The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Ideologies have overlap

Ideologies neither form a spectrum, nor a grid, nor even a circle.  Instead the reality is more complicated, with ideologies agreeing on different issues, often for different reasons in some very odd ways.

Progressivism (as I understand it, I would not call myself a progressive) is fundamentally and first about domestic issues.  If someone is willing to sacrifice liberty and economic progress for war then they aren’t a progressive.  Likewise, Ron Paul, for example is not a progressive because he disagrees on key domestic issues (even as he agrees on other domestic issues and many issues surrounding war.)

The paleocon right, the libertarian right and the “hard” (what passes for hard in America) left agree substantially on some specific foreign policy issues (the end of empire).  They also agree on many economic issues and liberty issues.  They disagree on redistributionism and they disagree on positive liberty (making sure that people actually have an even break), as opposed to negative liberty (making sure the government isn’t actively stopping them from having an even break).

Agreement on some issues doesn’t mean libertarianism, progressivism and paleconsevervatism are the same thing, it just means their ideologies agree at various points.

It is fairly commonplace to note that the liberal left lost the working class to social issues when they stopped properly protecting them on economic issues and when the corporate right threw aside actual fiscal conservatism (we’ll promise them services and give them tax cuts!)  Again, that doesn’t mean that segment of the population doesn’t agree with the left on a large number of issues, the question is what they prioritize.  They regularly say they want liberal policies then vote against them.  Priorities, priorities (and they will get what they’re asking for, I’m afraid.)

“Progressives” who support the current wars have decided to sacrifice domestic prosperity and progress for war.  That’s the calculation they’ve made, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.  And yes, I can say that means they aren’t progressive.  I mean, Barack Obama keeps saying he’s a progressive and if you believe that….  Words don’t just mean whatever people want them to mean, in that case I could say I’m a Neocon, because neoconservatism means believing in prosperity and freedom, right?


Ron Paul’s economic policies, if actually followed, would cause economic armageddon.  Don’t get me wrong, I like him, but he’s racist and his policies are largely moronic.  He may not work for the rich, but he’s like a doctor saying “well yes, the patient is anemic, so let’s bleed him!”

A lot of people are focusing lately on another pair of ideologies: populism vs. aristocracy/oligarchy.  We don’t use the word aristocracy any more, but that’s what the US has and is developing even further.

Americans and most others don’t recognize the ideology of aristocracy any more, because after WWII it pretty much died out in its classical form, but the rent-seekers are pure aristocrats/oligarchs who want to create an economy which is entirely risk free for them and in which every relationship is reduced to revenue streams. (What used to be called “income”).

But to say that’s the “real” fight is to miss the point, because what the solution is to aristocracy matters.  “No bailouts” + “drown the government in a bathtub”, ie. Tea Partyism, leads absolutely nowhere good.  Right wing solutions, basically, don’t work.  The attempt to do them in an even “purer” form won’t work this time either, should it occur.  So it’s not enough to say “populism first” and ignore the content of the solutions proposed by various populists.  The varieties of right wing and left wing populism are not equal and which one you get matters a lot.


Why I’m Against Current Wars—and Most Foreseeable Wars, Too


Dear Software Writers


  1. I also have an increasing distaste for the term “progressive”. It seems to have been invented when the right wing demonized the word liberal, having long before demonized words like socialist or communist or leftist. Apparently a progressive is someone who is willing to accept policies that were opposed by liberals 50 years ago as being too conservative.

    Much of the right operates in a fantasy world where the policies of the last 30 years lead to peace, freedom and a chicken in every pot. The left spends most of its time supporting a party and politicians who don’t really have a viable alternative. Any discussion of real leftist alternatives to free-market imperialist corporate capitalism is beyond the pale.

  2. I am not a fan of writing comments that agree with everything because I think agreement with everything is redundant, but on this post, I hereby issue a hearty “ME TOO” and “two thumbs up” and all that. The actual content of the populism really does matter. Lots of good policy will poll well, but that doesn’t have a direct bearing on who will be elected, even under uncorrupted politics.

