Saturday, February 18, 2006

The New Liberalism

At some point, people will realize that America’s policy alignment is not liberal v. conservative, but rather libertarian v. authoritarian.  And long before that happens, I would like for the Democrats to be firmly aligned on the libertarian position.  Because the distinguishing elements of this are not necessarily how much “liberty” either side allows us; but rather involve the source of that liberty, and whether government power is wielded by a broad or limited group of people.

As I argued before, I don’t agree that the traditional “libertarian” position reflects liberty at all; but rather is just a poor excuse to justify some people’s selfishness at the expense of everyone else.  And that they don’t really represent the appeal for true liberty.  Most libertarian’s don’t support a pro-littering position; and yet what is pollution but extreme-littering?  Equally, their anti-SEC stance is anti-free-market; their anti-union stance is anti-free-market; and their anti-government stance is anti-free-market.  Overall, they want to tell us what things we’re not allowed to do; and they involve us not having the liberty to stop them from fulfilling their selfish agenda.  Doesn’t sound like liberty to me.

And jesus christ, if the Social Conservative position isn’t authoritarian, then I don’t know what is.  They want to dictate to us what we can watch on TV, movies, video games, and the internets; all based upon an absurdist “save the children” rhetoric.  That we supposedly all have to suffer because they can’t control their own damn kids; when the truth is that they don’t want us partaking in these things either.  And they want to force us to have babies that we don’t want.  To stay married to people we don’t like.  And to tell women which jobs they can’t have.  They want to dictate which substances I’m not allowed to ingest.  And they want to tell consenting people who they’re not allowed to kiss and which orifices they’re not allowed to stick objects into.  And overall, they want to force their religion on us by giving their religion the authority of government.  Nobody should be allowed to claim the libertarian mantle if they associate with these people.  After all, what is more authoritarian than a single deity who has complete authority over the entire universe?

And then there’s the GOP’s “law and order” stuff.  If they had their way, the government would have full access to all our records, all our communications, and even our homes, computers, and possessions.  Additionally, they think they should be able to strip us of all our rights and our very citizenship.  And finally, they believe that they can do these things without consulting the judicial or legislative branch; and is entirely at the president’s sole discretion.  They believe that the need for “law and order” is enough to justify everything and that the Bill of Rights is simply an outdated concept to be ignored; and during the time of America’s greatest safety, no less.  And to put the final insult on this injury, they insist that to question them on this is tantamount to treason.  I can imagine various definitions of “authoritarianism”, and all of them include this sort of behavior.

Needless to say, our libertarian argument is explained by being in opposition to these ideas.

The New Alignment

And that’s the thing.  The “lib v. con” system is clearly too antiquated to handle these subjects.  Because the issue of liberal or conservative interpretation of the constitution has been settled; and the liberals have won.  Conservatives continue to use “originalist” rhetoric to defend their positions, but it’s just silly.  Because they’re just as willing to use liberal interpretations whenever they like.  While this may have been an issue during FDR’s day, it has now become a silly masquerade dance.  They’re still trying to use the steps of the Foxtrot to do the Macarena.  

And more importantly, America clearly wants a liberal interpretation.  They want a big government handling their pension, and regulating businesses, and taking care of the things that the government is better at doing.  And the conservatives certainly know that, which is why they refuse to outright address any of these issues.  They insist that they’re not trying to undo Social Security or Medicare; they’re “fixing” it.  They tell us that their pro-business environmental laws actually prevent pollution.  And they’re certainly in support of high government spending; just as long as they get kick-backs from the folks getting the money.

Without a doubt, the conservative movement is dead.  And as such, the liberal movement is dead too.  Because it’s kind of silly to call it a “movement” if everyone’s moving in the same direction.  And now everyone is on the liberal side; at least regarding what those original labels meant.

