The Political Mixer

So I’m watching Jon Haidt1 and Joshua Knobe at Blogging Heads.  All of a sudden I hear Haidt, who I generally agree with on everything,2 say something I’ve come to conclude is a half-thought out idea.  He eventually comes around and brushes what I say here, so I know Haidt’s thought process on this is far more complex, but the fact that he even said it requires a response from me.

Haidt said that the political spectrum is like the color spectrum: you can go from red to blue without ever being green.3  But this seems to me to be a gross simplification of the process.

See: being conservative (or liberal or libertarian or fascist) means a lot of things.  It means you accept or think you accept at least 51 percent of that particular ideology.  Now, in some cases, this is accurate. But for most of us, our particular views— while informed by the various parties that exist— are quite a peculiar amalgamation.

  • Some of us are consistent amalgamations: we are in favor of all personal freedoms and opposed to all economic freedoms because we distrust hoards of people choosing the right course, but trust most individuals… as long as they are not corrupted by power.
  • Some of us are less consistent: we favor all personal freedoms but favor book burning for some reason.
  • Some of us just hate left-handed people.

I think consistency is the exception, not the norm. I also think that direct party identification (when someone thinks that they believe all and only the things that a political party espouses) is false at a deeper psychological level. If it were to be true, however, I would be even MORE worried.

So I don’t think in terms of the ‘political spectrum’ because that– to me– implies that there is one and only one path from one political system to another. Instead I think in terms of a ‘political mixer,’ because there are innumerable ways to come to the same broad conclusion as another person.

There’s no reason any view with respect to the economy should have any bearing on your cultural or foreign policy views. Or how your views on those should have to do with respect to the speed and breath of their application. There’s a dozen other ways to parse our social world, and we all do it. Not only is one axis (left-right) insufficient, but anything short of a multifaceted approach is simplifying things to the point of reflecting the biases of the simplifier.

  1. OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG []
  2. I’d switch to codpieces if I found out he was against boxers. []
  3. Shh!  I’m well aware that this is only convention and that in actual physics, one has to go through green to switch from blue wavelengths to red wavelengths, but don’t tell anyone!  No one ever got pithy by being accurate. []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *