Political imagination

For the public benefit, I shall elucidate some actual and hypothesized political systems in terms of (a) our ability to imagine them, and (b) their actual likelihood of existence.

First, the status quo — a sleazy and mildly corrupt but largely representative democracy. Nobody really believes that this is actually how things are, because we’re all too busy exaggerating very select parts of that picture, inventing convenient symmetries and ignoring inconvenient ones.

On a day-to-day basis, this is the extent of our political imagination:

  • The status quo with slightly higher or lower unemployment and interest rates.
  • The status quo with additional cake, alcohol and public holidays.

Asked to speculate about trends and prospects, we come up with the following:

  • Exact Replica of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea, etc. Bad governments are always precisely modelled on these distinct, arbitrary examples. There’s statistical evidence you know — just look at nine out of every ten Nazi Germanies STOP LAUGHING YOU NAZI.
  • A theocracy enforcing whatever the most despised religion happens to be. You see, we’re all just going to suddenly agree to that, and — in a fit of flailing horror — only later realise our mistake.
  • Ayn Rand Libertarian Utopia. You see, through (a) rational persuasion or (b) subversive indoctrination (choose one), we will be suddenly, miraculously divorced from the instinct of egalitarianism that has accompanied the human species for hundreds of millennia.
  • Actual Communism. You see, through (a) rational persuasion or (b) subversive indoctrination (choose one), we will be suddenly, miraculously divorced from any sort of selfish ambition that has accompanied the human species for hundreds of millennia.
  • The United Federation of Planets. Economics? Pfft. Why didn’t we just dispense with that before?
  • Any other system of government premised on subtracting an in-built part of human nature (*cough* “Equilibrium” *cough*). Could the dystopian future be one devoid of human emotion? You know — the mechanism that underlies all decision making. Right, let’s decide to get rid of our decision-making ability.
  • Galactic Empire. Isn’t it obvious? Sure it’ll hang together in the 100 millennia it takes for a signal to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other…
  • The United States. I’m sorry, but there’s just no way that’s a real country.