Throughout history the president of the U. S. has always been judged, and held responsible, by the public for ever thing he does.  This is still the case today.  Since the mid 1930s things such as approval ratings, which measure a random sample of American’s opinion of the President, have existed.  If the President is making mistakes, his approval ratings will drop, and conversely, if the President is making the populous happy, his approval rating will rise.  Looking over some of my old notes I saw I had written down “success = glory, failure = blame” in the middle of a bulleted list under “Neo-Classical Model.”  Reading over this, I kind of got the idea that a modern presidency can be classified as successful or unsuccessful by the Neo-Classical Model of Michael Walzer’s Dirty Hands.

I remember talking about how the Neo-Classical model seemed impractical in Section; however, the more I think about the model the more it makes sense to me.  I think that success = glory and failure = blame is a perfect model for the judging the President.  Within the Neo-Classical model, success or failure are measured by utilitarianism for the state, to an extent.  This means that a President is successful if the ends justify the means for the state or country.  Finally, the Neo-Classical model has only one right answer, and morality is more or less underscored.

Part of the problem with the Neo-Classical model is that it isn’t really fair to the person being judged to have clean or dirty hands.  The Neo-Classical model doesn’t do a good job when determining whether one’s hands are clean or dirty.  Instead, the Model does a good job determining the success or failure of someone.  Failure = blame is the same exact thing as “as soon as you screw up, you are blamed.”  The failure may not even be an individual’s fault, yet they are still blamed, and subsequently have dirty hands.  I think this is kind of how approval ratings end up reading.  A president’s approval rating drops if he makes poor decisions for the country, and rise if he makes good decisions for the country.

I think that the easiest example to look at using this model is Iraq.  Iraq has been very expensive for our military, but more importantly, incredibly taxing on Iraq.  Furthermore there were no weapons of mass destruction, which was our main purpose for invading Iraq.  As a result of what happened in Iraq, former President Bush’s approval rating dropped.  Iraq was expensive for the military, disrupted the country, and made oil more expensive.  Iraq can generally be regarded as a failure because the ends didn’t justify the means.  Because of this Bush was blamed, and his approval rating took a hit.

Another popular example that I couldn’t possible pass up using is the impeachment of President Clinton.  Clinton is actually very interesting when looked at from a Neo-Classical perspective because he isn’t really considered a failure and blamed as the Neo-Classical model dictates.  Clinton was one of the few Presidents who had a budget surplus.  Also, Clinton’s approval rating rose during the scandal subsequent impeachment.  Clinton certainly made a mistake when fooling around with Lewinsky, but from a Neo-Classical standpoint, one can view Clinton in a successful light.  This is because Neo-Classical success deals with utilitarianism for the state or country, and a budget surplus is certainly nice for the country.

The biggest thing about the Neo-Classical model is the justification for actions.  Good or bad justification translates into success or failure, respectfully.  I think that the Neo-Classical model is a surprisingly effective, though unexpected, way to evaluate a president’s success or failure.


Before it’s too Late …

As a first semester freshman at the University, I have been constantly reminded to lock my door, watch my purse, never leave my laptop unattended, walk home with a group and know how to say no. The list goes on.  With all of these precautionary hints of advice from our surrounding influences: parents, teachers, administration and police, why are female students still suffering from assaults? As Mill displays in The Subjection of Women, Women have been under the subjection of men for centuries. The system of male superiority “… never was the result of deliberation, or forethought, or any social ideas, or any notion whatever of what conduced to the benefit of humanity or the good order of society. It arose simply from the fact that from the very earliest twilight of human society, every woman owing to the value attached to her by men, combined with her inferiority in muscular strength) was found in a state of bondage to some man” (Mill, 654). Using the steps for social and political change (lecture), I will outline how we can better prepare and change ourselves and our institution to prevent hardships from happening to women, concentrating on the poor treatment of women by men.

