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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Politics is NOT Left Vs Right (Update)

We like to frame politics as a left-right struggle between  capitalists and socialists, libertarians and communists, with each brand containing a set box of positions and approaches.  But politics isn't so cut-and-try, is it?

The reality is that Political Parties swerve back and forth all over the map, trading spaces over who is the champion for the little rural guy or the Bay Street investor.  The core values these Parties are supposed to cling to seem not, in the long-run, to be that core after all. 

There's also the less-recognized reality that in many cases, Parties represent the same core concepts from different angles; conservatives will say they're all about individuals, because they want to remove quotas and regulations to create a level playing field, while socialists will say the field isn't equitable and through regulations and support programs, are ensuring everyone has equal opportunity.

Lastly, there are the pieces that every Government-In-Waiting says they will champion; increased accountability, transparency, so on and so forth.  It doesn't matter which Party wins - the longer they're in power, the further they'll move away from these values.

So what gives?

Having spent a fair bit of cognitive capital on all things political, this is where I'm at in my understanding.

Politics is a series of intersecting axis that create a multi-dimensional space that political operators and Parties navigate within:

- reactive policy vs. proactive policy
      (tough on crime vs. build more schools)

- simple solutions vs complex solutions
      (natural resources as economic staple vs investing in innovation)

- long-term structural solutions vs quick-fix one-offs
      (invest in training/resources for emergency preparedness, cutting same funding to save money)

- supporting individuals vs supporting institutions
      (mass-individualization supporting maximum potential of individuals vs. one-size-fits-all policies that push people to conform)

When you look at politics through this frame, you end up with some surprising results.  As an example - Conservatives who profess liberty as a key social condition are pretty insistent on traditional models of parenting, education, employer/employee roles, etc.

The hidden intent is that to them, freedom means to be like them, and the ability to criticize through free speech is to allow conservatives to shout down anyone who's approach they don't like.

Socialists who firmly believe in standing up against Corporate Canada nurture equally functionally fixed unions that serve as mirror entities, butting heads with business while aping their practices.

The Parties that are all about cutting spending tend to be the ones who spend the most on advertisements.

There are countless examples of cognitive dissonance in politics, but that's the point - Parties and players are focused on the win and, as a result, don't really know what their purpose is.  It's not that these folk lose their moral compass, they don't know where they should be pointing it to.

Here's what I think it comes down to.  

Politics isn't about left vs right - it's about limbic vs. prefrontal cognitive function, the reactive and proactive angels on our shoulders debating what should matter more, selfish, reactive instinct or more altruistic, proactive consideration.

Through a behavioural economics/neurochemistry lens, all the positions, strategies and tactics feed a complete picture of what kind of society a series of choice would create and, therefore, where the real motivations of the people behind the wheel lie.

When they are no longer your enemy, your enemy has been destroyed.

So long as the Political Right refused to commit sociology and think beyond their black-hat/white-hat view of the world, they will fail to understand why tough on crime does not produce sustainable justice and a safer society.  In fact, it does quite the opposite.  They will, therefore, fail to achieve their objective and have to live with the consequences.

That'd only be fair, right?

UPDATE:  Presumably, the Fords are implying that only socialists and lefties object to guzzling liquor at the wheel, bellowing racist slurs, smoking crack with criminals and talking on live TV about performing oral sex.

It's not a left-right thing, nor is it a rich-poor thing; we like to frame things this way because white hat/black hat is so much easier.  What it really breaks down to, I would argue, is entirely internal - selfish vs. altruistic behaviour, discipline vs. consequence-freedom, planning vs. reacting.  In other words, Social Evolution vs. Natural Selection.

Remember - Adam and Eve didn't know to be modest about their nakedness until they became conscious of it.

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