A Discussion of AS (Jan 2011 Issue)

***Editors Note: These 3 articles were part of a broader discussion of the UCSD AS & government in general. To read the articles, scroll down.

Whose University? Our University?
Cody Dunn

No, End Government Worldwide!
J. P. Gonzales

AS: Politics as Usual
Angad Walia and Justin Morse

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Whose University? Our University?
Cody Dunn

At the start of each quarter, each student at UCSD receives a bill with a charge for a “campus activity fee” and each student must pay such a fee within mandatory “registration fees”. The consequence for not paying such fee results in the ineligibility of said student to attend classes at the university. Many of these mandatory fees go directly into the budget of the Associated Students of UCSD in order to fund many of the many activities that are to serve all UCSD students. Nevertheless, with last year’s scandals, budgetary shortfalls, and funding cuts, perhaps all students should look towards the benefit of ending student government on this campus all together. A thorough look at student government reveals a system which forcibly takes your money for its own purposes instead of for students. It is a coercive system designed to be biased and trample on the most important of all interests: that of the Individual.

Article II of the Constitution of the Associated Students of UCSD states that one of the objectives of AS is, “to create and execute programs which serve the collective interests of the undergraduate population.” By serving the “collective interest,” student government does nothing to serve the individual interest of you. Example, an event sponsored by AS (and paid for by your fees) is technically open to all students. That said, part of your “mandatory fees” went into paying for said event, and if you do not attend the event, you have wasted your own money for the benefit of others without your consent. This constitutes as theft of the highest degree, as your own money is taken away from you without your voluntary consent in order to serve the interests of others.

A student government may not be the most effective way to serve any interest at all, be it collective or individual. For instance, this year’s AS council miscalculated their budget by over $200,000 the year, which forced the council to declare funding cuts to several campus organizations. Many legacy events, such as the BSU’s Kwanzaa dinner, were left underfunded for this year. In addition, scandals, such as the internal plan by former members of the AS to defund certain media publications on campus led to a major across-the-board funding decrease for all media organizations on campus for the second time in two years. How can student governments be fair to the interests of all individuals if it is only biased towards its own interests? Student governments are a flawed characteristic on college campuses simply because they dictate how you are to spend your money without any consent from you. Instead, we should advocate that each student may voluntary pay dues to each individual activity or event as they themselves see fit.

Student governments should not fund campus and organizations, students should. Each and every student should not be burdened to pay mandatory fees in order to attend classes here at UCSD in order to be used for purposes that he or she feels is unnecessary to their own individual interest. Instead, each student should have the right of voluntarily donating as much as they want to each organization or event as they themselves see fit. In addition, student government should not exist as the primary funder or even legal authorizer of all these campus organizations. Freeing the authority of campus organizations from the burden and whims of student government “politicians” would provide a much more stable form of funding that is not subject to random, out-of-the-blue funding cuts that were seen last quarter. Campus organizations would be able to also vie for outside sources of funding and donations without going through the bureaucratic structure of student government, for each organization is its own legal entity that is able to do what it wants with the money it receives because it will not use “collective” university resources to do so. Financial freedom becomes legal freedom.

We, as students, do not need to be governed by complete strangers who fail to see us as individuals. The only fair and just way to be government is through self-government, which is what each student on this campus must exercise. The AS council does not have the right to govern over us, and they surely do not have the right to a stipend brought about by our money simply because we, as students, do not need an AS council to achieve our needs. Each committee and decree made by the AS council at UCSD can be voluntarily carried out by willing individuals provided that he or she has the will to do so. Only through the individual voluntary exchange of money and ideas will harmony be brought to this campus.

Cody is a freshman in Warren College majoring in Bioengineering.

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No, End Government Worldwide!
J. P. Gonzales



Or rather, encourage and practice self-government and personal accountability. What is really meant by such a statement? Why should government end? Doesn’t government provide for us some of our basic human needs, like safety, subsistence, and social order? Many people today would respond with a resounding “Yes!” Governments produce roads, provide clean water, generate, adjudicate, and enforce law – if government doesn’t provide these necessary social services, who or what will? The answer to this question is at once simple and extremely complicated, far too complex to be translated into effective public policy. The people who will provide for our basic needs will be (and has always been) none other than you and me, us and them… every single being, together. 