The first step towards creating a change in the way we prevent dangerous situations on our campus is by advocating for women’s safety across campus. Women and men should learn how to protect themselves and each other in a college campus setting. We should be encouraging women to demand fair and appropriate treatment. Men and women alike should encourage the opposite sex, and each other, to stick up for themselves in order to bring about a greater respect for each other. “The main foundations of the moral life of modern times must be justice and prudence; the respect of each for the rights of every other, and the ability of each to take care of himself” (Mill, 697). By advocating among the sexes to help ourselves, a more comfortable atmosphere will be created for women to express their fears or suffering. If men and women are in partnership rather than opposition, women will feel more comfortable expressing her power to a male or revealing a situation to authority. This will prove to men that women are not under the subjection of a mans interests.

Advocation will suggest a necessary change in attitudes about the treatment of women. The early ideal of female subjection needs to transformed into a positive and equal view of women. “… the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other” (Mill, 652). By bringing the opposite sexes together into a partnership, students will see a shift in attitudes. Women will not feel an inferior bondage to men and men will not be capable of controlling women as they were in history. The idea of a male dominant society should not be present at our university or institution.

A change in the attitudes of our students will provide reasons for our institution to see the need to change. Once students feel like they have changed social relations between the sexes, they will feel more empowered to change political aspects of our university. If a broader range and larger number of students show their concern for women’s safety, the university will be more likely to take steps to reform. Students will desire reforms that will prevent dangerous situations for women, such as free cab rides home from any location. The reforms will create a safer and more comfortable community. Most importantly, men and women will feel like they can work together to create institutional changes. The ultimate goal of actually implementing the prevention will reach our authorities, who will then encourage the advocation, attitude changes and new reforms throughout campus.

Mill, John S. The Subjection of Women. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. 652-705. Print.

Lavaque – Manty, Mika. Political Science Lecture. 02 12 2009. Lecture.

Growing up in a household where the highest level of education is a high school diploma, I learned to summarize politics into two categories; democrats and republicans. Additionally, democrats were for the poor people and republicans were for the rich people. Before entering this class that was the only thing I knew about politics. Furthermore, during every election I adapted to believing that the republicans were the enemy and the democrats were interested in looking out for my needs and my wants; my friend.

From the beginning readings of this class, pertaining to “The Trial and Death of Socrates” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s , “A letter from a Birmingham Jail” I furthered my claim as I set people from those readings into my two categories. The people charging Socrates were the republicans that followed the rules set to benefit them. As a result, people such as Socrates represented the democrats; the oppressed . The people who have no say-so on the rules and power or authority. It was the same way with Martin Luther King Jr. who challenged segregation laws and jailed for being a threat of taking the law-makers out of their comfort zone.

It wasn’t until Machiavelli’s, “The Prince” that I encountered a society that I could not compare my theory to. There was one ruler and his rule was based on the interest of the state. There is no doubt about it that The Prince wants glory, but in order for that glory to be obtained is by pleasing the state’s interest. Therefore, both the Prince and the state gets what it wants. If everyone is getting pleased, from my interpretation of politics, who then are the oppressed? Who are the democrats?

My thoughts were conflicted as I read through Hobbes and was told that the best way to be protected is to give up ones rights to an array of men and let them protect you from what threatens your life. It all seemed to make sense that if we trust one person or a multitude of people to work within our self-interest; then everything else would simply fall into place.

The reading that altered my perception of politics more, was the readings of Burke. Burke’s theory was to simply let people do what they want as long as they do not trespass upon others. Furthermore, he stated, “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide human wants.” (“Reflections on the Revolution of France”, pg.513)

With these readings, I looked at society today and recognized that the world of politics was not just democrat and republican. Furthermore, republicans weren’t the enemy and democrats weren’t just the victims of it all. Just as before, there are people in power, who make the rules, and people not in power (the people who abide by the rules). According to my interpretation of politics, republicans consisted of only people in power and everyone else were democrats. However, it is not so that that every single republican is in power. Additionally, there are working-class republicans just as there are working-class democrats. As far as the oppressed is concerned, they must always exist. Rather republican or democrat, African-Americans, or women, there must always be an oppressed group in order for society to be prosperous. Simply because everyone wants a self-verification that they are more important than someone else. That is why there can even exist a theory that republicans are for the rich and democrats are for the poor. It is the idea of self-importance. Concluding, I no longer summarize politics into the theories of democrats and republicans. Nor do I classify myself as either. For when I look to vote for my first time I will look for the Machiavellian theory that the ruler should look to please the interest of the state. I will make sure that the representative follows the Hobbesian theory to be able to trust the ruler with protecting me from threats against my life. Finally I would want them to keep in mind Burke’s philosophy’s that the people should have the freedom to do as they please without trespassing upon others. More importantly, to keep in mind that “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide human wants.” (“Reflections on the Revolution of France”, pg.513)

