Translate

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Classifying the political spectrum rationally


http://www.tfa.net/the_freedom_association/2010/09/rhys-jones-questions-the-new-political-spectrum.html


The most rational way to classify the political spectrum is to go from Libertarian to Statist. In other words, low tax and light regulation to high tax and heavy regulation.

Nothing else makes sense, because Left and Right are both capable of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.


If it is involves either more regulation or more taxes, it is called "statist".

If it is a proposal to repeal a law or regulation or would save the taxpayer money, then it would be called "libertarian".

I am suggesting that we go through all the policies of every political party, categorising every policy in this way, and then grade each party's policies according to their statist or libertarian tendencies.

It is a very simple process. Hardly rocket science.

43 comments:

Claire Khaw said...

I am cutting and pasting comments from a certain Ben Pile whom I met on Facebook and my responses. I cannot imagine has many friends, being the pompous pretentious git that he is.

But his comments are educational, if only in showing intransigence, pride and slowness on the uptake.

I cannot imagine that he will have a successful political career if he does not change his ways.

Claire Khaw said...

29 September 2010

Me on Facebook in response to Morgan Rhys-Jones's post:

"The most rational way to classify the political spectrum is to go from Libertarian to Statist. In other words, low tax and light regulation to high tax and heavy regulation.

Nothing else makes sense, because Left and Right are both capable of authoritarianism and totalitarianism."

Ben Pile said...

"I would abandon the notion of political spectrums altogether, Claire. I think they may have some use as shorthand in some conversations, but as ways of understanding political categories, using such axes creates more problems than it solves, lumping together ideas that are not compatible.

Take your statist vs libertarian axis, for instance. Libertarians need a state. The question about the role of the state on this axis is therefore merely one of degree, rather than split on fundamentals. I.e. the premise at both ends is 'we need a state', whereas there are a number of political ideas that propose that we don't need a state (or that it can be abolished).

If you're committed to a libertarian set of ideas, there's no need of a counter-posed corner to argue against. Even if we start to conceive of multiple axes, we end up obsessing about N-dimensional political geometry at the expense of getting to the substance of the ideas in question. I don't think this way of looking at political ideas is helpful in understanding today's world."

Claire Khaw said...

You do not need multiple axes under this system. Just one will do nicely.

Why don't you tell me your way then?

Ben Pile said...

"The left-right axis is an anachronism. The left-right divide belongs to an era in which society and political power divided much more strictly. But today's world is more complex. I don't think any such polar view of contemporary politics is helpful, and so I think reinventing axes is likely to confuse matters, rather than shed any light on them.

My way? As I said, you ought to be able to maintain your commitment to libertarian ideas without there being an opposite corner. The reason that your conception of the new political axis (statist vs libertarian) doesn't work is that libertarians (of the kind I think you mean) aren't against the state -- they need a state: who else is going to supply the light regulation and low taxation? Meanwhile, there are political ideas about the abolition of the state, which I'm sure many libertarians would wish to distance themselves from. So before it's even been established, there is disagreement amongst the population at one putative end of it."

Claire Khaw said...

I am only suggesting that any law or policy one proposes can be classified.

If it is involves either more regulation or more taxes, it is called "statist".

If it is a proposal to repeal a law or regulation or would save the taxpayer money, then it would be called "libertarian".

I am suggesting that we go through all the policies of every political party, categorising every policy in this way, and then grade each party's policies according to their statist or libertarian tendencies.

It is a very simple process. Hardly rocket science.

Ben Pile said...

Claire, I don't think it would be so simple. For instance, libertarianism is about more than taxes, so how would such an axis treat a party which taxed very little, but allowed the individual few freedoms? On your axis, it might well end up being more libertarian than a party which taxed more, but allowed people to make many more decisions for themselves.

Claire Khaw said...

It is very simple, Ben. Every policy is classified. If it results in less tax it is deemed Libertarian. If it means repealing a law it is also deemed Libertarian. You add up the total points of a party's policies.

