Sunday, 29 March 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 3

3. The common good and the Cause

The bottom up thinker recognizes that there exists a common or public good (or goods). That is, that certain institutions or actions can bring a nett benefit to everyone. And he agrees with John Locke’s description of the public good of a group of people: “the good of every particular member of that society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.”

The bottom up thinker’s Politics is also bottom up. It begins with the individual. It progresses upwards and outwards, via partnerships and families, by way of the marketplace and voluntary societies, to human civilization. And it must always be for the good of each and every individual – real criminals, of course, excepted.

But for the top down thinker, politics is quite the opposite. Far from emanating from the individual, politics flows downwards from some sovereign, “community” or state. So, the top down thinker favours top down politics. And he thinks of the common good – if he recognizes such a thing – as the good of the community as a whole, not of each individual in it.

When a politician talks of what is “best for Britain,” for example, does he mean what is best for each and every individual in the islands called Britain? Or does he mean what is best for the British political state, and for the ruling class to which he belongs?

Furthermore, many top down thinkers see the primary purpose of politics as being to promote a Cause or Causes. What specific policies the top down thinker favours may vary from time to time. But to him, the Cause for the time being is the common good. Even if some, or even many, individuals are unjustly harmed by actions taken to further the Cause.

I’ll list some examples of such Causes, without the scare quotes I would normally place around many of them. Communism, fascism, socialism, nazism, apartheid. Nationalism, national security, empire building, Europe. Patriotism, the Volk, the Fatherland. Authority, British values, Gahd bless America. Democracy, compulsory voting.

There are lots more: The environment, sustainability, respecting nature. Stopping climate change, cutting pollution, bio-diversity, re-cycling. Feminism, localism. Safety, security, health, protecting children. Saving lives on the roads, slowing down traffic, forcing people out of their cars. Stopping Aids, SARS or Ebola. Overpopulation, immigration control, border control. Social justice, environmental justice. Equality of outcome or opportunity. Altruism, the welfare state, helping the poor and needy, social security. Reducing wealth or income inequality, soaking the rich, cracking down on tax evasion. Political correctness, doctrinal purity, religious observance. Fitness, losing weight, vegetarianism. Seeking to deny enjoyments like sex, or holidays by air, or driving fast, or smoking, or drinking alcohol. War on crime, war on paedophiles, war on drugs, war on litter, war in Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan.

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