Several years ago I was trying to find a way to explain political direction to my homeschooling children. I found that the usual line model used to describe the concepts, with right and left, was inadequate. So I worked out a new explanation, which I’m sharing here for the first time.
The terms left and right refer to the French parliament during the revolution, with relative conservatives (those in favor of retaining the monarchy) sitting on the right side of the throne, and liberals (in favor of democratic ideas) sitting on the left side. Other European parliaments were similarly arranged. There isn’t anything innately conservative about the “right” direction, or innately liberal about the “left” direction; it’s just an arbitrary description of a seating arrangement. But we have come to think of this as a line, or spectrum.
If I were to describe the general public’s understanding, I think most people would put totalitarian communism on the extreme left end and totalitarian fascism on the extreme right. Often people who lean liberal do it to be certain they are as far from fascism and all it’s hatefulness as they can get (which is, ironically, how you get so many liberal Jews in the US, even though it is the conservatives who always have and continue to support Jews and their freedoms here and around the world). When people lean conservative, it may be that they want to stay as far away from the repressions of communism as they can get.
But I think this spectrum model is missing too much truth to be accurate. For one thing, communism and fascism are both totalitarian (total government control over the people) philosophies. The Nazi party in German translated as National Socialist Party. The USSR was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They all descended from Marxism. They are, in essence, the same thing, not opposites. The only reason they seem opposite is that they were on opposing sides, eventually, in World War II. But, again, that separation is arbitrary and has very little to do with their actual definitions or philosophies. There might be some flavor differences, but they’re subtle. (I suggest Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, which gives us a much better definition of fascism and its history, including among liberals in the US, than we’ve had all in one contemporary book before now.) Socialism and fascism, then, are simply different incarnations of the same: totalitarianism (the “total” in the word refers to total government control, whether by a single dictator, an oligarchy, or some other potentate representing the state). The opposite, then, of total government control would be, not just some other version of total government control, but total lack of government control—what we call anarchy (lack of government).
So, if you were to create a spectrum, totalitarianism tyranny would be at one end, and anarchy would be at the other. Balance, exactly in the middle, would be the goal for freedom.
I let this model settle in my mind for a while, but it still seemed deficient, because totalitarian tyranny and anarchy have too much in common to be opposites.
Totalitarianism means that the state has all the power—the police, the military. The state can do what it wants, and the mere citizen is without any rights except what the state decides to grant. Anarchy, on the other hand, means that power belongs to whoever is stronger and meaner than the next guy. If you threaten to beat people up (or kill them) if they don’t give you all their belongings, and you’re strong enough to mean it, then you have power. If someone else is stronger or better armed than you are, then you have to yield power to them. In other words, anarchy, while less organized, is power in the hands of the strongest and best armed—just as in totalitarianism.
Unlimited power is the ideal thing when it is in safe hands. The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect government. An earthly despotism would be the absolutely perfect earthly government, if the conditions were the same, namely, the despot the perfectest individual of the human race, and his lease of life perpetual. But as a perishable perfect man must die, and leave his despotism in the hands of an imperfect successor, an earthly despotism is not merely a bad form of government, it is the worst form that is possible.
--Mark Twain A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Chapter X, “Beginnings of Civilization”
On a spectrum model, if anarchy and totalitarianism occupy extreme opposite ends, then, as a community moves leftward from anarchy, it would pass through balanced freedom on its way toward far left liberal socialism/communism. And if that happened, one would expect someone to notice freedom while passing through, and maybe want to stay at that place. But that isn’t what we see. We see anarchy (e.g., guerrilla warfare, terrorism, gangs, even tribal warfare and organized crime rings) leading to a panicked search for protection—which often causes people to turn to totalitarianism—either communism or, more accurately, a dictatorship.
