Have the Rules of Politics Changed?

At the end of Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Mr. Spock dies, and when asked by an anguished Jim Kirk why he sacrificed himself, he states simply: “Don’t grieve, Admiral: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one”

Jonah Goldberg, an editor at large of the conservative National Review Online, bemoans the shifting of the rules of politics, from what has up to now been straight lines from point A of a societal shift, to Point B, our typical response to it; I quote:

“For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters – and scares over alleged ones – help environmentalists push tighter regulations…  According to the rules populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less…According to the rules, Americans don’t care bout the deficit during a recession….And yet (today) none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly…As a conservative…it’s becoming harder and harder to shake the feeling that something bigger than politics as usual is at work here.”

Indeed, something bigger than “politics” as the public generally defines the concept is at work, and I believe Mr. Spock’s dying words provide the explanation.

We have…voters and legislators alike…abandoned the willingness to do what is best to meet the needs of the many, wanting instead to ensure that our idiosyncratic needs, i.e. those of the few, are met.

Thus the schizophrenic reactions from every body politic, left/middle/right.  The extreme Right wants less government….unless it negatively impacts entitlements they hold dear like Social Security and Medicare; extreme liberals want more government…unless it interferes with individual causes like immigration and sensible regulation of the internet; Centrists may see both sides of the issue, but are paralyzed by indecision, or flip-flop, because they too get mired in what will best serve an individual vs. greater good.  We want what we want when we want it, without regard for either the long-term or overall impact of our choices.  We don’t seem to care about the big picture…the needs of the many.

In Star Trek III, Mr. Spock comes back to life in perfect sci-fi form…so his sacrifice wasn’t a final one after all.  The same is true for us.  By doing what’s best for the many over time, even when it will create some hardship for the few in the (relative) short-run, our sacrifices, too, may be difficult, but will not be permanent.  From energy sources to social security, only once the many agree to place the country’s wellbeing as a whole above their own individual wish lists, will we at last be on the path to a better nation.

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