  3. emptywheel

    I don’ t think Progressivism NEEDS to be primarily domestic. It seems to me it ought to be rewriting our notion of “security,” not least on climate change but also on finance grounds, which would lead to more international cooperation.

  4. anon2525

    They regularly say they want liberal policies then vote against them.

    Or they vote for politicians who say that they will push for liberal policies, but the politicians are lying to them to get elected. Stupid voters.

    … the corporate right threw aside actually [sic] fiscal conservatism (we’ll promise them services and give them tax cuts!)

    For your Orwellian decoder dictionary:

    fiscal liberalism: “tax & spend to provide gov’t services”
    fiscal conservatism: “borrow & spend to pay private businesses with contracts to provide gov’t. services”

  5. Here’s the thing about “populism”, right or left: it’s aimed at authoritarian followers, that is, folks, whose attitudes, experience and fears, make them ready to accept certain styles of argument. They tend to be resentful. They tend to be credulous, in certain fairly predictable ways. They tend to be sensitive to feelings of political solidarity, within a frame of in-group v. 0ut-group; they fear the out-group, but want the in-group (which they hope includes themselves) to take care of its own.

    Authoritarian followers tend to attract the (social) contempt of the kind of people, who become liberals and progressives, for reasons of class prejudice and the general contempt of the brave and successful for the fearful and dependent.

    I’m not so sure the “content” of populism matters, but I am sure it matters, whether the leadership that binds itself to authoritarian followers has integrity. The authoritarian followers will probably not notice, unfortunately, but it matters a great deal to policy political outcomes. Authoritarian followers are easy to fool, and so attract demagogues and flimflam and, most especially, those, whose political ambitions center on dominating other people. (Gov. Christie of New Jersey comes to mind, as an example of a right-wing politician, whose aggression is barely contained; he’s a bully, but a certain segment of the electorate seems to like watching him bully people.)

    The “content” doesn’t matter in the sense that the kind of appeals which are effective in marshalling authoritarian followers are qualitatively predictable and narrow in scope and type. That’s what gives “populism” in all its flavors, its characteristic style.

    Liberalism, progressivism, whatever you want to call it, has never achieved power in American politics, without making effective “populist” appeals, in order to marshal a fair portion of authoritarian followers into their coalition.

    Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic Party included industrial unions and the White Supremacists of the Solid South, among others. The Progressives of the early 20th century gained strength from the failed Populism of the previous generation.

    In the run-up to the Civil, the organizers of the nascent Republican Party deliberately took over the Know-Nothing “American” Party of nativists, and led it into the coalition that ended slavery. It might seem improbable that adding a bunch of bigots to the antislavery party got us the Great Emancipator, but it did. (Lincoln wasn’t one of the bigots, and that’s where integrity matters.)

    Liberals did lose the working classes to social issues, when liberals stopped respecting the importance of felt, social solidarity, going with abstract, universal principles, alone. Deregulation was great, in principle, when the Carter Administration was proposing to get rid of the Civil Aeronautics Board or the ICC (which regulated rail rates); the fact that it destroyed the economic basis for a bunch of unions in various transportation sectors, as well as the basis of decent incomes for their members — not so great. Liberals still do not understand the immigration issue — same problem.

  6. My own personal definition of “progressive” includes some policies that could also be considered libertarian, like eliminating most drug laws. Things that expand personal liberties without harming society would fall into that category. So, in that sense, which may not exist anywhere outside my own head, libertarians might be considered partly progressive. To me, liberalism is the idea that government has a place in shaping society to be something better, and to provide safety nets and the like for people who need them. That is a generally progressive ideology.

    Is that anyone else’s interpretation? Or do most folks just use “progressive” and “liberal” interchangeably?

  7. Bruce Wilder writes:

    Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic Party included industrial unions and the White Supremacists of the Solid South, among others. The Progressives of the early 20th century gained strength from the failed Populism of the previous generation.