Claire Khaw said...

If it has more L policies then it is Libertarian than if it has S (statist) policies. What's so difficult to understand about that?

Ben Pile said...

"It's not hard to understand, Claire. What I dispute is that the degree to which a party is 'libertarian' can be 'simply' determined by such a process. As I pointed out, a government might well tax people very little, yet deny its populations the freedom that libertarians ought to value. A government could, for instance, tax very little but deny a population any freedom of democratic expression. Therefore the axis you've proposed is far too narrow to determine what I think most libertarians would understand as the *point* of libertarianism."

Ben Pile said...

"Or maybe I've misunderstood Libertarianism? Is it just about tax?"

Claire Khaw said...

Someone who takes away your money takes away your choice and this means your liberty, Ben!

Ben Pile said...

"Perhaps, Claire. But somebody who doesn't take away your money can yet deprive you of your liberties. That is why an analysis of a party's tax policies is not sufficient to determine the extent to which they are 'libertarian', let alone create a spectrum through which all political ideas can be meaningfully understood."

Claire Khaw said...

All I am saying is: at election time go through all the policies of all the parties you can vote for and work out which party has the most libertarian policies, and vote for them on that basis, if you are indeed a libertarian.

Obviously, if you are not, you will vote according to party loyalty or whatever.

Ben Pile said...

"That's not all you were saying. Like Mr Jones, you seemed to be reinventing the political spectrum in a way that led to more problems than it solved.

As to your advice to libertarians choosing a party, it is somewhat prosaic to suggest that Libertarians should choose the party with the most libertarian policies.

I would suggest that people who are thirsty should have a drink."

Claire Khaw said...

What problems do you foresee, Ben? Do please illustrate your concerns with a concrete example or two.

Ben Pile said...

"I've done that already. EG:

"Somebody who doesn't take away your money can yet deprive you of your liberties. That is why an analysis of a party's tax policies is not sufficient to determine the extent to which they are 'libertarian', let alone create a spectrum through which all political ideas can be meaningfully understood."

And

"a government might well tax people very little, yet deny its populations the freedom that libertarians ought to value. A government could, for instance, tax very little but deny a population any freedom of democratic expression. Therefore the axis you've proposed is far too narrow to determine what I think most libertarians would understand as the *point* of libertarianism."

Claire Khaw said...

Those are not concrete examples, Ben. I am sorry that you cannot tell the difference between a concrete example, ie a particular law, and a general statement.

Concrete example of statism would be ID cards, a higher rate of VAT.

Concrete examples of libertarianism would be any proposal repealing any taxes and any laws in existence.

I still have no idea what you are so worried about. Perhaps you are just disagreeing with me for the sake of disagreeing with me?

Ben Pile said...

"Leaving aside the misplaced condescending tone...

Your formulation of an axis of libertarianism-statism was limited to tax policies. You've now included ID cards, which is an improvement from your first formulation, but is a different proposition. I pointed out that this isn't sufficient to determine a measure of how 'libertarian' a policy or party was, because liberty can be be denied in other ways than through tax.

You want some 'concrete' instances of the poverty of such a view. Let's put the prevailing politics of Saudi Arabia and Sweden -- i.e. social democracy and Islamic theocracy -- on your axis.

Employees in SA pay no income tax, but pay 2.5% religious tax. In Sweden, people pay the biggest part of their income in tax on top of company tax. Yet people in Sweden enjoy more civil, individual and political freedoms. According to your imperative, given the choice, libertarians would vote for the Islamic theocracy.

What worries me is that your narrow view of politics--i.e. limited to tax policy -- is irrational."

Claire Khaw said...

This theory is intended for use in working out which party has the most libertarian policies IN THIS COUNTRY.

Perhaps you would like to choose two parties and compare them using this classification?

Ben Pile said...

"You've changed your argument. To remind you, this is what you said:

"The most rational way to classify the political spectrum is to go from Libertarian to Statist. In other words, low tax and light regulation to high tax and heavy regulation"

There's nothing UK-specific about your claim. Taxation is not a phenomenon unique to the UK.

