Thursday, May 12, 2005

Up-wingers Unite! (or not)

I was planning on blogging about Butler Shaffer's most recent column but haven't gotten around to it the past couple of days. Wally Conger didn't slack though and has written a nice entry about it. Shaffer's essay, No Room On the Spectrum: Why the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Are Only Two Wings of the Same Bird of Prey, deals with the obsolete nature of the conventional left/right political spectrum and offers an alternative to it.

Despite the obsolete and confusing nature of the old spectrum, it is still being taught in schools as the way to divide various political camps and understand the overall political landscape. I remember sitting in a Sociology class a few years ago when the teacher drew a line on the chalkboard and then proceeded to declare that everyone falls on the line somewhere. I raised my hand and asked him about people with various libertarian views (and I wasn't even a libertarian at the time), and his answer was "well... I guess there views may not fit in well with the spectrum, but who cares about them?", and then he just went on with his lame lecture. I wasn't surprised when he later showed far less enthusiasm for my class project than all the others, considering that mine was about C. Wright Mills instead of some Marxist toolbag. During that same lecture, by the way, he proclaimed himself to be a centrist and was extremely proud of it. If I had one of those blog/forum smilies with the eyes rolling, I'd be using it right now.

Anyways, here is the up/down spectrum that Shaffer devised for this essay:
Libertarianism (classical "liberalism")
Modern liberalism
Limited state-socialism
Expansive state-socialism
Overall, I'd say it looks pretty good to me as a general spectrum, although I think you could flip-flop "conservatism" and "modern liberalism" depending on who is in the White House at any given time. Give any group some political power and they're bound to use it, and that's never good if you're interested in liberty.

Wally Conger seems to embrace the vertical nature of Shaffer's model, as do I. It reminded him of his friend F.M. Esfandiary's 1973 novel titled Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto. He provides this writing excerpt from Esfandiary:
“I stress the point because this liberalism and Left radicalism masquerading in the name of progress are putting up the strongest resistances to the newest breakthroughs.” These breakthroughs “are outside the range of all the traditional philosophical social economic political frameworks. These new dimensions are nowhere on the Right or on the Left. These new dimensions are Up.”

I kinda like the idea of a vertical outlook with liberty being above the varying degrees of control that keep people unnaturally bound. It reminds me of something I wrote at the end of a post back in November where I said:
I generally reject the left/right dichotomy and engage in equal opportunity bashing of both sides due to the rampant blindness of both sides. Liberty, like our feathered or winged critter friends, require two wings to take off and fly.
Up is where birds go to experience the joys of freedom. Of course, leave it to Shaffer to also use bird imagery, but in another way with his birds of prey reference. It's a good one too, since birds of prey need both wings to be free to fly around and devour other living beings, just like government devouring the life out of human beings.


Blogger Wally Conger said...

Hi, critter... I "embrace" Butler's up-down model, but for the sake of history and tradition (yeah, yeah, I KNOW I'm an anarchist), I gotta say I kinda prefer the old Rothbard-Hess left-right system from the '60s. Technically, it's the most historically correct, with liberalism (of the classical variety) on the left and conservatism (of the state socialist variety) on the right. On the other hand, if I were to label myself an Up-winger, that would certainly be a conversation starter. PLUS it has the benefit of not confusing people with MY particular (correct...heh heh) and somewhat confusing definitions of Left and Right.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Adem D. Kupi said...

I really dig this post, where you mention Butler Shaffer, C Wright Mills, and Esfandiary all in one.

11:44 AM  
Blogger freeman said...

I see what you're saying Wally, and I agree that the most historically correct one is pretty good. However, I was thinking more along the lines of how the left/right spectrum is viewed by everyday people. I'm sick of being thought of as a "commie pinko leftie" for opposing the war by conservatives and a "right wing capitalist pig" by anti-market lefties. In other words, it's the modern perversion of the left/right spectrum that I'm more interested in discarding.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Wally Conger said...

Critter, you're absolutely right. The Left-Right model has been soooo corrupted over the past century (just as the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have been turned on their heads) that shifting to an up-down system may be the most practical thing to do in better communicating our ideas to the masses. I just carry a fondness for the old Left-Right system, more habit than anything else...

6:40 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

That sociology instructor of yours sounds like a "toolbag" in his own right. You'd think he'd have been thrilled with a student who had independently developed an affinity for a classical sociologist like Mills.

7:15 AM  

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