    I’m inclined to agree with this idea, but the last two folks who talked about trying to appeal to white Southerners, Howard Dean and John Edwards, were pretty roundly criticized for it. Dean was basically called an idiot and Edwards, presumably because he has a southern accent, was labeled as either a racist or someone who was trying to “appeal” to racists, whatever that means. Sadly, Democrats have become rather snobbish about this, and I count it as one of the reasons that progressives haven’t been too successful lately.

    I think it’s possible to earn the votes of people who don’t have a worldly point of view. Just tell them these are things you want to do, how it will benefit them, and let them decide whether they’d rather vote for someone who shares some of their prejudices, or someone who wants to make an important part of their lives better. A lot of them will vote their prejudices, but at least some of them won’t.

  8. Bernard

    Obama is a Reagan democrats, which is to say, not a Democrat at all. these kinds of beliefs are Republican, today’s definition of what a Republican is. and Democrats are more Republican than anything.

    society use to be valued in American before Business bought out the Republican and Democratic party. the Elites of both side agree more or less, with some variations/semantics really.

    the Democratic party chose to follow Reagan. those that did are Blue Dogs, not “real” Democrats, lol.

    Looking out for the working American is what used to be a Democrat. now those people don’t exist, like the Tea Party, just a fancy name/propaganda for screwing the poor in the name of the Rich.

    the labels of Republican and Democrat have changed since i grew up in the 60’s. Now there is no advocate of or for the working American, no matter what “label” is used today.

    as we see today, there is no real difference between the two sides of the ONE party that runs America for the Elites. so i’m not sure what labels do today other than divert attention from the naked “thieves” who exploit Americans. A crook is a crook. and like Nixon, they all say, “I am not a crook.” which means they are really horrendous crooks.

  9. Morocco Bama

    This is precisely why I say I am neither a “rightie” or a “leftie.” I don’t recognize those categories as being valid reflections of anything, and therefore are useless as descriptors. This also applies to any sub-categories of those two larger categories. They are products of a system created and propagated by Dualistic/Binary thinking. Dualistic/Binary thinking provided the catalyst for the creation of the system, and once the system was fully set in motion and up and running, it has perpetuated its dysfunction by engendering Dualistic/Binary thinking, or lack of thinking, really.

    THE DUALISTIC MIND is stuck in polarities, all-or-nothing thinking. It is ego-driven – and egos are into categorizing, controlling and defining realities. It is preoccupied with dogma (belief-systems) and law (regulating behavior in belonging-systems). Now ego, doctrine and law are necessary for humans to function in families/society: but when they are ends-in-themselves they tend to divide humans from one another and take over, and as a result True Reality is not experienced truthfully and completely.

    The motivations for this sort of either/or binary thinking are sanity and safety. That’s why it’s into labeling, ranking, and categorizing people: developing closed systems, separating the deserving and the undeserving. These folks are liable to become overattached, overidentified and even enmeshed with others who a ‘like us’: and of course they are more likely to see the splinter in the other’s eye than the log in their own (Matthew 7:3). (A religion of belonging is inimical to transformation towards a life of Christlike love).

    They also exhibit an inability to deal with paradox/mystery. How are electrons both ‘here’ and ‘there’ at the same time? (Quantum physics and astrophysics are replete with these sorts of logical impossibilities). Jesus is both human and divine (Nicea).

    One-sided solutions are doomed to failure. Remember, you cannot see in total light or total darkness; only in shadowlands, with variances of light.

  10. Morocco Bama

    Now further imagine that you are an “elite” and you fully recognize what is espoused above, and you don’t subscribe to Dualism/Binary thinking, yet you engage it for others in order to maintain your advantage. What a wonderful tool of control that would be. I’m surprised no one has thought of it yet.

