Sinister vs. Dexter

A foray into political meta-analysis

by Schol-R-LEA, June 1996 (I think)

Today's politics seems so complicated. So many serious issues - the O.J. Simpson trial, the Whitewater affair, the question of whether Bob Dole ever takes that pen out of his hand - all demanding serious answers. At least its easy to tell the players apart, right? All you have to do is ask : is X a tree-hugging, Welfare-spending 2nd Amendment-bashing Liberal, or a heartless bigoted big-business religious Conservative? After that, you know all you need to know about them, right?

Well, maybe. I mean, if that were true, than some pretty funny stuff is going on. I mean, if Clinton is a liberal, then why is he agreeing with Senator Exon on the whole Internet censorship issue - going further than him, even, what with the Clipper chip and all? The Religious Right and the Leftist Feminists are mortal enemies, but they seem to agree on the censorship issue, too. Is censorship just one of those issues that everyone agrees on? I guess not; Newt Gingrich, nominal flag bearer of the New Right, opposed the CDA alongside such paragons of conservatism as Ted Kennedy (of course, one might argue that Teddy had a personal stake in keeping pornography easily available). Maybe this Left-Right thing isn't so simple after all.

Apparently, the issue of censorship crosses the time-honored boundaries which otherwise determine the nation's politics. Perhaps we can try to reflect this in how we describe our quarry. Let's call Exon and Co. Pro-Censorship Conservatives, and Clinton and the `Feminazis' (as the much-beloved Rush Limbaugh so endearingly calls them) Pro-Censorship Liberals. Those opposing them then become Pro-Speech whatevers, much like those who oppose a******* (remember, its illegal to talk about that issue over `any telecommunications system') call themselves `Pro-Life'. Nice and simple. Case solved.

Oh, hold on. I just mentioned another issue that isn't so simply Right vs. Left, didn't I? Oh, its mostly that way, but aren't there a few wackoes on both sides (did I say `a few'? The issue seems dominated by wackoes) who go against the grain. OK, so we can add another dimension, no problem. Perhaps a diagram is in order :

Pro-Life Pro-Censorship Right Pro-Life Pro-Censorship Moderate Pro-Life Pro-Censorship Left
Pro-Life Pro-Speech Right Pro-Life Pro-Speech Moderate Pro-Life Pro-Speech Left
Pro-Choice Pro-Speech Right Pro-Choice Pro-Speech Moderate Pro-Choice Pro-Speech Left
Pro-Choice Pro-Censorship Right Pro-Choice Pro-Censorship Moderate Pro-Choice Pro-Censorship Left

Gee, I just added another grouping, too - moderates. Well, we hear of these people from time to time - poor, confused souls, much like bisexuals, people who can't decide clearly which extreme to align themselves with. Quite sad, really. Claims that their moderate or eclectic positions come from careful consideration of the issues at hand must be dismissed as part of their delusion. Imagine, someone claiming that one can hold an honest and sincere middle position! Still, there are those who say they exist (hard though it is to believe), and we have to give them the benefit of the doubt. I have, quite appropriately, placed them in the middle, between the Right, on the left, and the Left, on the right.

But wait, it gets worse. By accepting the possibility of more than an either/or choice, we not only have to allow intermediate positions; we also raise up the specter of nonlinear, non-intermediate positions as well. Can one really have a view unrelated to the `basic choices'? What are the `basic choices'? Are there any basic, common views?

Oh, dear. Perhaps even I myself have such views. I've never been comfortable with the issue of A****** as usually presented. It isn't very, well, practical. I mean, the original reason for banning it, a century ago, had nothing to do with `choices' or `souls'; it was because, with the medicine of the day, it was more likely to kill the patient than not. A matter of simple public health, you see. As far as I can tell, it remains just such an issue today, except of course for the fact that its now a lot safer to keep it legal, where its under control of the medical profession, rather than illegal. Yes, certainly : a simple matter of public health. It seems so obvious…well, to me anyway…but you say that most people disagree? Uh-oh.

I seem to have reached a difficult position. I have come up with what is, beyond question, an opinion that is not one of the two Ordained Positions most people recognize. Worse, it isn't some kind of middle ground either, but an unrelated position in its own right. What is to be done?

