A Creativist Philosophy of Government
Creativism supports a coherent and realistic philosophy of politics and government.
Any political philosophy begins with several baseline observations about life, for example that we are all different and in that sense unequal; we have mixed motivations, partly self-serving and partly social; and separation and conflict are as inevitable as unity and collaboration. Creativism adds a positive note, emphasising the centrality of creative action in all human affairs and the endless potential for good outcomes.
There are three widely held principles which are invoked here as the basis for further thought:
Everyone is of equal value
Everyone is responsible for everyone else, and
Everyone has the right to be happy, including the right to be free.
They arise from a long and honourable series of landmarks in politics, including the United States Declaration of Independence, the French national motto of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These principles lead to all sorts of consequences. If we say that everyone is of equal value, for example, it follows that they should have an equal chance in life, with an equal say in determining their futures and equal access to an agreed standard of living. In practice, however, this presents difficulties for government, for who can agree on the meaning of equality? Equality leads assuredly to democracy, but some will say this should stop at liberal democracy, and liberalism, while others will opt for social democracy. This is where creativism provides guidance, for in any situation creativism will aim for the high ground.
Creativism seeks for all people the achievement of their creative potential through virtue – through paths such as peace, justice, fairness, taking responsibility for oneself, and taking responsibility for others. In government, the creativist mantra of truth-love-creative action translates to good ideas, goodwill, and good actions. Government, properly conducted, is a set of good ideas (a generally beneficial vision for society) which goodwill (expressed through shared vision and effort) brings to fruition.
The role of government
The proper role of government is to exercise power for people on their behalf, helping each person to achieve his or her happiness. This for a creativist means fulfilment of creative potential. In doing so, genuine needs must always come before mere wants, though government will aim to do both. Needs theory shows us that creative potential cannot be properly met unless and until certain basic needs are met. It follows that a government should place priority on meeting these needs. The actions that governments take are both enabling and regulating. In practice this throws up all sorts of problems, which typically governments meet by resolving differences, defining and establishing community standards, and where necessary enforcing a workable degree of uniformity. How far any government should go in these directions, or indeed how big or intrusive it should be, is a matter for judgement based on the practicalities of the time. The default position may be small government, but in reality government is as big as it needs to be.
The composition of government
Democracy exists in various forms, including types of participatory, representative and grassroots democracy, all of which have their place and are practised side by side. Some of these forms are the subject of interesting but sadly too little known work, for example research projects sponsored by the newDemocracy Foundation in Australia. Going yet a step further, creativism argues that beyond the standard forms we should each individually pursue a creative democracy. Creative democracy is not only a matter of increasing engagement in issues; it is also a lived belief that the process of doing things is as important as the ends. In this spirit, it is in everyone’s best interest that we constantly keep an open mind on how best to structure the multifarious parts of government, for the growing complexity of government demands an ever increasing sophistication in the design of its institutions. Democracy is forever elusive and no single system is perfect as a way of forming government and giving it shape; thus there is need for a composite approach and flexibility. Creativism is always open to new ways of doing things at all levels of government.
Truth in government
Good ideas abound, but the best ideas are those which most benefit most people, hence creativism accepts the necessity of a utilitarian approach to government. Truth in government lies in maximum utility, beginning with the satisfaction of needs – those that are the most basic and genuine. This is not to deny that utilitarianism may lead to some injustice, but merely to accept that in a democracy, the majority will must prevail. There is also a value in ideologies, especially those which would empower the powerless, however the highest truth lies in the accommodation of ideological differences, guided by empiricism. Government should always and at all levels engage fully in a conscious and conscientious pursuit of truth. In this, the existence and well-functioning of a neutral, competent and representative bureaucracy are crucial; so too is constant and widespread engagement with the public.
Goodwill as the mainspring of government
Goodwill lies in community, hence creativism is communitarian in outlook. This is not to deny the importance of the individual, but rather to recognise that no meaningful achievement occurs in humankind without some sort of teamwork. In like vein, multilateralism in international relations, together with environmentalism, can be seen as expressions of goodwill.
Political processes on the whole should be less combative and more collaborative, consultative and consensual. The development and arguing of opposite positions in policy is not in itself bad, for this can lead to a constructive consideration of alternatives and maybe the emergence of compromise which is more broadly acceptable. However, in practice, the oppositional nature of modern politics is generally corrupted, becoming opposition for its own sake. Adversarialism is deeply embedded in Western culture, as is competition – the courts are another example – but this is not the only way, nor indeed the most rational way, to achieve good outcomes. Modern business, for example, thrives on collaboration, employee engagement, partnerships and the like. Why should it not be the same in government? Increasing feminisation of politics might over time have this effect; but in the meantime, we can but argue the case for a better way of proceeding.
A degree of conservatism is necessary to uphold society’s core values and to protect the institutions that give them effect, however there is manifest need for reform in all sorts of areas; not only this, but change happens all the time as part of the overall process of creation, and government is necessary to manage this change. Hence, creativism aligns with the philosophy of progressive conservatism. If creative action – right action – is to be the focus of government, political processes should respect this imperative. Political processes should be focused not on power plays, political spin, blame games and the like, but unremittingly on right action.
Rights and responsibilities of the individual
There is a well-defined and ever-growing body of principles and associated thought around the notion of human rights. Creativism in general subscribes to the established principles as articulated by the United Nations. Bills of rights and government charters are also recommended to inform and guide government officials and citizens alike. This is an area of life where good information flow is of paramount importance. The field of rights and responsibilities is one of eternal contest, and each of us has to be constantly vigilant and engaged over a wide range of issues.
Outcomes of government
The outcomes of government are at any time hard to identify clearly, for government is just one of many factors at work in the overall process of change. There is some agreement that government should lead to the satisfaction of needs, with certain basics like equality, freedom, democracy and justice. But the reality is often different, even in advanced democracies.
The hope must always be that governments will enhance the creative potential of their citizens. This leads toward social or new liberalism rather than classical liberalism. However, it also leads towards social democracy and the insistence that government leads in support for education, employment and productivity, together with other social services. Loosely this philosophy could be described as a philosophy of the radical centre. Like social liberalism it seeks to achieve both individual liberty and social justice, while like social democracy it seeks to do this partly through restraint of the market, preferring a mixed economy to a purely market economy. And though the primary responsibility of a government is its own people, creativism holds that there is a responsibility also to other people, ensuring where possible that at least their basic needs are met. The same inclusiveness is expected in environmental matters as well, with governments accepting responsibility for the Earth as a whole and all its creatures. Thus creativism is a champion of environmentalism.
A creativist perspective should help us in formulating a position on any given topic, from biosecurity to birth control, budget reform to broadband. It should also help us understand more clearly why some governments succeed while others are voted out of office. Typically the causes of failure are betrayal of trust, arrogance and loss of touch with ordinary people, and incompetence – usually a cocktail combining two or more of these three. Sadly, the process of political learning which would minimise these failures seems to be very slow.
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Creativism presents a balanced and realistic view of life, acknowledging there is contest and power-play in aspects of living. But it also emphasises the constant potential for good outcomes arising through creative action, which in turn arises from truth and goodwill. Government is a powerful instrument for the realising of creative potential, both in society at large and in individuals.
A creativist philosophy of government is almost inevitably one of the radical centre of politics, forever seeking the “right” path between social liberalism and social democracy, for example, and respecting the need to protect citizens from unwelcome change while seeking ways to forge that change, consistent with the overarching principles of equality, freedom, and mutual responsibility.