You seem to be missing the point, however, that a concentration on tax policies does not allow for an sufficient evaluation of the libertarian credentials of a party. Of course I gave somewhat extreme instances, but this was to demonstrate that 'libertarian' tax policies are not necessarily concomitant with the wider set of libertarian values. Tax, in and of itself, is not what libertarians (with any rational faculties) object to. The objection is more principled or theoretical than that. A desire for a small government is a desire for greater autonomy and independence. It is possible therefore, for one government to tax more than another, and yet hold libertarian values more closely.

I think you're probably going to have trouble understanding that, because it strikes me that your view is not only narrow, it's also quite shallow.

As for a comparison between two UK parties... as has been widely observed, there ain't much between the mainstream parties, and they certainly don't divide on some libertarian vs statist axis. Your suggestion that we count the number of Ls and Ss, and determine that the one with the most Ls is the one for libertarians, would amplify a difference that exists by dint of mere noise, to a difference, say, between Marx and Hayek. But they aren't divided on matters of principle, or on philosophy, or ideology, or anything, really, other than management styles and opportunity. They differ, then, by margins, on matters of degree.

This is why it is a mistake to force today's politics (or rather today's empty political ideas) onto a spectrum. It's like trying to work out which out of west and east is the most south and the most north. A category error writ large. More to the point, trying to see contemporary politics in such terms is a symptom of its emptiness."

Claire Khaw said...

But I wasn't proposing to compare the policies of the mainstream parties but between a mainstream party and a fringe party or two fringe parties, whichever you prefer.

The theory would still apply but I do not feel I know enough about Saudi to find really good examples. In any case they have no elections in Saudi anyway or an easily available manifestos that we could refer to.

If you wish prove that my theory doesn't work then I would have thought you would need to see the experiment through.

Ben Pile said...

"I have seen the experiment through... many times now. And I as I've pointed out, there is no substantial difference of principle between the UK parties, except differences of degree. Even if we want to find some fringe party that seemingly ...put forward either statist or libertarian policy ideas, the fact of their being fringe means they aren't representative of politics in general, meaning, once again that the axis you've identified is not sufficient to explain UK politics. Seriously, you're flogging a big dead horse, even though you've tried to re-invent it several times.

It doesn't work at the general or particular levels, and it by definition doesn't work at the fringe level. I think the problem is likely some dogma on your behalf. I won't call it 'libertarian' dogma, because I don't think you've got a particularly good conception of 'libertarian'."

Claire Khaw said...

Where have you seen this experiment?

Ben Pile said...

OK, I think you're being silly now, and don't see the point in carrying on.

Claire Khaw said...

It doesn't matter if the party is fringe of mainstream, we just want to do a comparison. I have a feeling that you already know where it is going and you are heading me off at the pass. That is why you are refusing to even choose a party.

Claire Khaw said...

Tsk. Refusing even to answer very simple questions suggests you are being deliberately unco-operative. I wonder why.

Ben Pile said...

"It does matter if the party is fringe or mainstream, because you want the spectrum to be representative of British politics -- that is why you rejected my use of Saudi and Sweden. Remember, you want to say that the libertarian-statist axis is the fundamental of British politics. So in choosing fringe parties, you're choosing outliers.

Perhaps you need a history lesson. 'Left' and 'Right' denote two sides of the French National Assembly in the late C18th. The sides represented different ideological bases and different social classes with different interests. Hence, left and right became polar opposites. Differences in contemporary society and politics do not reflect each other in this way. Sure you can draw a line between 'libertarian' and 'statist', and say everything on each side tends towards either end (prosaic as that would be), but that line is *arbitrary*, and I think it only serves to polarise a nebulous situation *in* *your* *head*. It doesn't actually make any sense of British politics as the categories 'left' and 'right' did in the 1700s. You seem to want a distinction as useful as left and right, and my suggestion is that you want it because the ideas you want to identify with aren't well formulated. After all, it's easier to be against something than for something."