I don't know, myself. Is there any way, any easy, sound-bite-able way, to describe people's positions? Can we find some manner in which to package this new, messy politics, to bring it To The People, to dumb it down like the old view was? Will we be forced to actually look at the issues instead of the Platforms? I can't think of any alternatives, myself. This could be disastrous! Imagine, voters actually considering why they were voting for their candidates! It would be anarchy, sheer anarchy!

Perhaps a few lessons can be taken from this, however. Lets consider one possible way of comparing politics, as a thought experiment. Lets divide people along four axes : Anarchist vs. Statist (the Government axis), Individualist vs. Collectivist (the Social axis), Deist vs. Theocrat (the Religious axis), and Capitalist vs. Socialist (the Economic axis). These are arbitrary poles, but relatively straightforward ones, fitting into the general scheme of political thought as it exists in this era. There is some overlap in their meanings - I can't imagine an Individualist Socialist, for instance - and some ambiguity, but them's the breaks. Lets see if this way of organizing things tells us anything new, by comparing how different people fit into it with how they fit into the conventional scheme.

Well, to begin with, there isn't any clear correlation between Capitalism and Theocracy, or even Statism and Theocracy. This should be no surprise, at least to anyone who has read Tolstoy or Kropotkin. In fact, if you consider the origin of the word Deist, you'll recall that the three most important Deists in US history - Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin - were staunch defenders of laizze faire economics and opponents of strong government. It is interesting that both of the `sides' of conventional politics should claim Jefferson as a spiritual founder, then, seeing how little resemblance either have to his views….

In fact, the Religious and Economic axes seem to be one of those overlap areas, don't they? Capitalism, after all, is dependent on free trade; if some religious proscription prohibits such trade, its bad for business (unless you're a smuggler). For that matter, Capitalism is, in some senses, inherently anarchic, as well, at least in that government interference hinders open trade (while again strengthening illicit trade). Statist Capitalism is, primarily, the practice of trade to the State, and under the State's protection; Statist Capitalists are (in principle) no more in favor of trade restrictions than Anarchist Capitalists are. The really extreme authoritarian positions, like that of the Statist Theocrats, are as inimical to them as the Socialists are. Perhaps this explains the odd contortions that the Conservative Coalition is going through now, trying to fit Individualist Capitalist economics, both Statist and Anarchist (that is, Libertarian), into the framework of an extreme form of Statist Theocracy with strong Collectivist leanings . Or is it the other way around?

Hmmn, perhaps we should keep looking. I guess we can say that the Pro-Censorship view we discussed earlier would be a form of Statism, in that it depends on the government to maintain Political Correctness. But not all Statists agree on what should be censored; I suspect that the first books Jesse Helms would ban if given a chance would be Andrea Dworkin's. The difference isn't clearly delineated in this system, but then again, its not clear in the older system, either. Dworkin, is a Liberal, allied with `sexist pigs' like Bob Guccionne and Hugh Hefner, while Helms sides with such (largely) Anti-Censorship Conservatives as Buckley. Perhaps another axis should be added…but what axis? Sexist vs. Feminist? Equal-Opportunity vs. Discriminatory? You can come up with troublesome cases for either of these cases. Here we go again…

One thing is clear : the current ideas of Right and Left are a sham. The Conservative Coalition idea of dichotomy politics especially; it is probably safe to say that the `Financial Right' has been hoodwinked by the `Religious Right', that the marriage of convenience between the two will end up destroying capitalist economics faster than the `creeping socialism' of previous decades ever could. Equally superficial and destructive is the alliance of the civil-libertarians (Individualists of both Anarchist and Statist stripes) and the Equal-Rightists (Collectivist Statists to the core) with the difficult-to-define Political Correctness forces. That these groups could even agree on a single issue is improbable; that they are a unified political bloc is absurdity. To insist that the former are Conservative and the latter are Liberal is not only to abuse those words (now long divorced from their original meanings anyway) but our intelligence as well.

That any description or cataloguing of people's behavior is artificial is an axiom in the religion I subscribe to; the only question is which one is most useful to our purposes. Obviously, the Sinister vs. Dexter dichotomy is not the one. I think we should all try to find a better one.


If you can't figure out that this is sarcasm, seek professional help.

In this context, `Deism' is the belief in the separation between Church and State. Deism does not imply any form of atheism or agnosticism, only that religion is a private issue rather than a public issue.