We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, July 5. 2012
The Washington Post describes the discovery of the subatomic Higgs boson particle as “thought to create a sort of force field that permeates the universe, imbuing everything we see and touch with the fundamental property known as mass.” There is also a basic particle that permeates the universe of human nature and, thus, of politics, imbuing everything that happens with the fundamental property known as power.
From birth each individual exhibits a basic nature which exists throughout life. Even as it is shaped some by nurture and experiences, that basic nature is dominant. Those natures fall along a continuum from stubborn control of self and choices of environment to stubborn control of others and their choices of environment. In the political sphere these natures fall along a right to left continuum. On the right is a tendency toward individualism and creation of an environment that is based on the freely combined choices of other individuals. On the left is a tendency toward imposing a collectivism that is based of unifying others through power over their choices. On the right the role of government is important in protecting those free choices, including those of minorities. On the left the role of government is essential to aggregating power to enforce visions of the collective good, regardless of minorities. Most people are along the continuum, by nature, by choice, and by circumstance tending toward one end or the other.
Extremists of individualism are of the right.
They differ in which facet of behavior is most critical but seek a society of maximum self-choice. Extremists of ideologies and of organized religions are of the left. They differ in their utopian visions but seek a society of uniform adherence or compulsion. In the battle for dominance the extremists clothe their visions in appeals that will influence those along the continuum toward their ends.
It is usually not the most extreme who are in control but it is usually the most extreme who set out a vision that is used by those more practical to gain control. Alliances are formed that serve the self-interest of those along the continuum. The contending alliances may often make for seemingly strange bedfellows. With the passage of events, successes and failures of the dominant vision, and consequent shifting of self-interests, some may jump into bed and others fall or be pushed out. At root is the self-interest of individuals in their survival, usually primary, or their power over self or others.
Monarchies were made up of chieftans allying to control others and create their power of wealth. Organized religion usually combined with monarchies to effect their power over individual choices and create their power over wealth. It was a grand alliance. The Enlightenment’s intellectuals and artists sought to expand knowledge, which required the freer exchange of ideas and the lessening of barriers and empirically false ideas. Out of this grew the concept of democracy, a political system that worked freely to choose who would serve in control, with the emphasis on serve not rule the choices and freedoms of individuals. The concept of natural rights, those that may be surrendered only temporarily and may be recovered at any time, whether those of majorities or minorities, is the binding foundation of democracy. In sum, this is classical liberalism, the voluntary combining for agreed common goods restricted by the rights of individuals. It is a voluntary giving of self for agreed common goods that is limited by individual choices.
These concepts took flower in what became the United States. Our Constitution lays out our form of democracy, primarily limiting the power of the servers. No list can contain all the natural rights of individuals, but certain core ones can be, as exemplified in our Bill of Rights, the first constitutional Amendments to further delimit the power of the servers. This new nation was a decided shift away from the left and toward the right, and a global inspiration.
Today, organized religions are a shadow of their former selves, retreating into voluntary moral codes. State powers have increased through small accretions and large leaps, accelerated by the choices of those with self-interests to see their wealth increased through the state. Organized religions often join in to ease and strengthen the sway of their usually beneficent moral codes. In short, this has been a move back toward the left of ideologues, ideology being the surrender of self to a vision that must be imposed. Ideologues of the left have largely replaced traditional liberalism’s freedoms with appealing visions supposedly for the common good to form alliances of self-interests. It is a voluntary giving by some of self for visions of common goods that is not limited by individual choices. It is, in effect, a forced taking with few if any limits.
Today’s political conflicts in the US, as past ones, are the battle between the left and the right. The Higgs boson of nature and, thus, of politics is power, whether will dominate the power of individuals to make their own choices or the power of those who seek to control others’ choices.
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In the context of the Left vs. the Right, American scientists would have discovered the Higgs boson a decade ago, had not the Democrat-controlled Congress cancelled Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) in Texas.
Democrats are disinvesting in America's future, as evidenced by the discontinuation of America's space program.
Once Democrats finish transferring high-tech R&D to East Asia and Europe, American children have no future.
I'm not really a believer in the Left/Right continuum - though the words play a role and fill a vacuum in the political space. People are spatially challenged, so the linear nature of Left/Right is more appealing than the circular nature of political belief which really exists.
Socially Liberal, Fiscally Liberal - Socialist (Left)
Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative - Libertarian (Rightish)
Socially Conservative, Fiscally Conservative - Corporatist (though some call this Far Right, in reality it is crony capitalist, thus an aberration of socialism and therefore Left)
Socially Conservative, Fiscally Liberal - a rare occurrence, but again a form of Corporatist mindset.
