What is a Political Theory?
Contrary to what politicians may want to you to believe, a Political Theory is not actually a Theory but a Hypothesis. In other words, it is an unproven idea or model as to how a system of government should work.
Why is it an unproven idea and why will always remain so?
If you remember our lesson What Is Science And How It Works (Definition of Science), you will notice that science is the best tool available to create robust models. It also provides methods for testing those models.
However, when we deal with Political Theories (or Political Models) we have a number of problems if we try to apply a scientific method to them. Let's analyze those problems.
Scientific Method vs Political Method
As stated in our second lesson The Scientific Method requires:
- A – Logic
- B – A model with a measurable property
Political Theories are based on axioms either describing or forecasting human behaviour and the basic rules to apply. Typically we can classify them as:
- Formal (how should the government be set-up – we are mostly not interested in these ones) and,
- Behavioural (which rules should people obey – in which we are interested).
The problem is that human behaviour is not logic. Logic is certainly part of it, but instinct and emotion also form a large part. So it is not possible to apply pure Logic to a model that contains illogical element in it.
Political Theories cannot provide measurable properties. Any property that you may think of, is actually subjective. How do you objectively quantify freedom? Or safety? Or happiness, or wealth? Each one of these elements are subjective and as such they cannot be objectively measured. Therefore no measurable property is available.
Scientific “Truth” or “Fact” vs Political "Truth" or "Fact"
In our third lesson we stated that a scientific model can be considered a Scientific Truth or Fact when the majority of the scientific tests (or experiments) confirm it.
However, in order to run tests, there must be a quantifiable property available for testing and we must be able to use logic. As we have seen above, neither of these properties applies to Political Theories. Therefore, they cannot ever be “true” or “factual”.
Science is self-correcting, Political Theories are not self-correcting
In our fourth lesson we indicated that Science is Self-Correcting. This means that science has a built-in mechanism to detect and correct errors. This mechanism is independent from any external factors such as morals, ethics, religions and politics.
A Politician’s job or a Political Theorist job is not to detect and correct errors in Political Theories, but to govern or expand the theory (and his/her power with it). Even if correcting it would be their job, how could they detect errors if there is nothing that can be quantified and everything is subjective? Furthermore, there is a vested interest in maintaining the theoretical basis of a given Political Theory to maintain differences from the others and so sustain their Unique Selling Proposition (USP - a marketing term). In other words, there is a vested interest in not finding nor correcting errors.
Science is an internally-consistent system, Political Theories are not internally-consistent
In our fifth lesson we indicated that Science is Internally-Consistent. Which means that there is a full circle from axiom to model and model to axiom. There are no leaks, exceptions or add-ons.
A Political Theory, on the other hand is not internally-consistent. It is a collection of axioms, add-ons and leaks. These are basic necessities because simple axioms cannot capture the whole of human activities because of their vastness and subjectivity.
This is not to say that Political Theories do not evolve. They clearly do. However, their evolution is not internally nor externally consistent and can never be.
Our inevitable conclusion then, is that a Political Theory is nothing but a guess as to how people behave. This guess is not even a best guess, it is subjective and deeply flawed.
What is a Political System?
If we take a step forward (or backwards, depending how you look at it), and place a Political Theory into practice, it becomes a Political System.
For example, where the theory indicates that there is to be three powers in government:
- A - Executive
- B - Judiciary
- C - Parliamentary
In practice this becomes:
- A – President, Vice-President, Ministers, Deputy-Ministers, Secretaries, etc.
- B – Justices of the Peace, Lower Court Justices, Circuit Court Justices, Provincial Justices, Appeal Justices, Supreme Court Justices, etc.
- C - City Council, Regional Council, Provincial Parliament, House of Representatives, Senate, etc.
Just to name a few.
In other words, if a Political Theory is unstable, subjective and full of contradictions, when applied to reality it becomes a Political System which is something completely different and utterly indescribable.
In simple words, a Political Theory never survives reality.
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.