Article > Freedom and Authority
Description :: Shedding light on America's political system
I've done a lot of study since I first started posting here. For a long time I have wondered what makes democrats and republicans tick, hoping to isolate what it is they hope for and fear. I think I've got it. The goal of this article is to encourage the reader to make his/her (from now on, I'll just use her) consistent.

The most consistent of political views are those of libertarian and authoritarian. Don't get me wrong: many people think they are libertarian who are actually left libertarian. I'll talk about that later.

Libertarians want the government to back off. The most extreme of libertarians, I imagine, are anarchists who don't want government at all. Other people like myself really fear the government. The government's main goal for me is to keep evil people from hurting others. However, if the government becomes too powerful, it will be controlled by evil people who will hurt others. So the government must be kept in check. Libertarians feel that society is better overall when individuals are given a high degree of autonomy.

Authoritarians on the other hand feel that (I've never met one, so I'm working on a theoretical understanding), left to itself, society will collapse and thus the people will suffer. The government provides a strong framework in which the people can operate and which keeps society strong and stable. Tradition is often very important for such people. Extreme authoritarianism ends up something like communism: a command economy that oftentimes tells its citizens what to believe and which controls all sources of information.

Now, if you are anything like me, you see a lot of virtue and a lot of danger in both of these views. Lets analyze it quickly.

True libertarians (perhaps extreme libertarians is more accurate) in todays world are asking for trouble. Corporations exist to make money, and in the past, they have abused their power. It is unlikely that humanity has changed, so this will probably continue to happen. Freedom means the freedom to hurt others, oftentimes through large groups of people each doing a little damage. The autonomy behind libertarianism is one of the foundations of our economy however. Each person seeks to benefit themselves through work and thus they benefit society. If a thing becomes scarce, people will desire to make that thing because it has become more valueable.

True authoritarianism is also very dangerous. An acquaintance of mine says quoting, he thought Descartes, that "a people of sheep begets a government of wolves." [Editor's note: the quote "A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves" seems to be initially attributable to Bertrand (sometimes Henry) de Jouvenel/Jouvenal/Juvenal, a french statesman and journalist (1876-1935), though also to Edward Murrow and others. It's quite popular.] I think that history has shown this to be true. People do what they can to get ahead and government is the perfect framework within which evil people can selfishly get what they want. It also has tended not to work well in terms of an economy: it is allocatively inefficient. A group of people has to decide how many of everything should be produced. Oftentimes, everyone receives the same pay in the name of equity but without considering the quality or honesty of a person's work. This is a recipe for corruption and that is what history has shown.

So if freedom leads to small numbers of evil people hurting large numbers of innocent people and authority leads to small numbers of evil people hurting large numbers of innocent people, what are we to do (those of us who aren't evil?)

With this in mind take a look at your own political ideals. The political compass's website (I think its or .com, i'm lazy) points out for instance that the death penalty is one of the most authoritarian things a country can do: its a government giving itself the power to kill those it deems are evil. I would like to point out that abortion requires the government to give itself the right to define what a human / person is. That is, in my opinion, far more authoritarian then the death penalty. Taxes are another one to see in this light. Taxes are in fact, the government telling you (and others) what to do with their money. I don't really like that but the government workers have to get paid eh? Telling a *certain group* of individuals how to spend 43% of their income..that is, "give it to me" seems a bit excessive. Perhaps those who pay less % in taxes should be told what to do with the remainder of their money (how about food, clothes and shelter for their family). If we're going to tax the rich 43% federal tax should we pretend that it doesn't tell people how to spend their money! Should we laugh at Bush who thinks fighting terrorism is fighting Evil and then say that corporate fat cats are evil? Shouldn't conservatives be more worried than liberals about wasting our natural resources?

At the beginning of my article I noted that I thought I was close to isolating what it is that makes republicans and democrats tick. Republicans are morally authoritarian because they fear evil: murderers and thieves and even worse, murderers and thieves in the government, and they are fiscally libertarian: they don't want to tax the economy with too many regulations and taxes (too much regulation is of course a very debatable issue). Democrats are fiscally authoritarian: they don't mind making the average person poorer to make the poor richer and happier. If they are honest and educated, they will tell you so. However, they are morally libertarian. They don't want the government to be the morality police. Such things can become ridiculous very quickly. So democrats fear that the world is unfair and wish to correct it directly.

Thoughts or complaints? Email with them. If they are unreasonable, I'll delete them, so save the hate for someone that cares. To save you energy, I'll point out now that probably no one does. Hateful people should go daydream about what anarchy would look like for the 5 seconds that it can actually exist without being imposed by law. Or maybe about how great being a nazi would be...or something.... :)