Newish political model, v.3

This is a rambling mess, but I wanted to get the idea out… it probably should have gone into a private diary, but if you saw my traffic stats you’d understand that this blog pretty much is a private diary.


Inspired by feedback I have received, by recent events and by books I’ve read on the varieties of authoritarianism, I have been rethinking my old “newish political model” with new simpler language and with the addition of a third dimension.

In my new model, the dimensions are liberty, equality and fraternity — three of the four active ingredients of the famous battle-cry of the French Revolution, minus the last “or death” which was wisely dropped after the Reign of Terror.

This framework is rooted in the same Enlightenment values from which the American and French revolution grew, and makes no pretense of neutrality. But it has learned something from history about revolutionary extremism (even/especially extremism in service of liberal values) and has found guidance in the two sayings inscribed at Apollo’s temple at Delphi. “Know thyself” (because are all susceptible to self-privileging, especially when we appoint ourselves the enlightened dismantlers of it!) and “Everything in moderation” (which include even our own values!)

These values structure a political agenda, and despite the agenda’s principled modesty, it is not lukewarm. It is uncompromisingly moderate, because these values can only co-exist and co-flourish in moderation.

This framework is offered as a tool — an ideological lens — for seeing the world in a centrist liberal-democratic way. Someday maybe it will be a partisan tool for an as-yet unformed party who represents citizens holding a political position that has not yet found articulation or self-awareness.

As a partisan tool, it is not meant to do justice to all possible political positions. It is meant to strategically build bridges between previously separated positions, to drive wedges between previously allied positions that no longer share the most important values, and to encourage new alliances which have been obscured by how we define our current political positions, framed by the libertarian-biased and suddenly profoundly obsolete Political Compass model. (Seriously, where would you plot Bannon on the Political Compass? Or that other nazi wannabe guy who’s always prancing around with his Weimar hairdos, Roman salutes and “sly” Goebbels references? Authoritarian Left? Come on.)

The purpose of this model is to rally centrists committed to liberty and justice for all against those committed to liberty and justice for few at the expense of all others. Anyone in the latter category should definitely object to this conspicuous biases of this model. It does not do them justice, because it is not meant to, because I’m not interested in extending justice to illegitimate positions. It is meant to drive illiberals back into the margins, and, if possible all the way back into their moms’ basements.

I don’t know how to draw this, yet. For now I will describe the three axes that define the conceptual space within which political positions are situated.

As this is a highly-biased Centrist model, the extremes of each axis is cast as either  +) untenable or -) evil. The 0) point is defined as the most desirable point sought between the extremes.

Liberty (individual autonomy): freedom of individuals versus authority of collectivities. Who determines how an individual is to think, feel and act?

+) an individual alone determines individual being;

-) the collectivity determines individual being;

0) at the center an individual determines individual being within reasonable limits set by a collectivity.

What kinds of collectivity are we talking about? According to this model any group capable of imposing its will on an individual is considered a collectivity capable of curtailing individual liberty. This differs from Political Compass, which views liberty as curtailed primarily by the federal government.

And what are reasonable limits? That is a matter of perpetual debate and dialogue to be continuously re-determined by Centrists.

Equality (power distribution): desirability of equality versus desirability of rank. How much disparity of power among individuals is acceptable and ideal?

+) each individual is given the same power and resources as every other;

-) each individual is given different amounts of power and resources according to rank;

0) at the center every individual is guaranteed a fair opportunity to acquire power and resources.

What kinds of rank are we talking about? According to this model every value system ranks differently and imposes rank according to its own logic. Societies can rank-stratify by family, class, wealth, race, education, talent, temperament, party membership — anything to which the word “deserve” can be applied. This differs from Political Compass, which casts equality issues in terms of government regulation.

And what is fair? That is a matter of perpetual debate and dialogue to be continuously re-determined by Centrists.

Fraternity (scope of obligation): universalist/globalist obligation versus tribalism/nationalism obligation.
+) in-groups and out-groups are abolished and moral obligation is extended to all of humanity (or even all living beings);

-) in-group membership is sharply defined and moral obligation is confined to the in-group;

0) at the center in-groups and out-groups are defined and moral obligations exist for each but in differing degrees.

How are in-groups and out-groups defined? According to this model in-groups self-define according to whatever criteria seems most relevant to the group. Examples of in-group determinants include place of origin, place of residence, citizenship, race, class, religion, ideology, party-membership. Political Compass does not consider the dimension of fraternity, because fraternity is largely invisible unless one is denied obligation due to out-group status.

And what are the in- and out-groups, and what is our degree of obligation to them? That is a matter of perpetual debate and dialogue to be continuously re-determined by Centrists.

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