I know the difference between model and reality. My father once told me of the time he was in school and the teacher brought in a black box. It had all sorts of levers and wheels and things sticking out of it. Pushing or pulling on one thing would cause a reaction somewhere else. The assignment was to figure out what the internal mechanism of the box looked like. Every student came up with a different answer. Every answer worked. My father understood that theories are useful as long as they describe our results and help us make decisions, but that no one can ever really know the truth for sure. They never found out what was in the box.
I think in the same way. Reality is ultimately unknowable and so our models must be tentative. I am always learning. I love hearing new ideas that challenge my old thinking, but I don’t immediately throw out my old ideas for new ones that can just as easily be challenged by still newer ones. I don’t need to have it all figured out to believe in something. The physicists who first discovered that atoms are made of positive nuclei with detachable electrons didn’t know anything about antimatter or the wave nature of electrons. They still to this day don’t know whether they are better thought of as point particles or as loops of vibrating string. This does not stop them from believing electrons exist.
Our ideas about cosmology have also changed a lot in the past five hundred years. Our ideas about how large the stars are, how far apart they are, how fast they move, whether they move at all, what they are made of, and the nature of the invisible stuff in between them have all changed – sometimes more than once. This does not stop people from believing that stars exist.
In the same way, I don’t have to understand just how God operates to know that “something” is there. I expect to be surprised as I learn new things about the universe. Is God really a trinity? Is he really a male? Is he really omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent? How does he experience time? Does Hell really exist? Do angels really exist? How exactly does a painful world and a loving, omnipotent God coexist? I am open to all possibilities.
For now, having a benevolent intelligence guiding my life is as good a model as any, ready to be refined as new data pours in. Evidence of disasters in the world is no more problematic for my theory than the “vacuum catastrophe” is for quantum mechanics, or the “ultraviolet catastrophe” was for classical mechanics – they still teach the laws of Newton and Maxwell in school because they are precise enough for most applications and using quantum mechanics for everything is unwieldly. That I sometimes act and speak as if I am on my own without any divine help should be no more surprising than it is that scientists switch back and forth between the contradictory models of quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, and general relativity based on the phenomenon under study.
Which models give you hope?
You don’t have to tell me: I know there is less than a one percent chance we are even remotely compatible. I know there is a less than one percent chance you are available. I know there is less than a 0.01 percent chance you will respond. I also know that 99 percent of people in this culture view moving from being complete strangers to being friends to possibly romantic partners in only one day as extremely creepy (or at least inappropriate). This is how I have thought of it when those in the other one percent have pushed me faster than I wanted to go. I also know that being asked out by someone you don’t like is annoying and embarrassing. Therefore, out of respect for others I have traditionally restricted my invitations only to those that I have a genuine basis for thinking would be interested. This requires knowing them pretty well first – which requires a lot of time. I never ask out strangers.
Unfortunately, this policy has kept my pool of candidates very small. In the past thirty-six years, I have asked out exactly four women. The first three turned me down. The fourth initially said yes but then seemed to lose interest. Needless to say, this has led to times of excruciating loneliness. In recent years I have begun to think that I cannot be the only one. There must be women out there somewhere waiting forever to be asked out by someone, but I never do it. For their sakes as much as mine I must take the chance; it isn’t just about me. I’m the most interesting person I know and I love to learn about other interesting people. It is unfair to everyone not to make such an opportunity known. I have no idea if we would work out, but for anyone with a face like yours and with what I’ve already seen of your personality, I had to know for sure. I had to give you the chance. Come exploring with me!
I don’t get bogged down in arguments of semantics. I don’t care whether you call God Yahweh or Allah any more than I care whether you write the circumference of a circle as 2*pi*radius or tau*radius. The math is the same. It is the reality that counts, not what we name it or how we model it. I am not confused by words.
I have observed that most people take sloppy shortcuts with their thinking. They stumble through a foggy world of fuzzy concepts only dimly aware of their surroundings. This happens to me too when I am very tired or when I allow myself to get lazy because I believe myself to be in familiar mental territory and can rely on memory. The effect is so insidious that it happens automatically without my awareness. The only difference between myself and others is one of degree.
