While Mitt Romney’s “47 percent comment” stirred up an enduring cloud of debate centered on the American notion of self-reliance and personal responsibility, the idea of responsibility in politics – what is and should be expected of our various layers of government and what are and should be the obligations of American and world citizens – has been on the stage of world events for much a longer time. In this month’s issue, Geetika Rudra presents the repercussions of Twitter overreach – times when the line between fact and idea checking becomes blurred – and contends that fact checking is only a temporary solution to a much bigger problem. But the members of the media are not the only ones who need to tweet responsibly: Katie Bentivoglio argues that American leaders need recognize the global ramifications of D.C. mudslinging, drawing on protests of Hilary Clinton’s visit to Egypt this past summer as evidence.
Not only does responsibility have a role to play in our rhetoric, it is also central to arriving at governmental decisions that strike the proper balance between compelling interests, particularly when actions to promote economic growth may garner environmental concerns and consequences. In this issue’s Student Stump, three Columbia organizations consider the degree to which hydraulic fracturing, often known as “fracking,” should be used in the United States.
The States is not alone in facing these issues in an election year. In our cover piece, Esfandyar Batmanghelidj takes us to Iran, a country facing severe geopolitical and socioeconomic pressures of its own. Arguing for patience and pragmatism, Batmanghelidj proposes that the Principlists, the conservative faction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, can provide the reasonable policy reformulations needed to ensure that the government is able to direct domestic policy, while also effectively maintaining the country’s national security.
Even though the political topics discussed in these pages may seem disparate, they all have at least one theme in common: cause and effect. As Robert Penn Warren says in All the King’s Men, “The world is like an enormous spider web.” Every action in life leads to a result – every decision that we make, person we meet, and event that we encounter sets off an endless chain of unexpected and sometimes unintended consequences. Reinhold Niebuhr put a label on this: The Irony of American History.
Like it or not, all of us – even the most apathetic of us – are enmeshed in the same web of politics. That is why it is vital for all of us to learn about public policy and involve ourselves in the political process – especially when you don’t like what you see. Whether it is re-tweeting that news story or rooting for your favorite sports team, these small choices and actions have a role in influencing the larger political forces at play.
Whether you believe we need a Leviathan state, or no government at all, or find yourself somewhere in the middle, we all have a role to play in this crazy world of ours – even throwing your hands up in the air and leaving it to others to handle is a political action in and of itself. Political responsibility, in my opinion, for those in government and those in the privacy of their homes, is echoed in the words of President Josiah Bartlet, who asks, ““Mrs. Landingham, what’s next?”