People tend to be afraid of the chaos of anarchy. Lenin saw this. One way to gain totalitarian power is to create chaos and then promise to solve the problems of chaos (crime, poverty, lack of safety on all levels) by offering government solutions, until the revolutionaries have managed to get themselves installed as dictators. This was the purpose of Trotsky’s idea of perpetual revolution: Place power in our hands, and we will see that you are fed and housed and protected—that is, if the dictator was so minded once the power was achieved. Everywhere that communism has been tried, it took hold because people gave in to this desire for government to provide protection and food and shelter. It works on a people who do not trust their own ability to provide, and it works especially well when chaos reigns to make it difficult for people to provide for themselves. Revolutionaries therefore cause anarchy so that they can implement their own totalitarian tyranny. [Anywhere that you see revolutionaries using terrorism, they are creating chaos for the purpose of seeking their own power—always. Their claim of doing it for the people and their rights is always a lie—even to themselves.]
There’s also the fact that anarchy washes out to look pretty much like totalitarianism. Gangs and protectionist crime rings are examples of anarchist rule. Someone still rules, but they do it based on circumstances they want to enforce, not based on laws. But to the oppressed living among them, their arbitrary selfish unfairness is not noticeably different from the arbitrary nationalist unfairness of any other oppressive rule (although sometimes nationalistic pride, “sacrifice for the state,” is an idea used to persuade the oppressed to suffer without resistance, while the anarchist ruler pretty much has to rely on fear).
As I looked at this pattern, I thought of a more useful model than a spectrum line, one that might better explain our political positions, and help us in making political decisions. It requires three dimensions.
Picture the political world as a sphere. Tyranny (ruler’s power, or oppression) is literally the polar opposite of balanced freedom based on written law agreed to by the people—what I think was the careful purpose of the writers of the US Constitution, our best and closest example. With ruler’s power in the southern half, and people’s law in the northern half, we can further divide. One hemisphere is state control (the east, lets say, arbitrarily); the other is individual control or lack of governmental control (the west). So you can actually have four quadrants: ruler power/state control (south/east), ruler power/anarchy (south/west), people’s law/state control (north/east), people’s law/individual control (north/west).
Anything above the equator into people power, or rule of the people’s law, gives more freedom than anything below the equator where comforts and justice are dependent upon the beneficence of the ruler. And, beyond that, I think we find even more personal freedom if we stay carefully above the 45th parallel. I think that’s where the US Constitution was intended to lie when it was written.
The writers of our Constitution were guided by many of the same philosophies. They read John Locke, Cicero, Polybius and other classic writings of the ancient republicans in Greece and Rome (in the original languages), as well as ancient Israel. (Thomas Jefferson spent several days reviewing the pattern of ancient Israel’s representative government in preparation for writing the Declaration of Independence.) James Madison and several other founders were students of Donald Robertson, who rigorously took them through the classics. George Wythe mentored Thomas Jefferson through the classics and recommended books and readings to him. Thomas Jefferson in turn recommended a number of books to James Madison in preparation for writing the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin fostered a Philosophical Society, where men could share ideas and books, and fully educate themselves in order to benefit their society.
The founding fathers were well-read men as a whole, and they were familiar with the same books, the same historical ideas. The founders concluded, before drafting the Constitution, that freedom was their God-given right, that it didn’t come from their ruler. They believed that a ruler/leader had no inherent right to power, but could only rightfully wield power that the people granted. And then the founders were prudent about what powers they would vouchsafe to government to keep from being deprived of their God-given rights.
Much of the debate during the Constitutional Convention centered on how much power a federal government should have. It had to be powerful enough to protect against foreign invasion. But it had to be restrained from usurping power from the individual states that joined together, or from the people who made up those states and therefore the nation. The debate leading up to the drafting of the Constitution and its passage by all the states can be seen in The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays written by Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. But that isn’t the whole story. There were resistors who provided more insight into the debate, the writers of The Anti-Federalist Papers, essays that warned about the pitfalls of placing too much power in a centralized government. They were the ones who insisted on the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments. They would not ratify the Constitution until the rights protecting the people from government encroachment on their God-given freedoms were spelled out and indisputable, not trusting that future generations would always remember the truths those well-read people saw as self-evident. [They were prescient; later generations don’t automatically see these rights as self-evident; sometimes even Supreme Court justices can’t see them even though they are spelled out.]
