Has family ever told you there are three things you should never talk about in sensitive company – money, religion, and politics? Well, in this list, we’re throwing caution to the wind and hitting the politics angle, bringing out some of the largest political debates throughout history. Rather than just stating the debate, we provide pro and con arguments from each side of the debate so you can learn more about their differences.
Ever since the birth of government, politicians have been debating and deciding on these 25 issues. From eloquent Greek senators to plentiful European Parliamentarians, these issues have stirred controversy and divided countries, often becoming bipolar issues with only two sides which fight each other bitterly. Some of the political debates on this list are to be expected, such as the role and size of government or the extenuation of voting rights to the larger populace. Some may be a bit less expected, such as the age of consent and a curve ball in the shape of #20. Where do you stand? What issues are most important to you? Let us know as you read this list detailing 25 of the Largest Political Debates Throughout History.
While it may seem interracial marriage is no longer an issue, some of the acrimonious racial debates and public opinions in the 2016 American election cycle prove it is still taboo for many people. Supporters of interracial marriage claim it gives a child the best of both genetic histories and increases cultural understanding, while opponents mostly contend the races should remain separate and children are actually more harmed as they are susceptible to diseases which affect both groups.
Religion in Politics
Many countries around the world today, including France and Turkey, have been established on the basis of secularism – that is, the separation of church and state. Supporters of separation believe personal beliefs should not be involved in politics, and people should be allowed to practice as they wish, while opponents argue a state religion helps maintain a moral government and society and can help control radical groups such as the KKK.
One of the biggest political debates at the moment in the United States is the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Though some states have legalized it recreationally, 23 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized it for medicinal purposes. Advocates of medical marijuana herald its use as a treatment for symptoms of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, among others, while opponents claim it is a gateway drug and impairs fertility.
Most countries around the world peg the drinking age to 18 years old, younger in certain circumstances where beer or wine is consumed with a meal or under parental supervision. One country which doesn’t is the United States, but did you know the drinking age was only upped from 18 to 21 in the 1980’s? Advocates of a higher drinking age purport young people are not mature enough to drink responsibly until age 21 and that an older minimum age has decreased traffic deaths. Opponents of the 21 year old minimum drinking age argue it has not curbed teen drinking but instead led to more binge drinking in unsafe environments.
One of the most contentious political debates on our list is slavery. While it has been reviled for decades, slavery still exists in some pockets of the world. The opposing sides of the debate generally revolve around the slave-owner (pro) and the slave (con). Advocates of slavery traditionally purport slaves are beneficial for the economy by providing a cheap labor force and that many are treated well. Detractors argue no human should be treated like an animal, and slaves are sometimes beaten nearly to death or beyond.
Circumcision is not a topic you may have expected to see on this list, but its use is pretty clear cut around the world – Muslim and Jewish communities and the United States and the Philippines regularly circumcise their boys. Advocates of circumcision claim it increases hygiene and decreases the risk of STI’s, while opponents view it as pointless mutilation.
Governments are intended to serve their people by providing social services such as roads and infrastructure. To pay for these services, governments have traditionally imposed taxes to raise the necessary capital. Advocates of more taxation (especially on the rich) claim it doesn’t affect the rich as much as the poor and can be a method of wealth distribution, while detractors argue the private sector spends money more efficiently, and the rich may move to other countries if taxes rise too much.
Generally, the more religious a country’s population is, the more likely its government is to reject the decriminalization or legalization of prostitution. Advocates of legalizing prostitution argue it makes it safer for the workers and increases tax revenue, while opponents contend it leads to higher STD transmission and human trafficking.
The ability to vote and make your voice heard is the cornerstone of modern democracy. But, for most of modern history, large swaths of people have been barred from voting. The extension of suffrage to blacks and women (in the American context, at least) is now (mostly) universally supported, but in the past advocates of limited suffrage argued these groups were uneducated and could not make rational decisions, while suffrage supporters claimed their value as people meant they were entitled to equal voting privileges.
One of the most contentious pieces of legislation in America (though it’s much less provocative around the world; for example, in Australia, the government has successfully completed a massive gun buy-back program) relates to gun control. Advocates of gun control laws claim they would reduce gun violence and are supported by most of the population, while opponents argue guns deter crime and are needed for self-defense.
Size of Government
The size and influence of government is one of the most pervasive political debates in today’s world. Advocates of big government claim it is necessary to deal with larger populations and more integrated, city-based societies, while small government supporters claim it is more efficient and puts checks and balances on governmental power.
