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Ideology

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  - P.J. O'Rourke

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The Choice of Ideology

 by SARTRE

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Contemporary Political Ideologies is a text book that has been around for a long time. Many of the usual suspects are covered: Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy, Conservatism, Liberalism, Nationalism, Marxism, Fascism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Feminism and Environmentalism. Since written, additional offshoots have come to include: Neoconservatism, the Paleo versions of Conservatism and Libertarianism and what we will call "Inherit Populism".

The traditional way to view different ranges of political Ideology is through the Left to Right spectrum. This approach has caused untold confusion and avoids the essence of a clear understanding of the real nature and significance of Ideology. This distinction is covered in a previous essay: Ideology Matters, But What Is It? The key has always been the conflict between the control of state, best described as the "collectivism" of government; against the primacy of the individual.

Until the discussion attains focus on - The State vs. The People, headway of insight will be minimal. All rights reside in the individual, while every level of organization within a society and culture reflects itself in some kind of law or regulation, administered by a government. Those who seek to rule over their neighbor, want you to accept that they have attained some kind of legitimacy over your conduct.

The rise of the American police state is the subject in The State vs. The People, by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman. They differentiate "traditional" and "totalitarian" police states from a third type which they call the "modern authoritarian police state". It is this form of control that provides the significance of their thesis.  It is defined by an increasingly powerful executive branch versus other institutions of governance, and by increasing power of government as a whole. The power to make and enforce law is shifted, more and more, into the hands of executive branch bureaucracies which are not accountable to the people but which, more and more, function as de facto legislatures.

Their viewpoint frames the larger question: Is Ideology a choice of consent or is it an acceptance of a cultural condition? At the end of the day, each person unconsciously relies upon the belief they have in their version of ideas in political reality, that allows for their interaction with society. Those who are willing to accept the hidden domination of their existence by faceless bureaucrats, succumb to the resignation of  "collectivism". But those who accept their uniqueness of personal dignity, and the responsibility to protect it, will conclude that the power of the state does not make it just or confer legitimacy upon it. The element that transforms an Ideology into a workable system for conduct, is its moral and ethical component.

A simplistic approach is to view the promotion of the individual as a Libertarian or Conservative notion. But in the United States, the "culture of rights" has become one of the leading topics of intellectual and political debate. Critics of the autonomous citizen, argue that the American commitment to individual rights has become an obsession, undermining the authority of vital institutions and stripping them of the ability to act for the collective good. Such attitudes are the basis of the "collectivism" that allows for the "modern authoritarian police state". When a person of the stature of Nat Hentoff coming out of tradition of Liberal thought, sides with the authentic civil libertarian, we see how the Left-Right linear is nothing but a false diversion of the essential conflict.

If morality is the standard that allows for and judges the efficacy of an Ideology, how is it possible to separate any "collectivism" version, from the true source of authority, that underpins the organizational structures, that deem to administer public policy? The required consent of the individual, and the willingness to oppose oppression, is the best protection against the police state. So why do the advocates of all the pro State Philosophies refuse to accept the intrinsic character of the subordinate authority in their Ideology? By now the answer should be clear - they refuse to accept moral restraint upon their actions . . .

Karl Rahner speaks of human experience as unintelligible unless it is interpreted in light of the transcendent mystery of God through "transcendental reflection." Due to the ability of humans to discern the transcendent element of their situation, there is an implicit knowledge of God latent within humanity, which it is the function of transcendental reflection to identify. The sense of relation to God, a natural knowledge of God, he terms "transcendental revelation," but is inadequate in itself and needs to be supplemented by a supernatural knowledge of God, or "categorical revelation."

Traditionally this "categorical revelation" is represented in the tenets of the law, as codified in the Ten Commandments. Moral behavior resides in the actions of the individual. The State cannot compel virtuous conduct through enforcement and penalties, when the foundation of the collectivism government is based upon an Ideology that claims to be the final arbitrator of standards. Mores are relative to government when based upon cultural consensus. Righteousness is proportionate when authority flows from a bureaucracy. And legitimacy of the State is suspect when the People withhold consent from oppressive regimes.

Inherent Populism can be defined as the acceptance of our nature as created beings subject to the authority of our Creator. Our political ideology champions the natural rights of the individual as a gift of our existence. Authentic Free Enterprise consigns wealth creation as the province of independent economic choices among enterprises that curry no special favor from government largess. Justice is the mission of the law, which is based upon "categorical revelation". Society prospers and insures mutual security when equal opportunity is promoted, while recognizing that equal results are unnatural. Coercion and force by government are violations of natural rights when such practices disregard or oppose that same "categorical revelation".  Individuals have a personal responsibility to adhere to moral principles - as the optimum means to preserve their community, advance their society and tame their government.

The progression to the current "modern authoritarian police state" is a direct result of the opposition in the principles of Inherent Populism. All Ideologies are not equal any more than are all people blessed with the same talent or invoke identical motivation. Eternal strife occurs when the State, under the direction of the collectivist minions, seek to rule over the People when their only proper role is to serve the People - one individual at a time. When the message in The State vs. The People is ignored or denied, the end result "grows organically, feeding on the fears of a society and transforming those fears into incremental, concrete measures that, over time, become tyranny".