I have especially noticed that this effect is much more pervasive among adults than children. It seems that as we age, we encounter fewer and fewer truly novel circumstances as our knowledge increases. Our thinking gets lazier and our focus deteriorates. I used to be able to run across uneven surfaces (such as piles of boulders) at top speed fully aware of the position and momentum of every part of my body. I was fully confident in my capabilities. I either knew I could make the jump or else I knew I couldn’t make the jump; there was very little uncertainty in those days. It mystified me why adults worried so much about me injuring myself. They told me to be careful, but I thought I was being careful! I’m old now. I may have better held on to more of my childhood than most, but the pull of death is irresistible. Children do not know very much, but adults can “know” a great many things that are not true.
I have also noticed that people cannot always pass a Turing test, and adults fail more often than children. A Turing test is the name given to any test designed to discern between computers and conscious beings. Computers act in accordance with their programming without even being aware. Humans can think creatively and choose between options. However, many people are quick to respond with what seem like memorized phrases that don’t quite fit what I said. I sometimes inadvertently use some phrase or word that activates a (usually negative) response from others, but if they had actually heard and understood the grammar of the sentences I used, they would realize their response was unwarranted. Engaging in conversation with these people is indistinguishable from talking with our current AI programs.
In contrast, my perceptions tend to be crisp and clear. I see the “big picture” of how things fit together. Instead of simply memorizing a route based on landmarks, I imagine them in a continuous space that alerts me to where there might be potential shortcuts. I was even better as a child. When reading a storybook describing a sailboat, I knew immediately without having to think about it that blowing on your boat’s sails to make it move will never work if you are standing in the boat at the same time. I had a “sense of things.”
When given information, I usually remember the meaning better than I remember the way it is delivered. I had a hard time doing proofs in math class because I was supposed to justify every step I took, such as citing the commutative property of multiplication to show that A times B is equal to B times A. The problem is that when I hear (or see) A times B or B times A, I don’t think of the language. I think of a “multiplication event” with A and B the participants in no particular order. It is only because English (and all other human language) is linear that we must write (or speak) out this multiplication event as either A times B or B times A. Language is a representation, not the reality.
I’ve always loved to learn and I find interest in a great many subjects. While most people focus on one area of expertise, I try to know a little bit about everything. This is how I am able to see patterns that others miss. I am able to use analogies that relate one field of study to another. I’ve especially always been fascinated by the different schools of thought there are on every subject. I might not know every detail about the mainstream model as the experts do, but I generally know the basic arguments of the alternative models, while most mainstream experts do not. By focusing on the primary relationships between the facts and the conclusions, I am better able than most to cut straight to what is important and see patterns faster even when I might hold less total knowledge of a given subject.
I am often able to cut through the confusion to get to the core essence of an issue and understand what is really happening. I always knew without being told that centrifugal force is actually inertia in disguise, that objects accelerate as they fall, and that lighter objects fall slower only because of air resistance. It has always been obvious to me from watching feathers fall that it is only the air in the way that prevents them from slamming into the ground like pebbles. When it comes to economics and governance, I can clearly see that capitalism is not theft in any reasonable definition of the term, while communism literally is theft. No one had to teach me that. In math, it never bothered me that matrix multiplication broke the rules of commutation because I didn’t think of it as real multiplication. It never bothered me that the angles of triangles in non-Euclidean spaces could add up to over 180 degrees because I didn’t think of them as real triangles.
I also know myself very well. Unlike others, I always knew why I did a particular action a particular way and could give a reason when asked. I even knew my weaknesses. While I know I’ve never been especially good at multitasking, from observing others and from reading science magazine articles of psychology tests I see that most people cannot multitask. The only difference between myself and others is that I know my shortcomings. Others mindlessly plow ahead and make stupid mistakes without even knowing it. I catch my mistakes. Most people are so unaware they don’t even know their own thinking.