So, the Constitution, along with those first ten amendments, spells out what powers are granted to the central government, and all other powers are left to the individual states, and to the people who make up those states. Any additional powers can only be granted through the amendment process.
The Constitution balances central control and local/individual freedom, all with the understanding that government power is strictly limited. This balance was intended to be, and should still be, the basis for debate within our two-party system, during every discussion about budget, every piece of legislation. One side rightly points out that the central government is needed for the nation to meet its obligations of defense, of protection from interstate crime, of international trade, and of interstate commerce and infrastructure—those things that are rightly done by the federal government. States and individuals share the need and obligation to protect and defend, but the federal government has the ability to provide the overall protection, where the individual does not, and therefore government has the obligation. [See Ezra Taft Benson’s “Proper Role of Government,” 1968.]
The other side rightly points out that any granting of power infringes on the rights of individuals to choose and act on their own. Taxes are levied to pay for the federal obligations, taken from the individual’s earnings. Federal laws take away the rights of states and municipalities to decide their own laws. So it was important for both sides (remember, we’re still up there above the 45th parallel) to have a voice, so the balance on any given issue would remain up there in the freedom zone, where civilization thrives. That debate is the duty of legislators, to ask the questions, “Is this an appropriate duty of government?” and “Is this the appropriate level of government to handle this problem, or is it rightly the responsibility of a more local level?”
Too Far South and East
The problem comes when one or both parties wander down below that 45th parallel. If the government is allowed, or takes, powers not granted to it in the Constitution, then freedom is lost, and civilization suffers.
There’s a story of Davy Crockett, when he was a Tennessee Congressman, and was taken to task by a constituent (told in more detail in “Free-Enterprise vs. Controlled Economy”). He had, in the previous legislative session, voted to use taxpayer money to pay to help restore Georgetown following a fire. It had seemed like a worthy cause. The constituent didn’t disagree about the cause being worthy; he disagreed that it was the prerogative of government to take tax dollars to do something about it. Crockett saw his error, and promised to maintain the proper role of government if he could be sent back to Congress. The issue was something that we would hardly blink at today, and Crockett and his colleagues mostly didn’t a century and a half ago. The founders were wise and correct to spell out the bounds of government, because it is a natural tendency of government to exert power, whether righteously or not. Our failure to reign in government exertions of power means we’ve willingly given away our freedoms—and until the restraints on our freedom are noticeably severe, we’ve hardly cared or noticed.
All three branches of the federal government have usurped some powers from the states and people. Anything not given through the Constitution and amendment process is, in fact, usurpation of power from the people and is deterioration to below the freedom zone. Significant noticeable usurpation began during Teddy Roosevelt’s day, and were insidious during Woodrow Wilson’s regime. The continued loss of freedom is evident during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, when he began inventing a different kind of “rights.” Notice that the Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedoms that the government cannot rightfully infringe upon. But FDR’s rights are things you deserve just by breathing, and the government’s job is to provide them for you: a chicken in every pot, a job whether you’re skilled or not, health care, a home whether you can afford one or not.
In every case, when the government insists that it has responsibility for providing these things, it takes away the individual’s right to provide them for himself. In addition, it forces one who has produced a way to pay for these supposed “rights” to pay for someone else to have them who hasn’t worked to earn them. In other words, the government by FDR’s time, and probably well before, began adding “entitlements,” and confused them for “rights.”
A basic example would be taking on the control of education. While the nation has an interest in having an educated populace, the responsibility for educating individual children lies with each child’s parents. They care the most; they have the most interest in the child’s welfare, and the most insight into the child’s learning needs and idiosyncrasies. So, education of children is best decided and provided by the child’s parents. (If you’re not agreeing with me on that point, then carefully consider who you think does hold the responsibility for your child and why. And how did you come to believe that a government entity was more deserving of loyalty as the basic unit of society than is the family? Because whenever society degrades the importance of the family, civilization decays. See the article “Civilization vs. Savagery.”)
