Human Nature and Politics


There used to be a debate in religious circles about whether man (as in mankind—men and women alike) is innately good or evil. Nowadays, the debate has shifted to whether man is the way he is because he is born that way or because of the society he is brought up in.

The answer to this question is very important. If man is the way he is because of the way he is put together, then we can’t change man’s nature and instead we have to compensate for his deficiencies. If man is the way he is because of his culture and upbringing, then we need to change the culture through external means to improve man.

You probably already have an opinion for yourself, and it’s likely a combination of the two.

I have my own personal opinion as well, one that I’ll share. I believe that man is programmed, by nature and natural laws, to be the way he is. The only way to break that programming is through the redemptive effects of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the change that Jesus works in us is only temporary, and it is all too common to see man revert to his former, sinful state. Therefore, it is best to think of man as inherently evil and broken except with occasional bursts of brilliance and good. Yes, redemption and salvation is possible, but only if we bring Christ’s atonement into effect in our lives constantly. We certainly can’t legislate redemption or even morality. All we can do is keep those who do the worst from harming themselves and others.

Notice that I don’t think culture or society has much role in this. It doesn’t matter where you were born or what culture you call yours, you are still going to do a lot of very bad things.

Now, back to the topic at hand.

We used to think of politics as left vs. right. This is really wrong. This is an invention of the marxists and socialists, and we know the labels hardly work. Ronald Reagan is not related in any way with the Nazis.

We, as a society and culture, have come to realize that it’s more of a less-more discussion. Do we need more government taxes, spending, and regulation or less? We can do a great job dividing people along this axes, but then we end up putting communists next to Nazis, which isn’t really right either.

So there is obviously at least two axes of separation. What is it, fundamentally, that divides the communist from the nazi? And why don’t libertarians have any love at all for anarchists?

Zombie has figured out the answer. Glenn Beck started talking about this divide several weeks ago (at least as far as I have noticed.) Bill Whittle verbalized it clearly in his video. Now Scott Baker at the Blaze is spreading it around. Here is Zombie’s picture:

OK, to summarize, Zombie says that the divide on the other axis is really nature vs. nurture—whether man is the way he is because he was born that way or whether he is that way due to society.

If you believe man is born the way he is (like I do), then the logical reaction is to build a system that takes this into account. That means a federal system of separate powers and branches that have checks on each other. Unless you get a consensus among all parties representing different interests, nothing can move forward. And if something really bad happens, the other branches can remedy it. To us, the constitution is the most beautiful concept in the history of the world, and we wonder why people don’t see it for what it really is: hope in this dim world that we can all build something better than its parts.

If you believe that culture, society, and upbringing affect man’s nature, then you’re going to be an anarchist or a communist, roughly speaking. In both instances, rather than tame society and culture, you want to fundamentally transform it. You might propose eliminating the family as the fundamental unit of society, or try to re-imagine how workers and bosses should share the wealth. You might propose that people stop abusing each other with contracts and laws that are designed to give one person an advantage over another. To you, the greatest hindrance to fundamental changes is the constitution and its annoying feature that you need all but a complete supermajority for several decades in a row to change anything.

Part of living together means we have to understand each other and speak in a language that makes sense to both hearer and speaker. I think I have done a decent job summarizing the intentions and thoughts of those who disagree with me. However, I know I am missing something big, so I encourage you to help me fill in the blanks and see if this political spectrum is more appropriate.

We may want to adjust the axes so that they align left-right with left being the nurture and right being the nature arguments. Then we can have up-down with up being less government and down being more. That would put communists on the left-down and nazis on the right-down, while libertarians and Reaganites would be right-up and anarchists left-up.


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