Via InstaPundit, a typically excellent Fred Turner piece (2,800 words; reading time 7-14 minutes) that views American politics through, as it were, a polarizing filter rotated by 90° relative to the usual liberal/conservative one.
While this model is familiar to libertarians, it is not without its difficulties:
- In my experience, neither committed conservatives nor committed liberals are receptive to it; indeed, they often object vociferously. I have friends to this day who think that I must be either extremely conservative or extremely liberal. They identify with a single set of somewhat arbitrary stances and label any departure from it their opposite. Needless to say, someone who would 1) sunset all prescriptive economic regulation, 2) remove all restrictions on radio and TV broadcast content, 3) privatize all education, from pre-school through graduate school and 4) decriminalize all narcotics … well, I’d say it keeps them guessing, but these aren’t the kind of people who guess; they’re the kind of people who know, exactly, what’s good for everybody, all the time.
- Not to overlook the obvious, the general population can’t so much as spell “libertarian” or “communitarian,” much less define them or put them in context as Turner has. This may or may not matter — it’s surprising how often people don’t have to know what they’re doing — but we ignore it at our peril.
- Note also some high-profile topics that are, at best, orthogonal to libertarianism (and therefore not mentioned by Turner) — a gold standard, an isolationist foreign policy — but that are devoutly held and loudly proclaimed as essential by many libertarians, notwithstanding their destructiveness (catastrophic deflation, unstopped terrorism) and the availability of perfectly good alternatives (in these instances: a gradual transition to free banking; and voluntary financing of, as well as voluntary membership in, the military). As a Libertarian, I am among the first to admit that as a belief system, it could use some cleaning up.
- Notwithstanding Turner’s hopes for an explicit as well as implicit realignment, I would be astonished if either major party actually disappeared. As a veteran of numerous campaigns and ballot initiatives in the 80s and 90s, I acquired considerable experience with state election law in several different jurisdictions. American political parties as such are already weak organizations, with almost no budget and headcount, especially relative to candidates’ campaign organizations and elected officials’ staffs. They exist mainly because of 50 sets of state regulations requiring them to exist and 50 state legislatures’ (plus Congress) systems of apportioning committee memberships. Were they to be deregulated — eg by allowing them to select candidates in any manner they see fit, rather than through state-run primary elections — they would become much more fluid.
Meanwhile, most legislative districts have been gerrymandered into uncompetitiveness; these would have to be redrawn, perhaps with a simulated annealing algorithm, to equalize population while preserving — or regaining — compactness and convexity.
But both of these steps (and of course any abandonment of legislators’ perks arising from seniority) would be opposed by powerful constituencies, mainly the legislatures themselves. So the high turnover and facilitated coalition-building that would undoubtedly accelerate the realignment Turner discusses appears, to me, to be blocked.
Don’t miss Turner’s all-too-prescient prediction of the decline of IT. A major reason I’ve migrated from IT into more general project management is the temporary and unique character of individual projects. Career advice: stay away from anything that can be routinized too easily.