Ideology is a choice based upon your ontology. Its cogent political consequence rests upon your acceptance or rejection in the cosmology of the "categorical revelation".  It is the only path that allows for a balanced and meaningful society. For it is the sole method that can place the State under the authority of the individual. That is why your selection matters.

Essence

A Political Label to Remember
by George F. Smith

Political labels are difficult to grasp because they're almost never clearly defined.  For example, here's how dictionary.com defines neoconservative: "An intellectual and political movement in favor of political, economic, and social conservatism that arose in opposition to the perceived liberalism of the 1960s: 'The neo-conservatism of the 1980s is a replay of the New Conservatism of the 1950s, which was itself a replay of the New Era philosophy of the 1920s' (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)."

What does that tell you about a neoconservative's convictions?  Would he or she support free trade?  Abolition of the income tax?  The government's war on terrorism?  Are they simply disillusioned liberals who turned to conservatism?

We might expect the neoconservative.com web site to clear up the matter of who they are.  Neoconservatism, they tell us, "is committed to cultural traditionalism, democratic capitalism, and a foreign policy promoting freedom and American interests around the world."  [1]  Their explanation includes two terms dripping with warmth and vagueness -- cultural traditionalism and "democratic" capitalism -- and an explicit contradiction -- promoting freedom and America's interests.

Perhaps we should step back a little and ask: What is a conservative?  Is it someone "favoring traditional views and values" who tends "to oppose change," as dictionary.com says?  Do conservatives also support that great ideal of "democratic" capitalism, or is that a monopoly of neoconservatives? We need to know differentiating essentials, and no one seems able to provide them.

"When labels confuse rather than clarify, they should be dropped," writes Mark Skousen, who concluded that "the political spectrum has become a rhetorical version of Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on first?' routine."  [2]

But if we look closely, there's one label consistent with our well-being and our founders' philosophy.  Political spectrums arise in a context of fundamental opposition, the most significant of which deals with the role of the state in the lives of its citizens.  Government is about coercion.  We create a political spectrum with answers to the question: Under what circumstances does the state have the authority to exercise its coercive powers?

The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries produced the doctrine of man's rights, which declared that the only justification for government's existence was as protector of man's life and property.  Since the freedom each man is born with can only be violated by other men, human beings form societies as a means of common defense.  And since men have different interests and skills, society works to the mutual benefit of its members when the division of labor and trade are unimpeded by coercion.  Men create government, therefore, as a means of protecting themselves from external attack and internal criminals.

People who adhered to this laissez-faire view of the state were once known as liberals.  Our Constitution was an attempt to express this philosophy in law, but it unfortunately gave Congress the power to provide for the "general welfare of the United States."  To people like Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, this meant the government should intervene in the economy through such means as a national bank, subsidies to business, and protective tariffs.   Others saw the interventions as violations of liberty, since the state has no right to plunder some men to benefit others.

Over time, the laissez-faire liberals, who generally prevailed in the early years of our republic, became conservatives, as ones resisting change. With Lincoln's election, the Hamiltonian view of the state took over, and government became the agent of special interests and the breeding ground for corruption.  After the North's victory in the war, the government charged ahead with meddling in the economy, creating bank failures, recessions, bankruptcies, and other forms of wrong-doing.  Throughout the latter half of the 19th century it stayed close friends with business tycoons, some of whom found government's monopoly on coercion useful for exploiting markets and stifling competition.

By the close of the century many Americans saw the abuses of American mercantilism, called it capitalism (a name coined by Karl Marx), associated it with free markets, and decided the cure was socialism.  With the precedent firmly established that government's compulsory apparatus was up for grabs, the Democrats, once the champions of free markets but now the home of the burgeoning socialist movement, wanted to use state power to force their agenda on the country.  From 1896 to the formation of the Libertarian Party in 1971, there was no viable political party promoting freedom in the United States.

Once state aggrandizement got rolling politicians found it necessary to court special interests and swap favors in exchange for votes.  Every mess they created demanded a solution, which in turn meant more of the same -- regulations, controls, taxes, subsidies, agencies, welfare, programs.  The fight has been mostly over particulars, not principles.  The bloodbaths and ruinous economic and foreign policies of the 20th century have been brought to us by "compassionate" conservatives and liberals of both parties.

If people wish to dissect confusing political labels into subcategories of fog, that is their option.  It might make an interesting board game.  But voting on the basis of such labels is like adjusting the speed with which we advance toward statism, without knowing what speed we'll get if a given candidate gets elected.  There is one label, fortunately, that represents our dignity as individuals and supports our right to live free, consistently -- libertarian.  Every other label promotes government intrusion into our lives, to some extent.

The Libertarian Party supports the libertarian philosophy.  Libertarians believe that adults are responsible for their own lives and have the right to live as they wish.  Since all men are political equals, no one has the right to initiate force against others, either directly or indirectly through government.  They hold this view across the board, in all aspects of an individual's life.

How close are you to being a libertarian?  Take their test and find out. [3]

References

1.  Neoconservatism online,

2.  No More Political Labels, Please, Mark Skousen,

3.  World's Smallest Political Quiz,

 
The truth is always the strongest argument
Sophocles

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