Thursday, February 18, 2010

navigating and modeling

this is a video of glenn beck urging preparation, and briefly towards the end, discussing political charts, like the venerated nolan chart. watch this video.

or, you know, try to.

aside from the oversimplified smears of positions which some pols hold, what i believe we see here is an idea whose time has come. i once argued that as liberty is not divisible, politics cannot be charted with orthogonal axes, as in the nolan chart. it is, i hold, time to replace it. with what?

yes, glenn beck, a circle. that's right.

the nolan chart places "economic" and "social" liberty on two orthogonal scales. for those not versed in mathematics, there is a bit of meaning to orthogonality. in very rough terms, what it means is that you can describe a point in a number of dimensions of space with "independent" values; you can draw a line by understanding ax + by if all the x's and all the y's can change freely without having a "cascading" effect. if the x line and y line are not orthogonal, then travelling any number of units, any at all, on the x line, also moves you on the y line.

so who are these nolan chart libertarians? Libertarian Party libertarians? they're young and among us, and i have no truck with them, but let us discuss another "libertarian" for a minute: albert jay nock.

nock described social power and state power as mutually exclusive forms of behavior. the way he told it, there was no separate "economic power" from social power; they are one and the same thing, and they are not state power. certainly, there are aspects of social power which could be called "economic" in that they are coincidental to market exchange. however, exercising this kind of authority is no less social a process for it. certainly no more than those liberties commonly understood as association and worship, while called "social" in that they are coincidental to other people and their behavior, are economic and require calculation to organize. both flavors of social power will bear the responsibilities appropriate to the extent of one's authority.

state power is simply political whim. the absence of people doing what they would like to do. totalitarianism is the exercise or worship of this in every conceivable action. beck places totalitarianism at the top edge of the line, probably just to start somewhere, without much consideration for the area under the circle's edge. if the traditional left-right model is what you are inculcated with, this is forgiveable. his job is not to reflect on models all day long, after all. his job is to pull for the state, for the center.

in fact totalitarianism truly belongs at the center of a circle, because it is among those who exercise state power where one finds the absence of all diversity of behavior and thought. it is at the circle's edge that all anarchy belongs, in all its forms, where everything looks either radical or irrational when you're counting in numbers: quantitative values that don't actually exist in nature. fictions, like the state itself. slightly more convenient ones than the state.

both at the center, and at the edge, there are no sides. no room for left and right, or too much room. take your pick. one's positions might fall as specks all over the circle, which one is free to average into a summary should one choose. each point in the circle's area is described with a radius and an angle: polar coordinates.

at the very edge is a multitude of interests working in harmony, without sides. get it? a circle. no sides. or, one side. same thing. one finds libertarianism pushing towards the edge in all ways. among ourselves we are seemingly leftish to the rightish ones, and seemingly rightish to the leftish ones, and i'm not sure we can ever fully trust each other until we dispose of the old french assembly dualism forever. this is an internal issue of interest to some. must we alienate the majority of voters in the process of resolving it? no.

in fact, one finds today's left and right happily preserved in clouds about the center of our graph. as one party dances clockwise, the other moves counterclockwise, and vice versa. arguably, both steadily spiral downwards into the center, falling in the kind of political gravity which requires they expend some principle that might preserve their radius in order to take up the necessary angle to maintain the facade of the left-right axis. their behavior reminds me of the great tradition of choosing which team is at bat first in a children's game of baseball: grasp the hanging bat with one hand, taking turns, higher and higher, until someone is forced to cap the top.

arguably, too, travelling the spiral is a necessary distillation of the best elements of both worlds, that they may join us out at the edge.

i don't have a nice name like "nolan" and i certainly don't think you should name this after glenn beck. i do think you should call it a graph, though, and not a chart. that sets it apart a little, don't you think? at any rate, the graph is not important. what is important is that you remember that liberty is not divisible. and, that your radius is more important than your angle. that's true in dating, too. or so i hear.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting and thought provoking post. And I haven't even watched the video yet.