Claire Khaw said...

It seems we are talking at cross purposes here. I did *not* say that "the libertarian-statist axis is the fundamental of British politics".

I had hoped to convey the message: "Let us, if we are libertarians, grade a party's policies for libertarianism, unless we are silly enough to take things at face value and vote for the Libertarian Party UK."

Perhaps you are not a libertarian?

I believe I have formulated them and would like to test them, but it seems you are unwilling to co-operate.

Ben Pile said...

‎"I did *not* say that "the libertarian-statist axis is the fundamental of British politics""

Yes you did: "The most rational way to classify the political spectrum is to go from Libertarian to Statist"

Which you later changed to:
...
"This theory is intended for use in working out which party has the most libertarian policies IN THIS COUNTRY"

"Perhaps you are not a libertarian?"

Perhaps I'm not, but I wonder how you'd know, since you don't seem to have a particularly robust understanding of 'libertarianism'. E.g.:

"I had hoped to convey the message: "Let us, if we are libertarians, grade a party's policies for libertarianism"

Which is, as I've pointed out, fairly prosaic stuff before we've even established that the method of 'grading' is to do some kind of tax return spreadsheet, with all the problems that causes, as I've described above.

Ben Pile said...

‎"I have formulated them and would like to test them, but it seems you are unwilling to co-operate."

I think you over-estimate the value of the idea that "libertarians should vote for the party with the most libertarian policies". Your insight, as profound as it is, will not be reshaping British politics any time soon.

Claire Khaw said...

Bald assertion will not convince anyone, Ben.

Perhaps it is time to try another tack, since you determined to avoid the question forever.

How do you feel about thoughtcrime legislation?

Ben Pile said...

"Oh, that's a toughie, Claire. It's nearly as hard as the question, 'are you for or against motherhood and apple pie?'"

Claire Khaw said...

Are you aware of any thoughtcrime legislation in the UK?

Ben Pile said...

"I'm not sure what this question has to do with the discussion that precedes it, Claire.

I think using the term 'thought crime' is perhaps a little dramatic, but I've always wondered about the safety of arresting on the basis of 'suspicion of conspiracy...', Various anti-terror legislation concerns me, too. And I don't have much time for 'hate-crime' and 'hate speech' laws, either. What's your point? Spit it out.

Claire Khaw said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8035606/Equality-Act-firms-must-not-ask-job-applicants-about-health.htm

Ben Pile said...

"What's your point, Claire?"

Claire Khaw said...

So you call yourself a libertarian while being quite unable to spot thoughtcrime legislation even when the government slaps you in the face with it?

Do you even know what liberty is?

Ben Pile said...

"Without wishing to defend the new equality act, it doesn't create thought crimes. It's certainly regulation, and likely very poor regulation, designed to manage the relationships between job candidates and their prospective employers, but it does not aim to police their thoughts.

More to the point, this has nothing to do with the conversation, except to serve as some rather silly and ill conceived stunt intended to undermine my libertarian credentials."

Claire Khaw said...

A libertarian who does not recognise totalitarian legislation is not worthy of the name.

And you have not defined liberty. Is it because you don't quite understand the concept, Ben?

Ben Pile said...

Claire. This conversation is over.

You've taken it upon yourself to publish my comments on your personal blog, which is not something I agreed to, and I think it shows disrespect for myself and for Christiana that you've done this. Please remove them.

Claire Khaw said...

No, I don't agree, Ben.

The whole point of this exercise is to show how utterly useless, pretentious, pompous and cowardly libertarians are.

Thank you for being the perfect specimen, Ben.

Over and out.

Oh, and go vote Conservative again so you can stay within your boxed-in comfort zones and carry on sucking your thumbs and your comfort blankets.

Claire Khaw said...

http://www.climate-resistance.org/ is his insufferably dull and long-winded blog.

res ipsa loquitur.