As an individualist anarchist, it may seem strange that I arrive at this conclusion of the power of collective action. Perhaps it is imagined that the typical individualist suffers from some sort of solipsism, a tyrannical ego, or some combination of the two. I contend that my fascination with individualism, as a relatively new intellectual tradition, is a reflection of my fascination with the source or foundation of life. My perceived experience of life is all that I have; the concepts that populate my mind are formed by the activity of my own brain. When it comes to the formation of personal identity and self-concept, or all concepts really, all social or endogenous exchanges are factors. This fact, however, does not negate the deeply personal experience of life. Now, what does all of this have to do with ending government and social harmony? Quite a lot!


The basic human need that is expressed by individualists worldwide is that of personal autonomy, independence and freedom. It is important to consider the ways in which governments, defined as groups of people who participate in the centralized planning of a larger society within a geographic region, are unaware of or outright deny this basic need. Plans require means, economic or otherwise, and governments typically acquire these means in a variety of ways. One harmful method, in terms of providing for this basic need for autonomy, is the practice of taxation. It is argued that taxation is unavoidable, a necessary evil of any well-functioning society – but if the stated goal of a government is to increase social harmony and to provide for basic human needs, it has failed from the start.

When the means contradict the ends, or the ends are used to justify some means, there is dissonance. To claim that something created and imposed by human beings is unavoidable is essentially to undermine the human capacity of choice. A whole host of internal contradictions, bizarre psychological dilemmas, are the product of denying one’s own personal choices. The consequences of self-denial can be devastating (e.g. self-destructive practices like drug abuse, unrestricted consumerism, violence, self-imposed isolation or even suicide). I leave it to the reader to consider the ways in which the U.S. government and its multi-million dollar corporations have encouraged or discouraged the practice of self-affirmation and personal choice within the average American.


According to the Humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow, human beings are subject to a unique hierarchy of needs. At the bottom of this hierarchy, physiological needs like subsistence, safety, and procreation motivate action. As people gradually satisfy each tier of Maslow’s hierarchy, they approach the highest need – that of self-actualization.

Self-actualization is described by Maslow in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.” (pg. 10). His hierarchy is a good starting place; however it says nothing about the means to achieve such needs. Should we depend on the generosity and benevolence of others to accomplish our lower-tier needs until we have reached a point where we can finally begin to create a healthy self-concept for ourselves? I argue that self, or ego, is an ever-present element of our existence and is formed by all of our actions, even those that contribute to lower-tier needs like subsistence. Therefore, it is important for people to act in their own interest and to understand their actions as contributing to, or detracting from, the health of their egos. 


The plea of the anarchist is not to ignore basic needs but to find a non-hierarchical, fair, or voluntary means of meeting those needs, a social organization absent of an unquestioning authority. Many, many minds, men and women from cultures all across the globe at different periods throughout history, have wrestled with the possibility of sustaining such a society. It is arguable that human history, Western or otherwise, has been nothing but a cyclical process of achieving anarchy then escaping it into an unsustainable government. What compels a government, initially established to satisfy basic needs, to turn on its people, its goal, and itself by increasing its use of force, seeking to increase its own power over others? Perhaps it has something to do with autonomy and freedom of choice – the basic human need it frequently overlooks. Implicit in this desire to increase power over others is the assumption that others can be perfectly manipulated, managed, or molded. It is easy to identify this assumption in the reasoning of all governments, from nation states to tribal/family heads – the superiority of one-individual or groups choices over another’s, and the subsequent justification of the use of force. But this is not reason at all, nor is it in service to the basic needs of life. With that said, it is very likely that an anarchist society will be one of plurality, reflecting the complexity of human choices and the variety of human thought. But the consequences of an action should always lie with the actor; this is the best basis for personal growth as well as the growth of a society. In the words of the American libertarian author Albert Jay Nock, in his book Memoirs of a Superfluous Man: “If one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.” (pg 307).

J.P. is a guest contributor to the California Review at Mesa College majoring in Philosophy.

