Thursday, July 9, 2015

Schools Of Thought In Modern Politics: Part 3: Understanding the theoretical roots of economic policy

In my final post about different schools of thought and modern politics, a central question is how do we determine whether countries are more liberal or socialist in their policies while still maintaining the academic meaning of those words, which I have already defined by analyzing the views of the people who founded these schools of thought.

Before determining which school of thought dominates the country's economic policies, we first must construct a test to determine which school it most represents.

  1. Does this country have price controls? How ubiquitous are they? (Price controls are a feature of mercantilism and socialism. Liberals oppose price controls.)
  2. What percentage of manufacturing does your country control? (Control of manufacturing by the government is a feature of socialism. It can be a feature of mercantilism. Liberals favor private industry in competitive markets, but generally support intervention in monopolies.)
  3. Does your government protect businesses from competition? (Mercantilists and Socialists oppose the free market. Liberals favor low barriers to entry to the market.)
  4. Where do parties stand on interracial issues, if interracial issues exist in your country? (Liberals are concerned about ending such inequalities, Fascists are opposed to minorities, Socialists believe the real division is between classes)
  5. How much influence does the average person have in government? (This determines how much corruption there is in government, Corruption Perceptions Index is a good metric)

Some questions are not defining features of any major school of thought and only controversial in sub-branches. The regulation of monopolies has been favored by most liberal economists since Adam Smith for example, and public education was a prominent feature of John Stuart Mill's extremely liberal writings, so I have omitted such issues. These four questions aim towards the root differences in today's world.

If we were then to analyze different country's policies, and more importantly the difference between different parties domestically and international, we can get a general idea of the ideological leanings of the major world players.

In the United States, each party is ambiguous about price controls. Democrats generally push for policies which will push prices down for the poor, but this is a completely separate and very liberal mechanism. Republicans do not support price controls, so this makes them look liberal. The second question also puts both parties as liberal. The third question however is where the picture gets more complicated. A number of politicians will support reforms like minimum wages, but minimum wages have disadvantages like other price controls, which is normally seen in a surplus of labor from our basic supply and demand graph. The other word for this surplus is unemployment. Another form of price controls we frequently see is in agriculture. The government keeps the supply of food low to keep the price high enough to support farmers profit yields. This is definitely not a neoliberal policy (who would generally support no price controls) and creates inefficiencies, while there are other issues with agriculture like food security that makes it a much more complicated issue.

When it comes to having a more open or closed market, this is similarly ambiguous.
In conclusion for the series. Today's politics has seen a  rapid reduction in true socialists who would call for the collectivization of production.

When it comes to racial inequality, we start to see some divergence between parties on ethnic questions. Democrats are far more likely to support human rights legislation than the Republican party, and most Republicans view such legislation which reaches out to minorities as being "bailouts" or other disparaging terms. Fascism still has some influence in terms of immigration policy in the US and Europe, and how different regions respond to issues like police shootings which have a massive racial component.

The other major issue today which we observe with the influence of the average person in government is widely apparent with far more Democrats supporting campaign finance reform than Republicans. This is one wedge issue which paints a difference in access to government between our two parties. This wedge pits politicians who support a government which works for all and is based in liberty against politicians who exist to serve their higher-ups and are corrupt. It definitely is not a guarantee that a member of either party will fit cleanly in the organization, but is a trend which makes them clearly different from each other to close observers.

This conflict between liberty and corruption is the true ideological conflict between parties in American and European politics today. The idea of access to the economy and government for all people is a fundamental distinction between the two major parties. There is still some role for fascist vs. liberal thought in modern politics as a significant driver, but this does not extend to the questions of campaign finance and how the government spends most of its money.

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