What follows is my longest opinion piece yet.  While I fully expect that anyone who is determined enough to read the whole thing will walk away feeling the need to drive their fist through their computer screen, I did not write such an inflammatory article unprovoked.

America is the land of false dichotomies; “you are either with us, or against us” is an attitude which virtually all ideological camps in this country seem to have.  After spending enough time in the circles of socialists and capitalists, anarchists and statists, I have made very few friends – but tonnes of enemies.  The reason for this is simple: facts don’t matter.  Any factual argument that is used against an ideological position is reflexively conflated with apologetics for the diametrically opposing position.  After spending enough time arguing with both the religious right and the regressive left in spaces run by people who, thankfully, refuse to turn their platforms into echo chambers, I have experienced the use of this refutation firsthand, and sometimes, it’s even used preemptively against me.  I have even seen people preemptively make false assumptions about my naturalistic views based purely on my political leanings, such as the assumption from socialists that I’m a creationist.

Now then, before I continue with this little story of my personal experience online, I need to lay my proverbial cards on the table: I’m not a moderate by any stretch.  Although I share some views with “the right” and some with “the left,” I’m an anarcho-capitalist, or ancap for short.  As I’ve explained in a previous post about idealism vs. pragmatism, ideals aren’t worth dirt.  Any ideology that cannot be practically implemented must be either discarded or revised, to paraphrase Carl Sagan.  While I genuinely believe that anarcho-capitalism is a great goal to move toward (any measure that shrinks government makes me happy), a completely stateless society is impossible to achieve.  My fellow anarchists might be tempted to think that I’m “putting on the minarchist dunce cap” right about now, but my reasoning may surprise you.  I do not believe that the existence of the state is necessary for a functioning society; the state is simply something that will always exist in one form or another, because as long as humans congregate in large groups and form societies, someone is always going to be telling others what to do.  Hierarchies are a natural aspect of a social species – only solitary animals are pure anarchists, which is why ancaps tend to be extremely self-sufficient individuals.  We are an absolutely minuscule minority, however.  As my favourite internet therapy animal, Teal Deer, explains, the belief in the necessity of the state is something that the majority of people agree with, even if that agreement goes no further than that most basic premise.

Assuming that you clicked off and watched the video, that makes for a perfect transition into my discussion of the political compass.  This is a topic that I’ve mentioned before, and I’ve since decided to go into more detail, while at the same time treating it with my usual brand of satire:

Kaja's new political compass

Hopefully, you can read this.  My screen’s resolution is 1920 x 1080, so if yours is lower, the text may not be legible.  In any case, I’ll be going through it little by little, but before I do so, there are six key points to keep in mind.

№ 1 – Left-right is the economic axis, and concerns itself only with material wealth and its redistribution or lack thereof.  Up-down is the societal axis, and concerns itself only with the degree of governance, be it anarchy, democracy, oligarchy, or the various incarnations of monarchy (moving from bottom to top).  There is a wide variety of beliefs that humans can hold which neither axis concerns itself with, despite their commonly-held associations.

№ 2 – Anyone, regardless of where they fall on the political compass, can be a science denier.  While people on “the left” may think themselves enlightened on the subject of science, they can be just as bad, if not worse, than the religious right.  For an in-depth example of this, I would suggest checking out a YouTube channel called King Crocoduck.  KC is a physicist who spends his free time debunking anti-science arguments from all ideologies, and his playlist called “the Science Wars” is a particularly poignant example of how “the left” is just as guilty as “the right.”  Should you choose to do so, however, you should probably start with this video instead.

№ 3 – Anyone, regardless of where they fall on the political compass, can be a bigot.  A communist may claim to see all humans as equal, but if that communist doesn’t see a certain race (or one of the sexes) as human, then what?  What defines “human?” If humans were capable of interbreeding with chimps (a question that NO-ONE wants to know the answer to), then shouldn’t chimps be considered human?  I’m using an exaggerated example, of course, mainly to illustrate the farcical nature of the entire argument.  On the same token, some communists may try to over-compensate, saying that all animals are equal, should have the same rights as people, and bread lines should look like the queue to Noah’s ark.  Since this ties in with veganism, and some people think that cats should be vegan, this point overlaps with science denial.

