The Shape of Politics

There is a new book out called Liberal Facism – I have not read it but have seen interviews with the author.  I think he is right, in a way, but he used the wrong title. For many years we have assumed that the political spectrum is a linear function – with the left and the right (the liberal and the conservative) being the extremes of that line. The choice of left and right, I understand, is a matter of the seating in some early parliament – the left and right could have been reversed in usage.

 It has been my thesis, for at least 40 years, that the political spectrum isn’t a straight line – it is more in the shape of the Greek capital Omega. There are various aspects to political opinion – the nature and the level of government is one of them.  Democrats are normally called liberal, and Republicans conservative. But there is a misnomer there as well, I would say that the Democrats and the Republicans of the middle all have the same goals for the citizenry, but a different opinion as to how to best achieve it. There are liberals on the Republican side of the aisle, and conservatives on the Democratic side. The differentiation there is less of goal than of the open mind to new ideas (and not all new ideas are good, sometimes conserving the old is the better).

In both cases the battle is for the hearts and minds of the voting populace, there is no desire to preclude democracy (or preferably our representative republic, true democracy would be the Ross Perot suggestion of an electronic referendum on each bill before Congress, a recipe for chaos as the pendulum of public opinion shifts).

 The far left and the far right, in the terms of the standard linear definition, are both fascist. Each has an absolute assurance of their own rectitude and a contempt for conflicting opinions. They each would set an elite of government in charge of the populace, and enforce it by law.

 That is why I say the spectrum is in the shape of Omega rather than a line. The far left and the far right come to a center at the bottom where they agree that they should manage the people and the world – they just don’t agree which of them should do it. The author of Liberal Facism seems to say (I haven’t read it) that Hitler and Mussolini were of the left as they were socialist, we of the right would certainly deny them as colleagues as both rejected the free market economy. But that neglects the complexity of social organization. Socialism, Communism and Capitalism are simplistic misnomers. The nature of the political economy is a combination of factors. One can have a populism of either left or right – John Edwards and Ron Paul, for example. I’ll not get into the details, although I will soon put an article on my “static” pages as to the varying combinations of economics and government that are possible.

 In summary, the point that the author seems to be making (from the interviews I’ve heard) has validity. His mistake is using the term Liberal to define it – facism is the extreme of either side, and liberal and conservative (without capital letters) are both honorable viewpoints.

 We live in a world that is complex, and I have a faith that the majority of the population are of good will (or at reasonably so). The left of center and the right of center disagree on methods, but each seek the same goal of the best for all – the extremes believe that only their view is valid and to hell with the rest of us, they don’t want something workable, they only want to be in charge.

 Of course we have the problem as to what views are extreme, since each extremist believes himself to be in the center.

4 thoughts on “The Shape of Politics”

  1. I did not expect to have Murph Says found so soon, I’m not prepared to handle it. The site has been planned (as my home page says) for many years – and before the advent of blogs. The WP software my domain host has set up for me is aimed toward blogs, but capable of handling more permanent pages. I’ve not yet gotten the hang of setting it up, for the time being I’ve set it up so that I have to individually approve response postings so that I can get a feel for what I’m doing. I am pleased at getting a response, at some time in the future this may become active.

    Best, Jon (Murph Says)

  2. Quick Note: Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert unmasked him relative
    to errors in definitions and attributions. Comedy Central seems an
    appropriate spot to deflate his balloon; I heard little of specifics,
    will go see what so amused the interviewers. Goldberg acknowledged
    his title was deliberate ploy to entice readers and without basis in fact.

    Having read bits from this fellow before I detected Coultergeist plagiarism
    via Rich Lowrey who discharged her from writing for his magazine, am
    familiar with the type. Inflammatory, soft footnotes and hate stuff, but
    then, why not, as publishers buy up copies of such to suggest best sellers
    as Murdoch’s minions and friends do for so many before them. Object
    is to sow seeds of discord among us as in divide and conquer of old..;>

  3. I don’t disagree Jeanne, I was not writing a review of Goldberg’s book, which I haven’t read and am unlikely to read unless I pick it up in the library out of curiosity. The “book tour” TV interviews with the author reminded me of my own thesis – that of the Omega being the shape of the spectrum.

    An anecdote: My mother was an immigrant to NYC from England in the late twenties (and her mid twenties). Before she met my father she had a few dates with a young man who was an avowed Communist. One evening, while walking down Park Ave., the young man pointed to the lighted windows in the fancy apartments and said, in effect, “comes the revolution and we’ll be up there and they’ll be down here”. Her answer was “but I thought you believed that no one should be up there!”. He didn’t ask her out again (luckily for me ).

    That is my thesis – not that fascism is a function of left or right but that it is a function of the extremes of both. Whether Churchman or Atheist, whether Conservative or Liberal, whether free market or government directed market – the extremes want to dictate their views, and by force if necessary.

    I mention in the original posting that social organization is complex – I’ll detail further. Who owns the means of production, who decides what is produced, who allocates the profit of that production (the split between labor and capital)? That is a short list of the factors that can make a mixed economy.

    But most important is who decides who decides. The nature of democracy, or a republic with representative democracy, is that disagreement and discord are unavoidable. The nature of fascism is that they are both suppressed, and often by force. The far left and the far right each agree on that major factor of governance – their views are correct and the entire populace should be forced to share them.

    The unity that is called for by some current candidates (on both sides) does not, in my opinion, portend a danger of a “fascist unity” in the US, but it is a fond hope that will only happen when we find a Utopia of the middle. I refer all readers to the little played Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Utopia Limited”, and to their “The Gondoliers” (for a bit of a satire on equality). Utopia can be found, but only in a small society – the rest of us have different opinions as to what is best, and should continue to argue them with the shared goal of the best for all.

    May I add, for the first response poster, that the Libertarian view is one that doesn’t fit in my Omega – although it is definitely in the top of the curve I don’t know whether to slide it right or left of center. The top is the area where left and right can argue, but the bottom (where it almost comes full circle is the area where arguments are restricted and governance is by ukase.

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