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Author Topic: The Most Important Political Idea of the 20th Century
Adam Masterman
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What is it?

Adam

(I have an answer, but I'll save it for later. Very curious to see how all of you would answer this question.)

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G2
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Not exactly new but the implementation of the tax haven that occurred in the last 30 years is one of the big ones (. link )
quote:
In 1980, top personal income tax rates in OECD countries averaged more than 67 percent, and corporate rates that year averaged nearly 50 percent. To compound the damage, countries routinely imposed extra layers of tax on capital, including dividend taxes, capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and wealth taxes. These policies discouraged saving and investment, stifling economic growth and causing significant economic hardship.

Beginning with Reagan and Thatcher, however, governments have been racing to cut tax rates and reform tax regimes. Top personal tax rates now average only about 40 percent, and corporate rates have been reduced to an average of about 27 percent. It is largely globalization—not ideology—that has driven this virtuous "race to the bottom." Governments are cutting taxes because they fear that jobs and investment will flee across national borders.

Basically, taxes have become competitive in a global marketplace. People win when they can keep the product of their labors and are incented to create more wealth when they get to keep it. Everyone wins.
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Omega M.
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Communism, not because I necessarily think it's right, but because it forced us all to adress the question of how much the state should provide for its citizens.
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Redskullvw
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Democratic process and the ordinary civil rights that potentially are derived from such process. The fruits of such a process potentially allow for minority rights and civil compacts that afford individuals the ability to be protected by law from excess of law.

But apparently it isn't an easy thing to set up or even continue in most of the world.

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Delirium Tremens
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"It's the economy stupid".
The idea that every problem is an economical problem and that ethnic or religious problems are a consequence of the economy. Face it, the big theme of the 20th century is capitalism vs communism and we saw Hitler as an 'exception' (a lunatic who could only gain power because of Germany's economic collapse in '30s). It's only now that we realize that the problem of Moslim extremists, poverty in Africa, the Isreali/Palestinian conflict etc will NOT be solved by just throwing some money in.

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caladbolg1125
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I'm sure the democratic process is a couple thousand years old at least and not of the 20th century. The ancient Greeks did enjoy a sort of democracy. Even the US's version of it is over 200 years old.

What Adam has in mind I couldn't guess, but if he sticks to his 20th century qualifier, it won't be democracy or communism.

One of the major political ideas that I believe were unprecedented when they came into being was that of an organization of nations, ie the UN. While the idea is probably older than that century, it has never been realized in as stable a form as the UN and never attempted, afaik, before the League of Nations. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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Jesse
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The application of modern marketing techniques to the Democratic Process.
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Delirium Tremens
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quote:
Originally posted by Jesse:
The application of modern marketing techniques to the Democratic Process.

'Panem et circenses' (bread and circuses) was already known during the Roman empire.
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Everard
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Communism was a 19th century idea.

I think, ultimately, the idea of the corporate state will be the most important idea generated during the 20th century.

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Jesse
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Bread and circuses isn't what I'm talking about. Populism is old news.
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Redskullvw
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caladbolg

Western Civilization Parliamentarian style representative Democracy is indeed a Twentieth Century revolution. At the start of the Century, you had a handful of democracies. Switzerland, United Kingdom Home Isles, Italy, France, Sweden, United States- and that is about it. The vast majority of the World's population lived under Imperial Monarchies- Czarist Russia, Imperial China, & as far as the colonies and territories go Imperial Great Britain. Western Democracy didn't really get a foothold in Europe until 1918- and almost all of those democracies failed by 1941 for one reason or another. Not to mention the issue of Soviet style communism gaining a huge leap in dominance in the 1950's.

Democracy as we popularly hold it to be now, didn't get much headway until after World War II, and suffered severe setbacks world wide. No country from our Southern border down to the pole in the Western Hemisphere was a democracy by any real measurement until the late 1980's. Africa was almost entirely dominated by either no government or dictatorship in the post independence period onwards. Today aside from South Africa, Liberia, and Ethiopia, democracy still does not exist in a form we would qualify as being "democratic rule of law". Aside from Israel, the Middle East is anything but democratic. In the former Soviet stan republics, democracy pretty much never materialized. India stands out as one of the few actual democracies.

Cutting it short because I have power tools running that create sawdust- aside from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, the Micronesia states, & to a lesser extent Indonesia and the Philippines, Democracy doesn't exist in the Eastern Hemisphere either.

