Not interested in politics? You are not entirely alone, especially if you travel to the South American nation of Brazil. 69 percent of people there lack an interest in politics. And the United States? The interest level here is a fairly high 85 percent. But there is a difference between interest in politics and being politically active.
By international standards, U.S. voter turnout is low. Among highly developed, democratic nations, we rank 31st out of 35. Voter turnout does peak during presidential elections, yet only 55 percent of voting age citizens cast a ballot in 2016. That’s a 20-year low.
What do all those numbers mean? Disinterest in politics is quite common, especially if it means being politically active. Following media coverage of politics can be informative or–perversely–entertaining. But only some people involve themselves in the political process. Others, quite simply, couldn’t give a damn about any of it.
Who keeps you safe—and how?
Interested in the safety and security of yourself, your loved ones and your property? Let’s have a look at politics from that vantage point. It might make the topic more interesting.
As Chinese leader Mao said, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Government is the day–to–day administration of territory conquered by force. Some circumstances require us to defend ourselves. But in all other situations, government claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, While politics can seem boring, it sure livens things up to realize there is an occupying army of sorts helping to enforce the rules and to keep order. The aim is to keep you safe–but also to keep the government in power.
No one is holding a gun to your head to get you to pay attention to politics. But you might want to anyways. Be vigilant. The amount of force the government uses should not needlessly do us harm. Also, we have rights that limit what the government can do to us.
Where does your money go—and why?
The government requires you to give it some of your money. What does the government do with it? Much of it funds the military and the forces that keep order within the county. But government is about more than law and order. The U.S, government also provides us with services.
Government wields both the sword and the purse to stay in power. For example, the government understands that providing benefits to the poor is important. Helping the hungry to purchase food is less costly than dealing with food riots, which have taken down governments before. People will be less likely to challenge the government if they know it might threaten the benefits they receive.
Any government requires the consent of the governed to stay in power. Providing services is one way to win the approval of people and to pacify the governed. Doing so is important. An estimate says that 3.5 percent of the population could topple even a dictator using only non-violent civil resistance.
Interested how the government keeps you safe and secure? Interested in how your money is spend and the benefits you receive? That’s politics! As Harold Lasswell, a famous political scientist once put it, “Politics is the struggle over ‘who gets what, when, and how.”
In truth, politics is everywhere. Forming alliances to promote certain ideas or goals happens in daily life, for example, in schools, churches, businesses, civic organizations, and even families. Welcome to the world of politics. Interested?