Saturday, February 17, 2007

Eight Ways to Govern the Country

I just finished a great book on politics and governmental philosophies. It is called 8 Ways to Run the Country. I saw it mentioned in World magazine, but it is even better than I had hoped. It is insightful, well written, well documented, and best of all fair to all points of view. Only the barest hints of bias exist outside of the foreword and his conclusion. Even then he does not take sides only warns and gives his view of the future. The book was written prior to the electoral results of 2006, but his analysis of the political landscape were proven right. Shockingly enough he claims the majority of America fall under the Republican tent, and they only lose elections when they get out of control with hubris. A pretty fair assessment of what happened in ‘06.

The premise of the book is that the traditional method of examining the country as left vs. right is insufficient and oversimplified. He demonstrates that left and right can mean either socially or governmentally and being left on one does not mean you have to be left on the other. He speaks of them as ranking/social order (archy) and force (kratos). Thus he creates a grid with the Y-axis being force and X-axis being social order. He then further divides it making a virtual compass, with north being the complete rejection of governmental force, and due east being the acceptance of social rank and order. From due north going clockwise we have Paleolibertarian, Paleoconservative, Theoconservative (east), Neoconservative, Communitarian (south), Progressive, Radical (west), and Individualist. I will endeavor to give a brief overview of each one to whet your appetite for this book.

PaleoLibertarian – This group believes the government exists only to enforce contract laws, protect private property, and defend the nation (only in a defensive manner). It respects other institutions such as church, corporations, family, and the like. Thus, it does not strive to upend those institutions, but embraces them and their morality. Believers in the free market and most of all decentralization of government. Trade is the only foreign policy. Examples: H.L. Mencken and Lew Rockwell. He did not use Tucker Carlson, but I think he fits here.

PaleoConservative – This group has a high regard for Christianity and Western culture in general. It is historical in its thinking. It favors small government, but has a larger role than the PaleoLib in that the PaleoConservative is more willing to protect traditional morality by laws, and it is not a pure capitalist group. They can favor tariffs, trust busting, and other governmental activities. Against open borders and globialization. Examples: Pat Buchanan and late Senator Howard Taft of Ohio.

TheoConservatives – The main concern of this group is social issues such as abortion, marriage, ‘under God’ in the Pledge, and so on. They reject feminism, legalized pornography, and other attacks on moral absolutes. This group is willing to use governmental power. They are not against public education, and would actually like to use government education to have prayers and even moral training. Government funding faith based social programs is a TheoConservative idea. Markets, taxes, governmental size and the like are background issues for this group. Examples: Jerry Fawell, Pat Robertson, Marvin Olasky, and Ralph Reed.

NeoConservatives: This group is pro-business, nationalistic, and very pro-military. It is accepting of the New Deal as a way of life, and is building from there. Thus, expansion of Medicare is acceptable as long as business can benefit. The government is not a problem, but a good tool to use. Nationalism means more than self-defense but an active imperialism. Examples: President Bush (Sr., and Jr.), Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, National Review, and the majority of Republicans today.

Communitarian: This group is the most pragmatic, and it is centrist. They want to govern by consensus. It wants to do what is best for the community as a whole. Government is the best way to achieve those goals. Any social program is a good idea until it can be proven not to work, and then only after more money was thrown its way. Nationalizing things such as healthcare are big issues for a communitarian. It also favors anti-discrimination policies and equal outcome policies for the less fortunate. Examples: Former Senator Moynihan.

Progressives: This group favors progress, which makes it quite naturally ahistorical. It advocates not only anti-discrimination and equal outcomes, but complete social upheaval of traditional systems. Thus marriage must be redefined, abortion must be on-demand, and religion must be removed from the public square. They use the government heavily to accomplish their goals. Examples: Hillary Clinton, John Dewey, John Stuart Mill.

Radicals: This group opposes all sorts of social rank and authority. It is anti-corporation, anti-free market, anti-religion, and even slightly anti-government in that it feels big business and money corrupt governments. It longs for a day before business raped the land and when people lived in harmony with nature. It can be communistic and even anarchist the further out one goes. Often this group favors pure democracy, and wants it to reach everyone. Examples: Ralph Nader, Green Party.

Individualists: This group is libertarian in its approach to government, but does not share the PaleoLib’s respect for church, family, or even business. They see a slightly bigger role for government in that anti-discrimination laws are usually supported so that every individual has the same opportunity. Moral relativism is what rules the day in this camp. Examples: Ayn Rand, David Boaz (executive VP of the Cato Institute).

I found this book extraordinarily enlightening. I should point out that the book says the bottom three groups (Progressive, Communitarian, and NeoConservative) are pragmatic while the other five are idealistic. Thus, the bottom three usually wins all the elections, control the parties, and set the direction of the country. If you are interested in politics or political theory at all, go out and get this book. I read it in two days.

If it matters, I think I feel into the PaleoConservative category.


paleolibertarian said...

It is patently absurd to designate Ralph Nader as a "radical", or to say he opposes capitalism, religion, and social order.

Former said...

I just read the book. Have many bones to pick, but any analysis that gets us out of the outdated "left-right" paradigm can only be good food for thought.

One thing though: I'm no Objectivist --- in the "eightfold way" I'm probably somewhere between neoconservative and communitarian --- but only somebody who never read anything by Rand (and is unfamiliar with her persona) could ever classify her as a moral relativist. Actually, if you wanted to pick a faultline between Libertarians and Objectivists, it would be precisely moral relativism (which she called "subjectivism") vs. moral absolutism.

Kerry said...

Thanks for this. After reading a little about it on (article: Political spectrum), your article was the best I could find on the net for a quick summary.

KFR said...

I am considering buying this book. Your summary is the finest I have seen on the internet, including Amazon and Wikipedia free encyclopedia. Your efforts have aided my quest.

KFR said...

I would also like to say I am a PaleoConservative-TheoConservative.