CDZ A Moderate Maifesto

Discussion in 'Clean Debate Zone' started by JimBowie1958, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    I like most of what I have read on this topic, but I thought I would try to see what some of the folks here think as well.

    Centrism: A Moderate Manifesto - Quillette

    Like the conservative, the centrist begins with a pessimistic observation about human nature: It is flawed (or, in religious terms, it is sinful). Humans are not infinitely flexible or perfectible. They cannot use reason to transcend fully their basic impulses and prejudices. Our best understanding of human nature today comes from the evolutionary sciences, which strongly suggest that humans are “designed” to navigate a small-scale society; and that they are limited, parochial, biased, prone to violence, status competition, and nearly inescapable tribalism. Even if early evolutionary psychology overemphasized the extent to which there was a “mismatch” between “stone age brains” and modern post-industrial society, it is certainly true that modern Western social structures challenge human nature in ways that smaller societies do not.

    Because humans are prone to favoring kin and tribe over other people, a complicated, law-based social order is difficult to achieve. Indeed, many groups of people have not transcended a nepotistic social structure based on tribal affinities and the whims of those who wield power. Therefore, the achievements of Western Civilization–free markets, equal treatment under the law, admiration for open inquiry–should inspire awe and reverence. A progressive looks at modern Western Society and sees a list of ills and misfortunes; a centrist looks and is relieved that the list is so short. Furthermore, the centrist weighs the ills against the remarkable accomplishments. The mightiest and wealthiest kings of earlier epochs would have blushed at the luxuries we take for granted. Even the humble treat of buying an arugula salad at a grocery store for a few dollars is something that would have astonished and delighted our ancestors.

    The centrist, like the conservative, is therefore worried about radical utopian proposals because the centrist fears that they might inspire dramatic alterations that upset a reasonably successful social order. Abstract theories about human altruism and blissfulness are appealing, but they haven’t been tested by the pitiless realities of the world. When inspiring theories that misunderstand or misrepresent human nature have been tried, the results have been invariably tragic. The centrist, however, is equally skeptical of radical libertarian ideas on the Right. The modern welfare state, whatever its flaws, has done a pretty good job of holding together a broad and largely urbanized society in which private charity cannot solve the worst problems of poverty. Many libertarian theorists (although not all, of course) appear as wrong about human nature as socialists or other utopians. Not all humans can thrive in a modern information-based economy. Education is obviously a great social good, but it cannot turn a person with an 85 IQ into an engineer. Creating better incentives will not create a society of Einsteins.

    Furthermore, markets, although brilliant wealth generators, are often corrosive to social values. This, among other reasons, is why political and cultural leaders have always established rules to guide markets, and have often tried to remove certain commodities from the market system altogether. In most of the United States, for example, sex cannot be bought and sold legally. There are, of course, reasonable arguments for the legalization of prostitution, but it is not immediately obvious that society would be better if all potential market transactions were allowed. The centrist does not need to take a firm stand here; rather he or she should carefully examine the available and future evidence about the effects of legalization. The more important point is that market libertarianism is a radical political philosophy and therefore should be greeted with skepticism.

    So far, so conservative. This sounds like a modern version of Edmund Burke’s political philosophy. But, there are two great differences between the centrism here conceived and conservatism: (1) Centrism does not loath change and (2) it does not accept a transcendental (religious) moral order.

    The great conservatives of the past–Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, Klemens von Metternich, John Calhoun, T.S. Eliot, et cetera–often evinced a peculiarly fervid attachment to the current social order, perhaps best summarized by Bierce’s quip that a conservative is one “enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the liberal who wishes to replace them with others.” Of course, this is a simplification, and most conservatives have realized that slow change is necessary to preserve social order. Nevertheless, it is a fair simplification, and it is not intellectually dishonest to imagine conservatives on the stasis side of a change continuum with progressives on the other (radical change).

    The centrist, not surprisingly, wishes to remain in the center of this continuum, encouraging change when prudent, but discouraging abrupt or radical upheavals. The centrist believes, much more than the conservative, in social progress, and believes that humans have made remarkable economic and moral advances in the past 500 years. The conservative is correct that the past is full of wisdom for the future; but the progressive is correct that the past is also full of errors, dogmas, and barbarism. Perhaps one could put it this way: The past is like an old, unused, and rotting library; the books are full of wisdom, but the building is ruined by insects and decay. The conservative wants to keep the library; the centrist wants to keep the books; and the progressive wants to burn the whole thing down and start over.​
     
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  2. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    Some more of the Centrist manifesto, the underlying principles


    Centrism, then, is defined by a number of assumptions and tendencies; it is not defined by policy dogmas. Below is an undoubtedly incomplete but useful list of these assumptions and attitudes:

    (1): Mistrust and disdain for extreme proposals and actions. Innovative ideas and political proposals shouldn’t be discouraged, but those that require radical changes to the current status quo should be moderated to appeal to a broad constituency. Extreme proposals are often wrong, but even when they are correct, they require careful consideration and slow implementation. Violent action is almost always wrong and counterproductive, as is curbing basic freedoms that allow liberal societies to flourish.

    (2): Mistrust of grand political theories or systems. Societies and polities are incredibly complicated and our understanding of the way social systems and human nature interact is excruciatingly limited. Grand theories are almost always incorrect, and they encourage dogmatism and extremism. Utopianism is perhaps the most dangerous and seductive kind of grand theory. Ideas that require significant harm today to bring about a better tomorrow are particularly pernicious. Uncertainty about the future requires humility and a commitment to order and well-being in the here and now.

