I want you to know something upfront about my blog and about my approach to politics and government. I’m going to harp on something quite often in this blog, and that is this: the importance of theory. Seriously, theory is incredibly fundamental to understanding anything government or politics related. Since this blog is primarily a government and politics blog (I may figure out how to weave some theory into my recipes and classroom tips 😉 ) I figured you should understand why I believe theory is so important.
So, let’s start how I always start—-with the definition of “theory”. “Theory” is defined this way: “a theory is founded on inferences drawn from principles which have been established on independent evidence”.
Ok, for example:
Let’s say I watch the behavior of voters on election day for five consecutive election cycles. I notice a trend as I watch. This is the trend: when there is bad weather, people aren’t coming out to vote as much as they are when there is good weather. I think, hmmm, I wonder if this applies to more than just voting!
I then look at other activities (i.e. shopping; eating out; going to movies) and notice a similar trend. So, I can then theorize, based on the initial observation and the other activities I observed, that people are less likely to vote (or go out in general) when there is bad weather. In other words, bad weather leads to lower (voter) turnout.
Does this make sense? I theorized about a broader principle (bad weather stops people from going out) that then affects the specific topic (people are less likely to go out to vote during bad weather) at which I’m looking. In other words, I came up with the theory from some basic trends I observed about how the world works. The key phrase here is “how the world works”. A theory is a belief about “how the world works”. Obviously, a theory cannot come out of thin air, but it is, nevertheless, a “belief” based on observable reality.
Application to Government and Politics
Have you ever thought about the why behind government?
Good job! You and I would get along quite well! 😉
Everything in life is founded on the answer to a why question, AND the answer to the why question as it pertains to government has very literally determined the success or failure of governments around the world—-throughout history.
Let’s try something out. Answer this question for me: Do you think humans are naturally good or naturally bad?
If you answered “good”, then the type of government you likely support would be drastically different than the type of government some who thinks people are “bad” would support. THIS belief about human nature is theory. If you, based upon your observations of human behavior, believe that humans are naturally good, then the very foundation of your government (or lack thereof) is based upon this core and foundational belief. If you believe people are naturally good, you are more likely to believe government is not necessary, or if it is necessary, it is only necessary to organize and promote the naturally good and benevolent actions of the citizens in your country.
If you believe people are naturally bad, then you are more likely to think government is necessary. BUT, if you think people are bad, and you know government is made up of people, you run into yet another issue. Bad people are tasked with managing and controlling other bad people. So, naturally the set up of your government is going to be quite different than the set up of a government for someone who believes human are innately good!
Are you following? I hold the belief that the theory of human nature is absolutely the most important part of someone’s theory of government. But there are many other theoretical aspects of government and politics.
Theories Behind Specific Institutions and Politicians
Why do politicians become politicians?
Why does America use the electoral college rather than popularly elect the president?
Why is the US Constitution the longest lasting written Constitution in world history (when similar constitutions are continually thrown out and overthrown in other countries)?
Why is Congress the most important branch of government?
Why is Congress slow?
Why does the Constitution require that the president be a natural born citizen?
Why doesn’t the US have a parliamentary system when almost all other countries in the world do?
Why does the US continually enjoy peaceful transitions between US presidents when other countries throughout history never did?
Guess what? Every single one of these questions can be answered by…?
You guessed it!
Every one of these answers is based on some core theoretical belief about something, whether it be human nature, or democracy, or the reason government exists. (Don’t worry, if you want to know the answers to these questions, I WILL be writing articles about them.)
The US founding fathers thought through everything and had a reason for everything. They did not throw our government together on a whim. It took careful thought and ultimately it was based on their beliefs about how the world and people work. And they used other theorists and past governments to base their beliefs upon.
So, understanding the theory, not only behind the US government, but also all government, can go a long way for you if you are wanting to be an educated American citizen. Knowing theory will not only give you a firm foundation supporting what you believe but why you believe it!
Alright, I’m going to be honest. I could probably go on and on, exploring and explaining—-but—-I’m a little exhausted from my day and I have a feeling if you are exhausted from your day, you don’t want to read a never ending article on theory. 🙂 I hope, though, that you DO read this article and that it helps you better understand my approach to politics and government and hopefully starts to help YOU better understand YOUR approach to politics and government.
Until next time!
The Liberty Belle