Thursday, October 28, 2010

Left, right, up, down...

(This one has been percolating for over a month; I started writing it a few weeks ago, and couldn't get any traction, so to speak.  I think it finally came together)

From the Foreword to The Black Book of Communism:
In the twentieth century, however, morality is not primarily a matter of eternal verities or transcendental imperatives.  It is above all a matter of political allegiances.  That is, it is a matter of left versus right, roughly defined as the priority of compassionate egalitarianism for the one, and as the primacy of prudential order for the other.  Yet since neither principle can be applied absolutely without destroying society, the modern world lives in perpetual tension between the irresistible pressure for equality and the functional necessity of hierarchy.  {Emphasis added--DWD}
Keep in mind that The Black Book was written by a bunch of (mostly French) communists who were compelled to make the first attempt at the full reporting of the crimes committed in the name of Communism world-wide.

So maybe this is the problem:  Unless you define "compassionate egalitarianism" as "Equality under the law", "Equality of opportunity", and "The right to the fruits of your own labor", it--that is "compassionate egalitarianism"--pretty much demands some sort of "prudential order" to force the hard working and productive to support those won't work for themselves.

Not "can't", "won't".   And "force", not "encourage to be charitable."

The further problem with that definition of "Left v. Right" is that, in America today, the spectrum is clearly between Individualism and Statism.  In this case, Statism defines (or rationalizes) itself, wouldn't you know, as forcing the hard working and productive to support those "less fortunate"--or energetic, or responsible--than themselves.  It also manifests itself by such prudential-order-enhancing measures as shutting down a kid's lemonade stand, fining a man who grows too many vegetables in his own yard, ticketing stores and restaurants for salt or trans-fats, banning sugary beverages, taking happy snaps at intersections, and restricting when, where, and how you may defend yourself.

If you wish to substitute "Tea Party-ism" for "Individualism", go right ahead, as long as you also substitute the following for Statism:  Obama-ism, Liberalism, Progressivism, Fascism, Socialism, Communism, Labor Unionism, and/or The Democratic Party.

SF writer (among other things) Jerry Pournelle has devised a chart on two axes that I think defines the socio-political landscape well.  That chart, and other attempts, are discussed here.
Oddly enough, the day I started writing this, Zombie posted a, er, post, on a similar subject: (The Electric Tea Party Acid Test: memo to America’s hippies.)

Some (possibly) related items:
Found in my Quote Of The Day feed:
One of the joys we have in being human is in exercising our freedom to choose and to take each case as it comes to us. We are not robots who are forced into behaviors by their programming. We see things; we think about things; and we choose our course of action or beliefs appropriately. And as long as that remains true of us, we will live every day of our lives on one slippery slope or another. There is no reason to fear this.
Real Live PreacherReal Live Preacher weblog, 03-23-06
Anonymous author of RealLivePreacher.com
SayUncle:  QOTD.
The Smallest Minority thread that QOTD was in.

Another Smallest Minority post.  I thought Kevin's place was where I saw someone observing that even if you graph socio-political philosophies on two axes--X & Y, that is--once you plot most positions, the strongest trends will still be a diagonal line running from "Negative X" to "Positive Y", or vice versa, but I didn't see it.

2 comments:

DirtCrashr said...

I don't like how Pournelle's chart has Conservatives clustered with Fascists and Nazis - but I recognize that as 1965 Liberalthink of which he was a part. Also think that the "Smallest Quiz" should differentiate less between Big Gov and Left-Liberal - they are more along the same axis, in a Venn Diagram they would overlap considerably.
I like and think the Zombie chart is more accurate and better.
Growing up I was confused about the true nature of Conservatism, and following the conventional, local wisdom of a typical left-leaning liberal BayAryan, I believed Conservatism was linked to Fascism - my axis was totally skewed for a long time, until I finally admitted the truth of my own nature - that I was an individualist not a collectivist.

D.W. Drang said...

A third problem is definition of terms--how do you characterize2 "liberal" and "conservative" thought. Professor Hayek noted in an appendix to The Fatal Conceit in '88 that the American and European definitions, or characterizations, of the terms were almost 180 degrees apart.
(Another excerpt from The Fatal Conceit)