Author Topic: The Politics Thread  (Read 38903 times)

ClintMemo

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Reply #50 on: February 22, 2007, 11:26:21 PM
For along time, I've thought that one of the things that separates us from the animals is our ability to recognize our instincts and not act upon them.
Unfortunately, recognizing this and accomplishing this are vastly different.  :P

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Holden

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Reply #51 on: February 23, 2007, 04:15:56 PM
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I believe the majority of human beings do not practice rational thought on a regular basis.  In fact, I think the vast majority of decisions are made by non-rational means.

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Astute observation, Clint.  I believe this more and more as time goes on.

I disagree. Not only is it cliché to say humans aren't rational thinkers, it's wrong. Humans are rational thinkers. Just this morning, I had a cup of coffee, took a shower, had a shave, dressed myself, and drove to work. I'd like to see a chimp do that!

Just because someone makes a wrong decision every now and then doesn't mean they are not thinking rationally. It's possible to think rationally, make a decision, and be wrong.

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Haven't read it, but I've had others tell me it's basically an argument against the existence of free will. Sounds interesting.



ClintMemo

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Reply #52 on: February 23, 2007, 04:38:13 PM
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I believe the majority of human beings do not practice rational thought on a regular basis.  In fact, I think the vast majority of decisions are made by non-rational means.

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Astute observation, Clint.  I believe this more and more as time goes on.

I disagree. Not only is it cliché to say humans aren't rational thinkers, it's wrong. Humans are rational thinkers. Just this morning, I had a cup of coffee, took a shower, had a shave, dressed myself, and drove to work. I'd like to see a chimp do that!

That doesn't make you rational, that just makes you well-trained.  :P
Seriously, what did you eat for breakfast? Why? Was it because you analyzed the ingredients and determined it to be healthy or was it because it's your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Just because someone makes a wrong decision every now and then doesn't mean they are not thinking rationally. It's possible to think rationally, make a decision, and be wrong.


Oh, I agree. Flawed logic is a different problem all together. 
But as Mark Twain said "Thinking is hard work. That's why so few people do it."

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Anarkey

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Reply #53 on: February 23, 2007, 04:46:31 PM
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I believe the majority of human beings do not practice rational thought on a regular basis.  In fact, I think the vast majority of decisions are made by non-rational means.

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Astute observation, Clint.  I believe this more and more as time goes on.

I disagree. Not only is it cliché to say humans aren't rational thinkers, it's wrong. Humans are rational thinkers. Just this morning, I had a cup of coffee, took a shower, had a shave, dressed myself, and drove to work. I'd like to see a chimp do that!

Kind of a false dichotomy, there, isn't it?  If I say we aren't rational thinkers, I'm not thereby implying that chimps (or any other living beings) are rational thinkers.  It wasn't a comparative statement.  And to clarify, we're (and forgive me and step in if I misquote what you mean, Clint) not talking about human beings not having the capacity for rational thought, but that human beings often don't make critical decisions using that capacity.  I'll take this thread alone as evidence that human beings have the ability to think rationally, so there's no need to go all straw man and chase down that alley.

Also, I'm not convinced that your ability to follow a routine should be described as "rational thought".  To borrow your logic, my dog follows a routine every day in which he goes out, pees, comes in, eats breakfast and then accompanies me for a ride.  If I deviate from this routine, he gets a little anxious.  He expects to do those things every day in that order.  It's a habit, completely unrelated to critical thinking. 

Your premise is precisely part of the upthread discussion that led to Clint's statement: whether what people talk about as "common sense" is often just habits, or reactions to prior experience that have nothing to do with thinking objectively about the task or problem at hand.  Daily routine is not a counterargument.  It is, if anything, further evidence for the argument.

Just because someone makes a wrong decision every now and then doesn't mean they are not thinking rationally. It's possible to think rationally, make a decision, and be wrong.

This is interesting, because so far in this conversation, I don't think anyone has directly correlated "rational" decisions with correctness or characterized other types of decision-making as wrong.  The implication has been strongly made that rational thinking is superior, but I don't think anyone has addressed results.  It seems like there's a whole separate side-argument that could be had as to whether rationality leads to right or wrong decisions and further, what constitutes a "right" or "wrong" decision. 

"Second Person, Present Tense" by Daryl Gregory
Haven't read it, but I've had others tell me it's basically an argument against the existence of free will. Sounds interesting.