The nation’s stake in the education of its citizenry does not supersede the responsibility of the parents to provide it (despite the unfortunate ruling of the California appeals court in March 2008, declaring that parents do not have a constitutional right to see to the education of their children, that it is the right and responsibility of the state, a decision that, like many California decisions, was shortly thereafter thrown out). Usurping that responsibility does several negative things. The federal government doesn’t know what challenges a local school (or even more locally, a family) may face. By providing a one-size-fits-all approach, there may be relatively broad mediocre success, but there cannot be success for all (or maybe even most) individual children. That’s why parents who care about their children’s education have always been involved in it: paying private tutors, teaching them themselves, or paying for a high quality private education—or, as a last resort, getting very involved in the local public school to make it as good as possible.
Historically, this last option, public education system, is a recent and not very successful experiment. Government institutional education was only invented as a response to a perceived need in inner cities where a number of poor immigrant families had working parents and no one to oversee the children. Children too often were left to the streets, and were creating mischief, as you would expect. So government assumed responsibility where parents failed (either because of unwillingness or inability to provide). The problem is that government stepped way beyond the actual need (to provide rudimentary educational skills for unsupervised children so as to protect society) and imposed “free” education on all children—usurping parental responsibility and authority. And as you might expect, social engineers (Horace Mann, followed by John Dewey, among others) used this excuse to convince (dupe) the public into believing education was the government’s role, and that it was a “right” everyone was “entitled to,” “for free,” which was actually paid for by taxes filtered through bureaucracy. Since it got into the business, government has always provided this so-called free public education for the very purpose of controlling what was taught. National government education, by definition, is socialist (south/east quadrant of the model).
At the time of the writing of the Constitution, there was no public education in America. Generally children were taught the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic at home by their parents. As they got older, some went on to private, often community-provided schools or, if parents were unable to meet the need themselves, they hired tutors. Always the training went through the basics and the classics. Then the young person, when aiming for a profession, continued to be personally mentored and guided in his learning. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, education was so successful that a typical farmer in New York could understand the concepts in the Federalist Papers (as well as the responses provided by anti-federalists), many of which appeared in newspapers and were read by a large portion of the population, a skill that challenges most college students today. In order to enter college, an applicant had to be fluent in Greek and Latin, and be familiar with many of the ancient writings, having translated them. Even our best colleges today would be sparsely populated if that kind of requirement held.
When the country was still new, in 1830, Alexis de Tocqueville visited from France and marveled at how every farmer and tradesman he met could read. We had essentially a fully literate populous before public education, but have never had it since.
Still, the nation clearly has an interest in having an educated populace. So how should government deal with families where parents won’t or can’t provide for their own children’s education? First of all, it shouldn’t take over a family responsibility for the entire population, at citizens’ expense, to solve a limited problem. Granted, there are going to be exceptions, but in a functioning civilized society, parents unwilling or unable to see to the education of their children will be rare. And, being few, with individual causes and circumstances, they might be best solved locally—by donations from benefactors for individual children, by local schools that provide a rudimentary education that will help a child be at least productive to society, and based on his/her own efforts and innate gifts, the student might move on to some scholarship resource later on.
The solution is free market plus philanthropy—exactly what you’d expect from a Constitution that is silent on government’s role on the issue. (Despite various tortured Supreme Court arguments to the contrary, silence in the Constitution means the federal government has no right to usurp that responsibility from more local governmental levels: see the 10th Amendment.)
Getting back to the education example, instead of the limited customized solution the free market provides, the factory style approach so common today allows very little individualization, so we tend to badly fail those who need remedial help, and, possibly worse for the nation’s future, we fail those who need enhanced opportunity and are held back by the average learning rate and tedium of the typical classroom. In addition, there is so much care taken to teaching only non-offensive “everybody agrees” philosophies of right and wrong (or worse, values the government chooses based on special interest pressure groups over the values of the family), it is nearly impossible for the government institution to instill the values needed to keep behavior in the civilized freedom zone. (See “Civilization vs. Savagery.”)