  11. bob mcmanus

    I like the term “progressive” but don’t much like progressives. I use it in opposition to liberals, populists, socialists. I do connect it very tightly to Lafollette and W Wilson and that generation of managerial technocrats without much passion or empathy. Obama seems to fit the description. I believe, without strong arguments in support, that progressivism does tend more toward war than other left-of-centre ideologies, because of a certain intolerance for messy, inefficient, or irrational circumstances overseas. Taliban bad for bidness, you know. As Ian said, and Wilson and Obama demonstrated, progressives think foreign policy and war is best left to the diplomats and generals with the adequate expertise.

    Neo-liberalism is an extension of early 20th Progressivism.

  12. Ian Welsh

    Not a fan of the idea that everything is nuanced. In fact, a great deal isn’t very nuanced, imo.

  13. Morocco Bama

    I don’t consider myself a fan of anything. It precludes flexibility and improvisation, something that will be sorely needed in the years and decades to come. Having said that (, my point, that I qualified prior to quoting the article, clearly states that the system and its intentions are not nuanced, however, the enigma of resolving this system is quite nuanced and complex, if not impossible, since we are its progeny and actors in it.

    Perhaps it is as simple a solution as this satirical video poignantly illustrates. Unfortunately, this satire is very close to home, I’m afraid…much too close.

  14. S Brennan

    While I agree the Democratic party abandoned working class people for Wall Street career prospects and bribes, there are a few throwbacks who have not gotten the memo.

    Both of these guys are populist and both are despised by the Democrats Central Committee…although they tread carefully on Webb while feeling free to walk all over Meek.

    Anyway, a great ticket in 2016, but they’ll need to run as independents, because even if they got a majority of the primary votes the Central Committee would never allow patriotic people who believe in Democracy to be nominated.

    Jim Webb http: //

    Kendrick Meek:

  15. Morocco Bama

    If you put a guy like Admiral Stockdale on that ticket, S Brennan, you just might have a winner. Oh wait……

    Seriously, you could run an eggplant and a squash and win, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

  16. The idea that the Democrats abandoned the working class, like the idea that the Democrats abandoned the poor, white South is a trifle over-worked, in my opinion. To a large extent, Democrats were responding to secular changes in American society and its political psychology.

    Again, “populism” is a style of politics that rests on appeals to a politics of social solidarity and authority. In many ways, it is analogous to the social psychology of armies, where the soldiers have to submit to authority — an authority, which, objectively, will use the soldier’s lives like grist for a mill. That kind of social organization can be made to work, if the Army makes a good show of taking care of the soldier, and encourages a “band of brothers” sense of solidarity. Units with really dangerous assignments will adopt firm rules about, say, never leaving a brother behind on the field — as assurance that, even though the unit will get members killed, those members will not be abandoned, even in death. (Dead, but not abandoned (!?!) — these are things you do not want to think about too deeply, which is why armies are not welcoming places for liberals with tendencies toward anti-authoritarian skeptical inquiry.)

    American society, over the last 70 or 80 years, has seen a huge decline in the degree to which people seek social affiliation, and, relatedly, the degree to which people have strong typal prejudices about the members of “other” racial and ethnic groups. Feelings of social solidarity rest on such in-group, out-group distinctions. 80 years ago, on the eve of the New Deal, American partisan politics was not strongly ideological; it was, instead, strongly about class and ethnic and religious identities. People, generally, had very strong ideas about the character of, say, Germans or Irish (meaning Americans of German or Irish descent). In 1930, on the lee side of the massive immigration prior to World War I, the average immigrant had been in the U.S. longer than the average native-born person. The massive German-speaking communities, which had existed and persisted since before the Revolution, had disappeared in WWI, but most cities were still divided into distinct ethnic enclaves and subcultures, and many rural communities and small towns had an ethnic enclave or church or two. The Republicans represented the WASP ascendancy and big business; the Democrats, everyone else, as an unruly grabbag. People were Democrats because they were white Southerners, or members of an industrial union or Catholics. Members of a skill trades union were Republicans; white, Episcopalian and Presbyterian businessmen were Republicans.

