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Thread: Political scientists' engagement in practical politics

  1. #1 Political scientists' engagement in practical politics 
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    Hello.

    I'm an electrical engineering student at a state college, and I am just finishing my first American politics class. I have found my professor to be very enlightened. He's a retired Air Force Colonel, a strong Conservative, but also very capable of fairly and logically explaining liberal viewpoints. In spending time talking to my professor, I've become interested in the distinctions between a politician and a political scientist. I've also considered changing majors, since I have found that I have a passion for discourse about the policies society pursues to establish the role of government. I have a few questions for political scientists here.

    For reference, this is not a request for ideology. This is a request for intellect, logic, and reason. Political talking points are not welcome. Thanks in advance.

    First question: Do you believe that American society is in decline? If so, which of the following factors do you believe are contributing factors:

    consumerism
    the national debt
    decline of traditional values
    authoritarianism
    culture of dependance

    If you believe that the country is not in decline, why do you believe that the factors listed above are/are not important to the discussion, or how their effects on society are overstated in the grand scheme?

    In answering this question, I'm looking more for practical historical prescedent, or economic/philosophical basis for arguments for and against. I don't want to hear why one ideology is superior to another. My political socialization is slightly to the right of Rush Limbaugh; I have heard a lifetime's worth of strawmen and misrepresentations about otherwise decent thought processes to promote one narrow set of decent thought processes over all others. I'm not interested in hearing more.

    Question 2: What is the poli sci community's role in practical policymaking? In the political science community, is it true that most political scientists remain detatched from practical politics, in the form of running for political office? If so, why?

    Question 3: Based on your answers to the first two questions, do you believe that the poli sci community should be more involved in practical policymaking? Why/Why not?


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  3. #2  
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    For reference, here's the premise of my question. The reason I ask is because it is my understanding that Political scientists don't get involved in practical politics, in terms of holding public office. I'd like to know more about the Poli Sci community's role in policymaking.

    My question regarding the decline of American society is slightly more complicated. I see enough information and prescedent for me to conclude that American society is in decline, much like Roman society before the fall of the Roman Empire. However, I don't feel that I have enough insight, knowledge, or perspective to draw that conclusion rationally. I'd like more perspectives and insights to integrate into my own perspective.

    The reason I'm generally disdainful towards ideological arguments is because I've tried to make a point of balancing acceptance of the positive aspects of my own political socialization as a conservative with rejection of the negative aspects of that socialization, like the use of strawman arguments to diminih opposing ideologies. I strongly prefer reasoned and rational insights that consider all sides of an argument before coming to a conclusion, over arguments that only present one side, or present opposing viewpoints in an inferior way.


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    Chris

    I do not know if this reply conforms to your rules but what I say below should give you an idea of why politics is the way it is in our country (US).

    If you will look in the latest Merriam Webster dictionary, you will diccover why our politics is divided into two factions.

    ! - The word 'democracy' is derived from thr Greek root 'power of the people'.

    2 - The word 'republic' is derived from the Latin root as 'WEALTH + public'.

    This then explains why the two parties are promoting their politics as they are doing.
    The Democrats are representing the people as they should according to the Constitutional mandate.

    The republicans are ignoring the people issues and promoting a 'dollar' republic.
    The primary reason for this is that the wealthy are controlling the politicians to serve their special priveleges.

    So if you are intereseted in what I advocate, see my post on 'My Brand of Socialism' on this forum page in abouut the center.

    Thank you.

    Cosmo
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    You ask if the country is in decline; it seems to me more as if it is under the influence of a sociological version of le Chatelier’s Principle. Even as the position of equilibrium shifts due to constraints applied by changing beliefs, values, technology and global influences, so the reactionary forces (not meant in a pejorative way) tend to resist the shift and thereby minimize the size of the movement. So, no we are not in decline, but we are in flux.

    Just to touch on a couple of your items:

    decline of traditional values – we all see behaviors we don’t like, and that makes us feel that things are going downhill. However, “traditional values” can include racism, and all the other prejudices that were once enshrined in law and/or custom. In many cases we should happily wave goodbye to traditional values.

    culture of dependence – It’s hard to talk about this without getting into ideology, but just as an example, the west, where I live, is populated and developed only as a result of gigantic Federal water projects. Left to individual or corporate effort the high plains would still be empty semi-desert and Los Angeles would be a hamlet. We are all dependent on each other whether we like it or not. You are probably thinking more in terms of Social Security and Medicare, but if there is a culture of dependence we should recognize it at all levels of society – corporations (including the one I currently work for) are very happy to be drinking from the stimulus package trough, while at the same time proudly proclaiming their independence. This is nothing new.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmo
    Chris

    I do not know if this reply conforms to your rules but what I say below should give you an idea of why politics is the way it is in our country (US).

