Or maybe this is written because I'm sick of people. I'm sick of arguments that are really just petty bickering. I'm sick of people screeching a political non answer to a philosophical point by changing the subject.
For instance, I have, numerous times, in sundry public fora, made a statement that goes something like this: "Helping others makes you good and noble. Inspiring people to help others makes you important. Wanting to force people to help others makes you a fascist." Naturally, there are many who feel a need, deep in their bones, to dislike the statement. Perhaps their stated political credo is full of beautiful intentions. Perhaps they dislike seeing the word fascist so closely related to the idea of helping people. Thing is, NO ONE really disputes the statement. EVER. No one ever confronts the truth of the position. Those who disagree never do so on the grounds established within the statement. They change the subject. They talk about millionaires not doing their fair share. They talk about people suffering. They talk about the need for social services. They insult, deride, and dismiss their political enemies. Check back with what I said. It has nothing to do with any of those things. I can only determine that they cannot dispute the statement itself. Whether its true or not (it is palpably true) their inability to face it is a signifier. It is fair to conclude that they are either unaware of, or unwilling to confront, the philosophical realities of their intentions.
I need you to confront philosophy. In fact, if we all do it together, somebody somewhere might actually have a constructive conversation. We have a long way to go, but we have to start somewhere. It might as well be at the beginning.
It begins with the political spectrum. We have it wrong. We've altered the boundaries and definitions beyond any usefulness. Not only do our current descriptors NOT accurately describe political points, they actively obscure them. Let's clear it up.
Imagine a see-saw (called by some a "teeter-totter"). On the far left is total Anarchy, wherein there is no centralized power, and individuals can do WHATEVER they want. On the far right is pure Fascism, characterized by total control of the individual (by what must obviously be some kind of centralized power). This is not the place to argue the merits of either extreme. Suffice it to say that our Founders recognized that neither extreme could lead to freedom for individuals or societies, and placed their mode of governance as the fulcrum in the middle. Their goal was to protect the individual, not just from other individuals, but from the oppression of anyone acting allegedly in the name of all the individuals. They recognized that a government must act as a barrier to oppression from both sides of the spectrum, and therefore designed a government that could protect individual rights, but just barely. Because if it became too powerful, the government itself would become the agent of oppression.
(Editor's note: All of you who are choking on the slavery issue right now are doing the apples to oranges cha-cha already. Certainly, as flawed human beings in a flawed world, the implementation of their aims could only be flawed. Please, for once in you life, permit yourself a few moments to consider philosophical principles without changing the subject to your own bile and superiority. Stay with us.)
According to this model, LEFT means individual freedom, but in reductio ends in the oppression brought about by Anarchy (survival of the fittest=subjugation of the weak). RIGHT means societal stability, but pushed to its limit means the loss of individual liberty, even identity, brought about by dictatorial control. I hope you never meet anyone stupid enough to pretend that this definition of left vs. right isn't clearer and more useful than the hodge-podge of phony identifiers we bandy around today. Think of how this clears things up. A person, or political party, who seeks to make individuals more free (which by definition, can only mean diminishing centralized power), is leftist. A person, or party, that seeks to increase centralized power, is rightist. If we remove the obfuscations attached to terms like "liberal" or "conservative" or "progressive," and let such terms adhere to a coherent model, we can begin to accurately evaluate political movements, opinions, and parties. For instance, a person who wants to empower the government to stop abortion is "conservative." But so is a person who wants to empower the government to take money from one person and give it to another. Defined correctly, a person who wants the government to do more is DECIDEDLY conservative, or, in other words, far to the RIGHT. Defined correctly, the notion that individuals should fend for themselves and decide their own fate, and be left with the consequences of both their choices and their circumstances, is ABSOLUTELY liberal--in very fact, far to the left. The view that individual rights and responsibilities are paramount to the greater good is a leftist concept. The idea that individuals should be subjugated by a slim majority into action for the greater good is clearly on the RIGHT of the spectrum. Hence, a person who wants the government to do more, and take more, and spend more, no matter what they want to spend it on, must accurately be labeled a right wing fascist. This is not a comment on the nobility of their intentions, or the goodness of their heart. Philosophy is distinct from these considerations. It is so, not to make these moral considerations moot, but rather to make them valid. One positive result of accepting this conceptual model is that moral beliefs cannot be robbed of their validity by philosophical dishonesty. Before espousing a belief, you first have to confront where on the spectrum the belief lies. Your belief has to be based on the fact that you can establish some kind of utility or nobility that trumps fascism, rather than on the flimsy good feelings the belief gives you, or worse, on the sad myth that it makes you a better person than someone who doesn't share it.
But the happiest by-product might be that a new definition of "centrist" (see also "moderate") can emerge. It is not merely someone who "sees both sides," or takes a little from the liberals and a little from the conservatives. It isn't just a wishy-washy person who can't decide one way or the other. And is it certainly not merely someone who is "socially liberal and fiscally conservative" (although, this comes closest to the point). No, a centrist is a person who sees the government where the Founders saw it: the fulcrum between centralized power and individual liberty. The delicate structure balancing the extreme tendencies of individual people and bureaucratic systems of control. The see-saw may favor one side or the other from time to time, depending on the political wind, but as long as it's tipping back and forth, the fulcrum is doing its job, and we can all breathe easy.
Another possible result remains a bit of a dream: If two parties can be correctly identified as one seeking to expand centralized power (for whatever honest motives), and the other seeking to limit it (for their own opposite, but equally honest motives), said parties can actually fulfill the functions for which they were intended: Balance. As it stands, both parties, empowered by their philosophical dishonesty, have managed to entrench fascism whilst claiming to do otherwise. If we cannot reshape the extant parties, perhaps a third party can actually emerge that stands in the philosophical center, seeking to distribute power to states, so that it retains (or regains) its vital function as the aforementioned fulcrum between two extremes.
As much sense as this makes, I must here admit that my motives are slightly less than philosophical. I'm simply tired of feeling forced to call people who want to expand centralized power "progressive." I want a spade to be a spade. If you want to take away other people's stuff, and therefore limit other people's freedoms, you are a fascist, pure and simple. No matter what political party you support. I'm sick of people hiding behind good intentions. If you want the government to have the power to tell people what to do with their children, born or unborn, you are a fascist. Whether you want the government to bail out banks (institutions drunk on greed), or alcoholics (individuals drunk on booze), the philosophical framework is the same. The moral merits of both can be argued, but not coherently, until said framework is clearly established.
Let's establish it, and see where we end up.
(And if you're not smart enough to do so, you are hereby granted permission to never discuss politics with me or anyone else again . . . Yes that makes me a bit of a conversational fascist.)