Occasionally, I will get email from someone directing me to this forum or that, pointing out a debate regarding socialism, ‘liberalism’ or ‘conservatism’, usually involving taxation and other powers of the state. I have even been asked to jump in, in the defense or attack of one position or other. These debates are almost always wastes of time, taking place as they do within the intellectual framework of the dominant statist paradigm.
The most misunderstood concept in what passes for our current political debate is that of ‘right wing’ vs ‘left wing’. The very terms imply a linear chart of political ideology whereby right and left, the extremes of which are understood to be socialist and fascist, exist in antithesis of each other. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
A much better illustration would be a circle. Draw or visualize a circle. At 12 o’clock, separated by a degree, would be communism and fascism. Let’s put communism at 364 degrees and fascism at 1 degree. At 6 o’clock would be pure anarchy – meaning the absence of the state, tribe, or other controlling entity – the philosophical free market anarchy referred to in my previous posts.
At 3 o’clock, one might find conservatism. At 9 o’clock would lay ‘liberalism’ (or at least the American perversion of that term). As one moved clockwise from 6 o’clock, we would count off the increasingly statist ideologies from ‘social democracy’ through various manifestations of socialism, with increasing intensity until we were at the top of the circle at communism.
As we moved counter-clockwise from 6 o’clock, perhaps a degree or two, we would find libertarianism and minarchism. We would then count through the various manifestations of ‘right wing’ statism: conservatism, corporatism, various forms of authoritarianism, until we reached fascism.
As you can see on the chart we’ve just drawn, the left and right wings are merely two sides of the same statist bird. The arguments for each are unique, but the results are the same: central planning, economic and human regulation, power concentrated with the state rather than the individual.
This is the best illustration I’ve found for this concept:
In the example above, the Anarchism is listed at 12 o’clock rather than 6 o’clock, but the circular concept is the same. I would have eliminated the horizontal arrow that seems to suggest the left-wing / right-wing concept simply because it detracts from the circular analogy. However, if you imagine a circle just inside the box, you get basically the same analogy I described above and we get past the one-dimensional, linear view of ideology so prevalent today.
Welfare vs. Warfare
The problem with most political debates is that they’re not really debates at all. They take place within the context of the dominant, statist paradigm. Democrats and Republicans love to argue about how best to spend your money, or the degree to which government should confiscate it. The paradigm, however, is rarely questioned. And so we have these circular debates about which manner of statism is best, about whether we want more welfare, or more warfare, whether we want to create bureaucracies to manage human regulation against abortion or against drug use.
The state: with us or against us
We have been told very clearly that we are either with the state, or against it. And so I choose to stand against the state. I choose to stand against its all-pervasive regulation and bureaucracy which I must support. If I do not pay for them, my assets will be confiscated, my wages garnished, and eventually I will be arrested at gun point and imprisoned as a political prisoner.
The debate of left vs. right is simply one of how much should the state confiscate, and what should these funds be used for. The right disingenuously argues for a smaller state, but when the rightist arguments are broken down we see the truth: ‘law and order’ costs vast sums of money, especially when it is defined, among other things, as:
– The arrest and incarceration of legions of Americans whose only crime was the ingestion of a substance the state finds objectionable, or conducting commercial activities with such substances unsanctioned (untaxed) by the state.
– The maintenance of vast car registration databases, the licensing of such cars and their drivers, and the annual taxation / re-registration thereof, including vast bureaucracy to support such unnecessary activities.
– Massive budgets for the domestic activities of state intelligence agencies, most notably the National Security Agency (NSA) in the form of electronic surveillance.
– The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), also known by its more common moniker: Thousands Standing Around, to play ‘Security Theater’ in our airports. (more on that here)
– The administration of a Federal Firearms licensee database for civilian owners and dealers wishing to own certain types of firearms that could be threatening to the state.