When you think of disaster, the scene that probably comes to mind is one of bystanders fleeing for their lives, stampeding away and creating a frenzied chaos that lends itself to looting and other despicable acts.  However, this pandemonium is not the norm. Frequently, disasters are followed by a period of unregulated harmony, with little to no government influence.  While ultimately necessary, the immediate restoration of strong and authoritative government is not imperative in the wake of disaster.  Its eventual reestablishment, however, is critical to the avoidance of the dystopia and constant war that accompany a truly Hobbesian state of nature.

            Following disaster, the affected are violently shaken from their everyday preoccupations with the past (notions of hierarchy and status) and the future (accumulation of money and goods).  They must now focus on the present, and satisfying Hobbes’ first law of nature, the Law of Self Preservation; that all men are “to seek peace, and follow it” (Hobbes).  Men seek to fulfill their original right to everything around them, including life.  With that as their principal aim, and in accordance with Hobbes’ second law of nature, men are, in these times of immediate danger, “contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself” (Hobbes).  In stark contrast to the cynical and incorrect views of selfish pandemonium that is expected, a peaceful and harmonious society emerges in the destruction of disaster. The single goal of this society is to satisfy the basic needs of its citizens, the survivors of the disaster, which are not being met.  “The passions that incline man to peace are fear of death and desire of such things that are necessary to commodious living” (Hobbes).  It is these inherent human needs and desires that dictate the harmony of a disaster ravaged community.

            While the basic human need for self-preservation is understood, human nature is much too complex to seek the obvious solution of an isolated, lawless, and unregulated society that satisfies only the most basic requirements for survival.  With respect to the Hobbesian tradeoff, much of humanity realizes that the security of regulated civilization far outweighs the freedom of anarchic chaos.  Through solidarity, people look not only for self-preservation, but also for a way to eclipse the suffering with togetherness.  In doing so they showcase an unfamiliar and seldom seen version of human nature.  It has been scientifically proven that people are more likely to respond to an emergency when help is not available.  The limited ability of traditional emergency response teams often leads directly to civilian action.  When danger is imminent and no help is on the way, peoples’ reactions are to help those around them to safety.  For example, following 9/11, and in direct disagreement with Hobbes’ Law of Self Preservation, boats looking for anyone who needed rescuing bombarded Lower Manhattan.  When everyone is safe and resources are scarce, neighborhoods band together and pool resources to help each other survive.  Societies arise based on proximity, social ties and the now-limited concepts of “here” and “now.”  After a disaster and within this communities, there is a feeling that anything can happen, the same feeling that incites and defines revolution.  The feeling that you and everyone around you are brothers and sisters, united in the defense of each other’s wellbeing.

            Society may remain harmonious in the immediate wake of disaster; however, previous authority structures must be reestablished to ensure the long-term preservation of said society.  The anarchic paradise of self-regulated microcosms is only viable for the short period of time before the basic needs for human survival are met. Their purpose is obvious and pressing- put out the fire, sandbag the river, rescue the trapped.  Once given the option of alternatives, disagreement of ideals will result in dissent and the subsequent downfall of these ad hoc associations.  Over extended periods of time, only the authority of central government can do what these communities have managed to do for a fleeting moment. In Hobbesian terms, the presence of a benevolent sovereign is essential to the successful aversion of a true State of Nature.

Every election year, a crisis seems to rear its ugly head, staring us all right in the face, daring us to take action. Every election year, we hear the same depressing story, over, and over again. Like a broken record, the needle just keeps skipping, replaying the same doom story. Every election year, we hear the demographic voting data, and every year, we hear how poorly the 18-24 year old bracket did with voter turnout.