Sometimes people act aware and sometimes people act like robots. Has anyone else noticed this same phenomenon?
One thing I have observed in life is that the very same stimulus can yield opposite responses in different people. Psychology is frustratingly unpredictable, yet most people act as if they believe everyone thinks just as they do.
Does care for our fellow citizens make us statists or libertarians? Protecting our countrymen from criminals and unfair business practices requires a strong government, but protecting our countrymen from government corruption and injustice requires that government be weak. Those on both sides of this issue speak as though those on the other side obviously only care about themselves, treating it as a given. They never give the issues any deeper thought. I have even seen professors of psychology and political science – who should know better – do the same.
Does greed make us capitalists or communists? On the one hand, capitalists seem to be motivated by the desire to acquire resources. They love to earn money. On the other hand, communists also seem to be motivated by the desire to acquire resources. The poor want the wealth of the rich redistributed to them and the politicians want the power to manage the whole system of redistribution.
Does valuing liberty make us pro-choice or pro-life? Obviously, liberty includes the freedom to choose, and the freedom to get abortions, but a dead person can make no choices, and so liberty must also include life and the freedom to not be aborted. A libertarian can support either side and still call themselves libertarian, no matter what other libertarians might say.
Does valuing being true to one’s self make us pro-transsexual or anti-transsexual? It’s a sad thing when someone hates another. It’s even sadder when one hates themselves. Being who you were born to be means accepting reality and embracing the body you have, not the one you wish you had. However, being who you were born to be can also mean accepting the reality that the body you have doesn’t fit the “real” you.
Is Darwinism or The Bible more racist? On one hand, the Bible teaches us that all mankind descends from just two people, Adam and Eve. We are all brethren. On the other hand, racists have used Noah’s curse on his son Ham as an excuse to discriminate against Ham’s supposed descendants. On one hand, Darwinism goes even further than the Bible, teaching us that not only all humans, but all life including plants and bacteria, are descended from a single ancestor. On the other hand, racists have used Darwin’s ideas to support the claim that some people are more evolved than others and that some people are basically just animals. Both sides claim the ideas of the other are too dangerous to be taught to our children. Evolutionists claim that Christianity breeds racial conflict, while Christians claim the same about evolutionary theories. Evolutionists also claim that those not taught evolution as children will never develop the science skills necessary to be good engineers, which is silly. Christians also claim that those taught evolution as children will all become atheists, which is equally silly. It’s all so very silly.
Does belief in an afterlife make you a better person or a worse person? Thinking that this is all there is and knowing that there will be no permanent consequences for bad behavior can cause one to live to enjoy the moment by giving in to selfishness or even sadism, while believing in a reward-punishment program after death can incentivize one to behave morally. On the other hand, thinking that this is all there is and knowing that riches will fade can cause one to give up on selfish accumulation and instead seek to serve others during the little time they have left, while believing in a reward-punishment program allows one to be manipulated by false religious teachers to engage in immorality such as terrorism.
Are Calvinists or Arminians more likely to evangelize? Believing that God always gets his way with or without anyone’s help, saving whom he pleases and damning the rest, has given some Calvinists an excuse not to waste their time trying to win people whose fate one way or the other is already certain. At the same time, believing that each individual ultimately ends up where they want to be by their own choices has given some Arminians an excuse not to waste their time trying to win people who have already made up their minds.
Does being surrounded by temptation make us weaker or stronger? There have been studies done suggesting that the subconscious associates food cravings with scarcity. Keeping your house well-stocked with candy and other supplies sends the subconscious the signal that there is no need to accumulate anything more, and the cravings go away. On the other hand, whenever I know there is candy in the house I cannot think of anything else until it consumed. When I have to travel all the way to the store for candy, my laziness wins out. Some people have suggested that willpower is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to strengthen it. This is why many people give up something for lent. However, studies have shown that whenever people feel as if they have been deprived (either by themselves or others), they will subconsciously grant themselves some liberty to make up for it. Those who give to charity are ruder. Those who skipped dessert yesterday will eat twice as much today.
