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Transcripts (in rough form) for lectures given in Philosophy and Development of American Government. See http://ludwig.squarespace.com/amgovcourse-page/
January 7, 2009 PLS212 Wilson Let's get started with an idea here. Political scientists say politics is who gets what and how. Rich people, what do they want? Tax breaks. How do they get that? By electing Republicans. Just go with it. Is that politics? Anyone agree that's not politics? Anyone take a view that it's not political? Is this political, you said yes. Is politics bad? Rich people getting tax breaks by electing Republicans. Is that bad? Male Student: Can be. Special interest groups can control a party with a certain agenda. Professor: Would rich people getting tax breaks by electing Bush, is that dirty? Male Student: I don't think so. When you elect somebody, you want something out of it. Professor: But you agree it's still politics. Now we'll play a language game. Sometimes politics is bad, and sometimes it's not. And someone might see this and say, it's politics and it's bad, and someone might say, it's politics and it's okay. Who we'll have here. George Bush. When I see this it brings back memories, I used to like The Who, you don't even know them now. But we have Who. George Bush. What's he going to get? The presidency. From the Supreme Court. Is that political? Who says yes? Male Student: The supreme court can rule how they want. If it's in their minds to elect George W. Bush. Professor: How is that political? Male Student: It speaks to their biases. Male Student: You look at the Supreme Court, when somebody retires or dies, the President appoints somebody, and the President in power will appoint somebody more favored to their political stance. So by getting the Supreme Court in it, you have a mix of Democrats and Republicans. Professor: So was it political for George Bush to get the presidency from the Supreme Court? Yes? Why? Because there were justices on board from prior presidents? But you over here, you said it was biased. Let's say it wasn't biased. Let's say he got the presidency from the Supreme Court, which was composed of angels. Or the oompa-loompahs. Would it be political then? Male Student: It could be, depending on how they're thinking of the Constitution and how it was written, one group might say it's a living document with different interpretations because of the times. Professor: Okay. Is politics bad? Is it bad George Bush gets the presidency from the Supreme Court? Male Student: Inherently, no. Because without politics, the alternative...Well, the alternative is much worse. Professor: I don't follow you. Male Student: How would Bush become the ruler otherwise? Professor: Through politics. Are you saying...Here's what I'm asking. When Bush got the presidency through the Supreme Court, you're saying it wasn't bad because the only way he could have otherwise have gotten it would be through bloodshed or something. Male Student: Possibly. Female Student: There are 90 million people in our society, and we could have had a different president with another election. Professor: What if we went with the popular vote? One way to get the presidency is through the Supreme Court, and another way is someone to say, let's just do it by popular vote. Is one better than the other, and are they both politics? What would you say? Male Student: My personal opinion, popular vote is better because it more directly represents. But at the same time, the Supreme Court, we have that system because of popular vote. It's a democracy, that was put in place at some time by popular vote. So it is all by voting. It's just this one is representatives. Professor: Let me ask, is doing the right thing...Say the court does the right thing. Is doing the right thing in selecting a President, is that politics? Male Student: Depends on what you define is right and wrong. Professor: We would have to have that definition settled before we could answer it. Let's say Clinton, he got impeached, how? Because the Republicans set out to do it, they had an agenda. That's been revealed as a historical fact. In the 1990s, a Republican leadership set to tear him down. In the 90s they denied them, now they admit. Is that politics? Is that political? Clinton getting impeached because of a Republican attack, is that political? Is politics bad? Female Student: The way you look at it, it could be good or bad depending on the decision made. Professor: That's an interesting way to look at it. Male Student: I don't think politics is something that's good or bad, it's the way you look at it depending on your beliefs is good or bad. Professor: That's perspectival, Nietzschean. Let's say Nixon, he got impeached. Why? Because there's evidence of criminal involvement. Anyone see Frost versus Nixon? Frost took some liberties, a little too liberal, but you know. Frost v. Nixon. Nixon really running a criminal enterprise, so they'll impeach him. Slush funds, break-ins, they'll impeach you. Was that political when they did that? Is that something that was political? Male Student: I think it was just...It's not political, but if anyone was just committing a crime for political reasons. Professor: Here we are back in that quandary. If we do the right thing, if we do what's warranted, is that an act of politics? Male Student: I guess it would depend on the so-called right thing socially acceptable. Professor: Let's do this. Mick Jagger. What's he going to get? Billions of dollars. Far too much money. Completely obscene. And how's he going to get it? This strange talent he has as an effeminate male who can do these bizarre movements. I used to love to watch Mick dance, every guy would look at him and say, I wish we could dance like that. Is that political? Mick Jagger getting billions of dollars doing those very bizarre things that he does. Is that politics? Male Student: Yeah, just like the popular vote, keep making money because of the talent because people like him. Professor: That's an interesting concept, hold on to it. You're saying he's gotten money by public choice. How is that politics? It doesn't happen in a campaign, it doesn't happen in government. How is that politics? I think you're all on the right track. Female Student: Could it have something to do with he's going to have to have a manager and do concerts and sell himself, there's political aspects of how he's getting the gigs and jobs and things. Professor: It's a business. Male Student: You gotta persuade people to like you and pay you. Professor: Marketing, okay. That's very interesting, the subject matter's political. That's interesting. And in the 60s generation, the counterculture, and being a poster