Friday, June 01, 2007

Left vs. Right, the Debate

Forgive me for a posting a "view from 10,000 feet" that might seem boring but throughout my life I've been told that American politics is basically a struggle between reformers on the left, preservationists on the right, and a middle waiting to be grabbed by either side and I'm tired of it.

Because it isn't true.

When I first became interested in politics, as a teenager, I was an "Alex P. Keaton" style of Republican. At the time, I believed that life was a contest and that it was won or lost by individual will and that alone.

Then I saw a bit of the world and went to college and realized that life was far more complicated and that indivuals were rather influenced by circumstances of birth and luck and so I strayed towards socialism.

But, I've never forgotten what I loved about the true conservative philosophy, as expressed by Edmund Burke, William F. Buckley and (during his first campaign for president, anyway, and then after) my friend and employer, Steve Forbes. Those people really believe in the innate goodness of human nature. They really believe that society (and more to the point, government) corrupts an individual and that if individuals are free from such influence, they will rationally choose the best courses for themselves and truly incidentally, will choose the best courses for one another. Ironically, a true conservative embraces the revolutionary notions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and rejectes the truly conservative notions of Thomas Hobbes who believed that life in a world without government would be nast, brutish and short.

Thing is, Hobbes was right. Current Republicans, who profit by war and who are authoritarian when they rule, prove it.

Everything I've written thus far is classical bullshit. See, once upon a time, the debate about how to have a society was a debate about individual freedom versus the common good. No doubt, such issues are still important, and will always be important, but neither party represents either camp these days.

I was once attracted to the conservative ideal because it was romantic. At it's philosphical core, which is never practiced today, it was based on faith in the potential of individual humans. At it's core it said, "Let us all be what we are or want to be and we'll all be better off."

That is not how conservatism is practiced these days. I don't need links to prove that. All of the readers here (a bunch of lefties and Emily) know that I'm right about that.

The left has its own romantic ideal -- one of unity among individuals that leads to a utopia. But no society has ever reached that and those that have tried (USSR, Cuba, Iraq) have wound up dictatorships.

So what is the left/right debate now? It's a perversion. Shocked to the right by the moral (not fiscal, consider China) failure of planned economies, the left has moved towards the right. Emboldened by the threat of global terrorism the right has given up on faith in individuals and gone towards authoritarian notions.

The oldest, still unanswered question about society is this: "How free can individuals be while still supporting one another?"

To my mind, both the left and right in the U.S. have become so corrupted that we're not even trying to deal with that question.


At 11:36 PM , Blogger E. Worthington, Editor said...

Please keep in mind that you have more than one non-liberal reader, who loves you nonetheless.


p.s. I lean to the right without believing in the essential goodness of anyone. It would be lovely if I could think that most people wish only the best for one another. As a matter of fact, I believe that most people are out to fuck each other over as much as possible - which is why I would be most happy if I were left alone as much as possible. If it is in fact necessary to interact with others, I carry a .45. This is true conservatism. Anyone who wants an authoritarian state, whether from the right or left, can suck my barrel.

At 7:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The world is round, not "left" or "right" ...
Food for thought ...


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