Does kowtowing on social media make your company stronger?

It’s a weird question to start a post titled “Political Philosophy,” but it’s a question that I’ve been asking today. Why is it that multimillion and multibillion-dollar companies work so hard to respond to acerbic and asinine tweets? It’s like an elephant paying special attention to an ant. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I certainly could write that blog post. It’s easy to try and shame big companies, especially in an era where image is so carefully crafted, and social media makes it nearly impossible for big companies to control their image as they once did.

But, I stopped to ask myself the question I promised I would ask: what’s going on the other side that me, you, and Jack down the street and his dog aren’t seeing?

Probably a lot of things.

One thing that jumped out at me is something that we all ignore at our own peril: Everything is political now.

The things you buy, the things you post on social media, the colleges you go to and the major you choose are all political. Economics is political, as is social science. History, diversity, science, and gender are political.

Somehow, perhaps without meaning to, we’ve made everything political.

It’s like politics was a gumball at the top of a hill. At one point it started rolling, picking up other balls of gum, as well as a lot of crap, like dirt, sticks, and leaves until we got to point we are at today. We have a giant ball of junk, and I think even as we’re sure that it somehow makes the world better, we’d be hard-pressed to define the exact mechanism by which it does that.

So, let’s try and answer that question today. What exactly is politics?

Without going into too much detail, a simple explanation of politics is that it is the study of government.

Which begs the question, what is government?

At this point, I could give you a ton of historical answers to that question. But, there are two things stopping me. First, I think you could go look those up for yourself and might just get a lot out of the experience. Second, you’re reading my blog. Not to be egotistical, but that suggests that you want to hear what I have to say.

And third, even though I promised you just two, I think a lot of people have it wrong. Or maybe they weren’t wrong at the time they wrote their ideas down, but the world has changed and the conditions on which they based their theories no longer exist. Either way, we’re going to discount them.

So, what is government?

It’s a tricky question. In 2018, we’re looking at a giant, dirty gumball, and wondering what’s at the center. I think if we do it right, we’ll end up with something pithy, not because pithiness is inherently good, but if we intuit that things have gotten more complex then the trend suggests that things were once simple. Which seems reasonable.

What’s at the core, then?

Government is a method of creating power structures in society that enable some elements of that society to exchange some freedoms for some securities.

That’s a lot of words. Maybe more than I’d like, but I think if I started cutting things I’d get vaguer than I’m already being. Let’s work through it.

This definition was created with three major kinds of governments in kind: monarchies, dictatorships, and democracies. While there are a lot of differences between these governmental forms, perhaps the most significant one is that they claim their power from different sources: namely divine right, military strength, and the consent of the governed. Yet, all three are governments. As a result, it must not matter from what source they derive their power, just that they have it.

If you haven’t noticed, I want my definition to be universal. Which is hard, coming from a democratic background. I have to imagine things not as they are, but as they might be or might have been.

Which brings me to a discussion of freedom.

What is absolute or total freedom?

That seems to be a state in which all actions may be taken without fear of consequence from other humans. Fear of revenge might still exist, for instance, if you stole from someone who was stronger than you, he could beat you up in revenge. But that’s not a consequence, as he chooses to beat you up. He could just as easily have decided to steal back from you to even the score or to write off the loss completely.

Consequences are only consequences if they are inevitable, or if they are supposed to happen. In most instances regarding human actions, that’s going to mean that they can only be delivered in instances where they are clearly laid out before the offensive action is taken, and also that the person delivering the punishment is in a position of power over you.

Being in a state of total freedom sounds at times affirming and at others, dangerous. A lack of consequences means that revenge would be commonplace, and likely to be disproportionate.

That’s a scary thing to be faced with, which is why there is a trend throughout history of people banding together to mitigate those situations.

Obviously, nothing is free. The cost of security is freedom.

For instance, if I want to have the security that no one will enact revenge on me, I have to give up the freedom to commit wrongs against them. These wrongs become crimes within a formal government.

It’s worth that pointing out that after this distinction has been made, I’m protected from revenge by those I’ve wronged. Instead, justice is meted out by the government, in hopes that the punishment will be more proportionate than revenge would have been. It’s fascinating that, by some manner of mutual agreement, one violation of the laws does not justify another.

This has a lot of ramifications, and if you know me, you know I won’t be able to stop here. Rest assured, more is coming in the future, just as soon as I have a chance to work it out myself.