Sunday, January 31, 2016
Politics in More than One Dimension
The terms ‘right’ and ‘left,’ as political terms in use today appear to me to be applied in an ad hoc and makeshift manner. Certainly, there seems to me to be no clear theory underpinning their application to politics. So let’s develop one.
We will start with two positions: 1) Society should act to benefit the individual. We will suppose that to be the premise of the right. The nest step is the notion that society is best served when it serves the individual. The extreme logical conclusion is that society can be sacrificed for the individual.
2) The individual should act to benefit society. We will suppose that to be the premise of the left. The next step is that the individual is best served when he serves society. The extreme logical conclusion is that the individual can be sacrificed for society.
This is just where we are starting. We will come back to this.
This will not give us our usual alignment of interests. For instance, from this basis, universal health care is something which should be desired by someone on the right. On the other hand, the justification for national defense is found on the left. So, apparently we have another axis, independent of the left or the right, which is the size of government. The argument against universal healthcare, then, is against a larger government, and in favor of a smaller one. But it cannot be one of efficiency. There are dozens of examples where universal healthcare is more efficient at delivery of services to citizens than what happens in its absence. Neither can it be a liberty argument, and it cannot be a danger argument.
We also observe that while totalitarianism is indeed on the left, anarchy, reputed to be a phenomenon of the left, is under these premises, in fact a possibility of the right. Note we have said nothing about inequality. We have not mentioned any relationships between individuals, but only between an individual and the rest of his society.
Now our two premises are incomplete, and in fact pejorative of the left. We have placed the benefits to the individual on the right, and the costs to the individual on the left.
Lets go back to what we see. Or rather what we are told is what we see: We see Right and Left. We see Republicans and Democrats. We see the rights of the individual versus the demands of the state. But I do not think that is the real situation.
Consider instead that all politics comes down to who gets the benefits, and who bears the costs. And remember, all benefits have to be paid for. The extreme positions on each of these then is either the individual as a particular, or society as a whole.
But this gives us the following table: I have also included some rubrics one might consider these positions, and their arguments, to go under.
Society pays: Society Benefits Society pays: Individual benefits
(Communism) ( Capitalism )
Individual pays: Society benefits Individual pays: Individual benefits
( ? ) (Libertarianism)
So these statements are like the corners of a physical table. They are the extremes, and all of politics, all the actions of and in society, goes on on the surface of this table, inside these corners.
Now, no society really exists, or has ever existed, at the corners, or even at the edges, of the table. Robinson Crusoe, for instance, being both the individual and his complete society, is squarely in the middle. They are ideals that (misguided) individuals strive for. They are misguided because these corners properly apply to different aspects of every society. These values are themselves a higher dimensional structure than we have come to understand, and - and the table, it’s actually a tetrahedron. I am preserving the line of my thinking because, even described, it is far more difficult to jump directly to the tetrahedron.
But to return to consideration as a table, the left-right axis is from the lower left corner to the upper right hand corner. The lower left corner, we can substitute for the question mark "altruism." Or, taxes. Similarly the upper right, which we have shown is congruent with universal health care, we have put capitalism. As we have stated above, there is another, independent, dimension, which is size of government. On the right we can have all government, (which de facto I suppose would be fascism,) and on the left no government, which we have named "altruism," extending the definition of the word to include the corresponding political structure, however it may be constructed.