Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A proposal to amend the political spectrum

It's needed fixing for a while, after all, hasn't it? We see left-wing, so-called "progressives" locked in a defense of the status quo (e.g., Wisconsin), and right-wing, so-called "conservatives" advancing schemes of far-reaching change. To cope with these anomalies, a common dodge has been to propose a two dimensional political space as opposed to a linear one (e.g.), but this has never had much impact on everyday political usage, and, in any case, such a space often reasserts the usual one-dimensional spectrum in the form of a diagonal line across the more populated quadrants.

So I propose to accept the unidimensional structure of a left-right political spectrum, but amend the definition of its wings or poles. The left-wing would, once again, be defined in terms of the long term, progressive project to advance the cause of individual emancipation, and the right-wing would, also again, be seen in terms of the defense of statist authoritarianism. The extreme right would be the location of totalitarian politics, whether socialist or fascist, while the extreme left would be the location of the anti-state politics of anarchism and anarcho-capitalism. Between those extremes, of course, would lie the vast majority of  current political positions, but now those positions could be more clearly understood and labelled in terms of their relative location vis-a-vis the respective projects of left and right. Thus, most of what's thought of now as the contemporary left, for example, is defined by its adherence to, and advance of, the proscriptions, regulations, and requirements of the so-called welfare state (aka "nanny state"), and hence is actually a form of state-based authoritarianism -- i.e., is really right-wing. Similarly, a sizable chunk of what's now considered the right is actually concerned with the progressive or evolving liberation of the individual from such constraints or chains, and hence is really left-wing.

Now, of course, there are many other aspects of beliefs, orientations, values, etc. that provide the basis for alliances and oppositions over many particular issues, but these are more cultural or even psychological rather than political as such, and their variety may well require many more than even two dimensions. The virtue of this proposed amendment is that it lays bare the purely political structure that lies in back of most if not all actual political disputes -- behind issues such as abortion, re-cycling, unions, education, e.g., there is the question of what kind of options or policies are even appropriate for dealing with them. How one answers that question is what determines one's position on the revised political spectrum.

In thus reversing much of our conventional notions of the political left and right, this amendment resolves the anomalies mentioned above, in which putative "leftists" defend entrenched special interests, and supposed "conservatives" propose new and even radical solutions. It both simplifies and clarifies the political landscape, in other words, and blows away a good deal of the rhetorical fog that has served merely to confuse.

And for me personally, there's the interesting irony in finding myself once again labelled a leftist.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gen X saves civilization?

Popping back into blogging to post about a Superbowl commercial -- this one:

Now, it's a jump -- okay, a stretch -- to go from the commercial to the title of this post, but bear with me. First I have to explain that I came across the commercial from a post at Ann Althouse's blog, which in turn simply quotes from a post on Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist blog, entitled "Volkswagon Super Bowl ad is an anthem to Gen X". Here's why, in Penelope Trunk's words:
So I love this commercial because it captures the shared experience of Generation X. We like being home to make our kids peanut butter and jelly. You could not sell Baby Boomers with this. They think it’s lame to sit in a kitchen waiting for your kid to be hungry. We like having a male breadwinner and we’re not afraid to say it.
And we are surrounded by little boys in love with Star Wars.
When we look back, we will see that Gen X redefined family and work.
Which explains the connection to Gen X at least. With one more step, we can connect Gen X to the salvation of civilization. And that involves a self-reference, to this post a little while back: "Is modern civilization viable?", which noted that the populations of all industrialized nations (i.e., the representatives of "modern civilization") were imploding, for reasons that seemed inherent in the very nature of such cultures -- namely, the rise of wealth and individual freedom. This has tended to undermine the traditional functions and role of the primary procreative institution of society, the family, particularly within the left-liberal, statist ideologies that have long had a dominant position within all such societies.  But here was my own bit of cheer, however vague, near the end of that post:
Or -- to speak of more hopeful predictions -- the ongoing evolution of the modern world includes a renewed or revived view of the family, seeing it once again in its multi-generational dimensions, but within a redefined view of the roles of men and women as both unique individuals and as fathers and mothers.
Which, in the context of the oft-expressed contempt for  "family-values" that you find within the self-styled "progressive" camp,  would certainly be a conservative development. But, in the context of the real world, in which children are necessary for any future at all, this would be simply a correction to an unfortunate generational dead end, and the real route forward. Maybe, then, as I say at the end of the post, "for the latest generation to come of family age, children are making a comeback".