The Political Dial
George Orwell did not intend to write an instruction manual!
Understanding our world requires understanding the politics and political movements around us. There are many sources of political discussion in our modern media, but it seems more to obfuscate than educate. Whether you watch MSNBC, Fox News, or PBS, you do not get the straight story.
I have written articles in the past wherein I describe the origins of our modern political stage. In "Experiments in Government," I describe the various forms of government that have been tried in this country, from the earliest communal government of William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, through the multiple swings "left" and "Right" until the modern-day. In my second thesis, "Are Democrats Socialist?" I look more closely at the men who have governed our country and their political leanings, from the "Articles of Confederation" under Thomas Jefferson until modern times, with attention to significant movements along the way from the rise of Keynesian economics to the Tea Party. My third article, titled "Enlightenment," discusses the growth of political thought thru the Age of Reason, Romanticism, and Utopianism.
I hope the reader finds these earlier efforts useful. Our goal now becomes structuring the ideas these contain into a cohesive presentation of political philosophy.
"Left" vs. "Right" Paradigm.
Our political landscape today is said to be split between the political "Right" and the political "Left," but these terms seem nebulous and poorly defined. For example, many describe the left as leaning more toward "progressive" and socialist as a general philosophy, whereas the right is "conservative" and capitalist. But, again, these terms often seem ill-defined and seem to mean different things to different people.
Many prominent people unabashedly claim to be unapologetic Socialists. I remember experiencing a degree of shock when actor Patrick Stewart, known far and wide as the Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek Next Generation, stated that he was a proud Socialist in a TV Guide interview. He is far from alone. Yet he seems like a genuinely wonderful person, far different than the fire-breathing ogre that some portray as the true nature of the Socialist.
Those who share the viewpoint of the otherwise well-respected Mr. Stewart look upon the other side as some sub-human species—bible-thumping hide-bound religious types who are anti-everything, especially sex and science. Yet many so-called "conservatives" actually seem to be amicable, very decent people.
If I may be so bold, allow me to suggest that perhaps the problem is not the conservatives and the progressives. Maybe they have more in common than either realizes, and the problem is not left vs. right, instead, a very different sort of division.
Reagan Said it Succinctly.
Long before he was President, before he was even Governor of California, in 1964, Ronald Reagan was cutting his political teeth by giving stump speeches for the then Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. In one particularly effective speech, he spoke these memorable words:
"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of Totalitarianism."
Others have stated similar ideas, but we have precisely named the true nature of the divide in these succinct words. Our political divide is not really between those who prefer Socialism over Capitalism or vice versa or those who prefer atheism over religion. Or any of the other dozens of philosophical constructs we are asked to chose between.
Anarchy or Freedom?
When we are very young, we are ignorant, and it is the responsibility of our parents to teach us about the world. In the beginning, we are totally dependent on them. As we grow and learn and become mature enough to make our own decisions, we begin to resist our parents' control over our lives and our choices. We want to stay out late on a school night and become frustrated and angry when our parents deny us. Eventually, there becomes a point where we escape our parents' control and must make decisions for ourselves. We become our own private little Anarchy, where we and we alone chose our actions. With this freedom comes the responsibility of choosing wisely.
We learn to impose on ourselves the same controls previously imposed by our parents, but we also know we have the freedom to modify those controls and know we must accept the responsibility should we choose unwisely.
Freedom, then, is personal Anarchy with the self-imposed constraints of personal responsibility.
Our parents stand by, watching us make our mistakes, anguishing over our unwise choices, fighting the urge to step in and control us when we make foolish choices.
This is then, in miniature, the political struggle we deal with in the larger world, except that as adults, those who would step in and take control of our lives and save us from our bad decisions are no longer our loving parents. Instead, our would-be tyrants are confident that they are the most brilliant, most intelligent, and most moral people on the planet, that if only the rest of the world followed their dictates, we would have a Utopia. Of course, they are usually not evil people, but they are self-anointed vessels of wisdom, more intelligent than we, and our proper masters who would make our lives so much better if only we would let them—or, as Thomas Sowell titled his book, "The Vision of the Anointed."
We begin as children, ignorant, uneducated, incapable of anything. Along the pathway from child to adult, we become "educated." It is in our nature that we begin to feel that we know almost everything at some point along this journey. Usually, we are very knowledgeable yet very immature. We are also arrogant, hubristic, and condescending of those we consider our inferiors.
An ancient joke suggests that when hiring an employee, one should hire a teenager while they still know everything!
While in this stage of growth, we become convinced of our abilities; we are intelligent, talented, and can do anything. Therefore, we are automatically the smartest person in any room.
As we mature further, we often discover we were somewhat mistaken; we are not the brightest, most talented, or the most beautiful—a humbling experience. But, unfortunately, some never reach this stage. Instead, convinced of their infallibility, some go into politics to bring their unbounded wisdom to better the lives of their inferiors.
The struggle we face then is not a philosophical divide between opposing ideas of Capitalism, Socialism, or even Corporatism. It is not a conflict between different religions or even religions and atheism. It is simply a struggle between those who have anointed themselves as our betters and those of us who prefer to manage on our own!
The Founding Fathers
The men who founded the United States were highly educated and wise men. They understood history; they understood human nature. They had studied the rise and fall of civilizations predating our own and sought to create a system that would endure. They sought to create a system whereby personal freedom was paramount and the heavy hand of government was minimal.
Thomas Jefferson is often erroneously quoted as saying, "That government is best which governs least." The founders all had slightly different ideas on how best to accomplish their goals. The first attempt at a Constitution was the Articles of Confederation. It was completed November 15, 1777, and took over three years for all the states to vote and ratify it. A minimalist sort of constitution; it resided on our line relatively close to the endpoint where Anarchy lives.
It was undoubtedly a good first attempt, but it soon became evident that it was positioned a little too close to Anarchy. In addition, although the founders wanted a minimal government, this was a bit too minimal.
They met again, and in eight years, delivered another document, addressing the weaknesses of the Articles and dragging things just a bit further away from Anarchy.
This new document nearly did the trick, but things still needed a tweak. So some changes were proposed, and one, in particular, nudged the whole body back just a smidgen toward the home of Anarchy, placing ultimate control in the hands of the individual states. This change became known as the 10th Amendment and was ratified on December 15, 1791.
A quick search of the Internet reveals a zillion different images trying to explain the political landscape. Most of them have good points to make but fall short of breaking the left / right paradigm. Instead of a line depicting left to right, let's visualize a dial, much like an old-fashioned analog volume knob. The bottom of the dial represents Reagan's 'ant heap' where Tyranny keeps company with Anarchy, while the top half of the dial represents various degrees of freedom. The path to freedom can traverse either the extreme left or the extreme right ideologies via Anarchy or Totalitarianism. The graphic illustrates this paradigm.
On one end of the dial, we find Tyranny! The authoritarian figure who looks over our lives and dictates when we eat and drink, how much, and what we wear tells us every jot and tittle, every action we are allowed to take. At the end of the dial where Tyranny resides, we are newborn infants, our every thought and action controlled by those awful tyrants, our loving parents, or perhaps those self-anointed guardians prepared to take the role.
On the other end of the line, we place Anarchy. When we stand beside Anarchy, we stand alone. We have complete freedom, total responsibility and can do anything we wish, and no one is there to stop us or judge us. Or help us.
A solitary person can tolerate Anarchy, but as soon as one human becomes stronger, the stronger naturally dominates the weaker. Bullies steal the lunch money of those unable to resist. Women have little recourse but to submit to rape. Weapons can be an equalizer, but that leads to violence and death.
The dial encompasses 360 degrees, from pin one to 93 in our illustration. Therefore, we divide the circle into four 90 degree quadrants. The four quadrants are:
(1) Impractical Anarchy,
(2) Jeffersonian Democracy,
(3) Hamiltonian Fascism,
Notice how the higher one goes toward the top, the more one approaches freedom, and how Anarchy and Totalitarianism are so close together at the bottom. The upper half of the graphic represents varying degrees and forms of freedom, while the bottom half takes us into Anarchy and Tyranny. All of human society fits somewhere on this dial.
Our graphic uses 93 dots or pins to denote the spectrum. Pins 1 - 24 denote the first quadrant, the spectrum range called Impractical Anarchy! This is essentially the lack of government. It varies from the idealized counter-cultural Anarchy of the Sovereign Living movement at about pin 10 to the brutal militia-dominated Anarchy portrayed in the popular ABC series Revolution! Rule by Monroe's Militia might fall about pin 16 on the dial.
The thug rule we see today in parts of Africa and the Middle East fall somewhere in the "Impractical Anarchy" quadrant, many very close to the bottom. Note how near total Anarchy is to Tyranny. A strong, brutal thug with weapons is but steps away from being a Tyrant.
The second quadrant, represented by pins 24-47 on the dial, is called Jeffersonian Democracy. The philosophies of The Libertarian Party (27), James Madison and Thomas Jefferson (31), and the Tea Party (34) movement fall within this quadrant.
The dead-bang political center falls at the top of the dial, at pin 48, where the opposing philosophies of Hamilton and Jefferson meet in balance.
The third quadrant occupies pins 49-71, and we designate it Hamiltonian Fascism. Closer to Pin 49, we might accurately describe it as Hamiltonian Democracy, but the deeper one dials into the quadrant, the more fascistic things become.
Poised right around Pins 61 and 62, we find the mainstream GOP and the Democrats. The modern mainstream Republican and Democrat parties are intertwined, all but indistinguishable from one another, with the Jeffersonians and the Tea Party pulling to drag the GOP toward Democracy. At the same time, the philosophies of Marx and Engels carry the Democrats toward Tyranny. The two are so tightly coupled that, like Siamese Twins, if one is to move, the other must be dragged along, often under protest. In the last sixty years, the pull of Marx and Engels has steadily dragged the twins away from the middle of the dial toward the cesspool of Totalitarianism, with the movement accelerating in the last decade.
The fourth quadrant occupies the dial between pins 72 and 93. This is the quadrant of Totalitarianism—the quadrant of Marx, Stalin, Hitler, BLM, and OWS (81). The quadrant of intolerance and redistribution, the rule of the privileged elite and the impoverished masses. Notice how the Occupy Wall Street movement, at pin 81, is precisely 180 degrees opposite the Tea Party, a sort of bizarro mirror image of its more Jeffersonian-minded cousin.
Consider how little different Tyranny is from Anarchy, where the strong can freely steal from the weak without much fear of retribution. Tyranny is essentially the retail version of Anarchy.
The dial must be turned by the voters, dialing in the desired form of government. The various points on the dial can move and often do. The Democrat-Republican twisted twins have been slowly shifting clockwise over the last several decades, drawn by the seductive pull of Marx, Engels, and the rest, the self-anointed who see themselves as the natural rulers of the impoverished masses.