Does going through a period of scarcity make one more generous or more stingy? On the one hand, those who have experienced poverty might be extra careful never to experience it again by never giving anything away, while the rich have such abundance they don’t mind giving much of it away. On the other hand, those who have experienced poverty know firsthand how it feels and might better empathize with others going through the same thing, while the rich don’t have a clue and might never think of anyone but themselves.
It’s all in the application.
One thing that I have observed in life is that most people see distinctions I do not. They are always dividing us into different groups based on personality traits or modes of thought, but I have a hard time understanding the classification.
Reason and Emotion
One of the most common false dichotomies I hear is that some of us are rational while others are emotional. I am told that reason and emotion are enemies and that it is impossible to use both simultaneously. I have always seen them as complimentary. If I do not know, how can I care? And if I do not care, what difference does it make that I know? In order to escape a burning building, one must both use reason to understand that they are in danger and use emotion to choose to make use of that understanding one way or another. One without reason is as likely to run in place as run out the door, while one without emotions is also as likely to run in place as run out the door.
People are too quick to make assumptions. They assume that the emotional response is to run into a burning building to retrieve objects of value while the rational response is to remain outdoors until the danger passes. Why can’t it be that the emotional response is to flee the flames in fear while the rational response is to carefully analyze the risk and determine it still minimal enough to run back in to rescue the baby? Which individual is risk-averse? The one who does not want to risk burns and suffocation or the one who does not want to risk losing irreplaceable things that are likely salvageable? In every action, there are emotional tradeoffs based on the perceived outcomes – perceptions arrived at through reason.
Left and Right
I am told that the right side of the brain is creative while the left side of the brain is logical. Right-thinkers make great artists but are easily fooled by propaganda while left-thinkers can balance a budget but are unable to invent creative solutions to new issues. I have always seen logic and creativity as complimentary. Creativity feeds on logic. Understanding how things work is a necessary base for extrapolating how they can work differently.
I am told that left-thinkers are better at critical thinking and right-thinkers are better at seeing “the whole picture” at once, but how can one engage in critical thought without seeing the whole picture? A left-thinker might be able to follow a chain of logic left behind by a right-thinker, but they would not be able to create one themselves. I have observed that some people get hung up on symbols while losing track of the underlying reality the symbols represent. This causes them to make comical and sometimes dangerous mistakes. Since it is supposedly left-thinkers that get lost in details, are good with symbols (both language and math), and are sequential in their thinking, it follows that left-thinkers are bad at critical thinking – yet this is the opposite of what I am told.
East and West
In eastern thought things are defined in relationship to other things whereas in western thought things are defined in isolation. Thus, an easterner might define a bird as that which eats seeds and is eaten by cats while a westerner might define a bird as an object with feathers and wings. I have problems with this dichotomy too.
Reductionism is supposedly a western idea. In reductionism, feathers can be described as having vanes and barbs and wings can be described as having bones and skin. Even if the bird is broken all the way down into its constituent subatomic particles, the motion of those particles is meaningless except in relation to other particles. Since mass is nothing but resistance to a change in motion, mass too is meaningless except in relation to other particles. The same goes for spin and charge. Ultimately, all thought is eastern thought.
At the same time, easterners would never be able to understand or communicate about the immensely complex world without imposing some sort of simplifying taxonomy onto it. I assume they have finite minds like everyone else. This requires breaking things down so they will fit in memory. Ultimately, all thought is western thought.
Faces and Vases
I wonder if the propensity of humans to see things as “either-or” has a neurological basis. I am told that in viewing pictures like the one here, people always see either a vase or two faces but never both at the same time. This has been cited as proof of a central consciousness distinct from all the sensory data our brains continually filter through that our subconscious is “aware” of but “we” are not. Oddly, I have never had a problem seeing both faces and vase at the same time. Am I an alien?
