Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pragmatism and Politics

Let me state something outright – I believe pragmatism is essential to politics. If you are not pragmatic then guess what? You ain’t ever going to get anywhere in politics. Indeed, one of the reasons why I would not run for power is because I am a stubborn sod most of the time – and that is not a particularly helpful attitude in those who want to win the votes of others.

But let me state something else – pragmatism in politics is important, but it is only part of the political process. You can be too pragmatic or, to put it another slightly more graphic way, you can whore yourself out for a couple of votes and lose the reason why you got into politics in the first place. Don’t believe me? Well, you only have to look at Tony Blair for a striking example of this phenomenon.

So the practice of politics is a delicate balancing act between pragmatism and ideology. Individuals need to work out how to carry out that balancing act, and more importantly, what the line is that they will not cross between being pragmatic and being committed to core beliefs. It is particularly true of those who adopt the strategy of entryism – those Libertarians in the Tory party, for example, who are aspiring (vainly if you ask me) to make that party genuinely Libertarian. The question they need to ask themselves is “at what point do I say enough is enough? What would it take for me to decide this party is not longer tight for me and I should leave it?”* I think former Labour party members found that out in 2003, while a lot of Liberal Democrats found out what their breaking point was in May of this year.

In other words, I get that some people think it is worth being a part of a party that does not represent all of their views but might be, if they are able to get into power, able to make some of their views in actual government policy. Such a position is pragmatic; it is a compromise I can understand. But pragmatism must have its limits lest people want to end up being compromised. So I’ll put the question to those who are a member or supporter of one of the main parties again: “what would be the breaking point – the moment when you decided enough was enough and it is time to take your political allegiance elsewhere – for you?”

*Ok, yes, that was technically two questions.

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At 4:57 pm , Blogger Unknown said...

you are invited to follow my blog

At 5:25 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Not for the first time, I'll ask "why the hell would I want to do that?"

At 8:20 pm , Blogger TonyF said...

Out of morbid curiosity??

At 9:12 am , Blogger Longrider said...

Form me, it was ID cards

At 10:34 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Finnell - God bothering alert!!

At 10:44 am , Anonymous Scooper said...

I am now embarrassed to admit that the Conservatives got my vote in the General Election although much of that was to vote Brown out.
Cameron didn't impress me during the Election campaign and his actions in power have been a betrayal of traditional Tory voters. I preferred the old tories - fat, arrogant but successful businessmen rather than today's insipid, faceless and utterly pointless clones. I shall not vote Tory again. Their manifesto was less than impressive and they've just compromised too much in order to get their hands on power, particularly with regards to the EU, and will never have my trust again. Anybody that gives Chris Huhne any form of power deserves evisceration.
Cameron's 'modernisation' of the party has gone too far to now appeal to anybody with Libertarian inclinations.

At 11:49 pm , Anonymous Andrew Zalotocky said...

You are invited to not follow my blog as I can't be bothered to write one.

As for pragmatism, it's a question of means and ends. A person with strong principles can afford to be pragmatic about the means that he or she uses to promote them because their principles will place strict limits on which means are considered to be legitimate.

The problem is people who are pragmatic about what means they employ but who don't have any strongly-held principles to limit their actions. They end up doing whatever is expedient by whatever means is available, i.e. New Labour.

But a government that behaves like that is doomed to fail because any significant change (other than increasing spending) takes years to implement. It requires a willingness to continue in the face of widespread hostility because you believe that the end will be worth the effort. No principles means no commitment means no results.


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