I didn't read it that way, but I can certainly see that slant in it.  It's at least an argument as to how deep anyone's free will really is, and how easily compromised it can become, though I didn't feel as though it ruled out the possibility of free will completely.  Perhaps that's just my optimistic interpretation of it, though.  I have a total soft spot for free will, and always root for it.  At any rate, if you have any sort of interest in the "ghost in the machine", which seems to be part of what this thread is about, then it's definitely a worth your time, and a good story to boot.

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ClintMemo

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Reply #54 on: February 23, 2007, 05:03:58 PM
You summed up my point very well.

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Holden

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Reply #55 on: February 23, 2007, 07:43:19 PM
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That doesn't make you rational, that just makes you well-trained.

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I'm not convinced that your ability to follow a routine should be described as "rational thought".

What I was getting at is not a human's ability to follow routine, but the complexity of most "simple" human tasks by taking inventory of what I had done this particular morning. I agree following a routine is not an example of rational thought. (By the way, I don't really have a morning routine. Three jobs and weird hours.

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And to clarify, we're (and forgive me and step in if I misquote what you mean, Clint) not talking about human beings not having the capacity for rational thought, but that human beings often don't make critical decisions using that capacity.

Thanks for the clarification. So your argument is not "humans don't think rationally" but rather "The vast majority of critical decisions made by humans are made without practicing their capacity for rational thought." That's an important distinction. Can you give me some examples of critical decisions you made without using your capacity for rational thought? That might better help me understand what we are talking about.



ClintMemo

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Reply #56 on: February 23, 2007, 07:53:30 PM
Can you give me some examples of critical decisions you made without using your capacity for rational thought? That might better help me understand what we are talking about.

I got married.  :P


But seriously folks...
Here's a few examples from the life of a middle-aged guy. (I'm 42)

I'm a programmer by trade. Why? I like doing it. I tried it once, decided I liked it and stuck with it.  Was it the best career choice for me? No. The best career choice for me would have been law.  I like to debate issues. I have shown an ability to convince people that I'm right. Lawyers can make piles of money.  The thing is, I like being a programmer. I'm not great at it, but I am competent.  I didn't wake up one morning and ask myself "what career should I pursue?", gather evidence, examine it and make a decision.  I decided I wanted to be a programmer and then found reasons to convince myself it was a good idea.

When I went to college, I decided to stay home and go to my local university. It is (or was) a decent enough school.  Why? Because I wanted to be close to my girlfriend at the time (not my wife - I met her later).  I did pretty well in high school and scored well on my ACTs so I could have went to any number of better schools, but I didn't.  Did I wake up one morning, gather evidence and then decide on which school to go to?  Nope.


« Last Edit: February 23, 2007, 08:07:47 PM by ClintMemo »

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Anarkey

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Reply #57 on: February 23, 2007, 08:32:49 PM
What I was getting at is not a human's ability to follow routine, but the complexity of most "simple" human tasks by taking inventory of what I had done this particular morning.

I would not have countered a description of your everyday actions as complex.  I think complexity and rationality may overlap, but I don't think one is necessarily an indicator of the other.  Ecosystems are complex, and while they are sometimes posited as sentient by SF writers, I think most of us wouldn't describe them as rational.  Conversely, a very simple flowchart can be used to delineate a straightforward process of taking in variables, weighing pros and cons, and coming up with an ideal action/reaction or (more pertinently to this conversation) political position.

Thanks for the clarification. So your argument is not "humans don't think rationally" but rather "The vast majority of critical decisions made by humans are made without practicing their capacity for rational thought." That's an important distinction. Can you give me some examples of critical decisions you made without using your capacity for rational thought? That might better help me understand what we are talking about.

It is an important distinction, and I appreciate you acknowledging it.  You'll pardon me my descent into semantic quibbling for a moment.  While your rephrasing of my stated position is accurate in the general, I'm uncomfortable with certain hyperbolic words such as "vast" and "critical".  I would say, instead, that people make decisions all the time, most of them are not driven by critical thinking, even when the people making the decisions think they are being rational.   

I'm also not terribly comfortable giving examples of my own.  My thesis is that we rationalize decisions we make, whether they are intrinsically rational or not, so I'm not sure I'm well-equipped to find the beam in my own eye, so to speak.  Additionally, I'm not sure what giving up personal examples provides to the discussion overall, except for a statistically insignificant anecdote that allows people to take a position that I may not be rational, but they would easily avoid such pitfalls.

And here my better (more rational?) judgment would have me leave it.  But, because I have a sense that not providing an example is weaseling out (a feeling, see?  Not based in the rational, based perhaps in years of conditioning to respond to questions or a thousand other things I couldn't probably trace or name), I shall attempt to fulfill the request, and hope that it won't result in potshots.

