Monday, December 29, 2014

The Political Sphere Is Round

This is the last post for 2014, and I thought it might be a good time to re-introduce the Spherical Model. I’ve done this from time to time, since the blog title is obscure when you don’t know what it’s about. This is just an intro. For more full information, go to the website. And there’s also a best-of-the-blog collection, Part I, Part II, and Part III. But for now, here’s a first step.
Back in 2004, during our homeschooling decade, I was looking for a way to explain political ideas. And I began to ask questions, like: Is there a better way of looking at political ideas than right or left?
Because there is nothing innately conservative about the right or innately liberal about the left. In fact, the directional terms come from the seating arrangement of European parliaments, in which conservatives favored retaining the monarchy while liberals were in favor of people’s power.
So the typical line model we use to describe political ideas as right and left is just a seating arrangement. Yet we’ve come to think of this line as a spectrum.
Political conversations tend to describe the far ends as extreme, assuming there’s some virtue in being balanced in the middle. And we refer to our nation as center right—just a little more conservative than exactly center.

But what are the extremes? Do we assume communism or socialism at the extreme left, and fascism at the extreme right?

That can’t be right, because communism and fascism are both totalitarian statist tyrannies, just slightly different flavors. Nazi means “national socialist party” and the communist Soviet Union’s name was Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
So if Nazism and communism aren’t diametric opposites, then what are the logical extremes?
How about total government control, or tyranny, versus total lack of government control, or anarchy?

That’s better. Then freedom is that perfect balance in the middle.
But wait; there’s a problem with this model too: It’s common in history for people suffering in anarchy to turn for relief to total government control—anything for security. But in this model, as a people move to the left, they have to pass through that balanced freedom section. You’d think that it would be very common for someone to stop and say, “Hey, this freedom is good. Let’s stop going leftward and stay here.” Yet that pretty much never happens. But going directly from chaos to state control is historically common.
Plus, notice that there’s not that much difference between the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of anarchy. Total government control means the state has all the power—the police, the military. The state can do what it wants, and the mere citizen is without any rights except what the state decides to grant.
Anarchy, on the other hand, means that power belongs to whoever is stronger and meaner than the next guy. If you threaten to beat people up (or kill them) if they don’t give you all their belongings, and you’re strong enough to mean it, then you have power. If someone else is stronger or better armed than you are, then you have to yield power to them.
In other words, anarchy, while less organized, is power in the hands of the strongest and best armed—just like a tyrannical government.
So maybe government tyranny and anarchic tyranny are pretty close to the same thing. When I show this, I use a ribbon, labeled at the ends, and fold it in half, so it looks something like this:

Tyranny and freedom are really the opposite extremes.
Not bad. But it puts all those different kinds of tyrannies in the same location, and maybe there are differences.
A simple line doesn’t give us the dimensions we need.
So, how about if we use three dimensions—a sphere? If we draw a line at the equator, we can separate freedom (northern hemisphere) from tyranny (southern hemisphere). And then we can draw a longitudinal dividing line, with more local interests in the western hemisphere and larger interests—from state to nation, to international, in the eastern hemisphere.

I call this the Spherical Model.

Political Sphere

Down in the south, you can see that one side of tyranny is the chaos of anarchy, and the other side is the totalitarian control of government tyranny. It’s easy to get from one to the other—which is what much of world history has shown us. You can have communism, socialism, and Nazism as separate patches in their quartersphere, based on how much control they exert on their people (southern direction), or how far they plan to expand (toward the eastward extreme of world domination).
Up north in the freedom zone, location is mostly a matter of whose interest. Free people don’t yield power to a governing authority beyond the appropriate interest. Families make their own decisions about the care, upbringing, and education of their children. Communities on up to cities and counties decide on local law enforcement and protection needs. States (or provinces) deal with their particular infrastructure and laws. Only very limited powers are granted to a nation—as are enumerated in the US Constitution. And that sovereignty would never yield to an international power, but would cooperate with other free sovereignties concerning international issues.
If we identify ideologies according to level of control exerted onto free people, and also their level of interest, we can identify location on the sphere. And that will tell us how close we are to thriving in the northern freedom zone.
Economic Sphere

We can use the spherical model again for economic ideas: the north will be the prosperity of free enterprise, and the south will be the poverty of controlled economy. Those differences have direct relationships with political ideologies, so we can overlay the economic sphere right over the political sphere and see how things interrelate.
Social Sphere

And what about social ideologies? Again, we can use the same sphere; the north will be civilization, and the south will be savagery.

In all three overlaying spheres, the question becomes, not which is better, left of right? But what are the principles of freedom, prosperity, and civilization? There’s no too far north extreme; there’s only getting north enough and doing what it takes to stay there, generation after generation, without southward slipping.

The political, economic, and social spheres all have their own set of principles for reaching true north. We can take on the economic and social spheres another day, but I’ve started with the political sphere because it’s the easiest to see as the alternative to the right/left model.
So, if we want to be north on the political sphere, there are some questions that let us know whether we’re heading in the right direction:
  • Is the policy being debated something that an individual has the right to do, and therefore has the right to delegate to his/her government? For example, a person has the right to protect his own life and property. He can, therefore, combine resources with his neighbors and hire a government entity, such as a sheriff, to do that job for him. Similarly, the several states can combine to delegate the power of defending the nation to a national government entity. Conversely, a person does not have the right to take his neighbor’s excess grain production, for example, and bestow it on himself, because his neighbor was more prosperous in a particular season. He can, of course, ask his neighbor for charity, but he cannot coerce the neighbor to give. That would rightfully be considered theft. Therefore the person cannot delegate the redistribution of wealth to the government to do for him—that would place him too far south on the sphere.
  • Does the policy infringe in any way on God-given natural rights, such as those enumerated in the Bill of Rights? Does the policy infringe on the free exercise of religion or try to establish a particular sect as a state religion? Is political speech hindered? Does the policy infringe on the right of citizens to bear arms? Does the policy constitute an illegal search or seizure? Does the policy deprive a person of life, liberty, or property when the person has not committed a crime for which that deprivation is the just sentence? Does the policy try to claim for government a power that was not specifically granted in the Constitution? etc. If the policy infringes on the God-given rights, then government cannot take that power without usurping power from the people—which is too far south on the sphere.
  • Is the idea being debated a proper role of government: some aspect of protection (including national defense, protection from interstate crime, enabling international and interstate commerce, standardized weights and measures and currency to protect the value of wealth, the judiciary that guarantees the protective laws), as enumerated in the Constitution? If not, then accepting the idea is outside the Constitution—and is too far south on the sphere.
  • Is the perspective appropriately local? It is important that any issue be handled at the most local level possible. Parents should decide the means, methods, and curriculum for educating their children, for example. An issue that affects a state should be handled at the state level, not the national level. National decisions should not be ceded to some international body. An inappropriate interest level is too far south on the sphere.

Next time someone suggests you are (or an idea is) far-right extreme, check to see whether their position is more accurately some level of southern statist tyranny. Missing the possibility of the entire northern hemisphere of freedom is common. Most of world history shows an oscillation between statist tyranny and anarchic tyranny, or from one statist tyranny to another. Change the discussion by changing the terms and then dealing with principles. Then move north to freedom.