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Distinguishing Between Value and Ideologically Based Systems

Politics: Analysis September 5, 2003

Printable Version

While values well fall within the category of ideas, and ideas often describe values, the accumulation of patterns of ideas set a philosophy and often take on the concept of an ideological system or a value system, and sometimes in combination, both. The distinctions between them often depend upon whether it is a set of ideas that describe what to do and how to do it, or why you do it. Both systems tell you what to do and often how to go about it; but an ideological system, in the reality of its operation, usually focuses more on operational concepts where value based systems tend to focus more on the morality or the “why you do what you do” concept. They tend to be much more conscience-based. An example would be the ideologies of the last century, which include capitalism, communism, fascism, and others. Value-based systems in contrast could be Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and a number of other combinations of religious or moral concepts. In some cases such as an Islamic theocracy, you have a direct combination of the two.

When you look at the strategic drivers of the environment within a society, normally you have both systems present, but one may predominate more than others and set the culture or the environment for the society. It may not always be particularly obvious, but it can have a significant impact. People have always noted that there is a difference between the state of California and the state of Texas. California tends to have a great number of ideas generated on many fronts (often initiatives or referendums) while Texas is a more value-based state that while changing still operates with a hand of history from its frontier days where it established a set of values and limited the legislature to a short term every two years.

Similarly, the ancient Roman Empire often took conquered territories and both adopted their residents and local governments (with oversight by Rome) ideologically, and adopted their gods as part of the Roman gods to not conflict with value based systems. Interestingly, many of their wars were fought with the Jews who had the value-based system that there could only be one God. Today you see an evolution of systems that are moving in different directions. The Communism of China is evolving not only into free markets, but to regenerate and understand the great cultural history of China that evolves from Confucianism which is a value-based system of integrity. It forms a necessary component of market capitalism since markets are most effective when they have the most effective competition, and effective competition only emerges from an integrity in markets that are not fixed. Value based systems in other parts of the world have tended to be lost in the modern technology of communication and entertainment, but also in some cases are re-emerging.

The key point is that most true value systems change very little or change very slowly because they are a concept of an individual way of life based upon a great deal of historical evolution and testing. Ideological systems are important because they fit to the times and synthesize the ideas that exist in part with the new technology or enlightenment. As we talk of enlightened conservatism being the creation of an ethical environment that looks to three goals, the distinction between these systems become important. We look at three ultimate goals, the first, enlightenment, which often involves technology, markets, and opportunity to let people increase their standard of living and operate in a modern world. We look at cultural values that really is the maintenance of value systems that are more slow to change but set the pattern and structure, the skeleton of a society in which people have certain rules where they work with others. In most value systems the concern is for helping others through conscience rather than the convenience that can take place within ideological systems as a method of operation, primarily through non-governmental non-profit organizations.

The third and ultimate goal is the personal dignity of each individual. That dignity requires the respect of others and the concern for each individual. But it also requires a standard of living that allows one to go beyond the basic of “Maslo’s hierarchy of needs.” The combination of these two concepts, ideological systems and value systems, will be one of the very significant issues of the next century. Ideological systems will remain significantly important because basically they are the operating systems of the modern politics and economics, but as we have to learn to work with each other both within society and globally the value systems of how we view each other, how we treat each other, and how we decide to settle our issues are going to tell through the strength of our culture whether we trust totally the ideological systems to settle it through government and the courts, or whether we have cultures that because of the peer pressure of the beliefs of the values systems are ones that settle issues at the lower common denominator looking at the dignity of man, the Golden Rule, and the common good. An understanding of these more powerful forces within society help in analyzing where ideas originate and what their consequences may be. They also provide alternatives to the emerging viciousness of politics and greed of economics. Modern man constantly is driven to choose on issues of conscience or convenience. He is not ever going to be perfect and the credibility of a society is not based on his moral perfection but more upon his character to accept responsibility for his actions and his failings. This moral consequence of society is not developed in an ideology but in respect for a value system that transcends generations.

This is increasingly lost in modern America as well intentioned cultural advocates of differing views no longer look to the issues but personify them in the political parties and the Presidency. Be it President Clinton or President Bush, there is a growing tendency to fan hate because it suits extreme political purpose. The greatest risk to our society is this development of ignorant hate; we can learn to disagree on cultural issues and argue on them, but once we lose perspective from thought to emotion, we lose control of the process of enlightenment. Our greatest enemy is not the opposition, but the loss of our internal value systems that are our compass; for without them, emotion manipulates us easily to others will. It is not so much that we disagree that is crucial as it is how we disagree, and whether there is a process of discussion.


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