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Post No.: 0839utopia


Furrywisepuppy says:


The comparative method in political science involves picking an independent variable(s) (e.g. GDP) then comparing two or more groups (e.g. countries) against each other to see how they fare according to some dependent variable (e.g. homicide rates). When comparing a bunch of groups, we can see if there’s any overall correlation between those variables (e.g. whether there’s a pattern between GDP and homicide rates amongst European countries).


The comparative method is simple in principle but does face criticisms – not least because it can oversimplify incredibly complex social science issues (e.g. we cannot just use the amount of money in people’s bank accounts as a measure of their wealth because of different living costs, currency fluctuations and the relative values of currencies between countries). Our chosen operational definitions of things like ‘wealth’ or ‘democracy’ (e.g. is the democracy in India the same as that in France?) can be insufficient for capturing every detail and nuance – and if we compare countries based upon such misunderstandings or oversimplifications, we’ll only uncover misleading conclusions. However, defenders of the method might argue that it’s the only way we can analyse the political systems of different countries.


One may attempt to use it to compare the UK’s National Health Service model with Germany’s statutory health insurance model, but it’s difficult to make a straight comparison because Germany’s population may be simply healthier, it’s a richer country, and there are fewer inequalities; and these are potential confounds. It’s likewise difficult to make a direct comparison between the drug laws of different countries and their health outcomes. A naïve understanding will make everything appear as simple as just needing to copy one cherry-picked aspect of another country to recreate the same outcomes as them.


We could contrive our research to find the answers we seek too. For instance, we could seek to find out whether there’s a pattern to the ethnicities of those who carry out gang violence, and conclude that it’s a certain ethnicity that disproportionately commits the violence – rather than, perhaps, realise that this ethnic group is disproportionately affected by discrimination, and in turn social deprivation, which in turn drives many members of this ethnic group towards joining gangs, and in turn committing gang violence. We could’ve picked age, or sexuality or something else as the independent variable instead and found a correlation? These are epistemological problems that the comparative methodology struggles with.


The method also involves placing everyone into boxes (e.g. according to their social class) but such groupings can be contentious. We’re all put into demographic categories, considered homogenous within these boxes, and stereotyped. Defenders of this approach though might argue that it’s pragmatic because with large population sizes, it’s impractical for governments to know about and treat everyone at a fine level of individuality. Yet to what extent do our experiences match up with this supposed pragmatism? Have you ever felt prejudiced or misclassified before?


…Moving away from analysing the methodology itself – one reason for comparing different countries is to see if there’s a best way of running a country. But will we ever create or find a utopia – as in a furry place where everything is perfect in respect to its politics and society?


A pattern of most utopian visions is a state of equality. While a pattern of most dystopian visions is a high concentration of wealth and power somewhere. Be it a governmental, corporate or other organisational totalitarian, monopolistic or authoritarian body – too much relative power in the hands of a few tends to corrupt. No one and nothing should have this much relative wealth, and therefore power, and thus control, over the rest. This is why we must always strive for better equality. Heroes or superheroes in fiction tend to be those who fight for the many rather than the few. Whenever people think of purely themselves, it risks hell. Whenever people genuinely think about others too, it chances heaven. This suggests that a level of socialism is involved in many utopian visions.


However order is achieved though, it’s always a fragile state because while it takes everyone cooperating to maintain peace, it can potentially take just one selfish or thoughtless individual to ruin things for everyone else, since destruction is far easier and quicker to achieve than construction. Everything is harder to build or grow than to break or kill.


Yet if a heavy-handed government attempted to ensure that no person/group is able to cause such pain unto others, it wouldn’t be a utopia either because it’d likely impinge upon our privacies and freedoms. You can create an internal state of peace by suppressing all dissent or even thoughts about insurrection – but we value our freedom of thought.


A truly ‘benevolent dictator’ could hypothetically create a utopia. But in reality there probably isn’t anyone who could rule with that much power without expressing their own personal biases and self-interests. The closest people we have are the types of people who don’t wish to seek attention for themselves i.e. they don’t want to ever become political leaders! Communism suffers from the same hazards too – those in power can end up acting on their own individual interests rather than following the principles of collectivism and sharing. Selfishness destroys utopias, be it in communist or democratic states.


The Internet was once hailed as the utopia by some – a boon for liberty, where information and power will be democratised for all. But as time went by, it only concentrated power ever more into the hands of a few multinational tech giants. And corporate wealth links to political lobby influence too, as these two worlds cross and tightly intertwine.


The web was intended as a free and open utopia but it was found that it needed a body like the W3C consortium to guide the direction of the web. Wikipedia started off as a free-for-all but then soon needed protocols. ‘Free and open’ therefore doesn’t automatically create utopias, albeit going too far the other way is also undesirable.


