These lines of nonpartisan political division separate American citizens into three categories: Hobbits, Hooligans, and Vulcans (Brennan, 2016). Political philosopher Jason Brennan first articulated these categories in his 2016 book Against Democracy, and here, I loosely employ the concept to help illustrate how American citizens, as political agents, fall in terms of their potential to be serious political collaborators. Those who cannot say yes to the questions in the first topic are Hobbits; those who answer yes to the questions in the first and/or the second topics are Hooligans; those who answer yes to all questions in all topics are Vulcans.
On the importance of politics:
- Do they acknowledge politics as an area of life that is worthy of their attention?
- If so, do they consider engagement with politics to be worthy of their time? I.e, do they think politics is worthy of their participation (with voting being the most obvious example of this)?
On the current political system:
- Are they able to articulate an approximate understanding of the nature of the formal decision-making institutions in the U.S. (i.e., the separation of powers into the legislative, executive, & judicial branches)?
- If so, to what extent are they able to articulate their nature? Do they know how many senators each state has? Are they aware of the existence of congressional districts, the importance of Supreme Court rulings, etc?
- Are they able to articulate an awareness and approximate understanding of other important political institutions such as the electoral college, state legislatures, major government agencies, etc.?
On the values underlying the current political system:
- Do they understand and appreciate such values as the rule of law, democracy, the presumption of innocence, private property, civil rights and liberties, limitations on government power, etc?
- If so, do they still feel a desire to change aspects of the current political system?
On political reforms:
- If they want to change aspects of the current system, are they able to identify aspects of the system that are in need of legitimate reform, either domestically or in terms of foreign policy?
- If they are able to, are they willing to acknowledge the necessity of achieving such reforms via our formal decision-making institutions, rather than through violent action?
To be considered a serious interlocutor, then, an individual must be able to walk the following path through the aforementioned questions:
1. The political sphere is worthy of my attention
2. Participating in politics is worthy of my time
3. I am aware of what the major political decision-making institutions are
4. I am aware of at least some of the major details regarding how these institutions are comprised and function
5. I am aware of and appreciate at least some of the major values upon which these institutions were founded, and ostensibly protect
6. Still, I am able to identify areas in need of reform in the political sphere
7. I acknowledge the necessity of these reforms being achieved by and through the formal decision-making institutions, rather than through violent action
If at any point an individual is unable to track the aforementioned path, then they have effectively disqualified themselves from consideration as a worthwhile political collaborator, in my opinion.