But unfortunately, people have hung onto these labels for too long and haven’t noticed that the alignments have changed.  Because there are libertarians on both sides.  Like the “South Park Republicans” who dislike the Social Conservatives as much as we do; but who’ve fallen victim to the siren song of Ayn Rand and haven’t realized how ridiculous their anti-liberty libertarian position is; as well as listening to too much of talk-radio’s caricature of liberals.  But for those rightwingers whose libertarianism goes beyond silly posturing and the excuse for being rude, liberal libertarianism should fit perfectly.  And yes, I am idealistic enough to believe that these types do exist.

And there are authoritarians on the left too.  Like the PETA people, who would like to tell me what I can’t eat or wear.  Or anti-gun people who want all guns banned.  And that kind of thing.  I’m not sure necessarily if they want the government to enforce these things; but if they do, then they certainly belong in the authoritarian category.  Because while their specific issues don’t match, these people clearly belong in the same category as the Social Conservatives.  

Representative Authoritarianism

But where is it that we draw the line.  Slavery was clearly a moral issue which involved some citizens wanting to impose their will on other citizens.   Everyone agrees that laws should only be created if they are necessary to better society.  But the question remains of who gets to decide what betters society.

But I think the difference is based upon freedom and that laws should be designed to generate the greatest freedom for people.  And at the basis of that decision is democracy itself.  The true libertarian position is one of broad representation and equal rights.  And the authoritarian position is one with limited representation and special rights.  

And that’s why Democrats certainly deserve the “libertarian” label.  Because we are the party of wide representation.  We are the party of equality.  Democrats believe that we all deserve a chance and we all deserve the same levels of freedom.  That somebody isn’t better simply because they have more money; or that people are limited to whatever rights they can take.  And that applies to our political “leaders” too.  We do not believe that the president has more rights than us, or that he has the ability to take actions beyond the job duties that we’ve assigned to him.  Nor are Congressmen better than us.  We hire these men to do jobs, and we can certainly remove them from these jobs.  They are public servants.

And Republicans deserve the authoritarian label, as they believe that authority is vested in a small number of important people.  People who are better than us.  And they think that people with more money deserve more rights than the rest of us.  That their money entitles them to a stronger “voice” than everyone else.  That they are entitled to special privileges.  And most of all, they believe that they are allowed to tell us how to live our lives and to dictate what freedoms we are permitted.  Taken to it’s natural extreme, they believe that all authority can stem from the most powerful person, and that we have no right to say otherwise.

And stated like that, the division is clear.  This isn’t about which party believes in what interpretation of the constitution.  This is about which party believes in democracy and liberty.  That is the political divide in our country today.  And if it was stated as such, the 50/50 split in this country would be far far larger.  Because few people want to limit their own representation.  Few people would vote to lose rights and freedoms.  And the Republicans have only been as successful as they have by promising specific groups that they’ll eventually enforce those specific freedoms; at the expense of all others.  Their’s is not an appeal for equality, but for limited powers.  Powers limited to religious groups, or supposed libertarians, or Wallstreet.  And they focus their message so that the other groups don’t know how much power the GOP is offering to the other groups.   And that is the basis for GOP Appeal: That all authority is yours, and yours alone.

Shit.  I’ve really been straining it, but I’m totally out of brain juice on this one.  I’ve got some vague idea of how I’d like this to end, but it all sounds pretty faggy (and I don’t mean that in the homosexual sense).  I liked the first two sections, which was just some quickie riffing based on something I thought of in the shower (that’s where I get my best ideas).  But I really need more time to think about the ending.  I guess I’ll just do the democratic thing and let you finish it yourself.  I think this pretty much writes itself, but I only went this far so that this post didn’t just look like a rewrite of my last libertarian post.  My apologies.

1 comment:

Rick said...

I agree with you that the labels of liberal and conservative are antiquated. Moreover, they have become destructively divisive. I also agree with you that they are authoritarians - I call them fundamentalists - on the left that rank right there with some of the worst of the right. Classical liberalism is the model for me. Thanks for the read. Best of wishes. Oh, I've added a link to you at my site.