child for that, at least for a period of time, and so that's interesting. Go ahead. Male Student: I was going to say it wasn't political, it strikes me as...Yeah, he makes billions of dollars for his talent, but he's doing his job. If you scale it down, I'm a restaurant manager but I make crap money. Professor: You're saying, look, professor. This, like the impeachment of Nixon, say, is different from the impeachment of Clinton. This isn't dirty. This is just him participating in the marketplace. Let's do this. We'll do one last one. Tom Brady, what is he going to get? They'll beat the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 playoffs. Why? The officials didn't rule it a fumble when every living breathing football knowing person on the planet saw it was a fumble. Someone's going to come out and cite the rulebook. This year's not too bad, 11 and 5, didn't get in the playoffs. That shouldn't be allowed. But was that political? Was that call political? You have the Davis view that says they were trying to screw him, let's pretend that was not true. Was that call political? This is a game. The term politics doesn't have the same meaning as Wittgenstein tells us. Male Student: You're saying about the Al Davis thing, all of his part of history was suing the NFL, and being the former commissioner of the AFL before they merged. And the NFL particularly doesn't like Al Davis. Professor: Was it conspiratorial? Male Student: Maybe. Professor: If it was, it will fit. Male Student: I think it was political. The referees have their job, and like any President they made the best decision they thought they could make even though it was a bad call. Professor: And why would them acting on good faith, why would that make it political? Male Student: That's what the president is supposed to do. Make good decisions for America to advance. Professor: I think this is what you're saying. There's a rulebook that tells us what to do, and the official is trying to administer the policy, and when that happens that's politics. Let's clear it up. I don't wanna do this anymore. One more. Big schools get bowl games through the BCS. Is that political? Go ahead, in the front. Male Student: I think so, because if you have schools like Ball State, for example, or even Utah or whatever, they defeat them in a championship game... Professor: So certain schools seem to have advantages, it's rigged in favor of certain schools. Male Student: Perennial top teams back every year. If you lose one game, you're completely out, all made up by polls at the beginning of the season. Professor: So it lacks legitimacy. So you can criticize it. But let's clear this up. Here's what we want. The senses of politics. This is a language game. Two senses of politics, this is a question on the midterm. There are two basic senses of the term politics. One idea is very innocent. It's not dirty. It doesn't have a bad connotation. It just says politics is distribution. The student who started us off thought politics was disagreement. It's distribution. Let me explain to you what it is. It's a distributory activity. What does it distribute? Power, authority, things that are valued or desired. So Mick Jagger wants to be rich. If a person wants to be rich, how are they going to do that? In America, there'll be a free market system set up to distribute that commodity. And that'll be the rules that distribute what people want. If you are in other types of societies, there'll be a different mechanism to distribute it. So it's a set of rules that tells us who gets what and how, the things that are valued in society. Politics is a human choice to allocate something of value. There's something we want, and we come up with a system to allocate it, that's politics. How to allocate something of value. We need to make rules so you can get it. Politics as the allocation of authority, once again this is not dirty. It doesn't have to be dirty. There's nothing inherent in politics that has to be dirty right now. Examples. Using the marketplace versus government to allocate property. That's a choice that is political. Because it allocates who can have property and who can't. Let's do this. Let's introduce another concept. I just described politics as allocating something of value. What I want to do now is tighten your senses and have you ask some questions. Who would win or lose if the government allocated property? Say we abolished capitalism. Who would win or lose? Male Student: Depends on how the government allocates property, but the poor people would win and rich lose. Professor: That's one view. If we change the system we have now from free market to government, the poor would win. Anyone take issue with that? Male Student: I don't think the government would want to lose money, so they'd find people who had more credibility. Professor: So you'd still have people with more privilege than others. Someone earlier said that if they abolished capitalism, you wouldn't have economic growth and so on, not as many playgrounds and things. I just want you to understand, politics is allocating values, and when you do that people win and lose. You allocate something of value, and that creates winners and losers. How about using draft versus free agency to allocate sports labor? Say you're going to be a football player, and someone uses a system with free agency, and another is going to use the draft. Who wins or loses there? Who wins or loses if we have a system for football players that uses a draft versus free agency? Male Student: The team with the most money is going to win, they'll offer more money to more skilled players. Professor: So pure free agency, going to the highest bidder, the teams with the most money would win. Right? What about if we abolish free agency, didn't have that, and you have a draft, and you're not allowed to be a free agent. Who wins then? The answer is that the owners win in that system, the players make less money. So you can see politics is allocating who gets what and how. It's distributing something of value, and even when you distribute it, even if you're innocent and your motives are fine, you still create winners and losers. Using a draft versus a volunteer fighting force for the military. Right now we have an all-volunteer military force. Let's say we go back to the old school, back in the day, and draft people, randomly picking people to go to Iraq. Who wins or loses then? Female Student: The population loses. Professor: That's interesting. Go ahead. Female Student: The military can lose because they get people in there that don't want to be in there. Professor: That's a possibility. Male Student: I think society could lose, we would lose the free will to join the military