Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Courtship of Eddie's Ideology

Given the way politics have been drifting
in the direction of NeoConservatism
and NeoFeudalism,
I think Edmund Burke himself
would consider crossing the aisle.
I get excited when I stumble across something that appeals to my own confirmation bias.... I mean, my nuanced, principled and well-founded view of our social, economic and political landscapes. Nice Guy Eddie brings the heat...
Since I don't let an ideology do my thinking for me, I don't really care what positions fall under which label. I really, just DON'T CARE. I'm not trying to Liberal here, I'm just trying to be RIGHT. (As in "correct," not "wing.") And the way I see our modern discourse going, there are really only two groups:
One is very strictly and narrowly defined, and I've written about them here here here and here, for example. And to be with this crowd, you must accept EVERY bit of Dogma, even the ones that contradict other ones, you must swallow every lie, accept every bit of obviously questionable evidence, and utterly reject ANY evidence or argument to the contrary of ANY point. What's more you must accuse your opponents of committing all of the sins you do, and you must HATE them, because they are out to destroy this country. You must believe in your own perfection and the perfection of your positions and that you have a mandate from God that justifies this belief. At worst, the weakest in this camp merely keep quiet, fail to criticise the big-talkers, and silently tell themselves that it will all, somehow be OK, since at least the OTHER GUY'S not winning. 
Then they're are people who can't abide this kind of insanity. And almost regardless of what positions they actually hold, the people in the first camp call them "Liberals" and demonize them.
So, from my POV, there are really on two school's of thought: Radical, Right-Wing Reactionary Authoritarianism... ...and those who reject it.

They have robbed the words "conservative" and "liberal" of any real meaning. Not that I care... I don't really buy into labels... ...which apparently makes me a Liberal.
This is rather what I was thinking when I wrote Crossing the Aisle in Defense of the the Social Contract over at Politicususa..

...[T]hey founded both a nation and established a Constitution that was, indeed, a codified social contract, remarkably well-annotated as to it’s intent, as perfect as the times permitted and designed to allow amendments as times and and need required. It was a recognition that the individual was the foundation of and the entire rationale for the state, that all justice and all rationale for governance flowed from them.  When that essential truth is lost, when position and power depend upon the whims of a foreign court or personal fortunes, there is no such thing as liberty;  merely degrees of licence, of increasing expense and exclusivity.
Granted, these ideas were indeed Liberal.  Scandalously so. But that was more than 200 years ago and in general, it has worked out well. The principles of the American Revolution – it’s foundational ideas – have taken root worldwide, and not so much due to might, but due to the fact that it works. And as a person of reflexively conservative nature, I assert:“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
All that is required is the acceptance that all people are of inherent worth, that each is due individual respect from their peers and their governments and that each person is to be presumed, unless otherwise demonstrated, capable of moral agency, and that the principle duty of government is in fact to safeguard and expand that liberty.
I once thought this to be the great common understanding of Conservatism. For that document is foundational to the social compact that is the United States. The principles it’s based in are basic to what every other Conservative who does not dismiss the Enlightenment as a brief aberration are the essence of Western Civilization. The rule of law, the concept of the inalienable rights of man and, yes, a sharp separation between Church and State, lest the two be come one thing that serves neither end at all well. That, if you might recall, casting back on most of human history, is a nearly unavoidable  conclusion.
At any rate, if a Social Contract is Liberal while ditching the Constitution and the New Deal is Conservative – I guess it’s time for me to cross the Aisle.
 There's been a good deal of musing online about what truly is meant by freedom and liberty. As the Tea Party sorts quite reasonably point out, the whole movement was started by Libertarians. And whatever you may feel about Libertarians in general, it is indisputable that Libertarianism places a great deal of emphasis on individual liberty. An excerpt from this wonderful article, Conservatives v. Libertarians: the debate over judicial activism divides former allies, illustrates the tensions within what often seems to be a monolith of "No."

One of the first libertarians to challenge the conservatives' pro-government stance was the political scientist Stephen Macedo, who wrote a short book for the Cato Institute in 1986 with the provocative title The New Right v. The Constitution. Macedo argued that Bork, Meese, and their allies had turned the American system on its head. As he put it, "When conservatives like Bork treat rights as islands surrounded by a sea of government powers, they precisely reverse the view of the Founders as enshrined in the Constitution, wherein government powers are limited and specified and rendered as islands surrounded by a sea of individual rights."

It would be difficult to overstate the role that the Cato Institute has played in critiquing Bork's majoritarian conservatism and in pushing the conservative legal movement in a more libertarian direction. In addition to publishing Macedo's book and producing numerous widely read articles and studies, Cato hosted a seminal October 1984 conference devoted to the topic of "Economic Liberties and the Constitution" Among the participants were the University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein, who argued that the judiciary should play an active role in defending economic liberty (much as it did in Lochner), and Antonin Scalia, then a federal appeals court judge, who advanced the Borkean view that the courts should defer to the political branches on such matters. "The Supreme Court decisions rejecting substantive due process in the economic field are clear, unequivocal and current," Scalia declared. He added that "in my view the position the Supreme Court has arrived at is good--or at least that the suggestion that it change its position is even worse."

