PPE: Politics, Philosophy and Economics

PPE is a course taught at Oxford.  It aims to give the student a quick run-through of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics all in one course.  The Rationale is that, “the answers to economic questions are often political, and the answers to political questions are often philosophical.”  An interesting course, you might  think, until you find out that the first assignment is to read  John Locke in the original.  Anyhow, this is the course that they send the Rhodes Scholars to.

I figure that, to the extent that I have them, my blog should feature big thoughts.  They are the more interesting and lend themselves naturally to a blog I think.

Now that I live in Asia I have a bit of a different filter on my perceptions of the world news and this has led me towards a great big overarching question.

It started with an article on the rise of Asian fascism, and the various ways that some governments have of dealing to opposition parties, their members, and their families.

Then we watched the BBC Doha Debates.  The most recent topic being, “Is Dubai a bad idea?”  There was an exiled Emirati woman there, banging on about Human Rights for all she was worth.  I sort-of thought that the right answer might have been for some of the Sheiks to say, “Look, we are not interested in Human Rights, we are an Arab Sheikdom, we aren’t a democracy, we don’t concede these Western liberal pre-occupations, you bunch of bankrupt hand-wringers.  We are a neo-capitalist fascist state and we think that we are doing alright, thank you very much.  So stop lecturing us about what our values should be!”  Of course they didn’t say that.  But that might have been the truth.

Social Darwinism is a belief that the people at the top are there because they are better people than the people at the bottom.  You often find it espoused in the leafy suburbs.  And it seems to me to fit in with self-interest, authoritarianism and a corporate mode of operation.  In unfettered settings the most ferociously self-interested usually manage to scramble their way up the ladder, red of tooth and claw, and then make a virtue of it by saying that they must have been better, more ethical and harder-working to have gotten there.  No-one believes that. 

The logical conclusion comes when the government tries to encourage the weak and disenfranchised to leave their society by one way or another.

Over a long-enough period of time, in an open society without too much regulation, the clever people will wind up being hundreds of times richer than the dumb people, and that’s why we need governments.  If you just let capitalism rip then you will wind up with a philosophy as famously espoused by Margaret Thatcher when she said, “There is no such thing as society, there are only consumers.”

If everybody is self-interested, greedy and doing anything for power then there is no such thing as society alright, that is for sure.

The trouble is that too much concern for those less well-off than ourselves is very expensive and, with one thing and another, the nations that espouse these Western Liberal values are pretty much bankrupt now.   In the 21st Century the rich and powerful rising nations don’t seem to me to be too much interested in Human rights, Freedom of Speech, equality of opportunity, etc, etc.  People are pretty much worried about making as much money as they can, as fast as they can.  And in a poor country the more so than in a rich one, no-matter what the stated political persuasion is.

I did some research on what the core values of Fascism are, different political systems, different forms of Capitalism, Capitalism and Democracy, and the difference between a Republic and a Democracy (in a democracy the people make the decisions, in a Republic the people elect representatives to make the decisions for them).

Anyhow, I won’t bore you with all of that and people more knowledgeable than me may well take issue with the detail.  So the picture above is my own private little PPE for the start of the 21st Century.  Blue for political systems, green for countries, purple for values.  You get the idea.  I probably won’t live to see the brave new world.  But I can see it coming, and quite fast now.  Comments?

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