Suppose you live on an island. On this island live 49 women, 49 men, and you. Suppose each inhabitant of the island is in an exclusive romantic relationship except you. There is absolutely no one left for you to date. Everyone you meet is already taken. Suppose then that you find out that most of the inhabitants have changed partners over the years. They are never single for long but jump from one exclusive relationship to the next in a very short time – too short for news to reach you before it is too late. You then realize it is not your ineptitude at finding suitable partners that has kept you single your whole life, but the uncanny ability of other singles to find each other before they find you. Suppose also that you then discover that the way they are able to do this is by cheating. Even while committed to one partner, they are on the lookout, sending out feelers to see who might be available soon. They get put on unofficial waiting lists for if they should ever find themselves free. Some start actually dating their next partner before breaking up with the previous one.
What do you do? You know that you would be a better partner than most and you know you would never cheat on anyone, yet nobody seeks you out and you have nobody left to seek out. Should you be single forever? None of these people are officially married. Some of them have only been together a short time. Some of them may be close to breaking free any day; you have no way of knowing. Under these circumstances is it really wrong to do what literally everyone else does by requesting people to leave those they are already dating in order to date you?
This is similar to the situation I find myself in. I can count the number of single women I’ve met on one hand. One I was literally on my way to ask out only to learn from my best friend that he had asked her out the day before. He already had a girlfriend, but unknown to me had broken up with her four days prior. Another was swept up in similar fashion at the last minute by someone she knew at school. Several women told me they didn’t know if they had a boyfriend or not – meaning things were rocky at the time. I thought it best to make sure things were really over rather than try to destroy what was in those cases a de facto marriage while they were still trying to work things out. Several guys have told me they met their wives while they still had boyfriends to compete with. In thirty-six years I’ve been on only one date (and I’m not sure it even counts) in part because I respect monogamy. No one else does.
Nobody ever just dates around to get to know multiple people before making a decision. They do not ask each other on dates one-at-a-time. They ask to be a regular boyfriend or girlfriend. Those extremely rare times that someone remains unattached, they are told they are “playing the field,” “using people,” and “afraid of commitment.”
I like people. I especially like girl people. They are interesting objects of study when they aren’t getting after me for petty things. I’d like to meet more people to get to know them, but they are already taken and have no time left over for me. I never get the chance to even learn about anyone to find out if we should date. I never get the chance to find out if we have any common interests or aspirations. I have nothing to base attraction on except looks. What should I do?
Here’s a better question: What are you doing Saturday, beautiful?
Please read this and tell me what you think.
The media elites in America are always trying to divide us. They divide us by age, sex, religion, and race. They divide us into extroverts and introverts. They divide us into aspies and nuerotypicals. Most of all, they divide us by political party affiliation. They use misleading labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” to make us believe there are two distinct groups of us with a large gulf in between. The reality is that no two people agree on everything and there are often more differences within groups than between them. Independent individuals exist across the political spectrum as one large, sprawling group.
How people are classified depends much on the questions asked and on how such things are framed. It is entirely possible to believe the death penalty is sometimes justified, but to still believe it to be bad policy. It is entirely possible to believe the wars in Iraq and Libya were justified, but to still believe them mistakes. It is entirely possible to believe that drug use and extramarital sex are unhealthy without considering them immoral, and possible to consider them immoral without believing they should be made illegal. It is entirely possible to be deeply suspicious of big corporations and yet even more suspicious of big-government attempts to reign them in. The same person taking two different surveys may seem very liberal to one and very conservative to the other. Depending on which points candidates emphasize, the same person could vote either Republican or Democrat.
Sometimes people will support the same policies for very different reasons. One can support anti-capitalist economic protectionism not to protect the jobs of American workers, but to protect national security and self-determination. Some people may oppose affirmative action not because it divides us and perpetuates unequal treatment based on race, but because they are secret segregationists.
Whether one supports particular policies often depends how the policies are applied. One might be perfectly happy to let the state decide to legalize or criminalize abortion or drug use, but not believe it is the role of the federal government to tell the states how to rule. One might believe it perfectly permissible for government to fund with taxpayer money things such as health care and education, but not the federal government. One might believe that the congress should pass a law to define marriage to include homosexual unions, but still call foul when unelected judges impose their own will on the people to do the same.