Because of my age, when I was pregnant, I was advised by the doctor to have an amniocentesis, to test for various genetic defects (most notably Down's syndrome) that correlate with mother's age.  I declined the test.  There's a very small risk involved with the test, but that didn't really trouble me.  I had various rationalizations as to why I didn't want the test, but I'll spare you the rehash.  If I try to analyze my behavior, I find it wasn't too rational.  It would be better to be prepared, especially for a baby with Down's.  The truth was, if there was something wrong with my baby I didn't want to know it beforehand.  So I didn't have the test. 

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Holden

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Reply #58 on: February 23, 2007, 09:59:17 PM
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I got married.

Now that's hilarious!

Both of the serious examples you gave sound perfectly rational to me. You chose a degree based on a type of work you enjoy and chose a school that was close to your girlfriend. Perhaps you were a bit passive in your approach to both decisions, but certainly not irrational. Since you cited these as examples of non-rational critical decision making, I can infer that what we disagree on is the definition of the term "rational thought".

How do you define rational thought?

As far as the test for defects, it sounds like you had rational reasons for declining test, but you feel the real reason you denied the test was not those rational reasons but rather fear, making the decision irrational. Do I understand you correctly?

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people make decisions all the time, most of them are not driven by critical thinking, even when the people making the decisions think they are being rational.

Are the terms "being rational" and "thinking critically" interchangeable? Or are these two different things?



Anarkey

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Reply #59 on: February 23, 2007, 11:08:18 PM
Perhaps you were a bit passive in your approach to both decisions, but certainly not irrational. Since you cited these as examples of non-rational critical decision making, I can infer that what we disagree on is the definition of the term "rational thought".

How do you define rational thought?

Yeah, I think you infer correctly, because I don't believe thought to be either rational or irrational, and you have indicated by your comment that if a thought is not rational, then it must be irrational.  This sheds a lot of light, for me, on your previous comments about being rational (I get up, I eat breakfast, I dress, I drive to work).  Of course if you aren't behaving erratically and irrationally, then you must be behaving rationally.  It also illuminates your comments about "right" and "wrong" decisions. 

I have not meant to imply that people's decisions are "irrational", so perhaps "rational" is too loaded a word to be using in this context.  (I notice Clint deliberately said "non-rational" as opposed to "irrational").  In essence, I'm talking about considered approaches to problems/ideas/situations.  If you're going with your gut, or your instinct, or using your emotions as the impetus for your actions, or doing something out of habit, then you are not taking a considered approach to the problem.  You've not thought it over, you've not weighed the consequences, you've not looked at every angle.  Yet I find most of the time when I stop to evaluate my decision-making process (or that of those around me), it's far more likely to have arisen from emotion, instinct, habit, whatever than from examination, even when the results of those decisions might be very important, life-changing ones.

So, for example, someone who smokes?  In my book, that's habit behavior.  It's not rational (but I wouldn't call it irrational, either). It has nothing to do with rationality.  Other forces are at work at there.  Some people argue that religious belief is a non-considered behavior (whoa, politics and religion in the same thread.  Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!).  People go to church, pray, etc. because they were brought up that way.  And certainly, this can be the case (though how you'd get theologians if this were absolute, I have no idea).  Upthread knee-jerk political beliefs are discussed.  People vote against their self-interest, which in terms of preservation and advancement, probably ought to be considered as acting non-rationally.     

As far as the test for defects, it sounds like you had rational reasons for declining test, but you feel the real reason you denied the test was not those rational reasons but rather fear, making the decision irrational. Do I understand you correctly?

Right.  Exactly.  Even though I'm perfectly capable of explaining to myself good reasons for not doing the test, in the end, it boils down to cowardice.  And the explaining to myself part of it is really the critical point I'm making.  We want to believe we're doing things that make sense, even when we're not.  So when we take actions that don't make sense, we explain them to ourselves in ways that do.

Or at least, that's what I think. 

Are the terms "being rational" and "thinking critically" interchangeable? Or are these two different things?

I was using them basically interchangeably, because I can only write so many passively constructed sentences in a row before I snap, but I think the latter term would have been a better place to go, given the obfuscation "rational" seems to have created.

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ClintMemo

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Reply #60 on: February 23, 2007, 11:53:11 PM
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I got married.

Now that's hilarious!
 

