The Issue of Standards

I’m going to start this post with the first of the two continuums that I included in the last post.

Liberal v. Conservative

                       “the left”                                             vs.                                             “the right”

Since it’s been a few days since my previous post, I’ll come back to that now and expand a bit. (Please don’t feel insulted that I would suggest that my readers aren’t smart enough to get it; that is not at all my suggestion! I’d just like to unpack this a bit.)

Regarding the first continuum, whereby the political and economic paradigm, if you will, is framed between liberal and conservative ideology, or what people will often refer to as “left wing” or “right wing,” the first major that needs to be addressed is…

…there is no solidly identifiable standard by which either can be compared. All we have, as I pointed out a few posts ago, is a sort of nebulous “tends to” sort of stereotypes about each side.

Let’s look at the extremes to help make this point. Somehow, Fascists (and Nazis) get thrown in on occasion far on the right and communists and socialists get thrown in far on the left. According to what standard? Are Nazis far on the right because they are extreme nationalists? Then leftists must be anti-nationalists. And that standard falls apart.

Are communists and socialists on the far left because they seek an equality and government redistribution as a means to ensure that equality (and in the case of communism, ultimately eliminate private property)? If that defines the standard, then how do we contend with the idea that most fascist regimes employed the same government control over the economy that socialists do.  (Even the Nazi party, by the way, was the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.) And that standard falls apart.

See how nonsensical this is? The attempt at establishing a standard baseline for understanding “left” vs. “right” becomes even more precarious as you move from these extremes. The whole “each side tends to” approach is hardly canon across the board.

(A brief anticipation: I expect that my more traditional conservative readers will find among them the protest that moral issues, such as abortion, drug use, or marriage-related issues play a key defining feature. They are not altogether incorrect, but it still does not get beyond a “tends to”–even if strongly–argument. It is still too narrow a focus and doesn’t account for other important issues, such as fiscal matters. Don’t worry; these issues are important to me, and I will tackle them in time!)

Now to return to my preferred continuum for our context:

Liberty v. Tyranny

In this paradigm, the standards are concretely defined. Any framework of understanding must have fully definable standards in order to truly understand the range between.

On the far right is liberty. The state of utter and complete liberty in political, social and economic life is called Anarcho-Capitalism. (Incidentally, the slang for those who believe that this is ultimately the ideal state calls themselves “an-caps”.) Anarcho, of course, is drawn from anarchy, defined as a state-free society, and capitalism ties in the economic aspect that the market is likewise 100% free of any involvement from any authority.

On the far left is totalitarianism, which is absolute control by the state. Merriam-Webster defies totalitarianism as “the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority” (Merriam-Webster).

Both of these extremes are absolute, and because they are absolute and definable, they create a standard by which we can measure and understand state control to varying degrees from one end to the other.

And this will help us understand much more of the specifics of those varying degrees as we proceed.


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