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Idealism gets promoted as a basis for the electorate to choose who to vote for, but is this sensible? It tends to be accepted by younger voters, who are not yet disillusioned by history.
Idealism is defined as: Belief in ideals; the tendency to present things in their ideal form rather than as they are.
Ideal is defined as: Something that is perfect; something that exists only as an idea.
Pragmatism is defined as: Action or policy dictated by consideration of the practical consequences rather than by theory. The doctrine that the content of a concept consists only in its practical applicability.
Ideals, both political and religious, are starting points, not final statements of actuality. This may not be a morally acceptable claim, but it is a realistic one. Pragmatism and conquest have always defeated idealism and even conquest has its limitations as a governing force. Ideals have no force, and no power, in their own right. They can claim power if they motivate the actions of those believing in the ideals, but this motivation is limited by practical considerations. It may be an ideal to have all people equally wealthy, but without the means to do this, it is an ideal, not practical.
Equality for all—to each according to their needs, from each according to their ability, and fair shares to each and everyone. These are laudable ideals, but not practical ones. These are fine ideals, but in practical terms, we have to ask: Are the idle and feckless to have the same rewards as the industrious and capable workers? Are the “needs” of the idle to be served with all they can desire, to be treated the same as the needs of those who work hard for the good of the community? In a small isolated community of people, such ideals could be allowed to govern, but some mechanism to select what is a fair share—what is a person's ability—still have to exist. And if survival from season to season is the only objective, rule by ideals, if shared by all, is possible, but only if shared by all. If disagreement arises, to the merits of one service to the community, as compared to another service, then either someone must make a judgement, and so govern, or the consensus fails and the community fragments.
Much of television output is a fiction pretending to be an ideal pattern for human relationships. So many, especially daytime TV shows, centre around the pain and agony caused when personal relationship are not idealistic. Instead of advising people that ideals are not realistic, presenters of these shows heap abuse on anyone they claim has failed to live up to this ideal notion of love and fidelity. Having an unrealistic expectation of human behaviour, then castigating those who do not live up to this idealistic notion, is a deceit. Unfortunately, it is a deceit accepted by so many viewers of these shows. And these people then experience dissatisfaction and disappointment. The origins of their pain lie in the television shows that gives them false expectations.
Politically, there is a similar problem: There seems to be an increasingly strident opinion, distributed on social media, that idealism, particularly socialist idealism, is a force in its own right. From the perspective of a person in their 70s and with a modicum of rational thought, that is is at best a naïve and at worst a deliberately distorted view.
In an overpopulated world, where technology and education that permits communication between people is universal, it is impossible to achieve genuine consensus on anything. There are simply too many people, too many opinions, too many variables.
To govern by ideals requires either consensus, which will not exist, or by rigid enforcement of draconian rules and laws. This is the path followed by every ideological, socialist ruling faction from Stalin to Pol Pot. In every country from Russia to Venezuela.
As the educational and material standing of the masses of people has been gradually improved, the ability to enforce socialist rules on those people has lessened. Even in China, the one-party state has changed the way it governs the economy in cities from the way it used to in the time of Chairman Mao; govern all over the nation. Pragmatism encroaches on and replaces idealism even there.
In all more complex societies, rule by idealism degenerates into rule by tyranny. Pragmatism, is not an ideal, but it is practical. It is better than tyranny.