Skip to main content

Politics and Power



I did not begin this blog with a plan to comment extensively on current events. Nevertheless, a news item from the CBC stirred up some thoughts about the relationship between politics, power, and democracy. The background story can be found at the link below:


The story concerns the current election cycle in Canada. The Conservative minority government recently fell to a vote of no-confidence, so Canadians head to polls on May 2 to elect a new government. The Conservatives have been in power for a few years now, and early polls show that the New Democratic Party, traditionally one of the more marginal of the major parties, is leading on the other parties. As a result, the leaders of the other parties have launched attacks on the NDP, their leaders and their campaign promises and platforms. Now, you might not find this overly surprising if you're not familiar with the Canadian political landscape.

For those not in the know about our neighbors to the North, Canadian Parliament has been dominated by three parties, the Liberals, the Conservatives, and the NDP. Other parties, such as the Bloc Quebecois, have occasionally formed important support voting blocs. The Liberals are often considered left-leaning centrists; the Conservatives, of course, make up the right, and the New Democratic Party takes up the far left. In the past, the NDP have often stood with the Liberals to support Liberal minority governments, and in general, NDP platforms are more consonant with Liberal agendas. In this very campaign, both the Liberals and the NDP have proposed ending corporate tax havens, but in the above story, the Liberals have criticized the NDP proposal.

Now, particular issues aside, these kinds of power games bring to my mind the ugly side of politics. In a political race, I would think that what matters are the party's position. Nevertheless, the actions of the parties, turning on the dark horse when it looks like he'll pull ahead, speak to the importance of power for its own sake, not the goals one wishes to achieve. If the Liberals were committed to their position, there would be little reason to attack the NDP because they agree to at least a large extent. Certainly, the Liberals would be expected to argue that the NDP wants to go too far or that their proposals are too radical, but to call out the NDP on a promise that they themselves have made indicates that what matters is being in charge.

If politicians are seeking office for the sake of realizing what they honestly think is the good of people, such petty squabbles would be set aside. Where two candidates agree, they should argue for the superiority of these views. Where two candidates agree, they will still debate over who would do the best job, but they would not be expected to attack one another's views. That such debates have occurred in the current Canadian campaign, and have occurred in other contexts, shows that something else is at stake. In particular, it seems that what is at stake is power, the right to rule. At that rate, it seems difficult to believe that such characters have the best interest of the people in mind. To the contrary, it seems that the core of interest is being in control. I suppose the further question is what is so desirable about being in power, another way of asking the old question “Cui bono?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Justifications for Intellectual Property Part 1: Utilitarianism

There is no way this tutorial series would be complete without some discussion of justifications for intellectual property. While not necessarily a matter of law, some knowledge of the philosophical foundations will provide a better sense of the values at stake in intellectual property debates. Notice, for instance, that the tutorials on fair use were punctuated with appeals to values, social goods, and individual rights. Without an understanding of the moral and political framework against which the law stands, one can very easily find oneself in a stalemate, with one value pitted against another and no way of deciding which should prevail. To understand the jurisprudence around intellectual property rights, one has to have some idea of the justifying theories to which attorneys and judges appeal in their arguments and decisions. So, without further ado, let's get to the tutorial.
There are three main ways of justifying intellectual property rights: the Utilitarian theory, the Lab…

Digital Distribution

Continuing on this week's topic of first sale and digital distribution, I thought I would discuss emerging distribution strategies for digital media. The outline below comes from my observations on new media technologies, some of which can be found in an earlier entry here. As far as I can tell, digital distribution strategies can be divided into three categories according to salient features.
Access-Based distribution (“cloud” based services) the customer subscribes to a service the subscription entitles the customer to access content stored on the provider's servers content is remotely stored, though some items may be remotely cached for offline use when the subscription is terminated, the customer loses access to all content the content provider can exercise a great deal of control over what content is offered; the selection of content may vary over time, meaning that the customer is only guaranteed access to the cloud, not any particular item in the cloud typifie…

Justifications for Intellectual Property Part 2: Labor-Desert Theories

I know it's been a little while, but I want to finish this tutorial series rather than abandoning it and moving on to other topics. Of course, I would have liked to have finished it by now, but various research and teaching-related obstacles have kept me nose down in the Real rather than preparing content to be released into the internet. Nevertheless, I'm returning to routine, so I'm going to release this installment today, rather than wait for my usual MWF release schedule.
At any rate, let's pick up where we left off and talk about justifications for intellectual property rights. While the utilitarian justification discussed in the last post enjoys the status of having been enshrined in law, scholars and jurists have often brought in other property-justifying theories. Perhaps the most popular of these are Labor-Desert justifications, best exemplified by John Locke (the philosopher, not the character on Lost).
In his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Locke const…