Our modern world has a preoccupation with political camps (progressive, conservative, liberal, etc.).
I find this preoccupation problematic because political camps routinely swap positions on issues. What is considered progressive in one generation is considered conservative the next.
Even worse, most people are more atuned to the members of a group than to the ideas behind a group. We see that hip people are progressive, and frumpy people are conservative.
The terms "conservative" and "progressive" have some value as adjectives. Most political debates has one group trying to preserve the status quo. It makes sense to label this view "conservative." Other groups want to change to change the status quo. Generally these people have a goal in mind. It makes sense to call this group "progressive."
Notice, however, that with this use of the terms, the progressive and conservative positions depend on the status quo. Since they depend on something fluid, the positions change.
In recent history, we found a strange situation where "conservatives" in the former Soviet Union argued for state control of industry, while "conservatives" in the United States argued against state control.
Systems of Thought
One of the really odd things about philosophy is that, in any well developed system of thought, it is possible to argue both sides of most political issues.
One sensational example is abortion. The sanctity of life is fundamental to Christianity. Many Christians say that, since abortion is wrong, it must be illegal. Others may be as dead set againt abortion, but decide that the state is not the best venue for addressing the issue. The actions that we take as individuals is a more important manifestation of morality than the statutes in the law books.
Well developed systems of thought, ideologies, are able to argue both sides of any given political issue. Real world politics is much more fluid than pundits and scholars make out. Most political issues involve both an internal (often private) debate and a public debate.
Unfortunately, most of the analysis we see of issues is about the public debate. This analysis can make political camps appear much more dictatorial than they actually are.
I realized I needed to elaborate on the statement "This analysis can make political camps appear much more dictatorial than they actually are.".
The analysis of public debates often make groups that adhere to classical reasoning appear more dictatorial than those that exercise modern political techniques (Foundational Dialectics).
Groups committed to classical reasoning will settle on a set of premises then argue those premises in the public arena. Groups that use new think will decide on a position. They will present their argument in terms of a foundational conflict or paradox measured in such a way to support their position.
The person who presents their positions in clearly stated arguments might appear more dictatorial than the dialectician during the debate. However, in the adminstration of policy, it is much easier to understand and follow the actions of such leaders. The dialectician, on the other hand, tends to be more heavy handed and capricious in the administration of the state.
The Fair and Balanced Press
The press often tries to appear "fair and balanced" by presenting issues in terms of a liberal/conservative dichotomy. I find this process unfulfilling as it makes conflicts and dichotomies the center piece of our society and fails to prevent any fully developed ideas.
This notion that there is a conservative and liberal side of each issue is simply absurd because all issues are multi-dimensional and the world of politics is fluid. Political camps routinely swap positions.
Programs like the Hannity and Colmes Show try to create an outword appears of balance by having announcers who yell past eachother. However a society based on this type of yelling back and forth becomes less deliberate in its actions and tends to dictatorial modes of thought.
While Hannity and Combes yelled past each other, the United States found itself in an untenable position in Iraq. Perhaps we could have avoided this mess if our media and political system was more focussed on true in depth analysis instead of this fake analysis based on the supposed "conservative/liberal" dichotomy.
In my opinion, pundits spend far too much time analyzing the vagaries of political camps. Such political camps exist within a fluid system. Camps routinely swap positions on issues.
Often the analysis of camps creates false dichotomies that can mislead people in debate. For example, one might conclude that conservatives are inherently prejudiced because the conservative argument during the Civil Rights movement was to preserve the status quo. One might conclude that all Democrats are fiscally irresponsible because they were in the Johnson era.
The Bush Adminstration showed that Conservatives can be as fiscally irresponsible as Johnson. The 2008 Democratic primary seems to show that Democrats are still very much atuned to identity politics.
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