Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Centrist Social Moderate? WTF?!? ---- 1 of 5

As a general rule, one should not take the quizzes you find offered on facebook seriously. Nevertheless, I found myself drawn to take a certain quiz again and again. Its aim was to pinpoint a person's political position on a graph with two axes - left/right and authoritarian/libertarian on the up and down axis. My sister-in-law got results that positioned her as slightly conservative. Having discussed politics with her more than once, I found that result dubious to say the least, so I took it myself, figuring that it would also miscategorize me. I tested as slightly liberal, which served to confirm my suspicion that the test was, to put it mildly, flawed. It would not publish those results, so I re-submitted the info and got pegged as a centrist moderate. That made it even more suspect in my eyes, and I found it insulting to boot. I'm no liberal, but I'd rather be labelled a liberal than a moderate. Garbage.

But then two of my other facebook friends took it, ignoring my warning to disregard it. Both claimed that its results, one liberal and libertarian, another slightly to the right and very libertarian, seemed accurate. And my sister-in-law took the quiz again and her results were that she was liberal. Hmmm. I had to try again, but first, I wanted to see if I could deliberately skew the results. I took the quiz and deliberately gave a wide variety of extreme kook answers all over the political map - I represented my viewpoint as a bizarre intellectual monstrosity with no consistency at all It put me in the middle between the left and right, and slightly in the authoritarian up axis. I still couldn't get out of the middle. I took it again, this time reflecting carefully on my answers. Right smack in the middle of the crosshairs again - a "centrist social moderate". Ughh. Disgusting. How the hell did that happen?

Maybe it's just that I am very suspicious of the pre-packaged kits of easy answers offered by both the right and the left. To me, they look like hodge-podges, crazy mix-and-match mish-mashes of positions on various issues, with little effort put into keeping them consistent with each other in line with a specific, coherent vision. Where they are philosophically intelligible, they seem naive. Liberals seem naive in their unshakable faith in the power of the government to create a just and happy society by re-distributing the fruit of the most productive people's labor to the least productive among the nation's citizenry. But those on the right seem equally naive in their dogmatic insistence that the free market, left to itself, will eventually solve all society's ills justly and fairly.

On the one hand, you have a segment of people who see any problem, no matter how slight and say, "Let's have the government fix it - we'll tax the rich to pay for it." On the other hand, you have another set of people who see any problem, no matter how severe, and say, "As long as it doesn't cost me money it's not my concern." One side won't be happy until all economic inequalities are eliminated, regardless of how fairly those who have more earned it. The other side won't be happy until the only people paying any taxes at all are those with the least financial capacity to bear that burden and all of those funds are spent on military, with everything else should be left to the free market.

On one side, you have people who never saw a proposed government regulation that they didn't like except for those that would have put fiscal oversight on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac for high-risk mortgages, and on the other side you have people who never saw a government regulation that they liked, no matter how reasonable, until they started calling for aforementioned banking regulations. And then when credit collapsed, the same side that resisted those specific regulations started blaming the other side for the "de-regulation"!

On one side you have people who never think it is the wrong time to raise taxes, no matter how badly the economy needs a boost (heck, just raise taxes and spend the money, that'll get things going, we'll let our great-great-great-great grandchildren pay off that debt - screw that generation anyway, we don't know them and never will, 'cuz we'll be dead!!), and on other side you have people who never think it's the wrong time to cut taxes, no matter how high our deficits go, no matter what spending obligations the government has in the immediate future (like the Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom will turn 65 in 2011 and hit the Social Security rolls like an avalanche).

I don't like how both sides play the same game, and whenever one side catches the other in some bit of hypocrisy, the latter's apologists respond by pointing to the last time the former was engaged in the same thing and whines "Where were you when so-and-so did/said the same thing?" In other words, it's ok if my side is hypocritical as long as our hypocrisy in doing what we objected to in the past when your side did it is no worse than your hypocrisy in pointing to what we're doing now after you all did the same damned thing! It's as if both liberal and conservative pundits both use the same playbook, and just shuffle the arguments around. You have a problem with the intrusive expansion of government under Obama into domestic matters (e.g. health care)? Well, where were you when Bush was pushing the Patriot Act and domestic wire-tapping? You have a problem with the tea party protestors making Obama look like the Joker? Well where were you when the New Yorker printed a cartoon of Bush as the Joker?

To Be Continued...