Friday, February 19, 2010

Unified in Freedom

The ideological and political war between the tea party movement and statist elites comes down to a dispute over the concept of freedom. While the great majority of Americans cherish freedom according to their own values and ideals, elites dismiss the idea out of hand as outdated and obsolete. The argument for emphasizing freedom in this movement is two-fold: first, it is the organizing principle this country was founded on, and the one most consistent with reality; and second, it is the main platform that holds together all the disparate groups of the "tea party" coalition.

Elites like to imagine that average Americans are narrow-minded, reflexively conditioned rubes who unquestioningly cling to the obsolete ideology of freedom. Elites' resentment of the unwashed masses is fueled by the false notion that they are relatively enlightened, and thus they arrogantly seek to unify power and decision-making of the nation in the central government. Whether elites acknowledge it or not, their call to unity in a central government necessarily implies the destruction of freedom, all competing value-systems, and by implication, the nation itself.

What elites do not understand is that freedom is not just a quaint fetish for flag-waving fanatics. Elites see freedom as an impediment to their ability to use the power of government to "do good," and are thus extremely suspicious of the concept. But freedom is an ideal-type that reflects the reality that individuals are self-interested agents whose own minds and own lives drive each person's aspirations for self-empowerment; this may be conceived of as the enlightenment sense of freedom. Self-empowerment in the healthy manifestation is nurtured by laws that protect the rights of all individuals, which is reinforced by mutual respect of individuals as ends in and of themselves in a civil society. But this is not sufficient. People must be allowed to succeed or fail according to their own talents and merits in order for them to develop the ability to respond appropriately to the natural constraints of reality.

Reality in the world is a non-linear, complex system comprised of infinite interdependent variables, most of them uncontrollable by the means of mankind as isolated variables, let alone within the context of a complex reactive system. These variables are dispersed across a three-dimensional physical sphere, and most importantly, reality retains the property of the "fourth dimension" of time, that is, the change in the relationship of physical variables. Elites who advocate centralized decision-making for a society and economy must appreciate that an inestimable amount of information is needed in real-time for a body of sentient beings to control and coordinate millions of other human beings, themselves sentient beings requiring ongoing action and reaction to meet their own particular needs in real-time within their own respective environments. The informational hurdles to success for a centralized government is daunting enough, not to mention the immense task of administering and mobilizing to action the means to carry out centralized social and economic planning in real-time. Temporally, such a model of government is guaranteed to reflect entropy; the decisions of the government become prone to reaction, which over time becomes overreaction, and this in turn fuels chaos. The big picture suggests that the vision of a prosperous, vibrant, and harmonious centrally controlled state is nothing short of a quixotic pipe-dream, and as such, the attempt to implement one leads directly to systemic destruction of a nation founded on freedom. This argument can be summed up quite nicely with the Aristotelian principle, "Unity is the destruction of the state."

A basic underlying unity in values among citizens in a polity, however, does not imply destruction, but cohesion. What unites most Americans is the love of freedom, though each ideological group and subgroup has its own interpretation of what freedom means according to its underlying value-system. We shall briefly examine each ideological group and subgroup in American politics and its healthy and destructive dispositions towards the political, economic, and social ideal-type of freedom.

Americans are generally united in their value of freedom, though the main ideological groups, including conservatives, which are comprised of the religious right, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives, and also modern liberals, see and appreciate freedom quite differently. If we might adapt an Aristotelian analysis, each of these groups has a healthy and a destructive strain as it relates to other groups.

Religious conservatives are most rationally self-interested when they advocate freedom of conscience for all Americans. Lockean philosophy rightly predicted that freedom would lead to a healthy and vibrant religious life in a society. The destructive strain of the religious right condones violations of individual rights and free will in the interest of enforcing God's law on earth. Some religious zealots may seek to use the state to advance religious causes, or to combat progressives. By doing this, they change the political rules to those based on freedom to those where "the victor takes the spoils." It is quite evident that democracy, which is a "victor takes the spoils" political model, in the absence of individual rights, is not conducive to freedom; in a free country one group cannot deprive another group of rights simply by virtue of being a majority or plurality.

Fiscal conservatives are most ideologically consistent when they unapologetically insist on private property rights and free enterprise. While there are limited mandates for a legitimate government to provide security and to administer a just rule of law based on freedom of the individual, there are no such mandates for the government to seize property "for the common good." The general welfare of the United States is to enforce those principles the nation was founded on, including, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. By extension, drawing on the Lockean philosophy that informed the founding, this includes the right to private property. Fiscal conservatives err when they compromise on principles in the interest of pragmatism, expediency, or the false appearance of compassion.

National security conservatives advance the country's interests best when they advocate freedom from foreign entanglements, the primacy of self-defense, and the retention of liberty without trade-off for the fleeting illusion of security. National security conservatives are gravely mistaken when they support police state measures, which ironically threaten Americans more than any terrorist group, or the remote chance of invasion against us, a nuclear-armed power. In addition, the premise of protecting trade and assets abroad does not justify policing the world or nation-building friendly states. It is also flawed to argue that the United States can "force states to be free," as neoconservatives believe. The ideal-type of freedom at the national level rightly extends to our foreign policy, as well as to the most just and harmonious organization of international relations.

Modern liberalism used to have the benefit of being an ideology that promoted social freedom. In the course of ideological perversion by socialism and progressivism, however, it turned into a radically aggressive call to re-engineer America. The cause of freedom for each American morphed into freedom for particular groups, an absurd idea on the face of it, with the arbitrary cordoning off of such groups from assimilation into a capitalist America based on individual rights. The left accomplished this crucial conceit by engaging in divide and conquer politics under the guise of promoting diversity, multiculturalism, and moral and cultural relativism. The national unity of the value of individual freedom is thus thwarted by socialists and progressives, who violate the freedom of others by using the state to attack and undermine the value systems of rival ideological groups.

The left's call for "democracy" and centralized power in a national government is largely consistent with leftists' view of politics as group warfare. Unfortunately for the left, they are outnumbered by conservatives of all stripes, and are especially outnumbered when one adds libertarians and modern liberals (sometimes self-described as "moderates" and "independents") who have a correct appreciation for social freedom. Though for decades the uniting value-system of freedom overrode any move for collective action by conservatives, due largely to a "live and let live" attitude, the relentless assault on freedom by progressives and socialists within what was thought to be "liberal" ranks has provoked many Americans to take action to protect the Republic.

While progressives, socialists, and radicals thought that they could usher in the demise of freedom through massive systematic brainwashing in education and the media, they did not have the monopoly of information needed to either prevent the spontaneous self-organization of freedom-loving Americans, nor to prevent them from learning of the disastrous results of the statists' fundamentally misguided policies. The irony for the elites of the American hard left is that they will be defeated by the very model of democracy that they have hypocritically endorsed. Whether the grass-roots tea party movement to preserve and defend freedom eventually defeats itself by transforming into an aggressive, freedom-destroying form will be contingent upon its understanding and respect for the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. If the currently active tea party movement maintains a healthy respect for individual freedom at all times, it will be spared an ultimately self-destructive transformation into what it intends to defeat; this would entail a fracturing into rival subgroups who have their own unique views of freedom.

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