Thanks.
I meant that to be funny, obviously, but it's also true. I married my wife because I loved her (still do) adn if there is anything that is irrational it's love.
(altogether now  "awwwwww")

Both of the serious examples you gave sound perfectly rational to me. You chose a degree based on a type of work you enjoy and chose a school that was close to your girlfriend. Perhaps you were a bit passive in your approach to both decisions, but certainly not irrational. Since you cited these as examples of non-rational critical decision making, I can infer that what we disagree on is the definition of the term "rational thought".
How do you define rational thought?

I think of rational as logical (ala Mr Spock) - which is probably not exactly correct.  Define the problem. Gather evidence. Examine the evidence. Make a conclusion based on the evidence.  Now, there is nothing wrong in developing a process as an outcome of a logical decision and following that process later because you understand the process, why it is the way it is, and know when the situation dictates that you deviate from the process.   That's just a complicated way of saying that developing good habits can be beneficial.  That's important because you can't go through life making all of your decisions on a rational (logical) basis.  Some simply can't be made that way because there is no non-subjective way to evaluate the evidence (What should i have for dessert?), but others you don't have time to examine fully (There's a car coming at me in my lane. What should I do?)

As far as my two real life examples go, they were completely non-rational decisions. I made a decision based on my emotions and then found evidence to convince myself (and others) that it was the righ thing to have done.

btw, I use the term "non-rational" from classes I had in college. We were studying decision making processes and that was the term they used.

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Michael

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Reply #61 on: February 24, 2007, 11:53:52 AM
This is in response to Uriel's 2/21 Post

Sorry I missed that at first, this thread had mainly seized on beating the concept of "common sense" (obviously nonproductive in a sharply polarized country of red and blue) to death, then moved to rationality. 

I was more focused on why there IS so much friction, and the fundamental MISUNDERSTANDING which causes good men to fight with such vitriol over trivialites.

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I personally like the Pournelle axes for this purpose.  More descriptive, and with less emotional baggage with the words.

Pournelle is a smart guy.  And he recognizes essentially the same 4 philosophies, he just relabels the X-Y Axis.  This is a thing about statistics--when you do a factor analysis, you get these 4 factors, but the statistics program doesn't give you a NAME for the factor, it is just "Factor1-4" --it is up to people to name their philosophy or movement, and they are often highly creative in doing so. (Fascism in Germany was 'National Socialism" Fascism in America is "Christian Conservatism" (http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/0743284437.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)   

But I must disagree that there is less emotional bagages in his words:



By making the making the major "North South" Axis "Rationalism" Pournelle declares "Fascism is irrationalist; it says so in its theoretical treatises" -- defining a major political philosophy "irrational" is pretty baggage laden.  Most Fascists I know believe themselves to be pretty pragmatic people.  They want law and order and the trains to run on time. 
 
Rokeach had the same 2 Axis, but he was truly less emotional... the Axis are:

Freedom
and
Equality

See there are both GOOD values.  Everybody believes in Freedom, and Everybody believes in Equality.

But if they had to fight it out--if you had to pick just one--which would win?  That is what makes you what you are, politically. 

Capitalist=Freedom High, Equality Low
Socialist = Freedom High, Equality High
Communist=Equality High, Freedom Low
Fascist=Freedom Low, Equality Low

To me, it just drips out of their writings.  Do their philosophers speak of the commonality of man (I have a dream?) or are they focusing on singling out groups "inferior" to demonstrate inherent inequality? (Jews, gays, Muslims, secular humanists, welfare queens).  Do they wish to be unfettered completely or do they tolerate restrictions on Freedom for the "common good"? 


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Except Communism (as practiced in the USSR and China, the latter of which you cite) are fascist states.  This causes futher confusion.

Of course you are right, as did the Nazi use of "National Socialism" confuse everyone.  I would say Venezuela then as an example... Human nature being what it is, don't all Communists states drift toward Fascism with time?

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Where do you deal with issues like market failures in a capitalist society?  Are education and healthcare really public goods as you imply here?  If so, what levels of each are public goods?  Why? 
 
 
I think that is why we bounce back and forth between Republican and Democratic rule.  Enlightened Capitalists realize we need an educated and healthy workforce, but some people want to make their million (or Billion) now and screw the future.  I read that General Motors suffers a $1,000 per car cost penalty vs. a European Car, because GM is saddled with health care costs for workers and retirees, whereas the Government picks up that tab in Germany, so it is not a direct cost to the manufacturer--gives Japan and Germany a huge worldwide competitive advantage.  GM would obviously like to see National Health insurance, which is a Socialist idea.   ;D 


Anarkey

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Reply #62 on: February 24, 2007, 01:13:23 PM
I like the two axes system as well, by the way, it's always made more sense to me than the left/right spectrum.