№ 4 – Anyone, regardless of where they fall on the political compass, can be an atheist.  Despite the fact that I labelled the top right corner “Deus Vult,” a crusader mantra that means “god wills it,” even authoritarian capitalist robber barons can be atheists.  Likewise, authoritarian communists can be theists (they are certainly religious in many respects), and any member of any other group can hold any spiritual belief, or none at all.  In short, there is no direct link between one’s political leanings and one’s spirituality, and any correlations, no matter how statistically significant, don’t actually mean anything.

№ 5 – Anyone, regardless of where they fall on the political compass, can be violent.  Violence is a tool which anyone can use to further an agenda or preserve the status quo.  Violence is far from the ideal tool to use, but sometimes, there are no other options.  If there are other options, however, violence is completely unjustified.  Those who refuse to be rational invite violence from those desperate to get their point across.  Any parent who has had to slap their child in order to get them to listen knows this.

№ 6 – As the text preceded by the asterisk indicates, there is no guarantee that the placement of a certain individual is accurate.  However, I didn’t place any individual based on the ideology they preach, but instead based on the world that individual seems to want to live in, in accordance with their actions.

With that out of the way, I shall tackle the extremes first.

Top row, extreme authoritarianism: “government runs your life, you know nothing, pleb,” and anyone who disagrees gets shot.  Extreme authoritarians believe that truth comes from authority, and therefore, authority is never wrong.  Political correctness is a sure path to authoritarianism, because it is a means of propping up bad ideas with legislation.  The truth does not need the law to protect it, and any idea that needs legal protection cannot stand on its own merit.  It is for this very reason that I vehemently oppose laws that criminalise Holocaust denial.

Bottom row, extreme anarchism: “you get to do anything you want, and if you piss someone off, they get to shoot you,” so learn to get along, or move to the middle of nowhere.  I’m paraphrasing George Carlin’s “infinite rights” line, by the way.  The idea here is that every individual is their own arbiter of justice.  Anarchists believe that you have the right to do anything you want, barring infringing on other people’s rights.  However, that doesn’t afford everyone the right to live in complete comfort.  You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  You do not have the right to never be exposed to uncomfortable situations or offensive ideas.

Left column, pure communism: all material wealth is evenly distributed.  Assuming that there is enough to go around, then everyone lives the same way.  However, if there is a shortage, what happens?  If there isn’t enough food for everyone, does everyone get less, and go undernourished, or do some people starve, while the rest eat normally?  Food, by the way, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with this system of pure economic equality.  Communism is one of those ideas that sounds great, but needs revision in order to be practically implemented.

Right column, pure capitalism: you determine how much material wealth you have, and no-one else.  This means you lose nothing to taxes, but you don’t get anything from the government, either.  Likewise, if you make it big, but then grow complacent after that, you risk losing everything.  Capitalism is a dog-eat-dog economic system, so it should come as no surprise that highly motivated, competitive individuals love it, while much more lax individuals tend to hate it.

Two of the extreme corners are represented in human society, the other two are represented in nature.

Top left, authoritarian communism: everyone is equal.  Well, equally poor that is, under the rule of a dictator who gets whatever he wants.  While Trotskiites and anarcho-communists (ancoms) will insist that authoritarian communism is not real communism, owing to the fact that not everyone is equal as long as there is a dictator, I would posit that, with modern technology, it would be possible to replace a human dictator with artificial intelligence, and all humans would be equally inferior to the Great Machine.  Don’t laugh, Google is already quite close to doing just that.  Likewise, if one looks at the history of actual authoritarian communist regimes, one would see a far greater degree of economic equality than what those societies arose from (the Soviet Union, for all its flaws, had much greater economic equality than the Russian Empire that preceded it, and was more prosperous overall, even under Stalin).

