Friday, January 31, 2014

Revisiting the political divide

 Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)                              John Locke (1632 - 1704)

For lack of an argument many antagonistic partisans prefer simply to label their opponents as right-wing or left-wing in the hope it will relieve their audience of the necessity for any further thought. This is particularly irksome for a lucid adversary when the debated activity is misaligned on the political grid. But, what is this grid and is there a test that will reliably place one’s ideas in its proper place?  

I realize that this would be detrimental to anyone obfuscating their message deliberately, but I believe the time has come to agree on a universal political spectrum.

In 1789 the political divide was loosely defined by the seating in the French National Assembly. The spectrum consisted of a Jacobin elite on the left-wing of the house supporting what they called a republic and a Legitimist elite on the right-wing defending various implementations of the Monarchy. The overriding theme of the time was which elite would exercise absolute power over the unfortunate citizens of France. In hind-sight we know that the Jacobins would self-destruct by implementing an unprecedented orgy of political genocide known as the Terror - While the right-wing elites would implode by escalating destruction into the monumental catastrophe known as the Napoleonic Wars.

The French were unwilling or unable it seems to appreciate the evolutionary road to enlightenment that was unfolding in Britain and her empire. The dominant theme in Britain was the long road leading to the rejection of absolutism in all its forms. This began to unfold after the signing at Runnymede in 1215 of the immortal Magna Charta. Evolving with time half the British political spectrum could be defined by the classical liberal John Locke who advocated freedom through his justification of property rights and by proposing the separation of church & state. He became a major inspiration for the rebellion in 13 of Britain’s colonies in North America. The other half, perhaps best embodied by Edmund Burke have taken the view that tradition and religion were the best bulwarks against tyranny. The idea was that existing institutions could be modified, not replaced, to protect the rights of individuals. The consequences of these two roads have produced the “Constitutional Republic” and the “Constitutional Monarchy”. Both of these systems are designed to overcome the impulse toward absolutism – one overt and the other subtle.

Through the 19th and 20th centuries absolutists experimented with many different implementations of their trade. The Pragmatism of William James and John Dewy became the justification for all manner of tyranny under the rubric; “the end justifies the means”.  Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Islamism and Socialism are the resulting abominations. The dominant theme for modern day absolutists is the demand for group rights that are identified as the “collective”, the “people” or the “class”. By advocating for a group with a uniform message this structure is by its nature elitist. In response to the elitist experiments proponents of individualism began to question the legitimacy of the right to govern. The logical conclusion of this thinking is an ideal state of anarchy where no man is governed by another.

Today the political spectrum is inherently coloured by the clash of the elite forces of absolutism and the individual’s rational desire to be free. Boiled down to its bare essentials this is collectivism on the left of the grid and Individualism on the right.

Now you should know where you stand. If you advocate policies that require or justify the use of force against other people such as; government social programs or other wealth redistribution schemes, State monopolies like education or the post office and restrictions on free speech then you reside on the left-wing of the Political spectrum. If you advocate volunteerism, believe in free enterprise and freedom of thought & conscience then you reside on the right-wing of the grid.
Now that that is cleared up; are you a collectivist or an individualist, an elitist or an individualist, an initiator of force or an individualist – If you think about it you may change your mind.