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Is all politics ultimately tribal, that is, is Liberal Democracy an ideological fairy tale to hide the tribal behaviour of the voting public, and the control exerted by the elites over their tribes?

I am starting to suspect so, though my thinking had another point of origin.

A common question is "Why do (some) people not vote?". Mulling over this one I realised a good question is "Why do (some) people vote?". Your personal vote is unlikely to affect the result, so your time (researching alternatives and actually voting) could probably be better spent obtaining whatever goals you are voting for. To use an interesting phrase your vote is wasted no matter who you vote for (unless you vote in an extremely tight election where one vote actually can make a difference (probably needs to be a very small constituency)).

But people do vote, so the question is why. My take is that we (I vote as soon as I get an opportunity) vote to support our group (tribe if you like). If our group did not vote the other group would win. So there is an identification between the voter and the group. Wasting your vote (as it is commonly used) means voting for a candidate without any chance of winning, that is voting for a loser. If you identify with a loser, what does that make you? A loser. On the other hand if you identify with a winner, what does that make you? A winner. (And that makes opinion polls look rather interesting).

So I would say that people vote if they identify with a group that has candidates, otherwise they do not.

So yes, politics are tribal and the best you can hope for in terms of democracy are competing and incompatible elites. If you are really lucky some prospective elite might even find it advantageous to hand over some real power to the people. Then you might get Switzerland.

If so, is the fairy tale of Liberal Democracy a bad thing, or by sublimating intertribal conflict does it manage to provide stability and peace?

That depends on what you compare it with. The fairy tale of the Enlightened Monarch?

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by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:33:30 AM EST
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