Top right, authoritarian capitalism: everyone has a place, and you effectively own those underneath you, while also being a slave to those with more money.  Feudalism is probably the best example of this system, since nobles owned their land and the people who lived on it.  Likewise, land was frequently given to lower-ranking nobles by kings, who then had virtually limitless power over them, as long as they had the means to enforce it.  The only reason that feudalism was at all stable was simply because nobles had their own armies, and without an army larger than his own royal guard, the king had no means to be a tyrant without getting the nobles to do his bidding.  Historically, such class systems have usually been justified via religious means, but even in a society without a deeply entrenched religion, a system very much like feudalism could still exist.

Bottom right, anarcho-capitalism: most of nature is like this.  There are no rules, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, those who do well for themselves get to reproduce, and those who do poorly, either from bad decisions or just bad luck, die off.  Nature is red in tooth and claw, as Charles Darwin lamented.  However, social Darwinism, or the “survival of the fittest” mentality that dominated the Gilded Age, is actually a grievous perversion of this idea.  No species or individual is inherently superior to another, it is simply the most adaptable organisms that proliferate and are most likely to survive hard times.  While certain physical traits may prove advantageous in a wider variety of situations than others, it is ultimately intelligence that is the best indicator of adaptability.

Bottom left, anarcho-communism: eusocial insects are like this.  There are no rules, instead they have a hive mind.  Cohesion in an ant colony or beehive is far greater than any human community is capable of.  Then again, I should probably point out that, aside from the drones that breed with the queen, all members of a eusocial insect colony are sisters.  Their biochemistry, which drives their neurophysiology and, by extension, psychology, is vastly different from most other organisms.  The only tetrapods that even come close to the behaviour of eusocial insects are naked mole-rats.

Now then, let’s define some moderate terms, just so that we’re all on the same page.  I will also be providing some commentary on each of these.

Socialism: upper-left of centre (“labour union with delusions of grandeur”).  Socialism is a system of incomplete wealth distribution that addresses the main flaw of communism I brought up.  Under the Soviet system, it was best described as “he who does not work, does not eat,” to over-simplify a quote by Vladimir Lenin.  Modern socialism is typically not as in-your-face about it, for the simple reason that Russia (a country known for being rather blunt) isn’t socialist anymore, and most modern socialists like to hold up Scandinavia as a shining example of socialism, never mind the fact that no Scandinavian country is technically socialist.  On paper, the key means of production, as well as infrastructure, is all either “publically owned” (i.e. government property), or directly administered by the state, subsidised through taxes, and heavily regulated.  While most modern nations do this to some extent, if the economy is still supported by a free market, the country isn’t socialist.

Libertarian socialism: lower-left of centre (“likes free stuff but afraid of police”).  This is something of an oxymoron, because a centrally-planned economy, by necessity, requires an authoritarian government.  If the key means of production are to be controlled by the government, rather than by private corporations, then the government must be larger than it would need to be in a capitalist country.  However, this doesn’t stop many people from preaching the benefits of socialism while also demanding smaller government.  Then again, compared to Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, most of Europe was fairly libertarian (while also being socialist) until quite recently, so the label of “libertarian socialist” may require context.

Classical liberalism or true libertarianism: lower-right of centre (“get off my lawn”).  This is a society with just enough government to provide basic services, a tax rate that is just high enough to facilitate that, very little regulation on businesses, no corporate subsidies, and no moral policing.  This is notably different from what the Libertarian Party has since turned into, as I will discuss in a moment.

Neoliberalism: a democratic system that favours centralised government and a regulated market that favours multinational corporations, with an emphasis on the former.  This is the position of the Democratic Party.

Neoconservatism: a democratic system that favours centralised government and a regulated market that favours multinational corporations, with an emphasis on the latter.  This is the position of the Republican Party.

The reasons for the other labels will become apparent as I discuss the individuals who occupy those squares.  In the interest of logic, I’m going to jump around the list in my legend.