But on a comparative basis between where the world was in 1900 to where it was in 2000, an amazing thing had occurred. The less than a dozen Western parliamentarian styled democracies had multiplied into over 100 nations. True most are in Europe and the Western Hemisphere, but compared to what had been advanced as alternatives during the century, only democracy had grown. The 20 some odd fascist systems all vanished unless you count Argentina on technicalities. Of the Communist systems that had show every evidence of reaching 50% of all governments by the end of the century had the trend continued, you have only China, Cuba, and Vietnam left as examples.

The Twentieth Century was the century of isms. Monarchism, Imperialism, Fascism, & Communism all looked far stronger than parlimentarianism ever looked. Yet when the crystal ball dropped in Times Square, only democracy was left as being a viable choice.

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Redskullvw
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Paul

You think fascism was the most important idea? I mean the fascist principles all center around the corproatist state.

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Everard
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The idea of the corporate state is distinctly different from fascism.
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Adam Masterman
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What I had in mind was ideas that emerged in the 20th century. Democracy certainly doesn't qualify, though related concepts do. My friend answered with "universal suffrage", which I thought was a good one.

As an example, I would say that the most important political idea of the 18th century was natural rights.

Adam

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Redskullvw
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Filippo Corridoni & Michele Bianchi would disagree with you.
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Redskullvw
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Adam

Natural Rights was being postulated by the Catholic Church since Nicea. That would place it well beyond the last millennium.

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Adam Masterman
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Natural Law has been around (and not just in the Catholic Church), and concepts of natural rights, but not what Hobbes and Locke were talking about, nor what the Framers implemented. Natural rights as a political idea, with specific and immediate correlaries, was an 18th century phenomenon.

Adam

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caladbolg1125
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We have a different, arguably more "mature" form of democracy. The idea of democracy as it is has been evolving, that is to say changing, for thousands of years. So to say that democracy as we understand it today is new is of course true as any idea that undergoes such change is different than it was before it changed. But it has been building up to this point as our humanity changes and, while the current forms were certainly not inevitable, they still follow from ideas that are older than the 20th century. So I still maintain that democracy is not an idea from the 20th century. Perhaps it was an ideal of the 20th century, though.

I find the arguments about the origins of an idea to be a little silly though. Who first thought of it? Who first wrote about? So long as we have the ideas who cares?

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Adam Masterman
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My choice, incidentally, was Satyagraha, or, more broadly, non-violent civic protest as an specific, systematic mode of political action.

If I were to posit a close second, I would say Nationalism. Indeed, as the root cause of both world wars, and, in the form of Zionism, a catalyst for nearly every mid-east conflict since then, its probably had a bigger impact than my choice. However, Satyagraha will (hopefully) continue to be viable in future centuries. Nationalism, like Communism, is dying the slow death of irrelevancy.

Adam

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
Nationalism, like Communism, is dying the slow death of irrelevancy.

Why do you think nationalism is dying off?
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caladbolg1125
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My understanding would be that Satyagraha is more broad than the phrase you use right after it. Considering Gandhi saw more uses for it than just political action, your second phrase is more specific not more broad.

(Good grief! I'm feeling pedantic today.)

In any case, I certainly agree that it was one of the great ideas and not just of the century of its creation. The idea to evoke positive change without causing any suffering other than what the one acting for change can handle himself is one of the most profound marriages of Eastern and Western thought, if not the most.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Why do you think nationalism is dying off?
Because nations as an organizing principle for human beings makes less sense every day. Its based on a set of assumptions that were either never true (such as racist concepts about ethnic unity and superiority), or ideas that once were true but no longer are (such as the idea that geographic proximity was a significant indicator of cultural and social agreement). The internet, for example, is destroying internal cultural homogeneity in nations, while simultaneously increasing global cultural homogeneity. "National character" will become a thing of the past, as cultural groups no longer correspond to geographic regions. Social policy will eventually be forced to reflect this reality, and the nation/state system will not be able to meet people's needs.

Its an artifact, just like feudalism, we just haven't shed it quite yet

Adam

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Everard
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Nationalism is quite an old idea.
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Nationalism is quite an old idea.
If you define it vaguely enough. But the Nationalism that drove late 19th and nearly all of 20th century politics did was born in the late 1800s.

Adam

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Everard
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I'm not sure I see a difference between the nationalism drove the napoleonic wars, and the franco-prussian wars, of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the nationalism that drove world war I and II.
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Adam Masterman
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I'm not sure there is a sharp difference in those cases (for one thing, I'm no more than passingly familiar with that era in Euro history). I would call them proto-nationalist in the modern sense, or leading up to what become the nation state system. The 20th century is when they ALL began thinking of themselves as nations, and behaving according to the dictates of the nation state system.

(interesting tangential thought: The U.N. is sort of the ultimate conclusion to the nation-state system, cementing the concept and simultaneously pointing towards its inevitable demise. Ironic, especially considering how strong nationalists tend to view the U.N.)

