assumed democracy's name and which, despite impressive contributions to human progress in the past, today finds itself mired in the cynicism, apathy, and corruption to which it has given rise. In selecting those who are to take collective decisions on its behalf, society does not need and is not well served by the political theater of nominations, candidature, electioneering, and solicitation. It lies within the capacity of all people, as they become progressively educated and convinced that their real development interests are being served by programs proposed to them, to adopt electoral procedures that will gradually refine the selection of their decision-making bodies."

    (Baha'i International Community, 1995 Mar 03, The Prosperity of Humankind)