Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

E-mail Me

Twitter: yourlyingeyes

10 January 2013

The Three-Axes Model

I rather like Arnold Kling's three-axes ideological model to rationalize conservative, progressive (liberal), and libertarian positions on issues. Conservatives view things along a civilized/barbaric axis, liberals along an oppressed/oppressor axis, and libertarians along a freedom/coercion axis. Conservatives will thus favor things that correlate well with (in particular, Western) civilization, while opposing things that correlate with poorly civilized societies or that would directly contradict salient features of civilization. Progressives, on the other hand, don't care about civilization - they care about defending the oppressed and opposing the oppressors. The "civilized" side can be the wrong side if it's taking on the role of an oppressor. And Libertarians don't see civilization or oppressors - they only want to know if someone is being coerced to do something - that's the wrong side.

It's a very simple model and pretty obvious - but I haven't really seen it described so pithily before. It explains why extreme rightists lean towards fascism (where order is imposed at any cost) while extreme leftists embrace socialism (where equality is enforced at any cost) - and why libertarians find themselves in bed with conservatives one day and with liberals the next.

It's easy to apply it to most any issue. Take gay marriage (please!). Conservatives see a fundamental institution of Western Civilization going back 2500 years - monogamous, legally-binding marriage - now facing a radical redefinition as a clear threat to civilized society, and thus naturally oppose it. Liberals, on the other hand, see a heterosexual majority oppressing a homosexual minority by denying them marriage, and thus naturally support it. Libertarians have a bit of a hard time with it - they are of course completely indifferent to whether homosexuals get married or not - that's their free choice to do so. But there also not crazy about the state getting involved and forcing others to recognize gay marriage. They're solution? - get rid of civil marriage altogether!

But what about gun control? Having all these guns everywhere would seem to smack of barbarism, while black people being able to own guns would seem to provide these oppressed people with the ability to defend themselves against their oppressors. Yet we know conservatives oppose gun control while liberals support it. (Libertarians are off the hook on this one, they generally support the freedom to own a gun and ergo they oppose (most forms of) gun control.) So what's going on?

The gun-control debate is grounded in some very entrenched issues. To conservatives, the concept of individual responsibility is a fundamental tenet of western civilization that runs deep, from Aristotle thru Christianity to Anglo-American jurisprudence. Thus, the notion that crime can be blamed on a class of inanimate object is anathema to their psyche. They see gun control as an effort to solve a criminal problem by denying to perfectly harmless and law-abiding citizens the right to their property.

Liberals, on the other hand, do not recognize the phenomenon of crime as a set of actions by bad people (who are themselves culpable for those crimes), but rather as a societal dysfunction related to inequality (i.e., the presence in society of oppressors and the oppressed) that manifests itself as individual acts of crime. Oppressors commit crimes because they are oppressors (oppressors commit all manner of "crime", some of which is technically illegal) while the oppressed commit crimes as a result of their being oppressed. White gun owners (aside from starving Appalachian squirrel hunters and a few benighted Vermont skeet shooters) have firearms to protect themselves against (i.e., oppress) scary dark people. At the same time, greedy gun merchants feed black market guns to the cities where they cause urban crime. Thus, non-criminal gun owners possess weapons out of wholly irrational fears, while illegal guns cause crime - so there's really no legitimate need for guns at all, according to the liberal mindset.

Despite all that, it's not unreasonable that a conservative might look at all these guns as rather barbaric and thus support gun control (which I'm guessing is the case in Europe). But in America, conservatism has been heavily co-opted by libertarianism, especially among the leadership, so there is a great deal of confounding across the two axes. My theory on why this has happened puts the blame on America's role as the main foe of communism during the cold war. Since communism uses highly coercive methods to enforce equality, anti-communist intellectuals found the freedom/coercion axis a useful antidote to socialist propaganda. Also, many on the left opposed communism as dangerously extreme (just as conservatives similarly oppose fascism) and naturally found the freedom/coercion axis more comfortable than the civilization/barbarism axis as a tool to oppose it.

Also, as mentioned above, Individualism is a hallmark of western civilization and so conservatives have a more natural affinity for thinking along the freedom/coercion axis than do liberals (to whom freedom is a valued ideal only for the oppressed). I suppose it's possible that this would not be the case among conservatives in Asia - based on my poorly-informed notion that individualism is not as highly valued there.


Blogger Steve Sailer said...

This model best fits British parties around 1900:

Tories/Conservatives -- Civilization
Whigs/Liberals -- Liberty
Socialist/Labour -- The Oppressed

Edwardian England is nothing to sniff at, by the way.

In 18th Century America, the Whigs defeated the Tories, and Socialism never got off the ground.

January 15, 2013 7:09 AM  
Blogger Steve Sailer said...

So, American parties are all offshoots of the Whigs.

January 15, 2013 7:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home