These are really the primary points on the circle.
Democracy, and specifically our democratic republic, is designed to protect the rights of the minority. The smallest minority is an individual.
As a result, the individualist viewpoint should be overwhelmingly utilized as the guiding point of view when making decisions.
Sure, I'm a Libertarian, and therefore more inclined to say this. But Libertarianism is a big tent and the wackos get more coverage than the practical practitioners of the belief. It's hard to get emotionally tied to this thought process - which is precisely why it will be difficult to ever become an overwhelmingly popular viewpoint. Too many people rely on their emotions, or how they feel about 'things', when they vote.
I want the poor to get taken care of.
I feel like health care is a right of all people.
I want to maintain my status quo in the easiest manner possible.
Voting and political belief should be about practical needs, not desires, hopes or dreams. We can never have a Utopia, so why do so many people base their voting behaviors on trying to achieve it?
Among agreements, I have a central disagreement:
You argue from policies back to labels. It is not about labels but about natures and their consequential policies. I argue from inherent natures to policies, the labels being common and a continuum, which nowhere do I argue is linear as in some cases the extremes may come together circularly.
Nice to hear from you.
It's nice to be back....
I thought I was talking about basic natures, not policies. The four ideological points I mention are all starting points of belief rather than simply labels. You didn't mention whether Right or Left was circular or linear - but this is an assumption most people make when terms like Right or Left are used, so I was only commenting that since people are spatially challenged, the circular description is more helpful.
While I agree with your basic premise that people have a dominant 'starting point', its certainly not the same for everyone, nor is it consistent, in any way, for most people over time, let alone even meaningful. My own development has gone from one which could be described as socialist (in my youth) to moderate capitalist (teens) back to socially aware capitalist (college) to Libertarian or fully individualistic in adulthood.
It's a path I've watched many others follow, if not exactly like mine in direction.
In fact, some of the most ridiculous socialists I know eventually underwent their transformations to Libertarianism or Conservatism due to something akin to 'rewiring' - a 12 step program of some sort.
My mother, on the other hand, has gone in the opposite direction with her many trips to rehab, and become overwhelmingly socialist after years as an avowed Republican (in fact she was the local party president when I was young).
I agree that the ideologues set the vision, while the practical members utilize the vision to their own political ends. But you mention that the thing that guides all people is self-interest in the pursuit of whatever political end they seek to derive. As a result, you're essentially saying we are all individualistic, even if we believe we're 'socialist' - that is absolutely true, and Ayn Rand wrote several excellent essays dissecting this concept, showing the hypocrisy upon which statist philosophies are built.
You continue along a different thought path with which I differ. Again, this time instead of policies you begin from a "dominant starting point" in your words, this time a political label. I, on the other hand, am talking about each's individual basic nature at birth, which doesn't change much during life, and which although it may take on various labels and policies orients along a right-left continuum, the right being one of control of self and left being one of control of others. Alliances rise and fall as the types contend, those less extreme being swayed by closeness in nature and self-interest.
BTW, as long as you bring Ayn Rand into this, I view her as speaking out for the rights of the individual versus rapacious controllers, of course, but doing so as an elitist ideologue, the latter disdain she has for those caught in the middle lacking in consideration for a social compact with the decencies of liberalism and democracy casts herself as an ideologue, i.e. of a leftist controller. I don't care to argue about it, but that's been my view of her since reading all her works in my college days. Powerful words from her but failure to fit in a traditionally liberal, democratic environment. Yes, I am a traditional liberal leaning heavily toward rebelliousness at anyone controlling me without my permission and caring for the deserved welfare of others.
I thought some more about this overnight and I began to see what you're saying.
Government vs. Individual as the two primary nodes.
I'm not sure I completely agree, but I get it.
All I'll say about Rand is that I'm not a Randian, though I think her writing is spot on. I agree, her difficulty is one which puts her in a position of control - something she opposes, but deeply desires.
Perhaps the best example of her own internal hypocrisy (and we all have them, it's just a question of how we deal with them) is her love life. Even though she espoused certain ideals, she often chose to ignore them while pursuing her own desires, seeking to control the people she was with and expecting people to love her more for her intellect than anything else.
I worked with Ayn's assistant many years ago. The woman found an error in one of Ayn's essays, took it to her and pointed it out. She said Ayn went into a fit of rage, trying to put the assistant 'in her place'. Several days later, Ayn came back to her desk and apologized profusely saying she'd done the check and found out she had been wrong not only in the essay, but also in her personal behavior.
