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Saturday Politics Thread: Political Potpourri [Y-not] | Main | A 2008 Presidential Candidate Makes The Case Against An Iranian Nuclear Program [CBD]
April 11, 2015

Fundamental Concepts – Me vs We [Weirddave]

Lets take a moment to consider political labels. All too often, they are used as simple pejoratives, not the least by me. If we're talking and I tell you “You're so progressive!”, chances are it isn't a complement. Progressive, Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian, Communist, Fascist, Totalitarian, Royalist (haven't heard that one in a while), Maoist, Theocratic...each one of these terms has a specific meaning, but how do they all fit together in the big picture?

It's really not that hard, if you just visualize a continuum. On the far left you put the label “Collectivist”. On the far right, “Individualist”. Alternately you could label the right side “Freedom” and the left side “Order”. Or “Liberty” and “Control”. Once we have constructed this graph, what does it tell us?

Well, the first thing it does is give us a handy way to slot how various philosophies relate to one another. Reaching into our political hat (please don't reach into The Political Hat, no matter what sock he's posting under. He's a human being, reaching into him would be bloody) we pull out Communism and Democracy. Since Communism is collectivist by definition, it goes to the left of Democracy. Draw another philosophy: Anarchy. That goes all the way to the right. Socialism. Since Socialism is a transitional system from Democracy to Communism, it goes to the left of Democracy and to the right of Communism. Fascism. Just barely to the right of Communism (and only because it at least allows the illusion of private enterprise, making it a tiny bit less collectivist.) and left of Socialism. And so on. Once everything is in it's place, what use is it?

Well, the first thing about our graph is that it is useful for dispelling common misconceptions. Fascism isn't in any sense a “right wing” philosophy. Calling someone who favors the limited government of a Republic(right of Democracy, left of Anarchy) “Fascist” makes as much sense as a bunch of self proclaimed Anarchists (They're not, they're Marxists who believe that humans will magically stop being human once they've overthrown The Man.) wearing the mask of someone who fought for a Theocratic Monarchy (to the right of Socialism, left of Democracy). Second, it tells you in a nutshell what each political philosophy priorities, Socialists prize control over liberty, Anarchists freedom over order. Where this graph really becomes useful, however, is when you superimpose political movements onto it.

If the graph is static, representing how different political systems relate to each other, political movements put it into motion, allowing us to see where we're going. What the graph does is give us a handy method of figuring out where we are so we can see what direction everyone wants us to go.

Right now, the US sits between Socialism and Republic (sadly closer to the former). Since it was founded as a Republic, and Conservatives want to conserve that, we are a right wing political movement. Progressives, on the other hand, are all advocating for some flavor of Communism/Socialism/Fascism, which makes them a left wing movement. Context is everything, if we were a Communist country Socialists would be right wing, if we were an Anarchy, Republicans (not the party, the philosophy) would be radical left wingers. Consider the American Revolution. We were a Monarchy, the Founding Fathers were radical right because they wanted to establish a Republic. The conservatives at the time were left wing, they wanted to conserve the Monarchy. If George Washington had been Karl Marx, he would have been radical left and the conservatives right wing.

Confused yet? I don't blame you, this isn't how a lot of these terms are traditionally defined. This is just how I keep things straight in my head. Labels can be intentionally misleading, as we've seen with regards to Fascism. Occupy is another example, they call themselves Anarcho-syndicalists, but their philosophy is collectivist, which puts them at the far left, no matter how hard they may try to don the mantle of "Anarchy".

All of this is based upon my belief that the most important difference between political philosophies is to which degree they seek to control the individual. That's it, the whole enchilada. Everything else is just bunting and flags, bells and whistles. I need to know two things about anyone's political system; Does it prioritize human freedom, or human coercion? Once I know that, which direction is it going compared to where we are now? That's it. Tell me those two things and I can tell you if I want to be on your side, or if I'll oppose you.


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posted by Open Blogger at 10:21 AM

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