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“Ignorance is, broadly, simply the absence of omniscence.”

2014-06-13

In other words, ignorance can be cured, but stupidity is terminal.

There is an article in the print edition of today’s New York Times that reports on a survey of the political attitudes of ten thousand people.  The survey has some remarkable conclusions which confirm educated speculation about conservatism vs. liberalism in today’s America.  Conservatives are concentrated in rural areas and liberals in urban areas.  Conservatives prefer to live with people who are the same ethnicity as themselves, while liberals say they’d rather live in a mixed community.  By the same token, both conservatives and liberals prefer to live with others of the same ideological persuasion.

Worst of all, 66 percent of consistent conservatives see the other party as a threat to the country’s well-being, and 50 percent of consistent liberals feel the same way. Ideological polarization has increased significantly just in the last ten years: 99 percent of “politically engaged” Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat, up from 88 percent in 2004.  98 percent of “politically engaged Democrats are more liberal than the median Republican, up from 84 percent.

The increased polarization of the electorate is partly responsible for the increased polarization we see in Congress.

I submit that one reason for increased polarization is the increase of stress visible in society.  We have gone through a severe recession in the last five years.  There are increasing signs that the climate is changing for the worse and that there will not be anything done about it until it is too late to prevent a five degree Fahrenheit rise in global average temperatures.  Our planet’s population has reached seven billion, and there are indications of widespread food shortages and rising prices for basic commodities.

It may be that democracy is unable to withstand severe societal stresses of the sort that we are seeing; polarization of the electorate may prevent concerted action to resolve any of these serious stressors.  In that case, our democracy may break down and be replaced with some sort of plutocracy or autocracy.  There are early signs that our political system has already broken down in that it has been co-opted by plutocrats in a number of ways.

If that is the case, then who is elected to office will not really matter in terms of what policies our government follows.

On a lighter note, I predict that Hillary Clinton will run for and win the 2016 presidential election, assuming that she is not assassinated.  I also predict, with less confidence, that the Republicans will retain the House but not gain a majority in the Senate in 2014.

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