April 17, 2009

What is Populism?

What is Populism, anyway? Ultimately, there is a very simple definition but a very complex answer. Populism is the belief in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people. The definition doesn't completely answer the question, however. To truly understand Populism we need to put it into context.

Populism is the opposite of elitism, or
leadership or rule by an elite segment of society. When the American colonies declared independence from Britain we declared our independence from elitism. Elitism means that only those who are possesed of superior position in society have the right to make the rules that govern everyone. Those rules do not benefit the populace, only the ruling elite. When we declaired that all men are created equal we said that all members of society have a place within government. We went one step further and said that government was granted its authority by the people it governed.

In a Populist society it is the common man that makes the rules. In a fair society those rules seek to benefit the whole of society while impinging upon others at a very minimum. In truth, fairness is intrinsic to a Populist society because of the belief that we are all equal before the law.

A common lie about Populism is that it seeks to take from the wealthy or elite and give to the commoner or poor man. Populism is not about redistribution of wealth. Populism isn't an economic policy. Populism isn't a governmental philosophy. Populism is the belief that the common man is of worth and value to society. Populism is a social principle of equality, and ultimately, fairness. Instead of a ruling elite answerable only to itself, government and society is controlled by the very people it governs. This is what Populism is.

For the people!

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