Benito Mussolini, represented by the Italian Fascist Eagle: once a self-identified socialist, Mussolini came to the realisation that socialism doesn’t work as advertised, and certainly can’t be a decentralised, mutually cooperative economic system in order to work.  In order to work, a police state must be implemented, and the means of production must be subordinated to the public good, even if the workers themselves do not “own” it.  Mussolini, a former journalist, was an excellent writer, and detailled his reasoning behind his economic reforms quite well in his autobiography, which I would encourage you to read if you think that fascism is “right-wing.”

Adolf Hitler, represented by the Nazi flag: effectively Mussolini’s protege, Hitler joined the National Socialist Worker’s Party of Germany and began implementing many of Mussolini’s same reforms in Germany.  Hitler considered himself a man of the people, and his vocal condemnation of minorities made him extremely popular (says something about Germans, doesn’t it?), while at the same time promising Germany’s return to greatness after the embarrassment that was the Treaty of Versailles, the rest of the world be damned.  Hitler also hated the aristocracy, and placated them only to the extent that he needed to (the feeling was mutual, by the way, as many old German military officers from noble families were especially resentful toward the SS).  Furthermore, under his rule, Nazi Germany became the first country in the world to mandate paid vacation for workers.  If you support mandatory paid vacation, then you are a Nazi.  If you didn’t get that joke, go watch Teal Deer’s video that I linked to earlier.  Oh, one last thing: Hitler was a vegetarian… just putting that out there.

George Soros, represented by a drop of blood emblazoned with the Euro symbol: one of the most frightening sociopaths to ever live, Soros aided the SS in his native country of Hungary, and later bragged about it, saying “I had a great time.”  For this reason, he is banned from Hungary along with five other countries, including Israel (and Russia, I’m happy to say).  The only reason that the Israeli government hasn’t prosecuted Soros for war crimes is because he is Jewish himself.  He is also a billionaire with his fingers in many pies, and clearly wants to destabilise western society and replace it with his own vision of utopia.  Where he stands economically is difficult to say, since he funds communist groups almost exclusively, and without knowing exactly what kind of world he wants to live in, I can’t say for certain whether he is left or right of centre.  His actions put him somewhere in the middle, and he is clearly an extreme authoritarian, as he has repeatedly condemned big tech companies, such as FaceBook, for not being censorious enough.  Perhaps you now understand why I chose to represent him the way I did.

Antifa, represented by their own red flag / black flag logo: let’s see, a mob of disenfranchised left-leaning young people, many with liberal arts educations, latching on to every protest they can find and using that as an excuse to riot and loot all while wearing BLACK SHIRTS, now where have I seen this before?  Antifa, in case you didn’t know, stands for “anti-fascist,” so I hope that the irony is not lost on you that they behave exactly like the Italian Fascist Party before it got into power.  As I’m typing this, Antifa has just shown up to yet another protest that has nothing to do with them, and begun rioting and looting.  President Trump wants to call it a terrorist organisation, which many oppose, despite the fact that several U.S. states already did so years ago.  Now then, I placed Antifa at the far left, but only slightly below centre, because the organisation actually does have a hierarchy.  What’s interesting is that many of the organisation’s members, including its leaders, have declared themselves to be ancoms, but are the products of fabulous wealth and have never had to work a day in their lives.  In short, they are a bunch of spoiled children who think that their anarchism today will give rise to totalitarian communism tomorrow, and they will be the commissars of the new order.