    (3): Skepticism about the goodness of human nature. Although our understanding of human nature is limited, the best evidence, scientific and historical, suggests that humans are often parochial, tribal, and prone to violence. This does not mean that humans are unremittingly “sinful” or wicked. They are not. At times, they are peaceful and cooperative. But peace and harmony among disparate cultural, ethnic, and religious groups is an exception, not a rule. Political and cultural systems must deal with humans as they exist and to understand their basic propensities. Excessive optimism about human nature has often led to tragedy. And the current political system, whatever its failures, is often wise because it has been conditioned by years of slow experimentation with real humans. A decent society in the world is worth 1,000 utopias in the head.

    (4): Desire to seek compromise and form large coalitions. Good governance and social harmony require at least an implicit consensus among the governed. Policy proposals that veer from this consensus, even if ultimately correct, threaten to alienate people and foment discontent. It is therefore crucially important to win a battle of ideas before implementing a policy that significantly changes the current status quo. This is best done by appealing to common values and bipartisanship.

    (5): Pragmatic emphasis on science, evidence, and truth. Because societies are exquisitely complicated, the best social policies are arrived at through slow and careful experimentation, not dogma. Although science cannot solve all social problems, it is the best instrument we have for measuring the success or failure of particular policies. It is important, therefore, to protect vigilantly free speech and free inquiry so that the best ideas are rigorously debated in the public forum. Political ideologies tend to blind people to the best policies. One should not seek a “conservative” answer to poverty or a “liberal” answer to immigration. One should seek the best answer. It is highly unlikely that any political party has a monopoly on truth.

    (6): A healthy admiration for patriotism and a distrust of identity politics. Nation states, although not without flaws, are one of the few social vehicles capable of forging broad identities not based on parochial tribal markers such as race or religion. They allow individuals to share in a large collective group enterprise that is admirably committed to a creed rather than ancestry. Although patriotism can be dangerous, it can also be salubrious. Identity politics tend to divide people and create bitter factions that compete for their perceived interests. Because humans are naturally tribal, this factionalism is easy to create and dangerous for a broader cooperative union among dissimilar peoples.

    (7): A steadfast dedication to rule of law and fidelity to constitutional principles. The rule of law is one of the greatest and most fragile accomplishments of Western Civilization. It creates a sense of fairness and protects citizens from the whims of their leaders. It should be lauded and guarded against possible corrosion. And although highly educated men and women might not need base appeals to authority (“Madison wrote X, Y, and Z”), society is not comprised of only highly educated men and women. The prejudices of the people require attention and cannot be disregarded. Having a written document (or legacy of laws and principles that are venerated) that inspires reverence helps insure the preservation of the rule of law.​
     
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  3. TNHarley
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    TNHarley Diamond Member

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    I enjoyed that, thanks.
     
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  4. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    You're welcome.

    Care to share any thoughts on the topic?
     
  5. TNHarley
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    TNHarley Diamond Member

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    OP fucking nailed it. I dont know what else is left to talk about lol
     
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  6. Mac1958
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    Mac1958 Diamond Member

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    Yeah, good stuff. Thanks Jim.

    Unfortunately, the very nature of moderates and centrists - a desire for reason, tolerance, cooperation and a general humility - is easily overwhelmed by the sheer force of the ego, intolerance and narcissism that animates and drives the ends of the spectrum. These people literally identify with their ideology, with "beating" the other "side", and not at all with constructive communication and pragmatism.

    If this thread were not in the CDZ, we'd see some pretty aggressive mocking.

    Hell, we STILL might.

    :laugh:
    .
     
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  7. DGS49
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    DGS49 Gold Member

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    Moderation is difficult when the two sides of our political spectrum have vastly different views of the PURPOSE of the national government.

    For example, there is a letter in my local birdcage liner this morning where the correspondent is railing about the elimination of the Federal Estate Tax, saying that the Government has an obligation to promote [economic] EQUALITY, and citing the Declaration of Independence.

    How can you argue with that? It is simply nonsense, but most of the readers of the paper will be nodding in agreement over their coffee and toast.
     
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  8. Mac1958
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    Mac1958 Diamond Member

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    There are areas of agreement and middle ground in most issues.

    Or, sometimes we just don't get our way.

    What's important is that we pocket our egos (which we are not) and communicate (which we are not).

    These are behavioral choices that we're making; we can choose to behave like this, or choose to behave like mature adults. Which we are not.
    .
     
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  9. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    We seem to re-enforce the polarity of our political discussion by the following:

    1) media treating political discussion as a form of entertainment and that means MMA debate gets preference over rational calm discussion.

    2) we have abandoned standards of reason and language so that virtually anything stated can be defended in some fashion, for example 'gender is a social construct' despite what kind of genitals you may have. Where is this coming from and why do we allow it to be the controling force in our colleges?

    3) We have lost many of the axioms that once united us, such as humanitarianism, progressivism (small 'p', leave it better than you got it sort of progressivism), Shakespearean metaphors and Biblical models of behavior.
     
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  10. Mac1958
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    Mac1958 Diamond Member

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    Yep, and look at your three examples: They're all behavioral choices we're making.

    It doesn't have to be like this.
    .
     
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