It was an interesting insight to a personality that was very difficult to crack.
I like her writing. I'm not sure I like how she intended to employ it. That doesn't make her misguided, because if that's all it takes, then we're all up a creek.
Perhaps Penn Jillette's point of view is best employed. I like Libertarianism simply because I don't know what's best for other people. I'd add that I like it because I prefer to have people leave me alone when I want to be left alone.
Left-wing refers to those who advocate for egalitarianism in opposition to antique institutions, while Right-wing refers to those who advocate for traditional hierarchies. While the basic goals have remained the same, the application has changed. For instance, classical liberalism was to the left of monarchism, yet to the right of modern progressivism.
Bruce Kesler: On the right the role of government is important in protecting those free choices, including those of minorities.
Except that the movement towards ending segregation was by liberals, and it was conservative Southerners who resisted changes to their 'peculiar institution'.
Bruce Kesler: Extremists of individualism are of the right.
Again, that doesn't comport with how people have always used the terms. For instance, in Revolutionary France, the Right supported the monarchy and Church, while the Left supported individual liberties; even as the extreme Left supported extreme measures to enforce equality, such as the destruction of the monarchy.
It's issues of church, family and community which lead me to not agree 100% with Bruce - but on its face, what he wrote is accurate.
I think it's too much of an oversimplification to say liberals were the force toward ending segregation. After all, "conservative southerners" were all Democrats back then. And my family, all very Republican and at the time very conservative, were also active in the Civil Rights movement, as were many others. It's a common misconception today that segregation was 'ended' with the Civil Rights Act.
Remember, Brown vs. the Board of Education was a unanimous vote - so conservative justices were on board.
In 1957, Eisenhower introduced the Civil Rights Act. Cynics say it was to 'win the black vote' but he didn't need to have their vote in 1957.
In addition, Eisenhower dealt with Little Rock in 1957.
So it's nice that the "liberals" stole the show with their grandstanding, but the heavy lifting was done well beforehand.
As for your historical references, I might be wrong - only Bruce could answer properly - but I think he's referring to the current usage of the terms. Certainly 'right' and 'left' or 'conservative' and 'liberal' have meant very different things over the course of time.
In fact, today's fiscal conservatives are more properly called neo-classical liberals in the economics community.
Bulldog: I think it's too much of an oversimplification to say liberals were the force toward ending segregation. After all, "conservative southerners" were all Democrats back then. And my family, all very Republican and at the time very conservative, were also active in the Civil Rights movement, as were many others.
You're conflating liberal with Democrat and conservative with Republican. American political parties were ideologically less pure in those days. At the time, there were plenty of liberal-leaning Republicans, and the Democratic Party was an explicit coalition of workers, liberals, and Southern (largely segregationist) whites.
Bulldog: As for your historical references, I might be wrong - only Bruce could answer properly - but I think he's referring to the current usage of the terms. Certainly 'right' and 'left' or 'conservative' and 'liberal' have meant very different things over the course of time.
There's been an attempt the last few years to redefine the terminology with Left meaning bad and Right meaning good, but clearly, that's not how the terms are used in political science. The context of the words have changed, as the world has been moving to the political left since the Renaissance, but the meaning has remained the same since they were coined after the French Revolution.
The modern Left is generally progressive, that is, seeing government as a solution to the problem of inequality. Hence, labor laws, desegregation, women's rights, and so on, have been projects of the Left. Those who opposed these changes, pointing to the effect on traditional institutions, are considered on the Right. For instance,
Bruce Kesler: Extremists of ideologies and of organized religions are of the left.
That statement just doesn't make sense. There are ideologues on the Left and the Right. Many religious extremists are on what is known as the Religious Right. They are reacting to what they see as a breakdown of traditional institutions by secular modernity.
We'll try to reread Bruce Kesler's essay in light of your statement "Government vs. Individual as the two primary nodes". Maybe that will avoid the confusion.
Good discussion guys, exhibiting the difficulty of using almost any terminology to describe large, complex concepts.
Government/Individual does come close but is too narrow, too much later than birth nature, and an example or symptom.
What I repeated seceral times in the essay is control over self and one's environment compared to control over others and their environment, a core nature from birth.
Egalitarianism/Hierarchy is far, far, far stretching and twisting an imposition. Further, they are so impure as to be almost laughable both as nature of newborns or as behavior of adults, as adults using the term are so choosy and spotty about when it is applied esp. depending on their own self-interests. Indeed, their application and results often run contrary to stated goals. Even Zachriel's usual semantic-twists can't make this terminology not slime off the wall.