Friday, June 18, 2004

Time for an End to War

It is often true that politics is war by other means. And just as war is a costly waste, so too are combative political battles.

At a time in which our nation is so polarized politically, it may be difficult to imagine a reduction in the scale of conflict. But it is worth imagining a path to less conflict simply because we would all benefit from a reduction of conflict.

There are three primary sources of political conflict:

1. International policy
2. Economic policy
3. Moral/cultural issues

I will sketch a path to peace on each of these issues.

1. International policy: Although the war in Iraq is a source of great political passion, it is not clear to me that there is as much disagreement regarding international policy as there appears to be. There was a fairly broad consensus in favor of weapons inspections supported by the threat of force. There is a fairly broad consensus in favor of getting the U.S. out of Iraq sooner rather than later (whatever the wisdom of this). As the world gradually becomes more fully integrated economically, global conflict will decrease. The Millennium Challenge is a great improvement in foreign aid strategy. In the absence of additional unilateral military action by the U.S., there is reason to believe that in the decades to come international policy will be less a source of violent political conflict than it is today.

2. Economic policy: A broad consensus in favor of the reduction of government would benefit most people in the long run. This consensus does not yet exist. But it has been gaining in momentum for several decades now. Although there is a constituency in favor of greater government involvement in health care, with the exception of the health care issue almost no one wants "more government" anymore. As intelligent market solutions for health care are developed, it should be possible to create broad support for market solutions to social problems that would allow us to reduce the scale of government. We need to de-politicize these issues so that large gains are available for everyone. With attainable levels of economic growth, average American incomes could rise dramatically within our lifetimes. By allowing more immigrants into the U.S., we can contribute more to the alleviation of global poverty than any group of humans in history. By means of eliminating the tragedy of the commons, we can combine high rates of economic growth with a constantly improving environment.

3. Moral/cultural issues: At present, both sides are engaged in an all-out culture war. Yet our society has powerful tradition of cultural pluralism and tolerance for other cultures. Why not apply our tradition of cultural tolerance to our internal cultural battles? If some cultures do not want homosexual marriage, let them refuse to acknowledge it. If other cultures want homosexual marriage, allow them to acknowledge it. While this solution sounds simple enough, in practice it would mean very dramatic changes in our cultural identity and in our legal structure. Instead of one national cultural identity, it would mean allowing for radical pluralism of culture. In order to support a radically pluralistic culture, distinctive cultures we need to be able to enforce policies (no abortion or yes homosexual marriage) within their own communities. Vermont and Georgia, perhaps, would need to be allowed to be even more different culturally and legally than they are today. Perhaps the cultural/legal entities would not be states; perhaps they would not even be geographically contiguous.

With both the economic and moral/cultural issues a "live and let live" philosophy could allow for dramatic gains in happiness and well-being for most Americans. Both the Right and the Left would have to give up their desire to force other people to be like them or to support financially certain goals. People would have to let other human beings voluntarily choose their cultures and the goals that they wanted to support. We would have to let other people be themselves in whatever way they pleased. We would have to become more peaceful and tolerant.

Does this sound so hopelessly utopian?

1 Comments:

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8:41 AM  

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