It’s sad, really. The future fails to care about the present time and time again. Sure, there are those of us who genuinely care, care not only about which candidate seems “cooler,” but care how their foreign policy stance will affect the country long-term, or how their economic plan details success. But let’s face it. Those people are not the majority, never have been, and probably never will be. Not just in the aforementioned “youth” bracket, but every single age demographic in the country seems to be in large part uninformed, and if they the don’t fall into that boat, then they often take propaganda they hear and act as if it was written in stone, making them misinformed, often stubbornly so.

What can a nation do when its foundational aspect of electing the leader of the free world, the people, make their own criterion for selection who looked the best during the debate, or what color/creed they are, or what their stance is on a single issue?  This is the message we as young people get from the older generations, the ones running the country. There is such apathy for complete knowledge of candidates’ platforms from the majority of the older generation, that when it comes time for our turn to walk into the booth, most of us seem to care even less than our parents do.

But we cannot blame others for our own folly, at least not completely. Somewhere along the way, the partial apathy of our elders get amplified on us, so much so that many of us don’t even travel to the polls. There is a large gap between current events and politics and the average young voter. Why? Is it the audience politics usually caters to, the life-experienced and intelligent adult, or it is more that we don’t feel connected to the issues? At what point should we start caring? When we buy a house? When we pay our first real taxes on our own, and actually feel compelled to see what the government is doing with it? Or should we start caring once the economy falls completely apart, and we can’t afford to buy that new laptop, or even get a job coming of out college?

The answer: we need to care now, because however our parents leave us this country is how we’re going to inherit it.  The fact is, people often don’t care about what’s going on around them that does not directly affect them( see world hunger), and this is not lost on us, the youth. But we are ignorant, ignorant to the fact that politics DOES affect us directly, we just cannot see it right in front us all of the time.  As long we get everything we want short-term, the majority are complacent. I suppose that increased responsibility, such as income taxes and home ownership tends to break us of complete apathy, but for some, not even that is enough.

There is a reason we have a voice at age 18 in this government. It is not an ancient, outdated law, it has a purpose. We have a voice at 18 because we are expected to take an active part in this country’s affairs at 18. More than that, we should WANT to take part! So many have died to give us this right, it’s almost disrespectful not to take advantage of it. However, that being said, it is never alright to vote for the sake of voting-part of that privilege requires that we make intelligent choices.

For our own good, we have to care. And it has to be a team effort. Politicians should make redoubled efforts to reach out to the youth, and the youth need to wake up and embrace their legacy. The vicious cycle of political apathy needs to stop if we are to survive as a nation long-term. What better time than now?

This last presidential election showed increased youth voters across the board. Are we finally showing progress?

When the future fails to care about the present, the future destroys itself.

A Mini Marxist Society

Marx was the last political philosopher that was covered in Polisci this semester, and this philosopher has struck close to home the most. Marx’s ideas seem a bit dated, and it is somewhat hard to see Capitalism in such a divided and immobile way. Even though these things are true, his ideas do still apply today. Two main points in Marx’s writings that were interesting to me were the lack of social mobility and the division of classes (bourgeoisie and proletariats).

I worked at a restaurant during high school and until now, I did not realize what an unprogressive hierarchy it was. There were three owners of this restaurant and they definitely had money. Although in a recession, the restaurant was doing well despite the expensive price to dine there. There were many cooks that worked there, and almost none of them spoke English. It was obvious that the cooks had no other option but to work there, but I did not know why, at first.

In this application of Marx’s theory, the owners of the restaurant are the bourgeois and the cooks are the proletariats. The proletariats did not own anything, they were the workers who provided the labor. The owners of the business owned the mean of production, which included the building, the supplies, and the workers (the cooks to be exact). How did they “own” the cooks you ask? Keep in mind I mentioned before how unprogressive this company was. The cooks were actually indentured servants. Which are defined as, “persons obliged by contract to work for a stated number of years.”(“Maryland State Archives Reference & Research”) This restaurant literally owned them. Indentured servants were common in the 16th and 17th century, but were still found until the mid-1800s. The owners of this business sponsored five Mexicans to come and work for them, for free. Their payment for their fulltime job was an apartment to split among the five of them and free food.

