About a week ago I wrote a personal political position statement, based largely on the acknowledgment that governments act in the interests of their own constituencies and that nations act on behalf of national interests. But to what extent should the interests of humanity broadly construed trump these more local interests? It’s always possible to disguise self-interest behind a veil of altruism, but should that realistic acknowledgment serve as the basis for abandoning altruism altogether as the basis for good governance? Awareness of obstacles to the pursuit of justice needn’t become a cynical justification for realpolitik as the way government “ought” to work. I’d rather regard America not as a nation but as a localized manifestation of a more universal commitment to principles like “liberty and justice for all.” The American government would act on our behalf in pursuing policies that are guided by our shared commitment to these universal humanistic principles. The US Constitution was crafted according to these broader principles; the structure of the government and the democratic process don’t hinder this more universalistic outlook.
The American Multitude and their representatives should recommit themselves to humanity over and above personal, local and national interests. In order to prevent rhetorical manipulation and bias, safeguards would have to be installed to make sure that the evaluation of policy based on universal humanistic principles aren’t being coopted. Policy bodies that are structurally buffered from partisan political and economic considerations need to be strengthened, both within the US and internationally. Just as scientific practitioners use agreed-upon procedures to converge on closer and closer approximations to reliable human knowledge and understanding, so too should practitioners of public policy be able to converge on government practices that represent practical implementations of a principled commitment to universal humanism.
So in that light I think I’m prepared to overhaul my personal political position, moving away from pragmatic self-interest and toward principled universalism.
- The United States is a national expression of a universal humanistic commitment to “liberty and justice for all.”
- As participants in a democracy, Americans should attempt to act in accord with this broader commitment to humanity rather than regarding government as a means of advancing their own self-interests.
- Those who work for the government should act on behalf of the American people in pursuit of the nation’s stated commitment to universal humanistic principles, over and above the localized self-interests of their constituents.
- Policy advisory bodies within the US government should be buffered as much as possible from political and economic influence, and these bodies’ findings and recommendations should be made available for public scrutiny.
- US governmental actions that have repercussions beyond the national borders should be vetted through international policy advisory bodies like the UN and the World Court. Inasmuch as these international tribunals are also not immune from political bias, I’m not certain about the extent to which the US government should agree to cede its decision-making authority to them. However, as a corrective to the historical American tendency to pursuing its self-interests abroad, I think the international bodies’ judgments ought to be the default preference for the American government unless compelling reasons can be brought forward and made public to demonstrate that in a particular situation the international judgment is fatally compromised.