Federal interest in an educated populace could be justifiably ignored entirely, as it is in the Constitution. Or (I’m being open to meeting government’s interest in an educated populace, but I’m not being prescriptive that this or any other solution is justified) there could be a government entity, but it could be limited to becoming a clearinghouse for ideas, methods, testing, data, and resources that state and local educators (including individual parents) could turn to for assistance—like a big but powerless library. This would satisfy the central government’s interest in assuring an educated populace without usurping the responsibility and power to accomplish it from the parents and the local communities they live in. There could be debate on the issue, to decide what if any form such a government entity could take. But there isn’t any such debate taking place.
Even as you’re reading this, you’re likely thinking the very idea of eliminating federal control of education is the suggestion of a right-wing nutcase. Bringing it up instantly brings the response, “How can you be against the education of our children? Are you crazy?” which is not only untrue, it’s intellectually stilting. If you can’t even debate whether an issue belongs in the purview of federal government control, then the demagogues have already pushed the populous far south of the freedom zone on that issue.
Incidentally, the Department of Education was created, amid much opposition because of its unconstitutionality, as recently as 1979, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Despite immediate efforts by Reagan, demagoguery phrased attempts to get rid of the federal department as being against the very education of children. Citizens over their mid-40s today all managed to get educated in the US without federal oversight, but immediately federal education became equivalent with all education. Not surprisingly, the homeschooling movement began to grow from then onward.
So, the point is, federal government powers should not exceed what its responsibilities rightly are. Having a national interest is not adequate reason for usurping power from the people. Evidence is that, every time government takes on a responsibility it shouldn’t rightly have, it provides worse service than could be provided locally or through the free market. Anyone considering government’s role in health care should keep that in mind.
Too Far South and West
On the other hand, if priorities on the right hemisphere, the personal freedom side, sink into the lower regions, where the actions of certain individuals negatively affect the society of their neighbors, or society as a whole, then individual freedom actually takes away the freedom of others. That’s the result in anarchy, where those who are pushier than others get to do what they want, but those less pushy or otherwise less powerful lose their freedoms. It’s what we more accurately call “license,” rather than “freedom,” (same root as licentiousness). There are many examples: pornography, drug dealing, prostitution. The argument that the government has no right to legislate against these behaviors is hollow when a family no longer has the freedom to walk their streets in safety or let their children do research on the internet, or choose wholesome entertainment.
Why should the base desires of the depraved supersede the legitimate desires of the more considerate? They shouldn’t; the very purpose of the law is to prevent that from happening. People who want to live in the civilized society of the freedom zone can’t unless the rest of society agrees to live there. Laws are agreements to maintain civilization, and local people need to have the right to decide what their society will look like and to endow their local governing bodies with the power to make it so.
So the freedom zone isn’t without laws; it has carefully chosen laws (designated by the people themselves, at the most local level, rather than dictated from a faraway government agency) that allow civilization to flourish while protecting civilization from decay and degradation. And, further, the discussion needs to include which level of governance rightfully should be making particular rules: family, church community, town/city/municipality/county, state, or federal level. The freedom-conserving view is, it should always be dealt with at the lowest possible level. There’s no need for the federal government to get involved in what a family eats for dinner, for example; it’s the family’s responsibility. (Hitler thought otherwise; he was vegetarian and thought everyone should be; a Nazi youth mantra was that nutrition wasn’t a private matter.) So it’s important to sort out what government has an interest in, in order to preserve civilization and separate that from where government has no business usurping private responsibility. For example, while it is the parents’ right to determine the manner of upbringing a child, the parent does not have the right to abuse a child. The larger community, city or state, could very well have laws protecting a child from an abusive parent. Such a law would both defend the right of that child to have physical safety, as any other citizen, and it would also preserve society from decay by preventing or punishing heinous acts.