Adam

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G2
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Instead of saying nationalism, wouldn't it be more accurate to say globalisation?
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Adam Masterman
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@ G2

Not sure what you mean. I would agree with the statement that "globalization is eroding the functional premises of nationalism."

Adam

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
My understanding would be that Satyagraha is more broad than the phrase you use right after it. Considering Gandhi saw more uses for it than just political action, your second phrase is more specific not more broad.

More broad in the sense that I was including movements like Dr. King's, which weren't nominally Satyagraha, but shared certain essential premises.

Also, while Ghandhi's thought included a wider context, Satyagraha was the specific denomination for his form of political protest. It was chosen to replace the term "passive resistance".

Adam

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RickyB
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Nationalism is 19th century, Adam [Smile] Zionism was born out of the Spring of Nations, unification of Italy and so on.
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caladbolg1125
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@Adam

Oh, I get your meaning now. It is not that one is a broad term and one is a instance of that broad term but Gandhi's version specifically and others like it in general.

Oy, this language is an unweildy behemoth. Or is that unwieldy. [Wink]

[ March 19, 2008, 04:32 PM: Message edited by: caladbolg1125 ]

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starLisa
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Objectivism.
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kenmeer livermaile
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I'm unaware of any brilliant or important 20th century political ideas. The 20th century has been too busy churning things via technology for politics to do more than keep its head above water.

[ March 19, 2008, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by starLisa:
Objectivism.

Good one, that ought to get some people around here fired up. You a big Rand fan?
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starLisa
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I don't know. I never met her. I do think her philosophy was brilliant, though.
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Athelstan
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I personally can’t think of an instance where non-violent civic protest actually achieved anything in real terms, and that includes Mr Gandhi, but it is an excellent idea. My contribution to the greatest political idea of the 20th Century, and I’m no fan, would be the European Union. Believe me Nationalism is alive and well in the EU but the countries are much more interlocked than the UN. Outside countries seem to want to join so there is room to grow. Given some goodwill and perhaps in a hundred years or so everyone in it might see themselves as European first and their Nationality second. Now that would be a great political idea.
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Haggis
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I'm with you Adam. That was the first thought that popped into my head.
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OpsanusTau
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I used to try to discuss Objectivism with people because it is, to me, so manifestly stupid that I cannot really believe anyone finds it useful as a philosophy.

Now, I have moved over to my mother's (a very wise lady) school of thought on the matter; my brother brought up Ayn Rand, and my mother said to him, "Oh, how jejune."

I quoted Paul Constant for him, which is the same sentiment in a funnier package: "If you're over 25 and you still think her books are great, you're (a) white and (b) an *******."

Anyways, more On Topic:
Universal Suffrage was my first thought and Satyagraha my second, so I guess I will just jump on those bandwagons.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by OpsanusTau:
I used to try to discuss Objectivism with people because it is, to me, so manifestly stupid that I cannot really believe anyone finds it useful as a philosophy.

Now, I have moved over to my mother's (a very wise lady) school of thought on the matter; my brother brought up Ayn Rand, and my mother said to him, "Oh, how jejune."

I quoted Paul Constant for him, which is the same sentiment in a funnier package: "If you're over 25 and you still think her books are great, you're (a) white and (b) an *******."

And that, in a nutshell, is why no one under the age of 25 should be allowed to read her books.

Adolescents rebel against authority. They're incredibly selfish and self-centered in a very immature and short-sighted way. So it's not very surprising when some of them glom onto the ideas of Objectivism, thinking that it goes well with their whole immediate gratification thing.

But adolescents grow up. Most of them, anyway. And most adolescents who got into Objectivism and saw it as a part of their whole rebellious persona toss it out when they grow up, because they can't distinguish between what Objectivism is really about and their adolescent take on it.

Whenever I hear someone mouthing off about how it's only for adolescents, I know right there that this is the kind of person I'm talking to. Fortunately, I didn't run across Rand's writings until I was in my early '30s. And I started with her non-fiction essays, rather than stuff like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead (amazing as those were).

And the idea of behaving rationally being "manifestly stupid" is bizarre. I think it says more about someone who expresses such a view than it does about Objectivism.

No offense.

[ March 19, 2008, 09:44 PM: Message edited by: starLisa ]

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Omega M.
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I still don't see what nonviolent resistance would have accomplished against the Nazis. Apparently the Germans were okay with the Holocaust, so they probably would have been okay with just slaughtering the passively-resisting population of every village they conquered. Or if the Germans would have been too civilized to do that, would the hordes of Attila the Hun have been?
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