or not. Professor: And my point is simple. When we decide to allocate something of value, and that can mean something of negative value. We have pleasure and pain. You don't want to be in war, most of you. So we have a system to allocate that. We can do it by lottery, or people voluntarily signing up to be in the military. And people win and lose from that choice. This has a sort of systematic connotation. This way of talking has a systemwide or aggregate concern. Politics is simply a way to distribute and creates winners and losers. And what I want to do is look at the second sense of politics. Politics as ulterior motive. This is the second sense. This sense of talking is different than the first sense. This is what Wittgenstein called a language game. People use the term politics, and it might mean something in one context, and then use it in another context but it'll mean something different. Politics as an ulterior motive. When we say this it means something bad, something negative. Let's give examples. This says something sinister has happened. It says, you have a desire for x, but you have not achieved x in the legitimate or proper way. Let me give some examples. Bush v. Clinton. Some say oh, that case was political. They didn't mean it was a system of distribution. They mean he got screwed. Oh, it's dirty, it's unjust, it's illegitimate. It's a different sense of talking. It's not a sense of allocation that creates winners and losers and is systemwide. Here we're talking ulterior motive. He got screwed. Everyone knew that was a bogus decision. When Al Davis sees the Tom Brady call, he says, that's political, we got screwed. Male Student: Wouldn't it be Bush versus Kerry? Professor: Should be Bush versus Gore, actually. How did Kerry get into it? Clinton's impeachment, the Republicans were being political. He didn't mean there was a system of distribution allowing you to remove a leader, he meant the Republicans were misbehaving, not acting in good faith. So these are examples of politics as ulterior motive. And as the student said, that should say Bush versus Gore. Sorry about that. I didn't get the job, it was political, they hired the manager's brother. That's a similar sense of talking. It wasn't just, they cheated me. This is politics being dirty. And there are two basic senses people use when they talk about politics. One is a system of distribution, one is ulterior motive. I think I hit it so we understand it. Any questions? All right. We'll do this one and quit for the day. What time do we get out of here? Okay. Political science. What is political science? I want to suggest a couple of things. There's no such thing as political science. There's really no such thing. This is also just a way of talking. Let me describe it to you. There's no distinct method of inquiry or craft that political science owns. There's nothing political science does that other sciences didn't do first. Statisticians have domain over the statistics. Political science deals with psychological concepts, psychologists rule over that. There's nothing political science does of its own. We just do other crafts that other scientists have domain over. Also it's not exclusive conversation. There's nothing we talk about that couldn't be talked about by historians or journalists. Lawyers talk about politics. Anyone who's educated can talk about politics. We're really not our own science. We don't have a method and an exclusive conversation. Compare it to engineering. By and large it's an exclusive conversation, and they have an exclusive craft. Same with geologists. Talk about geology, they'll have their own conversation and way of going about their craft. But not really true with political science. What political science is a reservoir. It's the taking of other inquiries. We'll take law, statistics, history, philosophy, and psychology, and use that to analyze political phenomena. What a political scientist really does is a political science understands other disciplines and he or she is going to apply those intelligently to discuss about political things. So it's not really its own science. In a way, we should put the word in quotes. Political science in this sense is a social club. That's what it is. We are all just scholars who are interested in things that relate to politics, and we'll get at those subjects using other people's disciplines and crafts. You don't need to be a political scientist to do political science, just learn the requisite inputs and go. Discipline could be called educated political analysis. I think this major should just be called politics. The term political science is a name, not a description. It's like Sally or Rotary. Rotary is a social organization, my father was in Rotary. And Rotarians are concerned about a particular thing, and political science is kind of a club for academics who take the sciences of other people and apply them to educated political analysis. We watch politics using other people's sciences. What is political science concerned with? It can be very broad. Let me give you an example. I had a colleague once who was interested in trying to figure out why Europe is more communal than Americans. They're more communal. Americans are kind of independent. Kind of selfish. Americans wanna sort of look after themselves before the community. It's an exaggeration, but it's still true as a general matter. And he thought this was because of the way we live. In Europe, close quarters, everyone's bundled up. These new urban housing...People don't have sprawl, they're not spread out in neighborhoods. In America, people go to the suburbs, they want a bigger house and yard, and move away from eachother. In Europe, it's all closer together. There aren't big houses with big gardens and big fences. And his argument was that housing laws affect this. If we saw our neighbors every day and lived in closer quarters, we'd be kinder to one another. You might agree or disagree with this, but that's one thing a political scientist is concerned with. Very broad. Not just parties and elections. We're not concerned with anything like that in this class. Our concern is only American government. That's all we're concerned with in this class. What we'll do when we come back on Friday is start our journey, today I wanted to just talk about politics and political science. We'll start a journey. Friday we start with Rome and Greece and a little bit of England. And we'll try to relate a historical context for why America came about, and we'll talk about that and next week we'll talk about American government. Any questions? Get your name on the attendance sheet, and see you guys next time.
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