***

AS: Politics as Usual
Angad Walia and Justin Morse

Most people today are not satisfied with government. Whether it is frustration with the lack of progress made in Congress, spineless negotiations occurring behind closed doors, benefits being taken away, or even just long lines and tons of red tape at federal offices, complaints come from both sides of the political spectrum, and stretch across many different issues .Why is it this way? Why does our government seem to stay stagnant, even in a constantly changing world? We think a better question is: Why would our government have any incentive to make progress?

If you look towards the two major parties as fervent bastions of change and progress on their respective issues, then why is it that so little has been done when so many are so passionate? The reason is simple: there is a system in place that sustains itself, and getting rid of that system would not be in the best interest of those who are benefiting from it. Back to the major parties: although they do have differences on things such as social issues and spending allocations, the discourse really stops there. The party lines are the national discussions, and anyone with an opinion not written in red or blue ink is ignored. So with each side’s agenda written in stone, where is the room for innovation, for real substantial structural change?

This is not the fault of the people in government, however. For the most part, those in power are not acting maliciously to keep themselves in power at the expense of all the people. Many do really want to create some difference and move the discourse forward. The problem lies within the structure itself. What it comes down to is that there is not enough incentive for them to stop this train and board a new one, and the people who want to are stuck outside of these secret meetings behind locked doors.

This is a symptom of all government, and in particular democratic institutions. For a clear example, we do not have to look farther than our own Associated Students. First we examine the structure of entry into the system. In our AS, the best way to make it in is through first working your way up through college councils, which are essentially localized centers of power with a narrower scope of influence. This bears a striking resemblance on the national stage to progression from local and state offices to the federal stage. The period spent on the local councils is also an effective vetting process. Here every member can be tested to make sure that they say the right things, toe the party line, work nicely with everyone else, and most importantly, that they are not a threat to the existing power structure. It is right here we see the first real barrier to entry. If you prove a challenge to the existing structure, even at the lower levels, it is then significantly harder to get into that structure.

An important part of the electoral process here are slates, which resemble in many ways the national political parties. Every slate essentially has their own platform, their own set of unique beliefs about how things should be run, but all of them exist within the broader institutional structure.

They provide invaluable benefits for those who decide to be loyal and color within the lines, benefits that others viewed as a threat would have to forego. It is these threatening individuals that want to shake up the way the system is run. These resources include the most obvious and arguably one of the most important parts of a race—finances. Slates, as well as parties, have finances that transcend in most cases what an individual would be able to raise on their own. This is the first handicap against the outsiders, shunned from the political culture; they are left to fundraise on their own, which kills many races with earnest candidates. Another resource is the network of contacts that the group has been able to make. Parties and slates have power on their own, but so much more comes in the form of whom they know and whom they can count on. These networks, based on favors and promises, help keep this structure intact, giving leverage to those who have them. Of course it is possible for an individual to have vast networks, and that has been demonstrated on the national stage as well as on campus, but for most people, networking and building contacts is harder to do if you do not have something to give back to these people immediately.

Two more instruments that the slates and parties control are built right into their existence. One is the party platform. All a platform consists of is a string of buzzwords and promises that echo loosely around an ideology. Individuals within the parties will adapt it to suit their specific needs, whether that is catering to a constituent base or to build up a personality. In the end, a political platform is not really a unified set of promises and concrete objectives, but a string of goals that is somewhat cohesive. These platforms, however vague, prove a powerful force. Because they are so diluted, a candidate can throw around their platform just as easily as speaking points that they were given. It provides something that people like to hear, and will be attracted to, regardless of whether these individuals want to keep these promises. The most important thing about the platform is that it is already constructed when these candidates begin to run, it is cut and dry and ready for them to use and abuse on their whim.

Another is the power of simply being a member of a slate. The average voter doesn’t have the necessary time to research all of their candidates and who is running for what position. As students we all have our priorities, and researching candidates for the upcoming AS election may not be near the top. This is called rational ignorance, where we recognize that we are ignorant on these subjects, but it is due to a prioritization of our lives, not simply to being uninformed. So, we use information shortcuts. The largest information shortcut is the slate or party name that people carry around with them. As soon as someone enters a party, then the brand of that group is burned into who this person is. This can have its negative side effects, but has one incredibly important purpose: slate voting. People can choose their candidates now, having not had to research every individual, by agreeing somewhat with the loosely constructed party platform that everyone within the party has agreed to tow. Things like (D), (R), NOW!, and Tritons First all resound and make it easier for voters to choose the major parties. Now those cut out of this are those with nothing next to their name, those not recognizable instantly are therefore written off not because people disagree with what they are saying, but because people do not know who they are.

