A reader asked me:
As a Wisconsinite, how about a blog post with (at least a bit of) your philosophical analysis of what's been going on there?
Here's why I won't do this: not because I don't have a position or in any way want to remain neutral as far as this blog is concerned, but because deep down in my gut, I feel like political problems are in most cases too bleedin' obvious to require a philosophical analysis.
The claim that the budget crisis here is manufactured, and comes entirely out of misplaced priorities in favor of giving businesses tax breaks, is not a philosophical claim as I understand the term. Yes, I have beliefs and ideas about the role of government, but when do these rise to the level of "a philosophy?" Well, certainly on a broad use of the term, anything you think about is philosophy, but to me, the task of philosophy is to dig at the foundations of something or other. If I believe that when I drop things, they fall, that's not a philosophy. Even trying to say why they fall doesn't count as philosophy, unless you have a crazy-ass, non-verifiable theory about why they fall ("God's love pulls them!"). If you're working within some tradition of explanation that you see no reason to question, then your analysis can be scientific, or aesthetic, or theological, but will likely not be philosophical.
Likewise, I regard people who radically want to overthrow the government as having a philosophy, while those who simply want to pursue some sensible course of action to administer things, where "sensible" is uncontroversial to anyone who is... well... sensible, are basing their reasons on ordinary, non-philosophical grounds.
Yes, I'm aware of the circularity in the above, and that my claim here implies that what counts or doesn't count as philosophy will differ according to its cultural setting. If I'm deciding which restaurant to go to based on cost and quality of food, that's not a philosophical choice, but if I avoid some place because I don't like their political views, well, that's something approaching philosophy, and if I avoid restaurants altogether out of a deep moral conviction that the eating-out process is inherently corrupt, then that's a philosophy.
It follows from this that people with philosophies are in many cases simply f'in crazy. However, I think deep cogitation on any of our social institutions or our "common sense" beliefs about metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics will reveal something fundamentally askew in our everyday thinking or practices, so really, there's room for sane philosophy in just about any area. In this area (politics today in Wisconsin), however, I don't feel like I've had to pull out my philosopher hat even for a minute. Prioritizing tax breaks over anything else is to me an obviously dishonest political ploy: whether offered to wealthy campaign donors or across the board to the majority of tax payers, these are bribes by politicians for you to vote for and contribute to them. I do credit the labor movement for having achieved many of the comforts that the majority of us now enjoy (i.e. advances in working hours and conditions), I do think employers having too much power is bad for people, and I do think teachers are certainly not in general overpaid. None of these things, to me, require much in the way of philosophical thought to establish, though I recognize that someone could have a radical philosophy that says government is inherently bad and so thinks that the acts of the Republicans here are a good idea. I simply don't see the appeal or sense of any philosophy of this sort.