Thursday, May 12, 2005

Neither Left nor Right -- are we Up?

“I have never felt comfortable with the horizontally-based arrangement that defines political thinking along a ‘Left’ to ‘Right’ continuum,” wrote Butler Shaffer yesterday in his essay “No Room on the Spectrum.” Added Butler:

“I know this designation arose from the seating order in the old French parliament, but this only adds to our confusion. We have structured our minds to believe that ‘communism’ and ‘fascism’ are polar opposite political systems, and that those desirous of avoiding the vicious ‘extremes’ of either are invited to seek refuge in the safe harbor of the ‘middle’ of the spectrum. In such ways has the state continued to expand its powers, advising the uncritical booboisie to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ ...

“...along the ‘Left/Right’ spectrum are to be found the various franchises of statist behavior that have conspired to plague mankind with the horrible nature of all political systems. The parliamentary origins of this concept ought to have been a tip-off that human freedom was not to be part of the equation defining positions along the spectrum.”

Butler proposes an alternative to the Left-Right spectrum, substituting vertical “up” and “down” designations. With complete individual liberty at the upper end and total statism at the lowest end, the arrangement might be:
  • Anarchism
  • Libertarianism (classical "limited government" liberalism)
  • Conservatism
  • Modern liberalism
  • Welfare-statism
  • Limited state-socialism
  • Feudalism
  • Expansive state-socialism
  • Fascism/communism
Seems to me that if you just knock this vertical model over on its side, with anarchism falling on the far left and both fascism and communism falling on the far right, you’ve got the cleaner, more historically correct Left-Right spectrum championed long ago by Murray Rothbard (“Left and Right: the Prospects for Liberty”) and Karl Hess (Dear America).

But Butler’s vertically-described system is appealing. It reminds me of my old friend, author-teacher-futurist F.M. Esfandiary (aka FM-2030).

Years ago, F.M. used to hold wonderful Rothbard-like salons at his Westwood apartment near UCLA that would always run into the wee hours. The conversations were civil and mind-expanding. The wine and food were top-notch. F.M. died five years ago. I miss him and his gatherings.

Anyway, in the 1970s, F.M. wrote a trilogy of nonfiction books on the future, all of them now unfortunately out of print. The middle tract, published in 1973, was titled Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto. In that book, F.M. explained that Right and Left were “traditional frameworks predicated on traditional premises striving in obsolete ways to obtain obsolete goals.” In an era of rapid technological, scientific, medical, and cultural breakthroughs, the liberal and radical Left were the “new gradualists — the new conservatives.” He wrote: “I stress the point because this liberalism and Left radicalism masquerading in the name of progress are putting up the strongest resistances to the newest breakthroughs.” These breakthroughs “are outside the range of all the traditional philosophical social economic political frameworks. These new dimensions are nowhere on the Right or on the Left. These new dimensions are Up.”

Maybe we anarchists should follow Butler Shaffer's advice, adopt an Up-Down philosophical model, and start referring to ourselves as Up-Wingers. Wouldn't that draw attention to our movement?

7 Comments:

At 8:29 PM, Blogger James Leroy Wilson said...

The up-down is worthwhile WRT coercion of individuals, but I think left-right is still useful WRT distribution of land/land rights/land usage. ISTM that the State, however it is constituted, is the ultimate landlord, the rent collector of all rent collectors.

If the State as we know it is abolished, will there still be rent-collectors and rent-payers? Is this necessary and/or just? The answer to that probably answers if you are on the left or the right.

 
At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A state of anarchy must, by necessity, be ephemeral. It will endure until three thugs contrive to agree. As a matter of course, there will arise a multitude of coercive centers, who will contend with one another in addition to extracting tribute from the apathetic masses of producers. Man must be governed, for mankind produces the psychopaths, and only a government, allowed legitimacy by the populace, can control these political cancers. ALAS!

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

"Anonymous" (above) sounds like someone who really must begin reading Rothbard's Man, Economy & State, preferably as soon as possible.

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Wrote "anonymous" (above): "Man must be governed, for mankind produces the psychopaths, and only a government, allowed legitimacy by the populace, can control these political cancers. ALAS!"

In response, I offer this from anarchist Fred Woodworth:

If human beings are fundamentally good, no government is necessary; if they are fundamentally bad, any government, being composed of human beings, would be bad also.

 
At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The study of Mankind is sufficient to validate the presence of vice and charisma contained within any human population presently defined by superstition or ethnicity. Let these two attributes combine in a single person, endowed with a native intelligence, and the afflicted populace will have a government, whether it will or no. We may refer to original sin or to some species of social darwinism, when we account for the miseries civilization has visited upon Man, but the greatest happiness for the greatest number of human beings has only been attained in the cagnitive vapours of withdrawn philosophers.

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Scott Bieser said...

If it is true that some inherent and irresistible flaw in human nature dooms us to subjugation by the most charismatic and ruthless among us, then we are indeed doomed whether we attempt anarchy, democracy, or any other "archy."

And therefore any effort to improve human social condition is pointless from the start.

I prefer to assume otherwise.

 
At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can Mankind be set upon the road to perfection by the establishment of salutary institutions and the elimination of other institutions inhibiting the realization of Mankind's more sublime impulses? The Second Person of the Trinity suffered horribly and the Soviet Peoples perished in their millions so that Mankind could achieve an Earthly perfection. It has not happened. The State neither "withered away' nor did states informed with the Benevolence of Our Lord display any less aptitude for a squalid despotism.

 

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