Rokeach had the same 2 Axis, but he was truly less emotional... the Axis are:

Freedom
and
Equality

See there are both GOOD values.  Everybody believes in Freedom, and Everybody believes in Equality.

But if they had to fight it out--if you had to pick just one--which would win?  That is what makes you what you are, politically. 

Capitalist=Freedom High, Equality Low
Socialist = Freedom High, Equality High
Communist=Equality High, Freedom Low
Fascist=Freedom Low, Equality Low

However, if we're talking about being balanced and non-judgmental by forcing people to pick one of two good values, I don't think this system does it.  It seems clear that at least in one instance, the two values are not fighting it out.  You don't have to pick if you're going to be socialist.  In that case, you get both.

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ClintMemo

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Reply #63 on: February 24, 2007, 04:41:34 PM
Capitalist=Freedom High, Equality Low
Socialist = Freedom High, Equality High
Communist=Equality High, Freedom Low
Fascist=Freedom Low, Equality Low

[/quote]

The idea is not bad, but to divide everything into just two categories is a fallacy.  There should at least be High, Medium and Low.  Knowing nothing about the creator of the system, I can't say for sure, but I suspect that this is a case of setting up your analysis to give you the answer that you want (a prime example of non-rational decision making, if ever I saw one. :D). My guess is that the creator is a socialist.  I laughed when I saw this, listing Capitalism and Socialism as having the same amount of Freedom (high) while listing Capitalism and Fascism as having the same amount of equality (low). I wonder what his definition of "equality" is.  Equal standard of living? Equal under the law? Equal opportunity?   Depending on how you define this makes a huge difference in how "fair" your society is.  Communism has high equality - everybody's poor!

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Michael

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Reply #64 on: February 24, 2007, 05:08:47 PM
I have no doubt that Rokeach, like most academics, felt that European Socialism is the best economic idea around--good funding for the arts, universities, healthcare, lots of vacation time.

That said, do you really feel Donald Trump feels all people are equal? He must feel he is somehow superior to justify his vast wealth--pretty much all the Oligarchs must believe they have special abilities which justify their wealth, even if they were born with it.   I think most Capitalists believe in winners and losers, survival of the fittest, and all that stuff--I have never noticed them to be too concerned about the plight of the losers.

Do Fundamentalist Christians feel on moral parity with athiests?    Fascists always seem to pick on some other group who is clearly "inferior"--with Hitler it was Jews and Gays, in Americas it is mainly gays.


 


Anarkey

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Reply #65 on: February 24, 2007, 06:17:33 PM
Do Fundamentalist Christians feel on moral parity with athiests?    Fascists always seem to pick on some other group who is clearly "inferior"--with Hitler it was Jews and Gays, in Americas it is mainly gays.

I'm a little uncomfortable with what I'm reading (possibly incorrectly) as your grouping of discriminating haters (whether it be race or sexual preference or gender based) with fascists.  Sure, fascists may have propagated that as part of their ideology, but in my experience, discrimination comes from all sides of the political spectrum, and no one's hands are clean.  Being a racist doesn't automagically make you a fascist, and it's possible, I suspect, to be fascist without being racist (at least in a politically ideological sense).  I don't know if it's your intent to conjoin those categories or not, but I certainly see them as distinct and separate (though I'll accept overlap).

I'm also not comfortable with the label "fascist" to describe the sorts of totalitarian demagogic governments (low freedom, low equality) enumerated thus far, because in current American English parlance, "fascist" is an epithet, an extremely loaded term.  No one calls themselves fascist, they are labeled so by others, often wildly inaccurately.  I understand the term may have been more descriptive and less inflammatory at one time, or in other places, perhaps, but to an American it's a straight up insult.

Personally, I find it most useful to analyze political positions using the economic and social axes, the way politicalcompass.org does.  Every country, and every citizen of every country, is involved in both economy and society.  I can spend days without thinking of liberty or equality, but I do some economic transaction daily, and interact with others in my society daily as well.  Neither term is particularly "good" nor "bad", they are merely descriptive.  The economic/social axes allows for free-market totalitarian states which would be difficult to place on the Rokeachan axes, as neither freedom nor equality are really the values being striven for (or against) there.  It also allows some of what Clint wants, in the "low,medium,high" realm, in that you can be somewhat for economic controls, and somewhat for social controls, and that just puts you toward the center of the grid.  It's not an either/or proposition.  Messy, but probably more accurate.

(edited because apparently I don't know the difference between Pournelle and Rokeach)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2007, 06:46:36 PM by Anarkey »

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