An introduction to the Atavist's general approach to politics, in question and answer format. Is there hope for America? IS THERE???
So, what -ism does Atavism support? Besides, I mean, Atavism…
Atavism supports democracy, to the greatest extent practicable. Not representational democracy. ‘Peasants under the oak tree’ democracy.
What’s so bad about representational democracy?
True democracy can only function in a small, contained environment. In a tribe, or a Federation, everybody knows everybody else and cares about the outcome of any decision on the whole group. This is the best environment for decision-making. When the body politic grows bigger than a single tribe, direct democracy becomes untenable. In large groups, individuals become disconnected with other members of the politic, and will seek out their own advantages at the expense of others. Elected officials will attempt to serve their constituents, but they become subject to other economic forces. They need to raise money in order to run for elections, so they become more finely attuned to the interests of those who have money and are willing to give them some. Legislation becomes theater, posturing for the media. Small interest groups are able to organize and pervert the system, giving them outsized influence.
And, ultimately, it puts too much power in the hands of the elected officials. Kanye West said it best: 'no one man should have all that power.' Power is intoxicating to the ego. Once you’ve tasted that kind of power, you come to honestly believe in your own importance, and you don’t want to let it go: so, even an elected official who starts out trying to do what’s right is susceptible - when their power is threatened, they may turn into someone who will do whatever they have to to hang onto it.
So all political power should be maintained by Federations? That sounds pretty chaotic…
It would be anarchy. And it wouldn’t work. That’s why Atavists support direct democracy to the greatest extent practicable. Political power should be distributed downwards as much as possible, but if every Federation was essentially its own nation, then society would be unmanageable and susceptible to takeover from larger, more organized forces. So, as much power as possible should be left to small communities. Of the political decision-making that remains, as much as possible should be retained on local levels. Then, as much as possible should be maintained at (in the U.S.), the state level. The national, federal government should be limited as much as possible, because it’s the farthest removed from the wills and interests of the voters. However, the national government will still have plenty to do: that is the only level of government which can tenably organize national defense, for instance. Additionally, the federal government will need to maintain regulations regarding entities that operate across state lines - corporations, mostly, because otherwise one state with rules favorable to corporations will attract corporations, who can 'form' there and then do business elsewhere. In economic terms, they will need to regulate entities which can externalize costs across state lines. Additionally, we should give the federal government the power to supply public goods like a highway system and regulate externalities that would not otherwise be in the interests of the states to regulate, like pollution.
Ok. So, if some political power has to be maintained above the level of Federations, how should it be organized?
Probably by representational democracy.
But you just said you don’t like that!
I know. We don’t. But it’s the least bad option.
So, what should the purview of the higher levels of government be?
National security, for one. Regulating corporations, if they must exist. Punishing crimes across state borders. Maintaining natural resources. Producing certain goods, like roads, that benefit everyone.
Well, that sounds pretty much like what they do now.
To some extent, though we would argue that they’re not nearly tough enough on corporations. At a broad level, Atavism isn’t about calling for a political revolution - it’s calling for a social revolution. But if communities work, and work well, then what we need from the government will change. Communities can educate their own children, lessening the burden of state governments to provide schooling. Communities can provide their own childcare, lessening the need for after-school care programs. Communities can police themselves, at least when it comes to issues internal to the community. Communities can provide subsistence for their own poor and their elderly, lessening their dependence on the welfare state. Communities can provide healthier, less anxious lives for their members, which will lessen the need for government-sponsored health services. We need to leverage the power of local communities - in doing so we will find that we need less from the federal government than we do now, in a society where communities are starved and floundering.
You sound kind of like a crazy tea partier there.
We do see the similarities. And although we're not political scientists, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that people who live in stronger communities tend to be more conservative on some issues. If you lived in a community that was perfectly capable of taking care of its own sick, educating your own children, etcetera, it would be pretty reasonable for you to resent the fact that you’re paying taxes to educate other people’s kids and to take care of other sick people. But modern conservatism tries to conserve a culture that should operate on a local community level by legislating it at the highest possible level, which forces it on people who aren't a part of their culture. Additionally, modern conservatism is entirely too focused on maintaining corporate power and ‘free’ markets, which is not in the best interest of anyone except the people who own those corporations - the wealthy. Modern conservatism has co-opted the legitimate distress of people who don’t like to see free-loaders suckling on the government teat and used it to further the cause of corporate interests, which create the very anti-human conditions that put so many people in the position of needing help from the government.
Well, now you sound like a crazy Occupy Wall Street person.
Again, similarities. Atavists don’t like corporations. But modern liberalism, at least in the U.S., is futilely attempting to treat the symptoms of capitalism (the jobless, the sick, the poor) using the tools of capitalism, instead of working to create institutions (i.e. communities) that will lessen our dependence on corporate producers. The insecurity of modern globalized culture has also made them too focused on justifying the unique experiences of each individual - this is the fundamental rationale behind political correctness, and the reason that Facebook now has more than fifty sexual orientations for Facebookers to express themselves through. Because true identities are form through our relationships with others, in a society without strong community ties, individuals are more anxious about defining themselves and expressing their unique personality. Thus, liberals are celebrating the social conditions created by capitalism at the same time that they denounce, or at least pretend to denounce, capitalism itself.
Argh, just tell me! Are you conservative or liberal? Republican or Democrat?
There is an incoherence in American politics that makes that question pointless, so we refuse to answer it. The dominance of the two major parties legitimates their positions even when they’re non-sensical and has created a fiction that a coherent ideological spectrum of political beliefs exists in the U.S. Today. Atavism refuses to buy in to that program.
Well, you must hate libertarians, too, right? They’re all about individuals.
You’re half-right. Libertarianism at least has the benefit, unlike current conservative or liberal thought, of being coherent, which allows for a coherent reaction. Libertarians’ support of corporate freedom is antithetical to Atavism. But we’re on board with their support of personal freedom.
But you’re all about communities, not people acting individually!
Given the choice and the information, people will choose to live in communities. We only need to make communal living feasible, economically and culturally, and it will flourish.
Fine, fine, fine. But I need a word to call you, politically. Words may be limiting and dull, but it’s how we make sense of the world.
Call us Communitarian. It sounds a little too close to communism, really - and to state clearly, Atavists are not communist, or socialist - we do not believe that an entity as big as a nation can be treated as if it were a coherent community. Historically, there is a history and a strain of communitarianism in both the Republican and Democratic parties, the same way that there is a strain of libertarianism in each.
Finally. Now I can pigeon-hole and ignore you.
Well, at least you read to the end.