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This may be old hash but something I often think about is that the purported spectrum of political sensibilities doesn’t seem to be a linear gradient but rather a circular construct. This would place absolutists and the like, let’s say, from about 170 to 190 degrees on a compass, with the calm, reasonable, and flexible types sitting on the opposite bearings.
A ring has so many more practical applications when describing the infinite variations of thought the human race enjoys. It has the benefit of being infinitely divisible in that say a one-degree arc describing libertarianism also has built in a 360-degree cross arc that can explicate all the flavors of that one particular mindset. A bar, stick, or straight line could also be divided infinitely of course but lacks the critical nexus where absolutists on the The Left and The Right meet and commingle and make psychotic terrorist babies.
Our minds process our universe in at least four dimensions if we include time even though we physically live linearly. The political spectrum is a mental construct and so should not be described as a straight line.
Let’s imagine that — a few years from now — the Ricochetti have mobilized a majority of American citizens who understand that the country is in serious trouble and have little trust in politicians to fix it. The result is the “Cincinnatus Amendment,” giving one citizen – elected by a supermajority of states or the popular vote – extraordinary power for exactly one week in order to restore Constitutional governance. This temporary dictator would control the executive branch and also have the legislative power of Congress. He is not, however, allowed to change the Constitution, remove federal judges, or change the current membership of Congress or Presidency, whose office holders will return to power next week.
I take the following to be among the most important principles that inform and motivate conservatives. I am not giving an argument in hopes of persuading non-conservatives, just an explanation of some foundational principles.
I say “foundational” because a decent statement of conservatism might not actually contain any of them. These aren’t the principles that are conservatism, but principles that motivate conservatives. Sometimes one of them (especially one of the first two) is an unstated premise lurking behind a conservative argument that just doesn’t seem to reach non-conservatives.
The liberal says “It takes a village to raise a child.” What is said is literally true, but what is meant is false, for, when the liberal says “village” he means “bigger federal government.” It’s a curious inversion of the usual way of speaking in metaphor. Your average remark about the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” […]
Xenophon, a well-born Athenian, spent most of his political life in Sparta. He understood his duties as a citizen thus: in battle, he fought for Sparta against Athens; at least one of his sons fought for Athens and died in battle.
Xenophon lived from about 430 to 355 BCE, making him a contemporary of Plato. The Cyropaedia, or the Education of Cyrus, is his biography of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the first Persian (or Achaemenid) Empire. Machiavelli loved this work of theory, which was written in seven books.
The title is typical of Xenophon. Most of the Cyropaedia treats the speeches and acts of the adult Cyrus; only a part of the first book concerns his education. Perhaps Xenophon means to suggest the disproportionate importance of education–the child is father to the man. But the use of the genitive construction is ambiguous; he might mean the education Cyrus received, but he might also mean the education Cyrus offers us (as a founder of an empire, one assumes).
Plato’s Republic is occasionally–ok, constantly–mentioned as a book promoting communism. Don’t believe the hype. For a start, the account of the declining democracy in Book 8 of the Republic is a goldmine if you’re interested in criticism of leftist redistributionist politics; see here for more on that. (By the way, one of the laws Socrates recommends in Book 8 would have prevented the subprime loans […]
Note from the author: This post is a rewriting of my former post, 90 Varieties of Libertarianism: Which One Are You? I am reasonably confident that the distinctions, definitions, and names given here are somewhat better than in the original; they are more precise, in what I think is a useful way. For further explanation, see the […]
Did you ever notice…
- that it’s possible to prefer libertarianism for federal policy, and be a Marxist for your state?
- that many on the Left do it the other way around? (I.e., the more they think nothing at all should come between little Julia and her father/husband/God/the federal government, the more they support Libertarianism for the state governments!)
Outlined below are four distinctions between various types of libertarianism, making for a total of 90 available libertarian positions.
What kind of libertarian are you? Mix and match from the different categories to find the name, and please object to these names and definitions and distinctions. Also, quibble over words since a good definition is a good thing; getting the definitions right is a good activity.
From The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn: Routines are not just good theory. They work in practice. Order makes life more peaceful, more efficient, and more effective. In fact the more routines we develop, the more effective we become. Routines free us from the need to ponder small details over and over again; routines let […]
Modern generations assume that universal suffrage is a moral necessity of any democracy. Does that assumption hold up against scrutiny? The theory of popular democracy (“popular” implying inclusion of all or most citizens) reflects our emphasis on the value of free will. The basic argument for universal suffrage is: “Everyone is due free will (even […]