Political Dementia

Privatization vs. government control has always been a confusing argument for me. On one hand, Conservatives have been all about the non-government sector. Tea Party activists and the Libertarian movement scream about “big government”, stressing the state over federal action. But strangely enough, we hear very similar arguments from the Left. Complaints about the disproportionately low capital gains tax, or the ever popular Patriot act have been around for at least a decade. So the question remains: how are these two positions really different? Is there really that much of an ideological difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street?

Yes, there is. And it has something to do with a little fact I mentioned yesterday about the assumed one-dimensionality of our political belief structure.

As you may recall, we live in a world with three spacial dimensions. When trying to visualize what a fourth would be like, I imagine what it would be like to exist in a two dimensional world, and be suddenly introduced to a third.

If everything was on a flat plane, then it would be impossible to distinguish between myself, and the ground below me. I wouldn’t be on top of or under the ground, I would essentially be the ground I’m standing on. A slightly clearer analogy would be to imagine a circular gate in a two dimensional world. If you were inside of an enclosed circle of concrete or chain-link fence, there would be no way to escape.

Let’s say that I was trapped in such a gate, and I was given the ability to utilize the third dimension. I would simply step above or below the gate, and easily be freed. But everyone around me would be extraordinarily confused. Just as though someone in the real world had somehow popped out of a cast-iron metal box without making any holes.

Just like an extra spacial dimension allows you to move laterally, extra political dimensions allow one to think laterally. Take this political spectrum picture I got off google for example.

Two-dimensional Politics

We hear words like “progressive” or “authoritarian” thrown around, but they’re pretty much just adjectives that no actual politician really cares about, or would describe themselves as. On the other hand, both “left” and “right” have entered our political vernacular as nouns, specific entities that intrinsically convey view on gay rights, abortion, fiscal responsibility and so on. It is a strange and very newsworthy occurrence when those within the same side of the line disagree. For example, the Alabama governor’s request that Romney release his tax returns, McCain’s criticism of Michelle Bachman’s most recent shenanigans, or even Matt Damon’s complaints about Obama . Disagreements within parties is strange for the same reason a three dimensional man in a two dimensional world is able to step out of the enclosed gate, because a lot of people out there aren’t fully aware of the vast amount of political ideologies and opinions exist.

This point has been made by radicals for years. Unfortunately, people are made very uncomfortable when confronted with a “radical” idea that they agree with. It makes them feel like an outcast. At least that’s why I resisted the urge to sympathize and eventually agree with multiple non-traditional ideologies. But reading so-called radical ideas is like trying to touch your toes while stretching, a lot  of people, myself included, are never going to be able or willing to actually reach their feet.

Sure, some people may read Marx and decide that we need some kind Marxist revolution, but that’s a much rarer thing than people make it out to be. People read shit about how other people think the world should be all of the time and don’t go fucking crazy.

To return to the beginning of the post, the reason why the argument of public v. private has become virtually schizophrenic is because that’s not even the argument. The government isn’t some static entity that can be turned up or down, it’s a collection of people that are given powers and responsibility. No one has figured out a way to concisely discuss this issue because when any political figure tries to step off of the x-axis in the above spectrum, they look fucking nuts. We as Americans don’t have the language to discuss this because our political belief structure has devolved into perceiving every political issue in a one-dimensional manner. We don’t have any political creativity, at least not in Washington.

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3 thoughts on “Political Dementia

  1. Lynn rosen says:

    What an amazing way to think about how complexity is experienced. Brilliant!

  2. Al Halper says:

    It isn’t fair, Jacob. This article is making me think!

  3. […] The problem, as TCM points out with the deficit reduction issue, is that these differences of opinion coalesce around a very limited set of issues, and they’re only two among many possible opinions.  Our current version of two-party politics means that there are many issues on which there is bipartisan consensus and many that are just never addressed at all by either party.  And there are many other policy positions and possible solutions to social and political issues that are never raised because they lie outside the very limited realm of our two-party universe.  (My friend Jacob has discussed problems with the two-party system at greater length here and here.) […]

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