Monday, March 11, 2013

The three axis problem

Using "left" and "right" to describe politics is a fool's errand, not least of which is that the axis is subject to manipulation of a not-very-subtle sort (Communist USSR = "left" and Nazi German = "right" in which galaxy?).

Arnold Kling proposes that we use three separate sets of axes, one for Progressives, one for Conservatives, and one for libertarians.  The advantage is that it is prescriptive about how each will process information, so you can (theoretically) better communicate with someone in another tribe.

For Progressives, the axis is Oppressed-Oppressor.

For Conservatives, the axis is Civilization-Barbarism.

For libertarians, the axis is freedom-coercion.

Kling explains the social revolution of the 1960s using this model:
Along the civilization-barbarism axis, they view it as a slide from civilization toward barbarism.

Of course, progressives see it entirely differently. Along the oppressor-oppressed axis, they view the cultural changes as favorable, because women were liberated (a conservative would put scare quotes around “liberated”).

Along the libertarian’s coercion-freedom axis, the picture is mixed. On net, did the cultural changes lead to more or less government coercion? It is hard to say. For example, in the area of Civil Rights, I would argue that getting rid of Jim Crow laws reduced government coercion. (Note that in the early 1960s, prominent libertarians tended to take the states’ rights position, which strikes me as misguided.) However, there is a sense in which today government is overly intrusive on matters of race. (You may be happy with that if your concern is with the oppressor-oppressed axis, and you believe that government is helping the oppressed.) I would prefer that government model treating people as individuals by refusing to classify people by race (You may be very unhappy with my suggestion if you think that the oppressor-oppressed model is significant).
This gives a suggestion on how to frame arguments.  For example, a libertarian arguing against gun control with a Progressive might frame the discussion in terms of how past gun control laws were disproportionately targeted against oppressed minorities (c.f. Jim Crow laws) and that the expected impact of proposed legislation will disproportionately impact racial minorities and women.

He also has a survey you can take to find out which of the three axes you primarily work on.  Interesting stuff.

Of course, it may be that none of this matters because everything is about tribes.


Divemedic said...

I tend to favor the position of the early 60's libertarians: civil rights should be up to the state. The closer a government is to the governed, the more likely it is to favor the rights of a minority, because the more power that minority has.

When you grant power to a large federal government, it tends to misuse that power. This is why now, even in counties where whites are the minority demographic, other races still enjoy the benefit of programs like affirmative action.

Although it seems counterintuitive, allowing the states to make their own laws will result in more freedom overall than having the Feds do it.

Anonymous said...

I would say the removal of the Jim Crow laws and supplanting them with other new laws just moved government oppression from one group to another. Ask people who were bussed to schools miles from their school districts to justify some "quota" imposed by a progressive judge who educated his own children at private schools. No thought as to the consequences of assuaging his own guilt were given.
Not that Jim Crow could be justified in any shape or form but the solution was as bad as what it replaced and caused "white flight" tearing out the heart of many cities.

The Czar of Muscovy said...

Great find and write up!