Sunday, September 09, 2007

Arguing with everyone

So I was invited to join a message board called Argue With Everyone. My girlfriend laughed, and said that it was hard to believe that a name like that would appeal to me.

This is my introductory post there:

Well I was incited to join this forum by an email letting me know my blog had been added to Argue With Everyone's links. I've added Argue to my blogroll as well.

How much I participate here is an open question - most of my ranting goes on at my blog and although I enjoy participatory ranting I'll probably be focusing mostly there.

My name's Cliff, I've been a journalist, writer, editor, union activist and designer. I'm a 37 year old Canadian and I live with a redhead and a cat.

I'm in the links section here as a Liberal. This works as well or as badly as any label. In Canada we actually have a Liberal Party and here I would be considered considerably to the left of them as I support the Canadian social democrat party the NDP.

The word liberal actually comes from liberal economics and in the latter half of the 20th century came to also represent progressive social policy. In fact though, both classic liberal and neo-liberal economics apply much more to conservative social policies than to progressive ones.

In fact I have little use for the classic left/right paradigm, a two dimensional model and a relic of the 20th century. I much prefer the four dimensional Political Compass system that quantifies an economic axis and a political one, ie: Authoritarian/Anarchist and Free Market/Managed Economy.

On this scale I register as -7.00 / -5.74 so almost anarchist in the political axis and comfortably socialist in the economic one.

This makes sense to me. The only strain of conservatism I have any respect for is Libertarianism - at least they're intellectually consistent: They want both money and people to be free. They're very clear-eyed about the potential threat to liberty and freedom represented by big government, but seemingly blind to the equal, in some ways even bigger threat to freedom represented by big business.

I'm sure everyone can think of a conservative spouting about freeeee-dom - and then promising to do everything in his power to limit peoples freedom to marry the person they love or take the chemicals they wish or to practice certain religious beliefs... the list goes on.

As another lefty libertarian Robert Anton Wilson once put it: "Conservatives want government off of people's backs, liberals want government off of peoples fronts"

And a lefty libertarian doesn't want government or big business on either.

So there you have my ideology - in a nutshell at least - it's based primarily on a belief in balancing needs, as a heavily populated post-industrial society pretty much has to be, and a belief that precision of language is necessary to debate any of these issues.


Capitalism and the free market do not mean the same thing. Capitalism is as much a distortion of the free market as socialism is, in fact capitalism is really just socialism for the rich.

When you use the word liberal, you should probably specify if you are referring to liberal economic policy or liberal social policy or some Frankenstein combination of the two - ie: Kensyian economic theory.

When somebody brays about freedom are they talking about economic freedom? Personal freedom? Both? Some of the major figures of conservative ideology ranted a lot about the lack of freedom in Soviet Russia but now support totalitarian excess right out of the KGB play book. They really were only ever objecting to communist economic theory while apparently being bang onside with Soviet beliefs on monitoring, interrogating, torturing and imprisoning any vaguely defined threats to the power of the state.


Being a pragmatist, I look around at the world for the area with the longest, most consistently effective mix of economic growth mixed with personal freedoms and care for society's weakest members and the winners in all categories are the Scandinavian social democracies. Some of that success does stem from being very homogeneous socially and culturally true, but I believe the results are completely transplantable.

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