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Skylark1

Objectivism is Rational Centrism

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In a previous thread I was offered two mentally-stimulating articles to read in order to provide the Objectivist context for political discussion:

https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/2016/07/liberal-right-vs-regressive-left-and-religious-right/

https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/2012/06/political-left-and-right-properly-defined/

While I have mentally recorded those articles as defining the Objectivist context for discussion, I thought I should add that I consider it to be wrong.

We know from history that the Left/Right distinction had its beginning in the French parliament of 1789. Those who favored maintaining France as a kingdom were seated on the right side of the room; those who favored removing the king by means of revolution were seated on the left side.

The basics of right-wing and left-wing politics have made their way into  21st-century America as conservatives and liberals, respectively. Objectivism, which is a relative new-comer, wishes to revive the laissez-faire ideals of the 19th century (which lasted for about 15 years and ended with the publication of the Communist Manifesto). There are many ideological ways to divide right from left, e.g., nationalist vs. one-world socialist. According to late 1960s vernacular, the distinction was between "pigs" and "hippies." In reality, it was a distinction between self-control and extremes of hedonistic behavior. In the words of Timothy Leary, "Turn on, tune in, drop out". Another way of defining the difference is with the words "status quo" versus "change" (whatever is entailed by the word "change," but it usually entails some kind of revolutionary rhetoric).

Objectivism redefines this distinction in terms of property rights.  Property rights have long been considered the domain of the political right, while the political left wants to do away with property rights in favor of a more communal idea concerning the individual. The political right maintains a concern with individual rights - although not always strictly and with much hemming and hawing on where to draw the boundaries. The political left considers individual rights to be an outright hindrance to its ends.

Ayn Rand placed no such right-wing boundaries on human rights. Her goals and ideals are revolutionary, and so there remains an element of European radicalism, i.e., an element of revolutionary expression exists in her philosophy. But it favors removing the faith-bound orientation of the right-wing and replacing it with a rational basis. While both sides are grounded in variations on faith, whether religious or mystical (right and left, respectively), they are self-defeating principles which relegate the purpose of serving individual happiness to a more-or-less indirect goal, if that. If not a goal on Earth, then happiness (or really, bliss) is at least a goal in Heaven for those on the right.

So my take on the political spectrum is at least traditional, and is held by pretty much everybody except Objectivists. The idea that Objectivism is right-wing while all statist approach are left-wing seems to place Objectivism up on a very high perch from which it looks down on various forms of statists fighting toward goals that really aren't in opposition at all because they place the individual in the awkward position of being a slave to the State versus slave to God or some other deity. Either way, the individual is considered to be of relative unimportance.

I believe that placing Objectivism in the center, the rational center, that is, at least maintains the right- and left-wing distinction where Objectivism takes whatever is potentially rational on both sides and uses it for its own rational ends.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Skylark1

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It's hard to use a visual metaphor (left vs. right) and plug "good political philosophy" into that mix. If you list various key issues, you might be able to say whether the "left" or the "right" is better on that particular issue. (Often they're both wrong in different ways.) 

right_left.jpg

If the Green dots are the ideal positions on each issue, then this ideal (on any particular issue) would not lie in the middle of either the red or the blue. However, the term "centrist" would give that false impression.

Added: France's new president, Macron, seems like a true centrist: someone who would choose to push policies that lie somewhere in between the red and blue, on a case-by-case basis. This type of centrism might be the best we can hope for in a polarized political environment.

Edited by softwareNerd

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On 10/9/2017 at 3:52 AM, softwareNerd said:

It's hard to use a visual metaphor (left vs. right) and plug "good political philosophy" into that mix. If you list various key issues, you might be able to say whether the "left" or the "right" is better on that particular issue. (Often they're both wrong in different ways.) 

right_left.jpg

If the Green dots are the ideal positions on each issue, then this ideal (on any particular issue) would not lie in the middle of either the red or the blue. However, the term "centrist" would give that false impression.

Added: France's new president, Macron, seems like a true centrist: someone who would choose to push policies that lie somewhere in between the red and blue, on a case-by-case basis. This type of centrism might be the best we can hope for in a polarized political environment.

Macron is not practicing rational centrism. The name "rational centrism" is only problematic If someone just reads it as "centrism" and skips the 'rational' part.

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5 hours ago, Skylark1 said:

Macron is not practicing rational centrism. The name "rational centrism" is only problematic If someone just reads it as "centrism" and skips the 'rational' part.

Sure, I didn't mean to imply he was a "rational" centrist, just a centrist. The picture I drew was illustrate that being centrist can never be rational in the abstract, because when you do it on issue after issue choosing to compromise between some good and some bad can't be better than just choosing all good. So, it can't be rational in the sense of ideal, in the abstract. However, in the sense of actually choosing between choices that are practical when a whole lot of people need to agree, it can often be rational to choose a centrist position.

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On 10/13/2017 at 3:47 AM, softwareNerd said:

Sure, I didn't mean to imply he was a "rational" centrist, just a centrist. The picture I drew was illustrate that being centrist can never be rational in the abstract, because when you do it on issue after issue choosing to compromise between some good and some bad can't be better than just choosing all good. So, it can't be rational in the sense of ideal, in the abstract. However, in the sense of actually choosing between choices that are practical when a whole lot of people need to agree, it can often be rational to choose a centrist position.

I evidently haven't defined "rational centrism" very well. If Objectivism is on the extreme Right (considered from the US viewpoint of the political spectrum), then it has to be a form of totalitarian fascism. Of course it is not that. If on the other hand Objectivism were placed on the far Left of the political spectrum, it would have to promote a state-less workers' utopia. But I know that Objectivism does not promote such a bland existence as that. Nor does it, as the fascists would have it, make everybody march in goose-step rhythm to whatever the State says is right. In either case, the individual becomes expendable relative to the value of the commune or the State.

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If we conceive of "left" and "right" as they are popularly and historically used, then Objectivism does not sit on either side, nor in the center. Rather, we must project a different spectrum, with both the left and right on one side (the "statist" end), extremists (Nazis, Communists, etc.) at the extremity and Objectivism on the far side from that (the "liberty" end).

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5 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

If we conceive of "left" and "right" as they are popularly and historically used, then Objectivism does not sit on either side, nor in the center. Rather, we must project a different spectrum, with both the left and right on one side (the "statist" end), extremists (Nazis, Communists, etc.) at the extremity and Objectivism on the far side from that (the "liberty" end).

In that case you're simply being an Objectivist and defining your spectrum in terms of a government's position on property rights. 

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