Monday, May 16, 2005

Why these two choices

Why aren’t libertarianism, populism or other political leanings more popular in American political-culture than the simple left-right dynamic? This TNR article on the religious non-right is pretty interesting in that regard.

The two major political positions, of government control in social matters with economic freedom versus freedom on social matters with government control in the economy, are coherent not just philosophically but on a very visceral level that’s easy for many people to intuit themselves. “Individual responsibility” means allowing individualism in the economy and encouraging responsibility via the government, according to TNR:

In researching their book, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith found that evangelicals are more inclined than nonevangelicals to blame an individual's failure to thrive on personal shortcomings--say, a lack of ambition or character--rather than on any systemic disadvantages. By extension, write the authors, "Because systems and programs are viewed as obviating personal responsibility and not changing the hearts of individuals, they are ultimately destructive." Thus, "Welfare is seen as both terribly misguided and sinful, running counter to most things American and, in their understanding, most things Christian. It is far better, according to this [representative interviewee], to 'give them the basics of God and teach them about Jesus. That's going to bring them a whole lot more out of poverty than it is to give them a welfare check.'" Or, as Bush is so fond of asserting, the best way to tackle social problems is by changing "one heart and one soul at a time."

And it’s not just philosophically coherent, but there’s a whole class of people who naturally will feel both sides of this position (the economic and the social). And similarly for the left, though in a vice-versa way.

It's hard therefore for the left to convince the religious right of even some of their platform, or for there to even be a strong religious movement outside right or left.

So while the “bichromatic spectrum” is roundly mocked in America for being silly to presume they are the only possible political approaches, there are good reasons (besides oligopoly) for those two positions to be the dominant ones.

5 Comments:

At 10:32 AM, Blogger DevP said...

I hate to give Lakoff credit, but: it's about the big "narratives" they got going on.

Stern Father isn't going to give out candy or shit, because you have to leran the importance of a day's wage - that's why he pays you a nickel for mowing the damn lawn, and you BETTER MOW A DAMN GOOD LAWN FOR IT. But, Father runs a tight ship - if you're listening to that "Rock and Roll" or kissing boys, well... Just don't be doing that, or Stern Father will give you what for!!

Nurturing Mother gives you all the freakin' cake and ice cream you want, whereever and whenever, even if you come home piss drunk at midnight. And she'll forgive whatever "bad stuff" you end up doing!

"Ma! I'm going to smoke crack, have sex and join the military!"

"That's nice dear, just be back by midnight... the next week! Please!"

...

So, these make sense as holistic narratives. What are the equivalent for the libertarian or populist narratives? Even if you can concoct one, they're not as clear. I'm guessing there's

Libertarians: The Big Hippie ("do whatever, man!") or some wierd Randian figurehead

Populists: uh... Stern Nurturing Mother?

 
At 10:42 AM, Blogger Rousseau said...

Both L and P have their coherence. Libertarian: "Gah, government intervention is just bad. On anything." Populist: "We can fix this, so we should." They both have certainly supported movements in the past (be it revolutions or totalitarianisms). It's just that while many libertarians or greens or whatnot think the traditional parties are weirdly contradictory coalitions, they actually do have the self-reinforcing narratives that explain how it all works together.

The minority parties then, don't even get any advantage from a monopoly on ideological consistency.

 
At 8:29 PM, Blogger Dennis said...

Our boy Lakoff actually has a sensible narrative for libertarians, but I'm away from my copy of moral politics, so I'll have to get back to it later; if I recall correctly it's just a results-oriented strict father thing with a twist.

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger David Schraub said...

Your link is broken.

 
At 7:36 AM, Blogger Rousseau said...

Apologies David, here is the article
http://tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050523&s=cottle052305

I use the logic dailykos dailykos

 

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