    Such feelings of social solidarity were the key to political power and were used to structure political power. It was the basis for segregation and single-party politics in the South. Yankee vs. Irish was the basis for similar political standoffs in the Northeast between Democratic city machines and Republican state governments.

    Americans, today, are not the joiners they were 80 years ago. Maybe, that’s economics, maybe, that’s television, maybe that’s social evolution. My father was an Elk — the Elks were a fraternal organization that operated men’s bars; an Elk could have a drink with “friends”, anywhere. Fraternal organizations were once a powerful force in American politics; the Masons, Tammany Hall, and in local politics, the Kiwanis, Rotary, etc. They haven’t entirely disappeared, but they are faded.

    American partisan politics divides almost entirely on ideology and worldview, which is historically unusual. The Revolution and the American Civil War mark the only other times, ideology dominated a political division. Usually, the Parties have been orthogonal to divisions over ideas: abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance, progressivism. And, to a large extent, the “non-political” associations, identities and mass membership organizations that might intervene in politics have faded away. Unions are gone. Efforts to imagine an “hispanic vote” regularly break up on the reality of disparate hispanic identities. Even the evangelical and pentecostal Protestant churches, on which the reactionary Republicans depend so heavily — the roots of those associations have become increasingly shallow, superficial and fragile.

    People complain all the time that both Parties are dominated by Big Business. But, the corporate executive class are the only ones, who actively participate in politics. Politicians in both Parties would absolutely love to have opposing interests to play against one another, but the best they can do is to play opposing business interests, and those “opposing” business interests have caught on. In key sectors, like Media and Finance, conglomeration and concentration and networks have ensured that there’s no “opposing”.

    A lot principled liberals seem to think politicians should take a vow of poverty and celibacy, and act, like Catholic priests, solely from a love of God, or liberal ideas of ideal policy. It doesn’t work that way. And, if both Parties are completely dominated by corporate business interests, it is, at least, partly, because there are almost no mass membership organizations, participating in politics, and, to a depressing degree, no associations representing “local” interests, either. The family-owned big-city daily newspaper, or independent bookstore or independent book publisher is largely gone. The savings and loans, community banks, credit unions, and mutual insurance companies, are largely gone, from finance.

    The psychology of political solidarity is built into human nature, as a social animal. The potential of tribalism as a political force has not gone away. But, there are fewer structures channeling it or managing it. Instead, there’s Fox News.

  17. @Bob McManus

    Neo-liberalism, like neo-conservativism, owes an awful lot to the successes of Milton Friedman, who took advantage of the institutional success of the New Deal, to construct both a ideology and an economics, which were completely blind to the institutional foundations of the Aemrican economy and prosperity, circa 1970.

    The early 20th century Progressives were paternalistic and technocratic and — above all else — institutionalists. The Progressive Movement was all about a faith in the efficacy of building competent technocratic institutions, something that carried over into the alphabet soup of the New Deal. I’m thinking of everything from the Federal Reserve to the Forest Service to the Food and Drug Adminstration; the development of the Thrifts and Savings and Loans in banking; Social Security; the creation of a workable regime in Agriculture, using subsidies to stablize prices, while encouraging investment in new technologies and a rapid migration of labor off the farm.

    No one in American politics understands the first thing about building institutions, private or public. The neo-cons made a clown show of re-building Iraq and the neo-liberals, even more clueless, don’t know what to do in Afganistan, let alone, Detroit. The Foreclosure mess goes on and on, with no recognition that a response is needed.

  18. beowulf

    Bruce Wilder, you’re on fire. Great comments. This caught my eye..

    The “content” doesn’t matter in the sense that the kind of appeals which are effective in marshalling authoritarian followers are qualitatively predictable and narrow in scope and type. That’s what gives “populism” in all its flavors, its characteristic style.

    Which makes me wonder if the formula then is the more progressive and equitable the economic reform, the more reactionary and divisive terms it must be framed by its proponent (who, ideally, is viewed as an angry and hateful person himself).

