Power Politics

A major step on the path to my political enlightenment was the rejection of the traditional left-right, liberal-conservative political spectrum in favor of a two-dimensional one, with one axis representing political freedom and the other economic freedom. Later, I came to see that political and economic freedom are ultimately inseparable. While the two may exist out of sync in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, economic freedom leads people to demand political rights, and authoritarian regimes attempt to monopolize economic as well as political power. While I could write a book on both the historical and theoretical implications, for now I’ll offer a quote from For the New Intellectual: "Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries."

A good quiz to measure one’s position in this two-dimensional spectrum is at the Politopia website, and the original World’s Smallest Political Quiz (about which I have some reservations) is worth taking a look at as well. (Actually, to the best of my knowledge, the original idea comes from Ayn Rand.) What I found tonight however, was a grotesque rip off of the original idea twisted beyond recognition by marxists brainwashed by "critical theory". An objective test should accurately determine one’s actual level of knowledge or views, given an honest examinee — but this quiz is so laden with contradictory, loaded, and irrelevant questions, that no objective evaluation is possible. (In fact, it only claims to be valid for citizens of "western democracies.") My reason for mentioning it at all is to bring up a recently realized point to light: libertarianism is inevitably a subjectivist and anarchist philosophy because it rejects the difference between power and authority, or might and right.

About half the questions on the quiz reflect the false dichotomy between blind state-worship and the rejection of all political authority shared by libertarians and Statists. In other words, you must either blindly accept everything the government does without question, or reject it as the selfish actions of power-hungry bureaucrats. Sample questions: "Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity." and "No one chooses their country of birth, so it’s foolish to be proud of it." Libertarians and leftists have a lot in common: it is only the hypocrisy of the left in distrusting government to protect them from criminals, yet blindly trusting government to be their mommy and daddy that prevents them from reaching the anarchists conclusion that many "classic" Marxists did.

The quiz includes a number of seemingly irrelevant questions that actually reject the distinction between the government’s proper roles of preventing the use of force and assume that it must force a particular morality down everyone else’s throat. (Welfare and earth-worship excepted, of course.) Examples:

Sex outside of marriage is usually immoral. Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers. Abstract art that doesn’t represent anything shouldn’t be considered art at all. Astrology accurately explains many things.

Again, libertarians argue, "government should not enforce morality," forgetting that any legal system must be based on a particular morality, and often failing to distinguish between government interference in voluntary vs. involuntary interaction. Admittedly, many libertarians do make this distinction — but to the extent that they acknowledge a certain moral code as the basis of their political views, they are not libertarians, for by rejecting any specific moral code as a basis for political authority, libertarianism excludes any particular moral code from forming such a basis.

The imporance of the distinction between power and authority is certainly not a new idea. John Locke was aware of it, and Machiavelli and Plato believed that a "legitimating myth" is required to keep ordinary folk in line. Authority is no myth however: as Aristotle first wrote, there exists a necessity for government precipitated by our condition, and a rational man had the capability to realize it.

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0 Responses to Power Politics

  1. I dunno, I found the political compass quite amusing. It was more
    specific, and I feel a bit more relative for the readers. You seem
    to have found the “leftist lingo” offensive and blame “Marxists brainwashed
    by critical theory.” You’re either pretty conservative, or sensitive 🙂
    BTW, do you have some scripting that highlights keywords used in engines?
    Thats a good idea if you do.

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