A Better Political Compass, or The Magnificence of Doublethink

Dearest friends,

Without a good compass, you will get lost. This is why I get lost so often – I have yet to find a reliable supplier of hiking supplies. It can be hard to navigate without being able to get your bearings. You can use the sun, but I find the sun has this unfortunate habit of swooping out of the sky trying to eat me, making this dreadful angry face all the while. And one can try to use the animals as a guide, but when I try to sing at the birds, they just peck me.

So a compass.

Similarly, if one is to wander the political woods, one must have a good political compass. Yet I find the ones available often too shabby. The first axis is often labeled Left vs Right. These two terms on their own don’t tell us anything. They might as well be team jerseys or colors: Red vs Blue. Indeed, many shabbier tests use party positions as the metric – to be a Leftist is to toe the Democratic party line. Needless to say, there are many flaws to this. Some go farther and call this the economic axis: leftists are socialists and rightists are capitalists. Yet, many would call positions like Traditionalism, Fascism, and Monarchism rightist. But these often reject capitalism for various reasons. Similarly, most people would agree progressives are leftist. But progressivism is usually defending the extension of Capital’s power – #wokecapital. And people point at something like, say, gay rights, and say that it’s leftist, even if it has nothing to do with economics. Clearly, capitalism vs communism is inadequate to explain this.

What does? The common thread uniting the Left is not socialism, but constructivism. That is, the Left believes that things are socially constructed. Things being socially constructed, they are, in some sense, malleable. Culture and nurture rules, not nature. Genders are a social construct! Laws are a social construct! Gravity is a social construct! By contrast, the Right believes in innate properties of things. There is an essence to everything, an immutable nature. Men and women are different. Capitalism channels man’s inherent greed productively. Human races are real and more than skin-deep. Going to the absolute extreme on the Left, one might expect someone to say there is no such thing as truth, only social constructs, so we can will away the Sun if we all clap our hands and believe. Going to the absolute extreme on the Right, one might expect someone to point out an ethnic group, say, the Yews, call them treacherous, and say that treachery being in their nature (as our qualities and weaknesses are in ours), and nature being unchangeable, the only path forward is extermination. Culture is downstream from biology.

Nowadays, political compasses often have a second axis going vertically, which they term Authoritarianism vs Libertarianism, and which is supposed to capture social attitudes. As we can see, lots of social attitudes can already be captured by the Left-Right dimension. But this dimension is also real, just mislabeled. The distinction which is being captured is not Authoritarian vs Libertarian, but Collectivist vs Individualist. Collectivism, in turn, is implicitly Authoritarian, because the group is privileged over the individual. Because of this, the individual necessarily must suborn their interests to that of the group. This creates a power differential and relation. When groups form, even anarchist groups, leaders and decision-making processes form, which people must submit to. Collectives imply authority. Collectives imply a relationship of authority. Collectivism is therefore implicit hierarchy. Individualists don’t see the world that way. For them, a man is born with rights. No government needs to exist for a man to be free to drink spring water, speak his mind (at the birds, presumably), or build a gunsword which shoots guns which shoot swords. Man is free because the world is free. Groups form and then IMPOSE upon the individuals, taking some of their rights for themselves. But for such an arrangement to be legitimate, the ruled must consent to surrender some of the freedom which they possess in the state of nature. Those who are Leftist Individualists we would call progressives or libertines. Because reality is socially constructed, they perceive reality as a group impingement on their innate freedom to socially construct themselves into being a Two Souled Karate Unicorn. God bless them. Those who are Rightist Individualists want to protect their natural right to have sex with twelve year olds because, actually, it’s ephebophilia not pedophilia and the attempt to define it otherwise is a plot by the government and its sinister roads, so buy up all the little girls you can using gold, which holds innate currency value. Leftist Collectivists see the perfect People Management Software as twelve easy gulagings away, and in the meantime, we’ve got to stop those wreckers sent by the Untied Shoelaces, land of godless materialism, people treating dogs as children, and negroid music. Rightist Collectivists know that if they can just get all those yahoos and punctuated merchants subverting the Ordnung back in line (or thrown out of helicopters), King Arthur will return, the mountains will jizz chocolate, and peace will reign in the land forever probably.

Except some don’t. And also, isn’t this just a relabeling of the existing compasses? Before you throw me out of a helicopter for being a shallow pedant and a hack, I have one more thing to add. And then you can throw me out of a helicopter for being a shallow pedant and a hack.

There’s one more axis. Constrained vs Unconstrained. This may sound familiar, because it is familiar. I stole it from Sowell. But it explains how monarchists and fascists are different, even if they might both be Collectivist and Rightist. Constrained thinkers tend to see the world as defined by tradeoffs. It is a fallen world. Things don’t really permanently improve. History goes in cycles. Mistakes are unavoidable because knowledge is costly and the future is messy. Conflicts come from people having fundamentally different interests. Unconstrained thinkers believe in progress, that things can and will improve, and that win-wins dominate, not trade-offs. Mistakes are a matter of ignorance. Conflicts come from failures to communicate. Fascists are Unconstrained, Reactionaries are Constrained. Ancaps with NAP attacks are Unconstrained, Old Libertarians are Constrained.

Looking over the long flow of history, technology tends to fit the Unconstrained pattern, while governments and cultures fit the Constrained one. So, naturally, engineers tend to be Constrained thinkers and sociologists Unconstrained. An engineer is trained to think about the tradeoffs made when building something. You can trade strength for weight, heat for power, speed for durability, etc. They are constantly confronted with setbacks and failures. And they see all human constructions crumble to dust in time. But every once in a while, one lifts one’s head from the cube and sees that the internet really has gotten thousands of times faster and you’ve made a fat bundle along the way. Similarly, sociologists and their ilk see so many human cultures that it’s hard not to notice the vast differences in the way cultures do things. And they are confronted by differences in values. In turn, it instills a kind of optimism. If so much can be different, why can’t we improve? And so they make another preschool program that doesn’t work. Aristocrats gain prestige by moving leftwards, and they are also constantly manipulating and messing with the proles, so it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that these cultures are constructed – you’re constructing them. But such a position means that your fancy hat is just as constructed, so why don’t we construct it off your head? The prole doesn’t have much margin for fanciful ideas, better the devil he knows. Besides, he sees the kids growing up and the animals breeding, and he knows temperament comes from the parents. But such an ideology means that his low status really is innate to him and deserved. Collectivism tends to attract people who have little but their group identity to be proud of, and in turn, Collective regimes purge those people as useless eaters. Individualists often find themselves asserting their special individuality, a unique identity that everybody hates, and which would be pounded to a pulp absent the government monopoly on force.

What’s the Matter with Kansas? is a mistitling. It should really be called what wrong wit humies atok their fecking stupid uezs.

Anyways, to make a long story short, I see eyes out in the trees looking at me. I’m cold and wet and hungry. I’m hoping you can use the IP posting this to find where I am.

Send hookers and bitcoin,
Monsieur le Baron