Monday, March 27, 2006

Spectrum? What Spectrum?

Why is it that everyone talks about "liberal" and "conservative" as if they explained things anymore? For that matter, as if they were "opposites"? Just because the American political system is debased and simplified to the point of being retarded, doesn't mean it makes sense.

I actually don't know anymore what the defining characteristics are of so-called "conservatives." Clearly what is meant currently is something very different from what was meant only a few decades ago, when Reagan was king. - President, I mean. Back then the rhetoric - and seemingly the intent - was for small government, individual and states's rights, aim for the head when the jackbooted government thugs come to take you away. (Well, maybe not that last. I mean, conservative and nutbar didn't used to be synonymous. Not that I'm saying they are now, but... well, I'm just not saying it, is all.)

I'm told that oh, so many of the "founders" of the "neoconservative" "movement" - the "thinkers," as it were - used to be leftists - whatever that means... socialists, probably - who were disillusioned by the excesses of the Soviet "left" (whatever that meant) and so embraced "conservative" ideals.

Apparently this continues to surprise people, when left-wing ideologues become right-wing ideologues. It's only surprising if you think there's a spectrum, and only one spectrum, and that left and right are really the extreme sides of the spectrum - in short, that it's a long, long way from one extreme to the other. But obviously it isn't a long way. And obviously "left" and "right" aren't all there is. Probably - in today's political climate - a more useful gauge of someone's political ideology is to consider whether they're pro-authority or anti-authority.

Also, it would be nice if we could all agree to stop thinking that people should behave consistently! They don't. They won't. And only numbskull economics-style thinking will lead you to believe that they do, will, or that they even should. (They're not "rational actors" in the economic sense either, and it strikes me as neither particularly useful nor very bright to structure legal and policy arguments as if they were, or ought to be.)

So here's a thought: maybe the shift from top-down, authority-controlled left-wing political ideology to top-down, authority-controlled right-wing ideology was - not a large - but a very small step to take. Maybe David Horowitz (to shoot a fish in a barrel) was a loony even when he was a leftist! And maybe the natural allies of the so-called liberals - the ones who are supposed to believe in civil rights, due process, a free press, separation of powers, small family farms, and public transportation - will turn out, actually, to be the real conservatives. If there are any left, that is.

How about this for a political metaphor: think of politics as a circus, not a spectrum. Because clowns can't run a spectrum - but they may, when things go awry, end up running the circus.


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