    If you will look in the latest Merriam Webster dictionary, you will diccover why our politics is divided into two factions.

    ! - The word 'democracy' is derived from thr Greek root 'power of the people'.

    2 - The word 'republic' is derived from the Latin root as 'WEALTH + public'.

    This then explains why the two parties are promoting their politics as they are doing.
    The Democrats are representing the people as they should according to the Constitutional mandate.

    The republicans are ignoring the people issues and promoting a 'dollar' republic.
    The primary reason for this is that the wealthy are controlling the politicians to serve their special priveleges.

    So if you are intereseted in what I advocate, see my post on 'My Brand of Socialism' on this forum page in abouut the center.

    Thank you.

    Cosmo
    This is kinda the opposite of what I was asking for, but thanks for your reply.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    You ask if the country is in decline; it seems to me more as if it is under the influence of a sociological version of le Chatelier’s Principle. Even as the position of equilibrium shifts due to constraints applied by changing beliefs, values, technology and global influences, so the reactionary forces (not meant in a pejorative way) tend to resist the shift and thereby minimize the size of the movement. So, no we are not in decline, but we are in flux.

    Just to touch on a couple of your items:

    decline of traditional values – we all see behaviors we don’t like, and that makes us feel that things are going downhill. However, “traditional values” can include racism, and all the other prejudices that were once enshrined in law and/or custom. In many cases we should happily wave goodbye to traditional values.
    Very fair point. Something to think about. I was thinking more along the lines of belief in God, and the nuclear family, but there's certainly something to be said for refining society's viewpoints.

    culture of dependence – It’s hard to talk about this without getting into ideology, but just as an example, the west, where I live, is populated and developed only as a result of gigantic Federal water projects. Left to individual or corporate effort the high plains would still be empty semi-desert and Los Angeles would be a hamlet. We are all dependent on each other whether we like it or not. You are probably thinking more in terms of Social Security and Medicare, but if there is a culture of dependence we should recognize it at all levels of society – corporations (including the one I currently work for) are very happy to be drinking from the stimulus package trough, while at the same time proudly proclaiming their independence. This is nothing new.
    There are two different issues raised here in your post, and I agree with them both. There is certainly a positive form of dependance, as described by your example of infrastructure. However, that's more on the recieving end of things, and I think my problem lies more with my gut feeling that people don't give enough of themselves, and take personal responsibility for their own success. Obviously, that personal responsibility doesn't extend to forming a massive irrigation network, or building your own roads, but I do get the feeling that people are less inclined these days to work towards their own prosperity, and more inclined to expect their needs to be met by others first.

    At the same time, I'm more than willing to admit that I'm wrong about that. I make it a point to question what I believe, and constantly validate my own opinions. Because of this, even though I'm generally conservative, from a very fundamentalist Christian background, I've adapted my own world view to acknowledge the strengths of progressive ideology, and respect the principles, even if I don't agree with all the methods.
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  8. #7 Re: Political scientists' engagement in practical politics 
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    I am not a political scientist (though I am arguably a political scientist.) Therefore you can comfortably ignore my contribution without detriment to your health.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris the Bloviator
    First question: Do you believe that American society is in decline?
    This question cannot be properly answered unless you define the context of a decline. Is this an economic decline? A decline of political influence? A decline of living standards? A decline of educational excellence? A decline of moral standards?

    While the US became for a time, with the demise of the Soviet Union, the world's only superpower, this will not continue. China, perhaps India, possibly Europe, maybe Brazil, will come to the fore in one or more spheres. So, ultimately the answer in many fields will be a yes, but not necessarily in all.

    Of course most instances of those declines are relative declines. A lower middle income citizen of the US today enjoys a higher standard of living than a medieval King. In an absolute sense it is unlikely that the US is in long term decline.

    This just emphasises that, as asked, the question is pretty meaningless. (I think engineers should ask more precise questions, even it the question is outside their normal field.)
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  9. #8 Re: Political scientists' engagement in practical politics 
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    I am not a political scientist (though I am arguably a political scientist.) Therefore you can comfortably ignore my contribution without detriment to your health.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris the Bloviator
    First question: Do you believe that American society is in decline?
    This question cannot be properly answered unless you define the context of a decline. Is this an economic decline? A decline of political influence? A decline of living standards? A decline of educational excellence? A decline of moral standards?