Sometimes what policy someone supports depends on what the given alternatives are. The same individual might support a flat tax when the alternative is a complex income tax with multiple brackets, exemptions, credits, deductions, and different rates for different types of income, yet support a sales tax over a flat tax, and a tax on the states over a national sales tax, allowing the citizens of each state to decide how they will be taxed. This is what gets politicians into trouble more than anything else. They will support one policy one year and another policy another year because the given alternatives have changed, not their principles. The media will still cast the change as a flip-flop. Sometimes the problem is one of pragmatism. On one hand, one might support democracy over anarchy because of the political reality that without government there is no protection from criminals or foreign governments, though in an ideal world without such threats they would support anarchy. On the other hand, one might support separation of powers, a bill of rights, and term limits that thwart the will of the voters over pure democracy because of the political reality that most voters are easily manipulated and too willing to impose their will on each other, though in an ideal world without such things they would support a pure democracy. On yet another hand (How many hands do people have again? I’ll use a foot.), one might not support term limits or separation of powers because of the political reality that such things are not politically viable.
Over and over I see people that actually agree or have very similar positions argue with each other – and this phenomenon happens outside of politics as well. Sometimes two people who are both moderates on abortion and can see merit in both the pro-choice and pro-life arguments will misinterpret where the other is coming from. One person might react to recent pro-choice extremism by repeating a pro-life argument and another person might assume the first to be pro-life and respond with a pro-choice one, in turn leading the first to assume the second is a pro-choice extremist. They can go back and forth for hours and never realize that they agree. We aren’t as far apart as the media would have us believe. I encourage everyone to be patient and tolerant and really listen to each other. We are more alike than most people know.
What is the difference between liberals and conservatives anyways? I find that what I am told by pundits, politicians, and even scientists does not make sense to me. We are told that liberals support big government while conservatives support small government. Is this true? There are many different ways to measure the size of government. It can be measured in the number of agencies, the number of employees of those agencies, the fiscal costs of running the agencies, the number of individual laws and regulations, the expansion of the ability to enforce the laws (e.g. greater punishments, greater surveillance), the tediousness and intrusiveness of those laws into realms that many consider private (e.g. how many ounces of soda one can order), and the expansion into realms not directly related to governance (e.g. spending money on welfare or corporate subsidies rather than on law enforcement). It is very difficult to find data on these things except for spending, and spending has been increasing under both Republicans and Democrats since the forties.
I am sometimes told that conservatives value tradition while liberals are for change for the sake of change. Is this true? There are different ways to measure change. Liberals keep proposing new policies all the time, but from my perspective they seem like only tiny tweaks to the same top-down, one-size-fits-all, all-in, big-government model that they have been using since The New Deal and The Great Society. In contrast, conservatives propose many creative new ways to order public life, such as partial Social Security privatization and school vouchers. It is only a tiny minority of them that propose tearing the whole system down.
I am sometimes told that liberals are idealists and conservatives are pragmatic. Is this true? While it makes sense to say that the free market is a practical alternative to failed liberal welfare-state policies that only create dependency and it makes sense to say that training and equipping good citizens in gun use is a practical alternative to failed liberal gun-control policies that the criminals don’t follow anyways, conservatives are idealistic in that they cannot see that neither the free market nor repealing the gun laws are politically viable. When the majority supports an impractical ideal, the practical thing is not to fight it.
Some students of political science classify people in two dimensions – one pertaining to the degree of economic freedom they support, and the other pertaining to the degree of personal/social freedom they support. Others use three dimensions – one for economic issues, one for personal/social issues, and one for foreign policy issues. I have even seen models using four and five dimensions. With all of these models, there is the problem of classifying which issue fits in which dimension. Are school vouchers a personal issue or an economic one? Is participation in NAFTA an economic issue or a foreign policy one?
