23 July 2015

Or... maybe its neither

I am not really sure exactly what to think or feel about the fact that within the span of a couple months I can be accused of being both a libertarian and a communist.
By different people, of course.
But on the same general topics, and with my stance staying consistent.

As far as I can tell, the reasoning goes something like this:

"This guy [me] doesn't agree with my viewpoint, therefor he must hold the views of those other people".

In discussions I am regularly told, after stating my beliefs and understandings, something along the lines of "I bet you think ___________, too".
Well, no, I told you exactly what I think.
That other part you just made up.

That is always a pretty good sign that the statements the other person is making aren't even really their own.  They are things that person heard, and agreed with, and now they are repeating them.  Possibly in their own words, but unoriginal none-the-less.  It means they have subscribed to an ideology.
There is no "right" ideology.  There is no good ideology.  By very definition, one must accept an entire ideology as is, which intrinsically means not questioning anything.  It is exactly like a religion: all of your beliefs are handed to you, externally.
It is anti-scientific, and it is intended to be.

But, no, when I argue for or against a particular point, that does not automatically mean I support whatever you think is the "opposite" position.
It is almost always a false dichotomy.
Consider the possibility that, you and your socio-political opponent, you are both wrong.

As tempting as it is to reduce the entire complex world to a few basic principals, (and then dogmatically stick to the consequences of those principals no matter what they are), reducing any complex system is all but guaranteed to create some inaccuracies.  Once that's done, the more and more you build on a faulty premise, the more wrong your conclusions are going to get.

The only way out of that trap is to drop the "principals" and axioms at the foundation of the entire belief system - but of course the way human nature works, people's "identity" gets so tied up with what they believe that it is painful to even consider that parts of the foundation may be wrong.

That psychology comes out when I make straight-forward, logical, fact based statements that undermine someone's position, and their responses - coherent at first - degrade to name calling (accusations of "communist", for example), appeals to various logical fallacies, and guesses as to what else I must believe, and sometimes even plain old statements of "that's just the way the world is", which isn't even an argument, it's just an assertion of faith.
What it tells me when those things start happening is that the other person can't find any reasonable way to make any valid argument to counter whatever I just said - but they just can't possibly accept that what I said might have merit.  Because, if they opened that pandora's box a little, maybe the rest of their belief system would get torn down with it, and then what would be left of their self-identity?

This has all been very vague, let me go through some examples.

In the United States, there is a very uneven "playing" field.  Some people start out life with extremely significant advantages compared to the average person, while others start out with extremely significant disadvantages.  On top of that, our legal system is set up such that any advantages are extra enhanced externally, so that people who have an existing advantage have an even easier time getting even further ahead.  It is basically a "winner take all" system.
There is no particular reason our system has to be set up that way.  In fact, almost everyone would be better off if it wasn't.  In the end it causes a lot of inefficiency and waste, and it increases crime and reduces security for everyone, even the winners.


In the United States there is opportunity for everyone to get ahead.  Everyone gets a free education.  Everyone who can't afford college is eligible for a $5000 Pell grant, regardless of their GPA, which is almost twice as much as it costs in tuition and fees to attend the average community college.
The US minimum wage results in income higher than what about 1/2 the world makes (and that's after factoring exchange rates and cost-of-living), which means that it is absolutely possible to live on less.  Which means it is possible to save.
While there may be individual exceptions, people with unpredictable medical costs, for example, the vast majority of unsuccessful people have made some number of bad choices - frequently ongoing ones.

These things are both true.  They do not conflict with each other.  It absolutely is possible to be a "self-made" person.  They really exist, and there really are no barriers to anyone doing it.  AND the system is rigged to make it as easy as possible for the wealthy to generate even more wealth without even having to work for it, while making it difficult for those who start out disadvantaged to ever catch up.

If the ultimate goal is to make society as good a place as possible for everyone, ignoring either half of reality ends up in bad policy.