Capital punishment is one of the oldest forms of societal control, summed up in the maxim “an eye for an eye”. Its advocates claim it preserves law and order, is cheaper than life sentences, and respects the victim, while opponents argue it disproportionately targets the poor and people of color and gives government too much power by allowing it to extinguish life.
Whether it’s called euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, this topic has (especially recently) become one of the greatest philosophical and political debates of our time. Supporters believe a person should be able to make their own decisions and have a right to end terminal suffering in a dignified way. Opponents argue doctors are bound by the Hippocratic Oath to keep patients alive, and legalized euthanasia will create incentives for insurance companies to end lives to save money.
Though 99% of scientists agree climate change is a real, terrifying phenomenon, many politicians around the world have turned its existence into a massive political debate. While both sides – those believing it is a human phenomenon and those believing it’s a natural one – agree temperatures and greenhouse gas levels have risen, advocates of the human model contend our burning of fossil fuels is responsible for rapidly accelerating any natural global warming. Advocates of the natural side claim human emissions are too small on a planetary scale to change the entire climate and natural fluctuations in the sun and oceans have caused the rise.
Beyond marijuana, there are a host of drugs which politicians have outlawed and criminalized. Supporters of full legalization argue that it reduces the spread of sexually transmitted infections and encourages more people to seek treatment, while opponents contend legalization will strain healthcare systems and make it easier for people to get drugs.
As interracial marriage was the taboo of 50 years ago, same-sex marriage is the hot-button issue of today. Advocates profess marriage bans to be discriminatory and limit the benefits experienced by opposite-sex couples. Opponents limit the definition of marriage to procreation and often bring in religious backing for a one man, one woman marriage.
When countries adopt the gold standard, the value of their paper currency is directly backed by lumps of gold. In these countries, a person can, at any time, demand to exchange their bills for gold bullion. Advocates of the gold standard believe it prevents inflation and the government’s ability to whimsically print money. Detractors claim the gold standard makes it tougher for governments to respond to economic downturns and leads to periods of deflation and contraction.
Age of Consent
All countries have established an age of consent, often at 16 or 18 years old. Supporters of lowering age of consent laws argue sexual expression is natural and such laws do not deal with different rates of emotional and sexual maturation among the youth. Opponents believe young children should be especially protected as they are not emotionally ready to deal with sex nor financially ready to handle a pregnancy.
Just as, if not more, contentious than the death penalty is abortion. Abortion advocates claim a woman has the right to choose and will find unsafe ways to abort if the practice is not legal, while opponents argue life begins at conception and plenty of couples unable to biologically conceive are waiting to adopt newborns.
Free University Education
Just as there was major opposition to free public education until high school, nowadays there exists major opposition to making college cost-free, especially in parts of Europe such as France and the United Kingdom. (Germany has gone the opposite way.) Supporters of free universities argue for the equality of opportunity amongst the classes and a more educated and productive workforce, while detractors contend it decreases the quality of and value put on education, besides massively raising state budgets.
Tensions around the world are high as millions of people are on the move, immigrating from one place to another due to war, persecution, or lack of economic opportunities. Advocates of illegal immigration contend these immigrants are hardworking and do jobs locals are unwilling to take, while opponents claim they are criminals, and tax-paying citizens must absorb the economic costs of new residents.
Governments have implemented a minimum wage to protect workers from abuse and overworking by their employers. (In the U.S., it was introduced in 1938 during the Great Depression and has since been increased 22 times.) Supporters of increasing the minimum wage argue that a higher wage will create jobs and decrease growing income inequality, while advocates of keeping it at current levels argue past increases have made it tougher for low-skilled workers to find jobs and many businesses cannot afford to pay more and would close as a result.
War & Drone Strikes
Nearly every government which has ever existed has, at some point or another, debated whether its country should go to war. To be more specific and relevant to the present, let’s focus on drones. Advocates purport the unmanned aerial vehicles prevent massive troop deployment and minimize civilian casualties. Opponents of drone strikes argue they violate international law and spawn more enemies than they eliminate.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is a value enshrined in most Western democracies and has been one of the major points of contention between countries which have it and those which don’t. Advocates argue free speech is a natural right and governments should be able to take criticism, while opponents say occasionally limiting free speech is crucial for social order and harmony.
Though Europeans have utilized national healthcare systems for decades, some countries (you know which one we’re talking about) are bitterly divided on this political controversy. (In fact, out of the 34 OECD countries, only the U.S., Poland, and Greece don’t have universal health care.) Advocates contend health is a basic right and universal systems would lower care costs. Opponents believe individuals are responsible for their health, not the government, and a universal healthcare system would decrease the quality of care.