The World on the Freedom Globe
Here in the United States, I would be perfectly content to have two parties, and feel comfortable voting for “the best candidate, regardless of party,” if the philosophies of both candidates resided in the freedom zone, where they were designed by the Constitution to be. Unfortunately, that is not the state of our current two-party-plus-special-interests system. So, while I hesitate to appear partisan, it may be instructive to define where the current political parties reside. I should note that, regardless of the discouraging picture I’m about to paint, I believe the US is still closer to providing freedom for its citizens than any other option on earth. But the country is not where it was designed to be, and the direction is trending southward, toward statism, or tyranny. Most of the world resides below the equator of our model. Most of human history is made up of various versions of tyranny, overthrown by anarchy, and replaced with more tyranny. (Monarchies, even good ones, reside in this zone; the will of the ruler, whether good or bad, usurps responsibility from the will of the people.) And today much of the world is below the southern 45th parallel, in oppression, or the tyranny zone. Wherever there are dictatorships, communist or socialist governments, or oppressions of any sort, those countries are in the tyranny zone—far south, likely below the southern 45th parallel. Whenever there is a reign of gangs, terrorism, or anarchist rioting, that is just the other face of tyranny, and still in the oppression zone.
Sadly, much of the political debate in the world today is simply deciding whether to give in to the tyranny of anarchy or the tyranny of dictatorships, as if no one can envision any other option.
Lesser forms of oppression lie between the equator and the southern 45th parallel. These are the many elected, or chosen, socialist governments (and monarchies cum parliaments). In these societies the tyrant (or oligarchy) may come and go, but the system deprives the individual of much freedom. It confiscates much of the fruits of his labors, depriving him of the opportunity to grow and benefit from his own efforts, skill and learning, and it gives what would have been his abundance to others the government chooses to bestow his abundance on for whatever reason. There’s a disincentive to work when the outcome is dictated by the state. So innovation and progress are stunted.
Ironically, these societies call themselves “progressive,” an early code word for socialism or communism, still in use today, with the same definitions, sometimes replacing “liberal,” as though “progressive” represented something less negative. (Note: Communism is merely another name for socialism, perhaps more oppressive in degree, if you look at places where it has been practiced. But it involves ownership and control by the state, rather than ownership by the people, and occupies the same quadrant on our spherical model; therefore it’s socialism. So I don’t usually bother to make a distinction between the terms. Fascism, as well, is socialism. It might have a jack-booted flavor, but it still fits in the same section of the sphere: lower south-east. Having a three-dimensional model makes it possible to see that fascism, socialism, communism, and other variations of “progressivism” can all reside in the same quadrant and seem to each other far apart while being equally far from freedom.)
US Parties in Relation to Freedom Zone
In the US, we’ve resisted tyranny more than much of the world. There are enclaves of the freedom zone. There are people who insist on adherence to the Constitution. (Often they’re referred to as the far-right-wing extremists by demagogues oriented much further south than the freedom zone.) But there are no parties debating one another within the balance of the freedom zone. The closest you get are Republicans arguing, generally, for the government power side of the freedom zone, at least much of the time above the 45th parallel, and the Libertarians, arguing for the individual freedom side. Unfortunately, the Republicans (whose platform, at least in part, is likely to frame itself as conserving the Constitution) are more frequently arguing against Democrats about how much government should provide—in other words, how far above or below the equator they’re comfortable placing themselves. But most of the choices (anything outside of defense and interstate commerce, and those few enumerated federal responsibilities) are beyond the rightful purpose of federal government, so that places any party advocating such policies below the freedom zone—and literally unconstitutional.
And Libertarians (ideological voices more than a real party involved in the debate), often in the name of honoring the Constitution, spend much of their time arguing for lack of laws, essentially legalizing licentious behavior that deteriorates civilization. They’re against drug laws. They’re against pornography laws. They’re against laws prohibiting sex trades up to the limitation of violence. (Sometimes they’re even against national defense.) Their arguments might be valid if all the people in the society agreed to civilized behavior without any need for laws to protect civilization. Their arguments might even have weight if they framed them as “what the federal government should be limited to,” rather than limiting all levels of government. But whenever people don’t agree to civilized behavior, laws are the only way to separate out the uncivilized from the civilized society, and the libertarians, at least in general, fail to make a path for that.