Former inmate № 06452-017, represented by a cartoon dinosaur wearing sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt: I’ve casually mentioned before why I won’t mention this guy by name.  I made an exception in the graphic, because that won’t show up in a Google search result the way that the body text of my article will.  For those of you who don’t know, 06452-017 is an evangelical Christian minister who was imprisoned for tax fraud, after being convicted of 45 counts of cash structuring and 13 other charges.  A minister who was convicted of tax fraud, and not wrongfully… let that sink in for a moment.  Anyway, he has gone on record stating that democracy is the worst form of government, and unlike Winston Churchill, he was being completely serious when he said it.  06452-017 has also made use of many an anarchist slogan, even declaring himself to be a “sovereign citizen,” and thus exempt from the laws of whatever jurisdiction in which he resides.  He has even used his own theology to justify living in such a way as to flout biblical law and do whatever he wants, inadvertently admitting that he is a sociopath in the process, as highly religious individuals tend to be.  However, the fact that 06452-017 has also advocated for the creation of a Christian theocracy, one in which homosexuality is punishable by death, while ruling over his 140-acre cult compound with an iron fist, makes it quite clear that he is an extreme authoritarian.  The only reason that he’s not at the corner itself is because he could be a lot worse.

Donald Trump, represented by a pig: contrary to what his detractors like to say about him, Trump is not a one-dimensional Saturday morning cartoon villain.  Trump is a certainly a narcissist, and nearly everything that he does for the benefit of others is simply to get those people to either vote for him or give him money, but he is far from the worst president that the U.S. has ever had (I say that Woodrow Wilson was, but that’s a rant for another time).  However, while I can’t say what it’s like to live or even work with him, remember that his placement isn’t based on the life the man lives, but on the type of world he wants to live in.  Trump hasn’t really changed a whole lot that’s relevant to the political compass, and is about halfway between the two major American political parties.  He has cut taxes for everyone, including the little people like me, but much like Washington, he cares more for big business (“great companies, worth billions and billions of dollars”) than for small business, other than journalists (he is a big fan of OAN, which is tiny compared to CNN or Fox).  Trump has also suggested knee-jerk gun control measures, but the NRA has managed to get him to back off and not go through with the ridiculous measures that he sometimes tweets about.  While Trump would like very much to run Washington the way he runs his own businesses, he has also decided that certain things need to be handled by the states, not the federal government.  He may be an authoritarian in his own house, but he doesn’t seem to care about micromanaging the entire country, to his credit.

The Libertarian Party, represented by a porcupine: you didn’t even know what the symbol of the Libertarian Party was, did you?  Anyway, this party used to be the party of classical liberalism, until it got big enough that caught the attention of the Koch brothers, a pair of evangelical conservatives (evangelocons).  The Libertarians started the TEA party, which stands for “taxed enough already,” by holding literal tea parties at state capitols to protest cartoonish levels of government spending.  Once the evangelocons got involved, however, the party became much more authoritarian, and is now on par with the Republicans in many respects.  The party now wants to get government out of the boardroom and into the bedroom, while true libertarians believe that the government has no place in either.  The Libertarian Party is basically defunct at this point, with most of its former members jumping on the Trump bandwagon as a retaliatory measure, since Trump doesn’t particularly care for evangelocons either (he’s a New Yorker, after all), he just sees them as incredibly useful.

The Modern Whig Party, represented by an owl: this party is about as centrist as you can get.  The Whigs are much less authoritarian than either major political party, and also farther to the left, while still technically being capitalist.  From what I know of them, they seem to want to adopt a Scandinavian-style economic system, including doing away with much of the heavy-handed regulations that have made it incredibly difficult to operate a small business in America (compared to Denmark, for instance).  Their proposals for higher taxes don’t make them popular with voters, and their promise to end corporate subsidies doesn’t make them popular with potential donors, so the Whigs probably won’t win any elections any time soon.

Teenage Me, represented by a warped version of my sigil that fits inside a circle: I put myself in the square titled “Stalin did nothing wrong,” enough said.

Adult Me, represented by my sigil as you see it everywhere: truth be told, I’ve always been way too independent, resourceful, and free-thinking to be a good communist.  I live in a rural area, I grow my own food, I build my own gadgets, I need very little help, and I’m happiest when I’m left alone and I don’t have to worry about getting distracted.  There is also a certain amount of government that I’m willing to tolerate, which is why I’m not sitting right at the lower right corner.  For the record, I’ve never actually bought toilet paper with Bitcoin, but I am the type who would.