Here's another:

Statistics show that a Black man on trial faces longer prison terms for a given crime than a White one.  There is no other way to account for that than racism.  Furthermore, slavery was a real thing that happened, and reparations were never paid.  This is simply historical fact.  Then there was almost 100 years of Jim Crow laws.  Despite that fact that it is technically possible for any given individual to succeed, and many individuals do, there are many reasons, both practical and psychological, why the majority of people inherit their social class.  Social mobility is relatively low in modern America.  Actual inheritance (not just in the form of wealth transfer upon death, but gifts and financial advantages for children throughout a parent's life - paying for college, cars, co-signing a first mortgage), is a big part of it, but education (both the school kind, and the teaching of culture and values) is almost as big a part.  While policy may have a limited degree of control over the culture parents teach their children, it could do a lot to level the playing field financially, as well as put a much more serious effort into providing an equal education for everyone.


Nobody is forced to commit crime.  Ever.  There is no excuse for violence.  It doesn't matter the conditions you grew up in or how you were raised.  Violent crime is unacceptable. Period.  And the fact is, no matter how much we would like to pretend it isn't true, Black men in this country commit significantly more violent crime per capita.  "Slavery" is not a valid excuse for an individual to sell crack to his own community, steal a car, or shoot at someone.  "Oppression" does not justify attacking people, whether they are a rival gang or a police officer.  It may be true that cops, DAs and judges are harsher on dark skinned drug offenders, and of course we would improve things with decriminalization (without legalization - continue to lock up the dealers!), but no one is forcing Black people to take drugs.  If you don't take drugs, the drug laws are irrelevant.  Yes, they are addicting, but no one is addicted before they take that first hit.

There is no conflict between the two.
People are responsible for their own actions and choices.
Society is responsible for its treatment of groups of people.
One is macro-scale, the other is micro.  They are not interchangeable.
When you consider the ocean, you take into account the tides.  When you consider a glass of water, the tides are not relevant.
And so both paragraphs above can be true at the same time.

If you ignore the truth of either one, because it doesn't fit with your ideology, you are going to waste all your time and energy fighting to create policies that don't fit with reality, and as such are not going to solve whatever problem you are trying to solve.

I'm not suggesting "moderate", or in-between views.  I'm saying the entire idea of a polar scale is flawed to begin with.  It's more like both "ends" of the political spectrum are just plain wrong.  They are dogmatic, and as such ignore big chunks of the real world.  The truth isn't to the left, or the right, or in the middle, nor even on a tangent off to the side.  It isn't a point.
The real world encompasses everything.
If you want to make a positive difference, the first step in being effective is to open your eyes.
Even to the parts that you really don't want to see.


  1. Knowing that you are passionate about a political idea sometimes makes people who are moderate like to label you are "extremely right" or "extremely left". In regards to Hypermile techniques, It seems to fit into the two extremes (in my opinion). On the right, you are a fiscal conservative, due to sort of "extreme" budgeting of every last drop of gas you would buy. (Just like they would do in the Mad Max movies.) The "extreme left" side of hypermiling has to be the idea of relying less on fossil fuels. I can go into detail, but seems that the reality of hypermiling intersecting with politics occurs in proper highway maintenance. re: if questions thanks, your blog is very "spot on".! /^^\

  2. Very well put together. Thanks for doing the work, I'm going to bookmark it as I often make similar points, but can never make myself write a cohesive post tying them together.

    Interestingly, one idea appealing to a person often serves as a "gateway drug" to the complete left or right ideology. While it is only an anecdote, all my friends who got interested in firearms eventually embraced other conservative positions, even if they started in opposition to them. My "gateway" into politics was the environment, and at least in regards to gay rights my position switched in line with the rest of the Left orthodoxy.

    Staying intellectually honest, examining and challenging your views, not rejecting inconvenient facts outright does not come to us naturally. Sticking to our tribes does. So there is an uphill battle here. Humanity seem to be winning it - but slowly, and with frequent and dramatic setbacks.

    1. I agree with everything you said. And don't have much solution...
      Thanks for letting me know people are still stumbling across this now and then!


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