Stoicism: How Might It Inform Your Politics?

How might Stoicism inform your politics?  Well, Stoicism in a democracy would want you to vote for who seemed to be the most virtuous person.  But what kind of policy would Stoicism want you to endorse?  Sometimes I think the answer might be in the preferred indifferents: wealth, education, and health just to name a few.  How would these preferred indifferents matter to Stoic public policy?  Well, preferred indifferents are useful means for performing virtue, so a Stoic would want all society to excel in preferred indifferents.

So the Stoic would be for policies that help create wealth and redistribute wealth to people in need.  The Stoic would be for educating the public by supporting public education.  The Stoic would be for people’s health so they would support some kind of system of healthcare available for everyone from the very poor to the rich.

Security might be another preferred indifferent so the Stoic would certainly support a military specifically for the purposes for protecting the nation from external threats.  Also the Stoic would support funding of police to handle internal threats.

How would Stoicism handle monopolies and concentration of wealth in the hands of the few? I’d imagine Stoics would have a problem with it if it meant that the poor were being deprived of basic requirements for health, wealth, education, and security.  The Stoics would vote for policy that would break up monopolies and concentration of wealth if it turned into a zero sum game.

One particular preferred indifferent would be having a job.  Most people desire a job not just for monetary reasons but for psychological reasons since having a job really helps them feel like they’re doing something productive.  The Stoic would be for a policy to help create job growth and give people job security.  The Stoic would also support policy to ensure everyone had a minimum fair wage.

So these are just a few areas where I imagine Stoicism would inform your politics.  I’m curious to know all your thoughts and opinions.

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5 thoughts on “Stoicism: How Might It Inform Your Politics?

  1. Hypatia, it is not entirely clear whether what you posit merely describes stoical values in the realm of policy-making or it is how their values are actually different? I would be inclined to think that it is the former, since most of the preferred indifferents you mentioned are desired pretty much universally. Aristotle would support them, as would Adam Smith (who was not a stoic), and even Epicure, J.S. Mill and modern economists who you would easily classify as flat-out hedonists.
    I grant that, for instance, in terms of employment you emphasize that jobs should be fulfilling – however, this is a relatively subjective test and, secondly, it depends on societal demands: in times of unemployment, people would want first and foremost job-creation (witness, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam etc), whereas in more affluent countries people are more in a position to switch to creative industries (as they often do).
    Take one of the more contentious aspects – concentration of wealth. In economic terms, robust competition is one of the pillars of a market economy. I grant that even in competitive markets (which cannot exist without strong institutions) inequality is possible but it is much less likely. Simply compare the rates of inequality in CIS and Latin American countries with pervasive monopolies with well-functioning market democracies.
    Even in well –functioning market economies (France, the US, the UK), concentration of wealth and inequality has been widely lamented by economists and politicians from left and right, – again, regardless of their philosophical convictions. There was an old idea dating from Thatcher and Reagan times that concentration of wealth would arguably increase the overall size of a pie and even if individual shares might be trimmed, the real incomes would still grow (the so-called ‘trickle-down’ theory), but that idea is becoming harder to sell.
    To round it off, I think that in the realm of politics two out of seven cardinal virtues are key – prudence and justice. Calculative prudence is the bedrock of utilitarianism, whereas justice – of Kantianism.

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    1. You’re right that the preferred indifferents in Stoicism are values shared by other philosophies. I’ll have to develop my article later on what makes for my society to be uniquely Stoic. Perhaps a uniquely Stoic society wouldn’t be that unique after all. Not sure. I’m not sure I have all the answers on concentration of wealth issues/monopolies. I know that Reagan and Thatcher’s policies did help some things. They had to deal with situations that might’ve been over-regulation. Sometimes over-regulation can be a bad thing. It’s kind of a huge debate about how much concentration of wealth and how much regulation one should have to have a thriving economy that makes good for a good society and of course the right kind of justice and prudence. I’ll try to get back to you on more of your thoughts later but I’m a little busy at the moment.

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      1. Thank you for your reply. What might be worth considering is that Stoicism was the preponderant philosophy in the Western world for over a millenium. It is therefore easier to assume that it was malleable to socio-economic conditions rather than than championed any rigid policy (which is not to deny that Stoics agreed on universal equality and natural law). In this regard, it might be more plausable that there is no ‘standard’ Stoic politics just as there is no standard ‘Christian’ politics (including political economy).

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      2. It’s quite possible that you might be right. I do like to think that Stoicism will help us make better political decisions with regard to policy. Now Stoicism may not have much to say about the 2nd Amendment and other personal property rights but it could make us wonder if the War on Drugs is a good idea and mass incarceration is the solution. For instance, wouldn’t it be better to view people addicted to drugs as patients in need of therapy rather than treat them as criminals? Stoicism certainly would have that point of view I would think.

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