Well, a certain false dichotomy, that is, specifically the “left-right” political dichotomy of the United States. My primary reason for discussing it right now is in response to some rather vitriolic comments on a recent article on Bracing Views. In the event that I get into another spat with Greg or someone like him, I’ll simply direct that person here, and they can see for themselves what my views are.
Before I begin, I must confess that I too, use the terms “far left” and “far right,” but only in a colloquial sense, in the hopes that people will know what I’m talking about. However, the political compass has two axes (and I argue that it should have three, though I’m not quite sure if the third should be centrality vs. decentrality or something else), so to say that there are only two extremes is false. Below is a rather humourous, over-simplified version that I came up with myself:
As you can see, I am an anarcho-capitalist, and, according to this compass, I’m far-right. However, I’m also a centrist, because I’m exactly halfway between the colloquial far-right and far left. A centrist is simply someone who falls between two extremes, based on the fact they agree with some points on one side, and some points on another. I happen to agree with some of the points that leftists espouse, and some of those that traditional conservatives espouse. I’m also not the most extreme anarcho-capitalist out there, because unlike most of my fellow anarchists, there is a certain level of government that I’m willing to tolerate.
I imagine that Greg, if he decided to check the thread again and click on my pingback, has probably already stopped reading by now. I clearly touched a nerve when I insulted his beloved CNN. Therein lies the problem – extremists aren’t willing to entertain views different from their own, and will believe a lie if it suits them. I could be a self-described leftist and still be “far-right” according to someone like him, depending on how far-left he actually is. Likewise, both major political parties in the United States fall into the upper-right quadrant, and although one is obviously to the right of the other, they are so similar that Noam Chomsky, a socialist, called them “two right wings of the property party.” Both favour big government and big business, and the only real difference between them is that the Democrats seem to prefer government over business, while the Republicans are the other way round. For people like me, who would rather be left alone and be merely allowed to exercise the natural right to self-determination, I’m not a fan of either political party. I will, however, vote for anyone who threatens the current political paradigm, because I enjoy seeing the political establishment in chaos. Perhaps the third axis of the political compass should be “status quo vs. paradigm shift,” especially given the tendency in New England politics to always vote for the incumbent, regardless of who that is, in contrast to the rest of the country having an “it’s not about whom you vote for, but whom you vote against” attitude. Some people are afraid of change, even if they hate their current situation. I’m the opposite, I’m a huge fan of chaos, and I love seeing mighty empires fall far more than I enjoy watching them rise in the first place.
There are multiple ways I could conclude this, but I think I’ve made my point for now. I imagine that there are still people who disagree with me, and I welcome a discussion. Echo chambers are boring.
Edit: I’ve expanded on this subject quite a bit. First, if you are reading this from the archive, I suggesting opening this post separately, so that you can view the comments. Second, I made some additional commentary regarding the original discussion on Hive, which you can view here. Third, I wrote a detailled sequel to this post, and I was far more composed when I did so. Fourth, Jacob Tothe and I have expanded on the third axis of the political compass, and we have agreed that “status quo vs. paradigm shift” is, indeed, a viable option.
2 thoughts on “A Point or Two About False Dichotomies”
I see myself as “progressive,” but what matters are positions/beliefs. So, I’d like to see Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, a green new deal, much more money spent on improving our nation’s infrastructure and much less spent on overseas empire and cataclysmic weaponry, and campaign finance reform, i.e. elections funded only by the public.
Does this make me a “leftist”? A “progressive”? I just think we need a better deal for the working- and middle classes while respecting the environment. We need to prepare for climate change even as we work to end disastrous wars. Again, is this crazy liberal stuff? I don’t think so. I think it’s mostly common sense.
One more thing: We need to end socialism for the rich and dog-eat-dog capitalism for the rest of us. Crazy, right?
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This sort of thinking is the reason that I think the political compass needs a third axis. We’re both on the “paradigm shift” end of that axis. Part of the problem is that we’ve gone way too far down the road that the property party has paved, so we can’t get to where we need to be from here, we need to go back first. Get rid of the corporate subsidies, this way, when bad times hit, the “too big to fail” banks and corporations fall apart, and smaller entities can take their place. Likewise, de-regulate industry that operates below a certain capacity, this way small businesses can afford to operate. This, by the way, is the issue that I take with socialists (not that I’m calling you one, I know better than that) who think that capitalism is the problem. The problem isn’t capitalism per se, though runaway capitalism results in carpetbagging, which creates corporatism, the system we have now. On the opposite end, runaway socialism creates communism, so we need to strike a balance. Just as we need to be vigilant in preserving the separating of church and state, we need a separation of business and state.
As far as the $15 minimum wage, I disagree completely. As minimum wage keeps going up and up, higher-level jobs don’t offer anything more. My first job in industry started out paying me $15 an hour, and less than a year after I started working, I heard the first news about Wal-Mart considering raising its starting wage to $15 an hour. Well, what the hell was I doing with a job that required an engineering degree and a 25-mile commute?! Higher minimum wages serve only to drive inflation and eliminate the middle class.
When it comes to Medicare for all, I’m on the fence about it. I hated Obamacare, because it forced me to buy insurance – which is unconstitutional (government cannot force private citizens to engage in commerce with private businesses), it was money that I would rather put toward buying a house, and my attitude was “why not just dissolve the insurance companies instead of giving them more business, and use the money from their dissolution to fund socialised medicine?” Eliminating the corporate bloat would certainly lower medical costs, but the more I hear about the systems in Canada and Europe, the more I’m starting to think that socialised medicine probably doesn’t work as advertised. Apparently the UK’s NHS is something people either love or hate, there is no middle ground.
When it comes to the environment, I can see the problem clearly, but not a solution. There are too many people on this planet, and the vast majority live in cities – heat-islands of asphalt and concrete that stand where forests once did. I’m a morbid SoB, so I genuinely don’t see a solution other than global genocide. The Black Death brought about a necessary reform to Medieval Europe, and I’m hoping that Corona-chan (the Internet’s pet name for CovID-19) will end up doing something similar. Once the pandemic is gone, we need to focus on sustainability, not more growth. I don’t want the population to recover. We also need to produce things locally as much as possible, not burn tonnes of fuel to import food from California and everything else from China.
I think, at the end of the day, we agree on more points than we disagree, but the labels are bloody divisive. That’s why I make fun of them.