If we had a two-party debate only between Republicans and Libertarians, we might end up with a balance somewhere in the freedom zone. Too bad it so seldom happens.
An interesting example of the Libertarian ideology can be seen in the rhetoric of Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul in 2007-8. He reads the Constitution. More than most he insists that our economic system would function much better if we actually adhered to the Constitution. He would limit taxes to what is permissible in the Constitution. Up to this point, he sounds very much like a lone voice in the freedom zone. But then, as Libertarians tend to do, he is in favor of legalizing narcotics and, other than patrolling the borders, isolating the nation so that it essentially has no allies and fails to keep its promises abroad, breaching faith. If we had maintained that stance in WWII, we’d have been attacked through Central America, where Axis troops were poised to strike. It was our attacking back after Pearl Harbor and joining the war in Europe and the Pacific that prevented the worldwide takeover, including through South and Central America like a game of Risk. We were not safe just by living an ocean away, and we’re less safe today.
The Democrats are a symbiotic mix of people demanding that government provide for their needs—health care, education, housing, redistribution of wealth, regulating use of resources, even making jobs: the demanding needy, we could call them—along with the elites who are willing to pander to the demanding needy in order to increase their personal power: the would-be dictators. When Republicans engage in the debate, they often try to deal with the demanding needy by saying, “We’ll give you those things too, but we’ll be more responsible about it and cost you less in taxes,” to which the reply is, “You hate children and old people; you’re trying to kill them!” and other absurdities. It’s not a reasonable debate approaching even the lowest borders of the freedom zone.
I don’t mean to imply that everyone in the Democratic Party is consciously socialist. Many simply focus on needs and wants as problems, with government as the only logical problem solver. Many on the would-be dictators’ side of the party, those in academia, media, entertainment, and other areas controlling wealth, are well-intentioned. They think of themselves as the fortunate (and often therefore guilty) elite who believe it’s their moral obligation to force society to provide for the needy—unwilling or unable to see the immorality in taking substance from one person for their own purposes—what we call theft when anybody but the government does it. One troubling thing about elites who seek power is that, when the people don’t elect them, they see that as just more evidence that the people aren’t capable of choosing what’s good for them, and so they see their power seeking as even more justified.
Oddly, in the midst of the Democrats’ crying for government to provide for every little need “from cradle to grave,” usurping individual rights and responsibilities in the process, they strongly advocate “individual freedom” when it comes to their personal choice of vices. They often side with the extreme below-the-equator libertarians when it comes to “license,” or government condoning of illegal drugs and any sort of perverted prurient enterprise [and yet, ironically, believe it’s a waste of money to spend our resources on defense when it could be “better” spent at home or abroad as handouts]. But they reserve the right to impose government sanctions against eating hamburgers or driving a vehicle large enough to hold more than three offspring (or, rather, not more than the one or two recommended offspring plus neighbor children in a carpool). They’re in favor of “free speech” when it comes to pornography, but very much against it when it comes to the free expression of conservative (or, heaven forbid, religious) ideas on college campuses or in media: for example, hate speech legislation and the regularly recurring threat of the ironically named “fairness doctrine,” meant to limit conservative radio speech but not liberal newspaper or television speech.
Intellectually, these below-the-equator philosophies are vacant of reason, as their name calling arguments often reveal. Anxious cries against “extreme right wing conservatism,” which itself is only occasionally up into the freedom zone these days, and insistence that emulating socialist Europe is rational, make it impossible to see a “moderate” position as anything but “as much socialism as we can get away with this election cycle.” Progress this is not; it is decadence only slightly slower than what much of the rest of the world is already mired in. “Progressives” are simply wrong about what brings progress, prosperity, and civilization.
When being “moderate” places a person squarely between very socialist and mostly socialist, then “moderate” isn’t reasonably approaching freedom and civilization; it’s just pulling the slightly less socialist side downward. So, being in the middle, a pretense at open-mindedness, when the middle is clearly between two degrees of wrong, can hardly be considered a virtue. Beware the term bi-partisan. Even though the Constitution is designed to have moderation between individual freedom and national governmental responsibility, today there is no party for truly moderate Constitutionalists to vacillate between, because the parties have strayed so far from that northern pole. To advocate strictly adhering to the Constitution is to be called a far-right-wing extremist ideologue.