Social media frees us, yet it’s also a great tool for those who seek to manipulate us because it allows governments and corporations to collect so much of our personal data.


Voices have been liberated, but that has meant lies and hate speech as well as truth and love. It’s not to say that it was better when the media corporations or governments gatekept the majority of information but, for the foreseeable future, this Internet and social media age isn’t quite the utopia for truthful and factual information, or for connection and cooperation rather than division and polarisation.


Currently, the number of Facebook users is greater than the population of any single nation in the world, thus any censorship decision from the platform is more impacting than what any government can do. Subcontractors are used for content moderation hence their processes aren’t completely transparent. Some censored content is ultimately truthful and arguably have historical significance to be documented (including violent terrorist acts); and without people being able to see them, they’re not receiving the full picture and so their beliefs may not get challenged. And if any company agrees to implement geo-blocks to appease a state’s censors then that might affect political outcomes – taking no sides (deciding not to operate in that country) is arguably better than presenting a one-sided narrative. But the profit motive rules, which suggests that this doesn’t lead to a utopia either. (Although AI is utilised, human moderators are still used, and according to many of its employees, Facebook silences those who attempt to highlight how mentally traumatising looking at all that flagged material is. This describes a classic dystopia – where on the surface it looks like a utopia but behind the scenes it’s the opposite!)


Similarly, the consumerist utopia is just an illusion too – it’s always just out of reach because we’re never satisfied. We always want higher resolution TVs, faster phones, more clothes, etc.. Environmental sustainability also plays second fiddle to feed this consumerism.


The creator of the Silk Road online black market had a libertarian vision of utopia – he believed his site would do away with the violence associated with drug dealing. Yet he himself ordered murder-for-hire contract(s) against defectors of his vision! His libertarian ideals meant he trusted individuals to not hurt others, but he failed to understand some individuals – who duly used his darknet market to sell child pornography, stolen credit card details and other things that misappropriated from or harmed others! He claimed he wanted to give everybody the freedom to do whatever they wanted, and they did, and it wasn’t always good. Perhaps his philosophy was post hoc in an attempt to make his quest to get rich appear virtuous? If so, this again suggests that the profit motive doesn’t lead to a perfect world.


Star Trek replicator machines and Holodecks for all, with an unlimited/sustainable energy source, would possibly create a utopia? No one would need to fight for or hoard any goods because people would just make something if and when they really needed it. Alas, this is fiction, and perhaps people would just invent new things they ‘need’ and some will just constantly replicate stuff just because they can?!


We need to feel economically secure, and afford economic security to all others, for a peaceful world – for insecurity will lead to fear, desperation, then perhaps wars. So maybe a utopia will need to be a world where there’s plenty of everything hence no one needs to fight for anything, and a world where there’s no hurt hence no one needs to blame anyone for anything?


But would this lead to boredom, which wouldn’t sound like a utopia? If there’s nothing left to cure, no problems left to solve, then what’ll humans do with their idle hands? So the trait of curiosity can be said to be a blessing and a curse. If it’s human nature to always want to discover more, do more – to always want more – then is it inevitable for humans to eventually try to take too much? A species only has to be too grrreedy once, because it only has to lose once in a big way, to decimate itself. The ceaseless search for dominance can lead to ‘being a victim of your own success’. Woof.


Maybe only small communities can work in complete harmony? But game theory reveals that some groups will take the advantage of becoming large because larger groups, like larger countries, tend to have more power. The United States of America wouldn’t be as strong if they all withdrew ‘Brexit’-style from the union to become disunited states. Yet likeminded people tend to self-segregate even if they didn’t start off segregated, and these different groups sometimes clash, especially if they live close to each other.


Doing without a government probably isn’t a utopian vision of the future either – no governance was how it was like before civilisation came to be!


Perhaps a geniocracy, where the smartest people governed nations, would get us there? But ‘intelligent’ isn’t the same as ‘good’. What’s considered morally good isn’t objective anyway – which means that any other ‘ocracy’ or ‘ism’ we can think of won’t get us there either. One person’s idea of utopia isn’t necessarily another’s.


And that’s probably why the word ‘utopia’ is apt because Thomas More derived it from the Greek word to mean ‘no place’ or ‘nowhere’!


Woof! Too many times when groups claim to have found a perfect utopian vision, the reality turns out to be corrupting. It seems like we must all accept some compromises and not expect a perfect society. It’s promising though that the most advanced nations do appear to understand the need to avoid extremes and achieve a balance between neither laissez-faire nor totalitarianism; neither solely capitalism, individualism and everything being privately owned nor solely socialism, collectivism and everything being commonly owned; neither everything being democratically decided nor technocratically (by experts) decided; etc..


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