In our discussion, we watched a clip of a movie about Chinese factory workers who get paid way under minimum wage for a fulltime (and overtime) position. Such a little wage in fact, that it is barely a salary to live on. This provides no social mobility between the classes. Continuing with my example of the restaurant, these cooks had no hope of any social mobility. Although their food and shelter were paid for, it was against the owners’ rules to get any other job, which means no profit at all. If they decided to break the indentured servant contract, they would be brought back to Mexico and lose out on the chance to become an American citizen. As Marx stated, “Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to It under which it can, at least, continue it’s slavish existence”(Wootton, pg 804). While the oppressing and the oppressed classes are a bit less obvious in today’s society, they both are still there. In this restaurant that is similar to the mid-1800s, it is clear to see that the bourgeois (the owners) and the proletariats (the cooks) are.

It’s hard to imagine that even though it’s the 21st century and in the United States, there is still a legal way to own all the means of production, including a person. Even more so, that it is legal in a Capitalist society to hinder and restrict a person’s right to move up in society. Marx said, “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class oppressing another” (Wootton, pg 809) and how right he was.

Works Cited

“Understanding Maryland Records- Indentured Servants.” Maryland State Archives Reference & Research. 22 Mar 2005. Maryland State Archives, Web. <http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/refserv/html/servant.html&gt;.

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought. Second Edition. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2008. Print.

After one hundred and fifty years, Avineri’s reassessment of The Communist Manifesto’s close minded view of capitalism as an unchanging industry “dependent largely on machinery that was powered by steam derived from burning coal” raises interesting issues. The Communist Manifesto presents a compelling and eloquent argument misused by power-hungry oligarchs of history and Avineri asserts that there is more to be gleaned from this document he asserts was “intended to be a key to the hieroglyph of history.” He, seemingly accurately, describes the living entity of a capitalist nation and a government’s ability to adapt it to society’s needs in a way that Marx could not foresee. However, this should not entirely discredit Marx’s view on the weaknesses of capitalism.

Avineri makes the assessment that “an internal polarization between capitalists and proletarians” has been translated to “an external one between ‘capitalist’ and ‘proletarian’ nations.” His assertion that a global capitalist environment has emerged is particularly interesting and deserves further comment. This is something not heavily addressed by Marx, who believed capitalism would give way to revolution internally, but is important to our nation as we continue to exercise relations with other countries.

It is important because a global economy resembling capitalism has drawbacks similar to those outlined by The Communist Manifesto and therefore our nation must be conscious of this similarity if it hopes to adapt. I assert this because global capitalism is causing our nation to police the world. Currently there exist, whether we are willing to admit it or not, bourgeoise nations and proletariat nations. Furthermore, it is the general consensus that we exist as a bourgeoise nation, and this creates understandable unrest and resentment between the nations we exploit. Avineri asserts that it is here Marx and Engles are justified in their assessment of capitalism:

“[Marx and Engles] have been vindicated by the facts of globalization—the sweatshops of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with their child labor, their horrendously unsanitary working and living conditions, and their lack of minimum-wage laws and basic social welfare networks. Here, then, are the successors of the sweatshops of London’s East End or New York’s Lower East Side.”

It is here that the assessment made in The Communist Manifesto seems much more applicable to modern life. It is perhaps a harsh view of America’s international politics, but it must be acknowledged that we are an unwelcome presence in many lives overseas and our first interest is our own nation. Overwhelming majorities in many countries are beginning to speak out against our imperialistic tendencies. For example, our presence in Latin America is actively and vocally detested in many of the countries, yet we stand our ground. While it is a complicated issue, America should reassess its (especially military) presence in the world. We should actively transform our capitalist outlook in the way Avineri suggests is possible internally in a nation. He makes an excellent point about the transformative nature of capitalism as its saving grace. This should not be overlooked by our international relations.

  • Avineri, Shlomo. The Communist Manifesto at 150.
  • Lavaque-Manty, Mika. “After Marx.” Polsci 101. Angel Aud. B, Ann Arbor. 14 Dec. 2009. Lecture.