– Paying the budgets of an alphabet soup of three- and four-letter agencies – CIA, DIA, NSA, FBI, FEMA, ATF, DEA, NASA, the list goes on – and the inevitable budget increases, bureaucracy and pressure for ever more legislation and regulation that the mere existence of such agencies guarantees.
The left, on the other hand, argues for less of some and more of the other. A decrease in the budget of the NSA, for example, means an increase in the budget of HUD. Instead of more of the agencies listed above, we get more of the FHA, FTA, FDA, etc.
And the public debate supports my observations. We have created a new breed of citizen I call the Banner. The Banner chooses something that he finds distasteful and supports the state, even lobbies the state, to ban it. Whether its smoking in a public place, talking on a cell phone in a car, mandating annual vehicle inspection, livestock licensing, the use or sale of drugs, abortion or a long list of various state expansions and intrusions, the banner desires to regulate that which he finds personally distasteful.
The pattern is always the same: the media opens up the debate within the context of whether or not an activity is ‘dangerous’ or ‘wrong’. Abortion and drugs are excellent examples of activities that are debated: ‘are they dangerous’ or ‘are they wrong’, respectively. The citizens then take sides, often with great degrees of political intensity, as to whether the activity is dangerous or not, morally wrong or not.
I would suggest that the entire context of this debate is fallacious.
The only issue at stake, regardless of whether you find a given activity wrong, and regardless of whether you find utility in a given regulatory regime, is whether you sanction the state to expand its power into another area of human activity, whether you agree to cede this power to the state whereby it may compel certain actions (or inactions) through its monopoly on force. Remember, however, that once ceded, this authority is nearly impossible to rein back in.
To illustrate the fact that government, if left unchecked by the citizenry, will expand unabated, indefinitely, I encourage you to review this. Bureaucracy does indeed abhor a vacuum, and will continue growing until it is checked by the people. Our people, despite having a nearly perfect instruction manual, seem unwilling to check its growth.
One brand of statism is as good as another, and the debate about which form of statism we should have has dominated the American political landscape for decades. In fact, this is what our elections are about. Look, for example, at the most recent presidential debates.
In this country, we do not really have ‘debates’. We have candidates memorizing 60-90 second sound bites for each potential ‘issue’ that may come up. When a question is asked that touches upon a given issue, the candidate then recites the sound bite, which more often than not fails to answer the question and may in fact have scant relationship to the question that was actually asked. Can anyone forget the camera zooming into the facial expressions, smirks and rolling eyes of the various mainstream candidates whenever Ron Paul was answering a question or explaining a position? The sanctimonious mainstream candidates could smirk away, confident in the knowledge that the context had been determined long ago by the success of the state in defining the debate along the lines of ‘what flavor would you like your statism?’, as opposed to how do we dismantle this aberration of a state and get back to the intentions of our Founding Fathers and our founding documents.
This is a transcript of President Obama’s inauguration address. Note the fourth sentence of the second paragraph:
At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
This statement is so disingenuous as to shock even the most novice student of these ‘founding documents’. In the coming days, weeks and months we shall indeed see how strong our president’s commitment is to the founding ideals of this country. We shall also see if this ‘faithfulness’ extends to the Second Amendment.
I would posit that we have strayed so far from the founding, minarchist ideals of our Founding Fathers, some of which can be read here, that no agent of the state – politician or bureaucrat – is psychologically capable taking a position that would dismantle a paradigm so tightly held that true debate as to the nature of the state and the very words of our Founding Fathers cannot and is not held in the public sphere. Such concepts are not taught in government schools, such concepts are not discussed in our government-sanctioned churches and such debates are found in the blogosphere with increasing rarity as the party lines of each wing are regurgitated by a populace trained to view political debate as ‘left’ vs. ‘right’, or democrat vs republican.
As long as the debate takes place within the dominant, statist paradigm, the growth of the state and the expansion of its tentacles further and further into the economy and into the personal activities of our citizenry is guaranteed.