Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.
- Joseph Stalin
It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.
- Samuel Adams
FROM THE FRONT
By Len Semas Main Feature 5/24/2016)
HOW MUCH GOVERNMENT IS ENOUGH?
Political Ideological Spectrum - BASELINE
It is popular to describe Republicans as the party of the right and Democrats as the party of the left. This characterization has some validity but for the wrong reasons, and is both inaccurate and misleading. It is far more accurate and informative to refer to political ideologies in terms of the most basic differentiation: government control versus individual liberty. This allows a true distinction between not only the two major parties, but other political systems. In this view, we could easily interchange left and right – they are simply there for reference.
The chart above reflects a delineation among political ideologies based on the relative degree of government control (the lessening of which corresponding to personal liberty). As seen, the true “left” is shared by the major totalitarian (total control) systems of Fascism and Communism. Still solidly in the left is Socialism, which maintains significant government control, while permitting a degree of personal freedom.
"Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%."
- Thomas Jefferson
People often refer to Americans as being in the “middle,” giving rise to a mistaken left-right classifying with that as the benchmark. It is not. Based on our founding documents and principles, our country’s political philosophy is somewhat right of center, and in the middle of BOTH freedom-based political systems. The republican system is rated a 3.5 on the 10-point scale, with democracy at “2.5” – to the RIGHT of the republican form. Our system of government reflects both democratic and republican principles as a constitutional republic. The representative nature of the republican system was intended to rein in some of the excesses of pure democracy, which tended to power by simple majority – in the extreme, “mob rule.” The specific delineation of governmental powers and individual rights places, together with the restraint on unfair majority rule, place it as a “3” on the scale.
At the far right is the virtual absence of government, or anarchy. It is a given that the nature of the “social contract” compels us to tolerate some level of government if we are to enjoy the fruits of civilization. The questions are: how much and for what purposes?
Historic Political Figure Spectrum
It is instructive to look at some historic political figures and consider where their political philosophies might place them on the spectrum. Stalin and Marx are relatively easy. They are both defined by their extreme ideologies. From there it gets a little more subjective. William Wilson may be considered the father of the “Progressive Movement,” giving us the income tax and the ability of the federal government to take without end from the citizens. This was the most government empowering act in American history and places him well into the left-wing. Lyndon Johnson was probably the next in empowering government at the expense of personal liberty. While FDR might be equal with Johnson, his actions were taken during WWII and the Great Depression, and thus considered emergency measures, and at least in intention, temporary.
Note that there are few, if any Founders, to the left of center. Our country was founded on strong principles of limited government and protections of personal freedom. We don’t champion “life, government and pursuit of public assistance;” we are baptized with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Government is but a vehicle to assure these liberties; it does not dispense them.
Hamilton (4.5) is placed a bit the left of other founders as an advocate of a central bank, and a strong federal government. Washington (3.5) too, was a supporter of a strong central (national) government, though wary of government generally.
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
- George Washington (by attribution)
Jefferson (2.5) and John Adams (3) were more vocal advocates of the “federal” form and less control at the core of government, with specific and enumerated powers, and a Bill of Rights to protect specific liberties of the people. Same Adams (2) was a bit more of a firebrand and aggressively supported personal freedom, as a principle organizer in the Boston Tea Party.
Looking at some of the modern counterparts finds JFK (4.5) closer to Ronald Reagan (3.5) and George W. Bush (4) than most early Democrats (and virtually all modern ones). Even more telling as to the fitting of political parties and politicians are the charts shown below.
[Historic Note: The early “Federalists” were actually “nationalists,” in favor of a strong national government, to which the states were subservient. The early “anti-federalists” were what we would later describe as “federalists,” favoring a government that balanced state rights with those accorded to the federal government (formed from a confederation of the states.) In reflection, the Nationalists won, and today we have a NATIONAL government, with greatly diminished power of the states.]
Political Party Spectrum
“That government is best which governs least."
- Thomas Jefferson & Henry David Thoreau
As noted earlier, America is historically a “right-of-center” country, though it has unquestionably moved leftward with greater government than envisioned by the Founders (or desired by a great many citizens). The two major parties revolved around the center point, with Republicans (3.5) closer to constitutional principles than Democrats (5.5). The natural tendency has been for politicians to award more benefits and entitlements to many in exchange for electoral allegiance, preserving their tenure in office.
Members of both parties have operated this way, especially for the past half century following Johnson’s “Great Society.” As a result, the current Democrat party (8.5) has moved to borderline Socialism, while current Republicans have dutifully followed suit (6). While the Democrats have moved to the far left virtually lock-step, factions in the Republican ranks have fought tooth and nail to return to the constitutional (3) principles and role of government. The Tea Party (2.5) reflects a similar but more populist effort among the people themselves, with Libertarians, still less inclined to support big government.
Political Candidate Spectrum
Applying the foregoing discussion to current and recent candidates is most helpful. Bernie Sanders (9) provides the clearest positioning, and he declares himself a Democratic Socialist. Not much to argue with for a guy who wants the government to provide for “free” all the necessities of life. Hillary Clinton, by both ideology and necessity, is not far away (8.5). On the “less government” side are Ron Paul (2) and Gary Johnson (1.5), a Libertarian. The true constitutionalist in the field is clearly Ted Cruz, who received great populist support, while running a-fowl of the left-leaning establishment. As many are aware, neither Mitt Romney (6) nor GW Bush represented true constitutional conservative values, and both did a great disservice to conservative principles. Republicans and true conservatives learned their lesson and rejected both John Kasich (6.5) and Jeb Bush (6),darlings of the GOP establishment.
This brings us to Donald Trump, who remains a somewhat unknown, and THAT may well be the reason for his popularity. He may be a 5, supported by his stance on expanded eminent domain power of government, or he may be a 3.5, based on his position on illegal immigration and Muslim relocation. In all likelihood, he is a 5 on some issues and a 3.5 on others. He is not quite a Cruz, and he is far from any Bush. One thing is for sure, wherever he falls on the political spectrum, he provides a clear alternative to the Clinton-Sanders ideology of the far left.
Trump is well aware that in a country that is historically center-right, even though it has moved some to the left, unless you are Bo Derek, a “10” is not a good place to be.