    While the US became for a time, with the demise of the Soviet Union, the world's only superpower, this will not continue. China, perhaps India, possibly Europe, maybe Brazil, will come to the fore in one or more spheres. So, ultimately the answer in many fields will be a yes, but not necessarily in all.

    Of course most instances of those declines are relative declines. A lower middle income citizen of the US today enjoys a higher standard of living than a medieval King. In an absolute sense it is unlikely that the US is in long term decline.

    This just emphasises that, as asked, the question is pretty meaningless. (I think engineers should ask more precise questions, even it the question is outside their normal field.)
    Actually, you addressed the general sentiment of my question, which was really addressing America's position as the world's sole superpower mainly. But in fact, I'm concerned about our dominance and decline in all of the areas you're addressing. I'm very much an American exceptionalist, and I'm generally discomforted seeing that our country is in decline, and I believe that that decline is due in part to our abandonment of many of the things that made us great.

    Also, you're very astute to observe the vaugeness of my line of questioning. When I posted it, I had the creeping feeling that I was asking a rather loaded and biased question, but I didn't really know how reframe it to get the conversation I was looking for.

    So, since we've established agreement that our nation is declining in certain realms, are you optimistic about our hopes of reclaiming our dominant leadership role in the future?
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  10. #9 Re: Political scientists' engagement in practical politics 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris the Bloviator
    So, since we've established agreement that our nation is declining in certain realms, are you optimistic about our hopes of reclaiming our dominant leadership role in the future?
    I am not an American. I do not live in America. I could demonstrate, however, that I make a more significant contribution to the American economy than the average (arithmetic mean) American adult. (Please do not ask me to demonstrate this as it would require exposing more of my real life persona than I am willing to.) I mention these points because they are important for the context of my reply.

    If I thought America could regain its leadership role in the future I would be pessimistic, not optimistic. On balance in the last fifty years America has done more harm than good in the world. It is very dangerous to pretend one has the moral high ground when one is mired in largely commerical interests. While it is true the US is a mixed economy it comes closer to laissez faire capitalism than most, if not all other countries. (A case can be made for a new concept, state sponsored capitalism, applying in China, but it would be a weak case. Russia, with its robber baron economy is also a contender.)

    This focus on the material lies at the root of America's past success and current failure. Governments should act for the good of their citizens and to promote harmony on a global basis. Companies should act for the good of their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. Neither of these goals have been set within the US. That is the root of the current decline the areas of leadership that actually matter.

    This may raise in your mind the question 'where, then, should leadership come from?'.I suggest that it should not come from any one country. We need to reinvent the way the world works. I see little prospect of this happening in the next couple of decades. So,although I hope for the best, I fear the worst.
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  11. #10 Re: Political scientists' engagement in practical politics 
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    While it is true the US is a mixed economy it comes closer to laissez faire capitalism than most, if not all other countries. (A case can be made for a new concept, state sponsored capitalism, applying in China, but it would be a weak case. Russia, with its robber baron economy is also a contender.)
    I just feel the need to point out the near free, unchecked economies of Hong Kong(NOT China) and Taiwan. I believe those two atleast Match, if not BEAT, America. I am an American, and let me tell you, the capitalism we have here is a little bit of a sham, we have massive socialist tendencies...
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
    -Plato

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  12. #11 Re: Political scientists' engagement in practical politics 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcane_Mathematician
    I am an American, and let me tell you, the capitalism we have here is a little bit of a sham, we have massive socialist tendencies...
    I have lived in America. I have lived in Europe. I can assure you that your socialist tendencies are miniscule.

    I have lived in Taiwan, though some years ago, and would generally agree with your assessment.

    (Before you make the point that living somewhere does not really have anything to do with understanding it, I would respond that it encourages a deeper investigation of the character of the society when one is immersed in it. When one has lived in enough places this then encourages a deeper investigation of everything, whether one has lived there or not. That is how it works for me.)
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    comparative to Europe, yes, they are minuscule. But, if you compare how we are today to the state we were in, say, 20 years ago, we have a massive lean to the socialist side kicking in. We are, majoritively speaking, seeking the socialist path. I don't doubt the likelihood that, within the next 10 years, we will have universal health care, full paid retirement by the state, full paid college education for all citizens, among many other programs, I'm sure. I don't know everything thats being pushed into internal policy, but personally, I'm against ALL of it.
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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