Just to make things even more confusing, the way pundits and politicians arrange possible positions on a given issue into a political spectrum often defies logic. It is highly misleading. There is a school of thought popular among Republicans that we must meet every potential threat to our national interest with overwhelming force before they become big problems. There is another school of thought popular among Libertarians that the best way to avoid wars is by not being so quick to escalate. The best policy is probably somewhere in the middle. Where do the Democrats fit on this spectrum? Listening to the politicians, they would have you believe that they are Libertarian-esque when running against Republicans, but as soon as they get into office they get us into wars everywhere even when there is no compelling national interest, instead citing “humanitarian reasons” – but humanitarian reasons exist in every conflict!
Spectra can be divided up differently depending on how an issue is conceptualized. Purely pro-choice people obviously go at one end and purely pro-life people obviously go on the other end, but who goes in the middle? Those otherwise pro-life who make an exception for rape and incest, or those otherwise pro-life that make an exception during the first trimester? There exist those that dislike verbal obscenities but have no problem seeing them in print. There exist those that dislike written obscenities but have no problem hearing and using them verbally. Some people prefer an income tax, some prefer a sales tax, and some prefer a property tax. What fair way is there to arrange those people onto a political spectrum?
Among those who are called moderates there can be larger differences than between the most radical liberals and the most radical conservatives. Some are called moderates because they are radically liberal on social issues and radically conservative on economic issues. Others are called moderates because they are radically conservative on social issues and radically liberal on economic issues. Some are called moderates because they are right in the middle on nearly every issue. Still others are called moderates because they don’t care much what happens on many issues of little importance to them. For example, there are those that care deeply about the environment but have little preference whether gay marriage is legal or not.
Even on a given issue there are at least three different ways to be a moderate. One can hold a position that is an equal distance from the extremes in potential positions one can have, one can hold a position that is identical to that of the average voter (mean, median, or mode?), or one can hold a position that is an equal distance between the official positions of the two parties in Washington at the moment:
One extreme school of thought is to grant the federal government complete power to overrule the state governments. The opposite extreme school of thought is to give each state the complete power to rule without interference from other states. To some, the perfect compromise between the two is to grant the federal government only those powers explicitly granted to it in the constitution, leaving everything else to the states, and prohibiting from the states only those powers explicitly prohibited from any government (i.e. the bill of rights). As far as they are concerned, they are moderates, but because this puts them out of step with the majority who clamor for more federal intervention and centralization, it makes them extremists. Still, the average citizen does not want to grant as much power to the Washington as both the Democrats and Republicans seem to want to take recently, yet the media will often treat those that lie between the two parties as the true moderates and paint average citizens as extremists.
The truth is that the words liberal, conservative, moderate, centrist, radical, statist, fascist, and libertarian have no constant meaning. The labels are misleading at best and divisive at worst. Don’t let words get in the way of understanding. We are all Americans. We all want to be safe, free, and prosperous, but many of us are confused and misguided. They are not the enemy anymore than those we think of as our allies. That is the greatest illusion. Start talking to each other again. More importantly, start listening again. The nation and the world depend on it.
These issues in classification and more are fleshed out further in my book, The Nutcase Across The Street. Check it out if you are interested. If you like, you can also check out my old blog TheUnderstandingProject.com, where I describe some of the ways that we often talk past each other and don’t really listen. In the meantime, leave me a comment telling me your experiences with political division – or you can tell me how much of an idiot I am; that would be the normal thing to do on a political post.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find compromises between the extremes that give us the benefits of both and the costs of neither? That’s what Carl Milsted attempts to do at HolisticPolitics.org. A former Libertarian, he now develops policy solutions to maximize not only liberty, but nature, morality, and equality. Like professor Johnathan Haidt of the University Of Virginia, he uses a dimensional paradigm for morality that does not take into account trump cards, but can still be very useful as a means of engaging with people to find solutions that most can agree with. There is a huge amount of material on there, including proposals for a negative income tax, which could replace welfare for those who need it yet without destroying the incentive to work and creating parasites. It is definitely worth a read for anyone sometimes dissatisfied by the Republicans and Democrats (most people).
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.