The science of the Good

What is wrong with politics in the UK?

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Politics in the UK is a joke. It has become nothing more than the endless and futile arguments between parties with no interest in the good. Political discourse is understood as the disagreements over issues of economy, welfare and whatever scandal is in the press at the moment. We are told to vote for whichever politician most agrees with our own opinions without having any direct say over how they operate.

When I tell people that I refuse to vote in general elections, because it legitimizes a politics that I reject, they often criticize me for being uninvolved in the process of change. I disagree with them. Being “the best of a bad bunch” is not a qualification for leadership. Granting legitimacy to a form of government which has no interest in the Good for society is much more anti-political than actively abstaining for reasons of conscience.

This idea of the Good really is worth exploring. The inventors of (limited) democracy – the ancient Greeks knew this, and their three greatest thinkers – Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – all devoted a good deal of their time to trying to understand it. In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle equates political science with an understanding of “the highest of all goods achievable by action.” I think that our society can learn from that. If politicians spent a bit more time thinking about what our society wants to be, and a bit less time arguing about numbers and statistics, perhaps we could start to develop a more inclusive and involved form of democracy.

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