I am that extreme. If it is extreme to read, understand, and support the US Constitution, then there are simply too many who have strayed from that focus. So, for the sake of preserving freedom, I am willing to take the extreme “northern” position. I’m essentially arctic, I’m so far north.
(Let me just say, to prevent the argument, that it is not possible to be too far north on the spherical model. The freedom zone is an ideal goal; you can’t have something too ideal. The goal, rarely reached in human history, is to just get into that ideal freedom zone, anywhere above that 45th parallel, and stay there. So, while extremely rare, and extremely different from tyranny, freedom isn’t actually extremist.)
The noncommittal, non-partisan, “I vote for the person, not the party,” idea is often used by people too simple-minded to understand principles. Nonpartisanship doesn’t apply for people who value freedom, if the philosophy of one or more parties is essentially socialist, i.e., anti-Constitutional. The same goes for partisanship, sticking with the party even if a yellow dog is running, when the party refuses to stick to the Constitution. What does it matter which team you’re rooting for if both teams lie, cheat, steal, and betray the purpose of the game? Cheerleaders on both teams ought to put their pompoms down.
There has to be an effort to strengthen a party closer to the freedom zone, and then pull that party philosophically northward. (Or start a new party; I’m open to that, if we could jettison the party furthest south, because usually a third party just dilutes the closest party.)
Parties become what the people who participate in them want them to be. So the current orientations could change. Right now, all of the parties do need to change. That can best happen when individuals who value freedom go vote, contact their leaders (not to demand more handouts from government, but to support policies that fit within the freedom zone, that actually adhere to our Constitution), and attend local grassroots meetings (precinct meetings, or whatever method is used in each state, and any other grassroots gathering) to affect the party’s platform, which is a statement of the party’s philosophies. This can never be accomplished if the people who attend and participate are the ones who are willing to use government giveaways as a means for increasing their personal or party power.
I hope this global model of political philosophy can be a tool in understanding ideological arguments. With better clarity on where philosophies can be placed on the globe, there can be a decided choice to move toward the freedom zone, toward civilization and the social harmony, economic success, and societal growth that flourish there.
The Principles of the Freedom Zone
Since the freedom zone is based on principles, those principles can be applied in every policy being debated. When we identify the principles necessary to maintain our freedoms, then we can draw the line against freedom-decaying actions. We could ask a series of questions to test whether or not a policy fits within the freedom zone:
Is the policy being debated something that an individual has the right to do, and therefore has the right to delegate to his/her government? For example, a person has the right to protect his own life and property. He can, therefore, combine resources with his neighbors and hire a government entity, such as a sheriff, to do that job for him. Similarly, the several states can combine to delegate the power of defending the nation to a national government entity. Conversely, a person does not have the right to take his neighbor’s excess grain production, for example, and bestow it on himself, because his neighbor was more prosperous in a particular season. He can, of course, ask his neighbor for charity, but he cannot coerce the neighbor to give. That would rightfully be considered theft. Therefore the person cannot delegate the redistribution of wealth to the government to do for him.
Does the policy infringe in any way on the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights? Does the policy infringe on the free exercise of religion or try to establish a particular sect as a state religion? Is political speech hindered? Does the policy infringe on the right of citizens to bear arms? Does the policy constitute an illegal search or seizure? Does the policy deprive a person of life, liberty, or property when the person has not committed a crime for which that deprivation is the just sentence? Does the policy try to claim for government a power that was not specifically granted in the Constitution? etc. If the policy infringes on the God-given rights, then government cannot take that power without usurping power from the people.
Is the idea being debated a proper role of government, some aspect of protection (including defense, protection from interstate crime, enabling international and interstate commerce, standardized weights and measures and currency, the judiciary that guarantees the protective laws), as enumerated in the Constitution? If not, then accepting the idea is outside the Constitution and below the northern 45th parallel.