“The concepts of legitimacy and consent are the foundation of the moralistic view of politics, which converts government from a machine for doing things into a directorate for telling us what to do. This happens on the presumption that there is some valid, underlying moral theory behind politics, based on an ethical standard to which we all implicitly consent. That is the nature of what political theorists call the “social contract.” But it’s a funny contract: Nobody can quite agree what is in it, and, since it was never written down, we have only arguments based on assumed principles—but nobody agrees on what those are, either.”
“We disagree about how to achieve the good life because we disagree about what constitutes the good life. Political crusaders are constantly telling themselves and their partisans that if only they could make their opponents hear reason, then their opponents would cease to be opponents and become allies. If only political candidates would say the right things in the right way, this fairy tale goes, then we could all agree on what needs to be done. A variation on this is the belief that if we could only educate the voters about the issues, then we could agree about what needs to be done. We have centuries’ worth of practical experience in democracy proving that this is not so, but the delusion remains. People have different beliefs about values in politics for much the same reason that they have different taste in music, different feelings about family, and different beliefs about God: because we are not all alike and never will be. All political arguments based upon abstractions regarding justice, fairness, liberty, equality, and other principles are doomed to futility, because we all operate from different precepts and different first principles. If you believe that liberty is the paramount political good, then you probably will be some sort of libertarian; if you believe that socioeconomic equality is the highest political good, then you will not. But there is no way of proving that liberty or equality or some other abstraction should be paramount. These disputes are metaphysical, meaning that they are, by definition, beyond resolution through logic or through any process rooted in empirical evidence. Unless you are a professor paid to do so, engaging in metaphysical speculation is almost always fruitless. No valid process of reasoning can take us from the evidence of our senses to transcendent truth. Your conception of justice may be valid or it may be invalid, but there is no way to prove it in either case. We have spent ten thousand years devoted to such discussions, and we have made no progress. This distinction is less of a burden in small and homogeneous countries such as Denmark or Sweden; in large and diverse countries such as the United States or India, it is a brick wall.”
Excerpt From: Kevin D. Williamson. “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome.” HarperCollins, 2013-05-01. iBooks.
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Is political debate just meaningless? While persuasion may seem difficult we could also conclude that coercion may be a greater problem. The reason there seems to be such a great dissatisfaction with our politics is because we depend on the government to do far more than it is capable of without ultimately resorting to coercion.