For those who support the existing structure of the government and enjoy their position within the status quo, none of this seems to be a problem. If the average UCSD student buys into the current system and is ok with it, then they know that the slates will continue to represent their voice. But if they don’t, then there really is no avenue for them to get their voice heard. It is very difficult for someone outside the existing structure who represents the voices of a population on campus to enter this arena if they run counter to the establishment. Even the strongest voices of the disaffected do not stand a chance against the progress of the machine.

Of course between these slates and within the overall discourse that exists there is disagreement, but the problem is that the larger system is still in place. There is no room for the proposition of real institutional change, only battles on smaller issues as they raise themselves. The structure remains intact, which limits the scope of what is discussed.

Once these people get into office, they must support the apparatus that gave them the opportunity to be a part of it, or be slighted by the structure itself. Those who would challenge the apparatus turn into outcasts. If anyone were to support a view opposite to the power base, they would lose their support. There are certain groups that people do not want to cross; for example, in national politics we have the powerhouse lobby of the national labor unions as well as corporate special interests. These groups are dangerous to cross for any individual because they have the power to mobilize mass support, alter the public opinion, cut funding, and most importantly, draw sympathy. These organizations exist not solely on the national stage, but equivalent groups exist on campus that hold such a vested control over public opinion and mobilizing students and sympathy, such as the BSU or MEChA. Groups such as this act in ways exactly akin to the unions or corporations, and have just as much sway here as their counterparts do in Washington. Crossing these groups results in making enemies in powerful places, and could cost any leader a bid at reelection for challenging the status quo.

A way of identifying who is favored by the AS, as well as the national government, is to follow the paper trail. Funding is a concrete investment of approval and support that a government can provide. One way that funding is expounded is based on tradition. If funding has been running down an avenue for years, this path is virtually untouchable. Regardless of quantifiable benefits or effectiveness of the program receiving money, the funding will not change. This turns these programs into long-term entitlements. Trying to alter these funding allocations would bring the wrath of those who have become so used to being handed money. For example, talk about a cut to a longstanding program like Medicare would bring the full force of organizations such as the AARP against you. Therefore, the only way to cut spending when spending cuts are necessary is to defund the groups that are not powerful and have no wrath to yield. This creates an almost corporatist structure, where the government works to keep a select few groups in power at the expense of everyone else, creating monopolies in their respective markets.

So why is this democratic, popularly elected system locked off to the majority of the public? It is mostly due to the part of rational ignorance, although not at the fault of the individual. Very few people have the incentive to invest time to completely understand the structures they unknowingly participate in, which allows for the mechanisms that create our current structure, such as the political slates, political parties, and special interests. Given that, how can this system be fixed, how can it be changed? Even if one person were to find a solution, mobilizing a movement for change to oppose the current system is possible in theory, but can it actually be undertaken? Hopefully, though, the answer lies in education. Through teaching people and drawing parallels such as these, people can come to understand the network that supersedes the individual in our system. There is a problem, but if we persevere and continue to raise the curtain, we can find enough people to institute some substantive change.

Angad is a sophomore in Sixth College majoring in Philosophy. Justin is a senior in Marshall College majoring in Political Science.

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2 comments

  1. Great reading!

  2. RE: article 3; pretty nice polisci-based analysis. I’d note another problem unique to universities: while students come and go, the staff/administration stay. Thus, they’re always looking for ways to advance their funding and power while weakening the ability of the students to actually have a say in anything.

    The ideal solution is some kind of omnipotent commission of disinterested people who have the power to make (or at least propose as a package) broad changes to everything, but that’s unlikely to happen. Instead, we’ll get hierarchical bureaucratic turf wars where the students get the short stick every time. Ain’t your university- it’s the unions and admins’ (note that I leave out the professors; most of them simply don’t care either way).

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