In response, Epstein argued that under the Scalia-Bork interpretation, "it is up to Congress and the states to determine the limitations of their own power--which, of course, totally subverts the original constitutional arrangement of limited government." The Scalia-Bork view, Epstein said, ignores the Constitution's "many broad and powerful clauses designed to limit the jurisdiction of both federal and state governments," such as the Commerce Clause, which authorizes Congress to "regulate commerce ... among the several states." He said the Borkeans also ignore clauses "designed to limit what the states and the federal government can do within the scope of their admitted power," such as the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause, which says private property may not be taken for public use without "just compensation," and the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause (on which Lochner relied) and Privileges or Immunities Clause, which says states may not "abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens." Taking those provisions seriously, Epstein argued, requires "some movement in the direction of judicial activism" on behalf of economic rights.

This debate brought the conservative-libertarian divide into the spotlight. "That's why the conference was so important as a benchmark," Roger Pilon says. "For the first time, libertarians threw down the gauntlet."
Now, of course economic liberty is an important concept. But economic liberty is not the only form of liberty; indeed, if it's restricted only to the concepts of income and property, it essentially defines most people as being relatively un-free. This is why more left-leaning Libertarians take the seemingly surprising step of supporting collectively-funded, single payer health-care and indeed, something along the lines of a Guaranteed Annual Income. After all, if you do believe that economic freedom is fundamental - then obviously it must cost something to ensure.

The thing that these policies reflect is not any particular bias in favor the poor and disadvantaged, but rather the idea that Liberty is a social good, that enabling people to make a wider degree of choices will tend to ensure that more people will tend to make better ones and that regardless of your philosophy of poverty and it's origins, and inarguably, there are associated costs to society that are utterly unavoidable. Policy simply changes the way in which society will be impacted by the poor.

So you can either pay the poor to be somewhat less impoverished, in a way that also eliminates entire administrative functions designed to target and support depressed local economies, or you can take a more punitive approach - and end up paying far more in terms of urban blight, policing costs, survival - level crime and gang activity that exists to resist and replace an adverserial govenment that sees the poor as a problem to be contained, rather than as citizens with rights.

This is an excellent illustration of the term "inalienable rights" and a practical application of what a "well armed militia" is and was understood to be when the Second Amendment to the US Constitution was crafted. An inalienable right is something that a government may not rightfully nor meaningfully forbid, for there is no legitimate, practical nor cost-effective means of doing so. A law that will cause tension and conflict to the degree that it is enforced, with those it is enforced against, is not just law.

If people are oppressed or feel threatened, they will band together and will strike out at the perceived threat if they must, or to the degree they may, subvert and evade it's effect, generally at the price of far more social cost than that which the law was said to address, with the additional effect that widespread disrespect for the law will undermine the rule of law itself.

Therefore, it's to be understood that the very first principle of good government is to not startle the citizens, nor make them feel that they are regarded in a fundamentally different way than their neighbours, on the other side of the tracks.

Quite aside from "right and wrong" or "right and left," the founders understood that this was the very sort of thing that led to a situation that precluded any meaningful governance at all.

I've referred to the current strain of public policy in the US (and distressingly, in Canada) as "The Galligher School"

Even if every single thing D.A.R.E. and the various "drug warriors" said about slippery slopes and inappropriateness for medical use were factual (a matter of some considerable dispute between those who care more than I, one way or the other), the unregulated consequences predicted by the pearl-clutching nannies would still be less severe than the current state of affairs.

This is leaving aside the entire question as to whether people should be "permitted" to use drugs - since it's clearly failed to change drug usage in any detectable way, it's my presumption that the war is exactly what it seems to be - an ongoing war against people, and that the violence and repression is not a means to an end, it is the entire point.

I refer to it as the "Bigger Hammer" theory of governance. If things don't go as you desire, if people don't behave as you think they should, pull out your 
biggest hammer and hit them as hard as you can. I'm quite certain I've referred to it as the Gallagher School of Public Policy. I had no actual idea at the time that it is also Gallagher's idea of Public Policy. Go figure.

So like I said above, the whole point is to smash shit. That's the whole act. Smash shit, say something viciously stupid, and the audience laughs nervously. Confuse that with approval, and carry on.
Arguably, that could be described as what the situation is, in the Untied States - an evident lack of meaningful, effective government, at vast expense, to contrary ends, with no respect for either the economic or personal liberties of any person. And I do honor the Tea Party folks for initially recognizing the issue... but at the moment, their reflexive policy is not political, it is cultural. And their culture - akin to many on the Left, like the Black Bloc - is to simply smash shit they don't like.

I'm a Canadian. I believe that when Ronald Regan popularized the idea that "government is the enemy", that government was unable to help people - well, it was in many ways true. But that's not an inherent problem. It's  a problem in regard to structure, education, regulation and training. It's a confusion about goals, and a long standing and perverse idea that the purpose of government is to fuck with this group of individuals in order to benefit either the largest number of other individuals, or a small number of wealthy ones.

Both ideals are wrong - aside from the morality of it; aside from the principles, or the Constitutionality. Look around you. See the effects on the people you know, the places you travel, the way things were 20 years ago compared to how they are today. These ideas are wrong because they do not work.

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