Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Continuum, pt. 1

First, let’s iron out some terminology. There are people in this country whom I consider mortal enemies of myself and those who think like I do. Such mortal enmity – and I use the term “mortal” deliberately because it will, if left unchecked, lead to murder – must be addressed at the highest possible level of thinking and expression. Not to say that my thinking and expression are the highest level attainable, rather that this will be the highest level of which I’m capable. Words mean things. Words control how we think and how we organize things in our heads. (I was using the phrase “words mean things” 20 years before Rush used it, and I got it from Leonard Piekoff.)

A political science class I took at UNM several years ago (early 80’s) attempted to find effective labels for the different political ideas. The textbook posited that liberals wanted change and conservatives wanted the status quo. That won’t work, though, because it doesn’t take into account the situation in which they exist. If they live in liberty, this theory says the liberal wants to move away from it and the conservative wants to remain in it. On the other hand, if they live in tyranny, the liberal wants to move away and the conservative wants to stay.. This simple contradiction makes the theory unusable. The liberal of one generation would be the conservative of the next.

When I brought that up, the professor said that maybe liberals want very rapid change, and conservatives want slower change. Well, that didn’t do anything for me, either, because it left unanswered the same question – what sort of change do they want? At this point, he dropped the subject of change and said that liberals wanted less government and conservatives wanted more, to which I blew a big raspberry, as even back in those days, people calling themselves conservatives were howling for smaller and less government, and people calling themselves liberals were regulating everything under the sun.

Okay, he said, liberals are on the left and conservatives are on the right.

Huh, said I. What the hell does that mean? He said people on the left want less government and more freedom, and people on the right want more government and less freedom. I couldn’t believe this clown was a tenured professor and couldn’t see the hole in his arguments. He couldn’t define liberal in any meaningful way, so he substituted the term left for liberal, and used the same lame non-definition, and got huffy when I shot it to pieces.

During all this, the class was chiming in occasionally. I heard that conservatives were old and liberals were young, that conservatives were for the rich and liberals were for the poor. The guy with the shaved head said conservatives were Christians and liberals were Jews. I heard that liberals were for socialism and conservatives were for dictatorship. I mentioned the national socialists, but not one person in the class recognized the Nazi party by that name.

At this point, I started working on finding definitions of political thought that would hold enough water for me to work with them. It was years before I did. A former US Congressman from Ohio, Bob McKewen, nailed it. I saw Bob speak on stage in Salt Lake City in the mid-90’s. I sure hope he doesn’t mind my using his idea, but it is the only thing that has ever made sense to me. In the spring of 2009, I saw Glenn Beck develop the same model on his TV show, but he didn’t credit Bob. Maybe Glenn came up with it on his own. After all, when you look at it, it’s bloody obvious!

In the whole history of human politics, there have been but two major ideas. First is the idea that people ought to be free to do whatever they want. Second is the idea that someone else ought to control them, and they should be allowed to do only what their masters command. At the extreme of the second idea we find total, absolute despotism. Most people will tell you that at the extreme of the first idea, we find total anarchy, but that is not correct. I’ll get into that, but for now, I’ll use the fact that there are two extremes. There is a continuum between these two extremes, and all political philosophy exists somewhere on that continuum. If we think in terms of liberty or tyranny, it eliminates pointless argument and semantic hairsplitting. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll call people on the tyranny end “statists,” because they believe in the ultimate power and rectitude of the state. (And no, I don’t mean New Mexico, Texas, Vermont, etc..) People on the other end will be called “individualists,” because they believe in the right of the individual to be free.

When I say I detest Democrats, liberals, and the new left, most people assume that I must love Republicans, conservatives, and the right. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hate the former is because they are ‘way down toward the tyranny end of the line. I hate most of the latter for the same reason. For example, in the recent presidential campaign, you couldn’t spit on the difference between John McCain and Barack Obama. Obama started off bragging about how he was going to gut American liberty, and McCain, rather than offering a different principle, offered a different level of gutting.

So where does most political debate in the world occur? On the statist side of center. If you started at the statist end of the line and walked toward center, the first people you’d see might be the Mullahs in the despotic theocracies of Africa and the Middle East. Then you’d encounter the two-bit punks and bullies like Idi Amin and Papa Doc Devaulier. Then you’d hit Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, the Bolsheviks, Chicoms, and Soviets, all clustered together, and right after that, snuggled up against them, you’d find the likes of Barack Obama and Lincoln. (Though if blood shed in pursuit of tyranny were a qualifer, you’d have to put Lincoln on the statist side of any other American.) A few steps more and you’d be all over John McCain, and a few steps further you’d find the Bushes, John Kennedy, and sundry American personalities. Ronald Reagan would be one of the last you’d see, but when you walked out of that crowd, you’d have a clear and unpopulated view of the center of the continuum, still a long way ahead of you.

There hasn’t been a real freedom-loving and –respecting leader in the White House in many, many years. Reagan was the closest, but if you look closely at his philosophy, he didn’t advocate freedom for the sake of the individual human being; he advocated freedom because it would allow more people to make more money and thereby pay more taxes, to enable more government programs. This is basically the position of American slavery apologists – that slavery was made moral because humanely-treated slaves would produce more, so the masters would take good care of their slaves out of self-interest. And even so, Reagan was much further from tyranny than his Republican descendants.

The current crop of Democrats are more statist than any elected officials in American history, including the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The current crop of Republicans is about one short spit away from them. A few, like Tancredo and Romney may be a little further, but I have never heard a Republican refute statism by saying human beings ought to live free.

So, instead of saying I detest Democrats or liberals, I say I detest statists. That not only allows me to conceptually combine big government-loving Republicans with their Democrat soul mates, it also answers those who assume that because I detest Obama I must love McCain. I’ve met perhaps a half-dozen people who knew what a statist is, so the term is guaranteed to start conversation, which is a good thing. Several people to whom I’ve explained this model have been delighted to have found a way to express what they believe. They’d been stuck for so long in the position of letting the statists and their lapdog media define the terms of the debate they didn’t realize anything else was possible. It breaks my heart to hear reasonably intelligent people say they don’t care about politics because there’s no difference between the two sides – as if we were forever and unalterably stuck with the present situation, which isn’t two sides, at all!

We have been offered a false choice – between tyranny of the Democrats or tyranny of the Republicans. The two parties have cast themselves as opposites, which is patently absurd. If one end of the continuum is absolute dictatorship, what is the other end? The popular answer is that it is anarchy. After all if dictatorship is too much government, the opposite ought to be no government, at all, right?

Sic Semper Tyrannis

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