Saturday, March 20, 2010


Guest Writer: Chieke Ihejirika

Teaching is a lot of things. It is an exercise in delivery and the midwifery (Plato) of knowledge about certain subject matter. It is for me an opportunity to do, at least, four things, namely: put forward my original ideas seeking publication; comment on other people’s ideas in a systematic manner; ensure that the students participate in the discourse in a way that leads to some expansion of their awareness of the subject matter; and it must involve some extrapolation seeking relevance for their daily life.

When I teach American government and politics, I am confronted by the current quagmire or deadlock in government, especially the inability to solve any of the major problems facing America. Common sense seems to suggest several solutions, but the reality seems impossible to manage. But what is the reality? The reality is artificial complications created by self-seeking persons playing God in their opposition to change.

One theme I want to share with the community is the future of America as we know it. This country was founded on the principle of "No taxation without representation." This principle held sway until the 20th Century. Yes! Prior to the Great Depression America operated on the Jeffersonian dictum that "Government is best that governs the least." Under the political economy of slavery and discrimination, government was able to escape its basic duties to the people under the 'social contract', by simply denying some of its citizens their basic rights.

Things have changed as justice seems to have been enthroned universally in the country. Hence, citizens who were earlier denied basic rights and privileges of citizenship now demand and get those rights, including social security and unemployment benefits, and these have to be paid for. Yet the only way government gets money is through taxes. Since the twentieth century, the people have gotten used to getting benefits from their government to help them with economic difficulties, and the national government itself has also grown very big as a global power which is also carries a big price tag. Can the country continue its aversion to taxation? I think the real fraud is making the people believe that the country can sustain itself and provide them with the necessary benefits they now cherish only by borrowing. American politicians, especially those of the ideological right, have since adopted the strategy of deception by making the people vote for only those who claim they will not raise taxes. Unfortunately, the people have naively, bought this baloney. Yet, when they get in there, they only borrow more, thus mortgaging the future of their posterity. The politicians have chosen to represent the people but without allowing themselves to be taxed. They still take all the financial remunerations of the offices they occupy on borrowed funds, even from the countries future rivals. They cynically know that it the poor masses that will pay this debt they continue to accumulate on the country. Besides, the interest alone is sure to deprive the government of future resources with which it could provide for the most vulnerable member for decades to come.

Can the American political economy continue to grow as it did under unfettered laissez faire in the era when welfare capitalism has become the norm in the major industrial economies of the world?

Could it be that the American capitalist is moving abroad because of the loss of slave labor in America?


  1. These are interesting questions. I believe that rapid development, whether capitalist or socialist, has often resulted from exploitation of one group or another, internal or external. The continued growth of both American capitalism and Chinese socialism is likely to be the result of cheap human (labor) and natural (mineral) resources. While both China and America are likely to benefit from such exploitation, Africa is unlikely to benefit much from such exploitation even when run by Africans; because Africans, unlike the Chinese and Americans, tend to invest (stolen or ill-gotten money) in other countries or continents.

  2. Provocative questions, Chieke! One of the issues your blog raised for me, something that all faculty face but that political scientists / historians might face more than others, is how much of one's own views on political issues a teacher should share. How does a liberal teacher make sure more conservative students feel comfortable expressing / defending their positions, for instance? How do we get students to think critically about hot-button issues like racism or abortion or even taxation and health reform without consciously or unconsciously requiring them to share our views at the end?

  3. Excellent observations Linda!
    The professoriate always has academic freedom to say what they have to say about the subject matter, and they are often given the benefit of the doubt, after all, they are largely the most learned members of the society.
    However, a true intellectual (professor) can never afford to be parochial. His vocation is modeled after the original masters, Plato and Socrates, Descartes, Mill and others. He/she must subscribe to the Socratic dictum that: "The unexamined life is not worth living". What is the unexamined life? It is the lack of critical thinking, and non accommodation of opposing views. Critical permits the dialectical method or intellectual dialogue. In the Hegelian sense dialectic must constantly bring together three elements: thesis, antithesis and synthesis always in opposition for the advancement of human ideas. Whatever you teach especially at the collegiate level has to be anchored on rational thinking. This means that you must permit intellectual skepticism and reflexivity, both of which make you intellectually humble to consider the views of others, including your students’. We must always leave room for being wrong both intellectually and politically. It is pertinent that we convey to our students by our own examples that the culture of scholarship is more about method of learning than content. Don't make them feel that you know it all. Just show them how to acquire knowledge, helping them develop the right disposition for learning that is, to always engage in critical thinking. In teaching the science of government, the professor has to tolerate some democracy of ideas, and be the moderator whenever appropriate, especially in a democratic society like ours. After all, Schattsneider says that: democracy is a system of government of people who know they are not perfect. An assumption of perfection leads to absolutism, and we must avoid this in the dissemination of ideas.

  4. Chieke:

    Looks like you have just identified one on the major problems facing our society today - the belief that ideology is truth. If only we could address our intellectual processes to identifying the small truths rather than waste our time defending what out ideology identifies as the truth. Great posts!