I decided to write this opinion piece as yet another article that I can simply reference whenever I get into another one of these ideological arguments.  I imagine that very few people have read up to this point, since most overly-emotional ideologues want simple answers to their problems, and would rather indulge in philosophies that can fit on a bumper sticker, instead of engaging in serious discussion to critically examine not only their perceived opponents’ ideas, but also their own.  I know this because virtually everyone I’ve engaged with thus far has considered actually reading what I write to be a waste of time, for one reason or another.  While I would love to be able to simplify my viewpoints to the extent that they could fit on a bumper sticker, I don’t think that’s possible.  Furthermore, as a former student of science (I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that I initially chose to major in chemistry before switching to industrial engineering), I find that a position’s validity is best assessed by empiricism, in other words, real-world examples of its application with no consideration for those who implemented it.  My views are informed by observation of the real world, which is the main reason that I’m no longer a communist.  The scientific method is the process of gathering data and drawing a conclusion from it.  The ideological method, sometimes called the creationist method, is the process of starting with a conclusion, then looking for facts that support that position, while ignoring, dismissing, or twisting any fact that might debunk it.  You may recognise this process as the logical fallacy known as cherry-picking, or as I like to call it, “painting bulls-eyes around arrows.”  Strangely enough, I have noticed that, not only do ideologues on “the left” and “the right” use the same method, their predetermined conclusions are remarkably similar.  One that especially jumped out at me was the idea that “nature is inherently good, and only man is capable of evil.”  Creationist epistemology uses the story of man’s original sin to prop up this notion, making the claim that the world was a veritable paradise for all organisms before man sinned (well, woman supposedly sinned first, which is just one of the many points they use to justify rampant, unrepentant sexism).  Communist epistemology, on the other hand, uses the history of bourgeois abuse, notably selective breeding, to claim that the bourgeoisie has deliberately corrupted nature, and that nature was originally good (i.e. adherent to communist ideals).  They are both wrong, as nature is not “good,” but neither is it evil.  Nature is amoral (not immoral, there is a big difference), and acts without intent.  Were nature moral, according to the law of objective morality (not absolute morality, there is a big difference there too), then neither parasitism nor predation would exist.  The factual claims of both creationists and communists (false facts are still facts – a fact is just a point of data) are relatively easy to debunk.  It can be demonstrated that natural selection occurs, that evolution happens, and that organisms do not share with each other when resources are scarce.  Yes, I just lumped creationists and communists into the same boat.  Screech all you want, call me a “horse-shoe theorist,” but unless you can prove that anything I just said is false, all you have is an opinion, not an argument.  Likewise, the claim that Nazis were “not real Christians” is just as invalid as the claim that they were “not real socialists.”  No-one wants to be associated with the Nazis, but without clearly defined terms that allow one to objectively exclude Nazis from either category, both Christians and socialists will be stuck sharing their ideologies with the single most reviled political movement in western history.

I think I’ll end with my most important point: in order to properly understand an ideology that you’ve been taught to despise, you must read its doctrine first.  Reading the doctrine does not automatically mean that you will endorse it, and anyone who suggests that you will “fall for it” is insulting your intelligence.  I’ve read the bible (nope, still not capitalising), several times and in multiple languages, but I was never a Christian.  I’ve read the Communist Manifesto, but I’m not a communist (anymore).  I’ve read Mein Kampf, and it didn’t turn me into a Nazi.  Leon Trotsky’s books are all on my reading list, and I doubt I’ll turn back to communism after reading them.  This is why I encourage people to read Mussolini’s autobiography, along with all of these other books (yes, even the bible).  On a similar note, to anyone who thinks that things were any better in Tsarist Russia than the Soviet Union, read literally anything by Fëdor Dostoevskiy.  Seriously, books are great, they should be read, not burned, even if the ideas contained within you find repugnant.  There can be no discussion about them otherwise.

 

One thought on “Another Point About False Dichotomies: Reality Denial Knows no Ideological Bounds

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