    Into this “mess” stepped President Richard Nixon. What he proposed was a striking departure from the status quo. The federal government would now assist poor families that were intact as well as those that had split apart. It would assist the working poor as well as the nonworking poor… The income of poor people living in the South would be tripled, and the welfare rolls themselves would double in size. According to not a few economists, 60 percent of all indigent people would be brought above the poverty line immediately were this proposal to be enacted into law. Lyndon Johnson never dared go so far. Both architects of the programs– dubbed the Family Assistance Plan (FAP)– and correspondents, not to mention historians, have recognized the boldness of Nixon’s proposal.

  19. S Brennan


    Normally I like what you write, but this:

    “80 years ago, on the eve of the New Deal, American partisan politics was not strongly ideological; it was, instead, strongly about class and ethnic and religious identities.

    Is belied by:

    “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs; and we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob….Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.” – FDR 1936

    If you recall his inaugural speech FDR, literally threatened his enemies with the US Army.

    To me Friedman’s 12 part 1 hour 1978 diatribe “Freedom to Lose” was not only loaded with sophistry, it was a to return to 19th century economics which as an ideology, when cleaned up for family audiences could be summed as “trying to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent to mankind.” – FDR

    Given the heavy political indoctrination that goes on in economics departments I hardly trust their protegees to speak anything approaching the truth on history. In fact, after taking a particular course, I was left shocked how overtly partisan and extremist the economics professors were. Anybody who questioned their historical lies on FDR creating the depression, was openly called a communist in response and threatened with failure. And you can forget appealing to the Deans…they were worse, the lie was accepted conventional wisdom. Nothing I saw in the US Army matched the rigid hierarchical thinking and action of University Economics Professors. Only threatening a to reveal to his wife that he was boffing every coed he could get his lecherous hands on restored my grades after I refused to parrot a particular professors lie strewn ideology…and then only because I took the trouble to get photos. I’ve never seen filth like that before.

    And don’t get me started on the Smoot-Hawley lie, it accounts for a theoretical maximum of ~ 6 % of the depression.

  20. @Bruce Wilder

    I agree with beowulf (“on fire.”) I really enjoyed your analysis. Now, I’m going to try to put together a question…

    Given that social-affiliation driven politics has an unpretty side (rivalries and pettiness, with consequent perpetual violence and unease,) and – as I take your point – that otherwise fragmented societies are ripe for demagogic authoritarian-style politics, then I ask: Are these the extreme poles of the human social dynamic, wherein there is a sort of “sweet spot” between, in a healthy society? Or, is this a pestilent roil of social behavior awaiting a sort of new collective self-awareness to something else?

    Or, and this is very likely, I’ve completely misread you. 🙂

  21. Morocco Bama

    The transition to which Bruce speaks that occurred 70-80 years prior, is as much to do with the switch to Realpolitik, as much as anything else. You can look up the term for reference, but essentially it’s about creating a permanent political class that rules and legislates as a matter of expediency rather than adherence to ideology and/or principle. I know in this clip, Reeve describes it as only applying to foreign affairs and policy, but I believe it applies to all matters of governance, not just foreign affairs.

  22. @S Brennan
    When I say that partisan politics was not strongly ideological, I mean that the principles that sorted out the divisions of partisan identity — what made someone think of herself as a Democrat or Republican — were decided along lines, such as, I’m a white Southerner, therefore I’m a Democrat, or I’m a Catholic, living in Detroit, I’m a Democrat. Or, I’m a New England Yankee, therefore I’m a Republican. Someone with ideas about policy — say, an ideological Progressive or an advocate of Temperance, depending a bit on geography — could end up in either Party.

    I think the speeches you quoted worked very well as “populist” appeals, which I’m sure they were intended to be. I read “populist” appeals as being targeted not at self-interest, so much as the political psychology of “authoritarian followers”. Being an “authoritarian follower” just means people, who tend to have a certain cluster of attitudes about authority, social conformity and so on. My point about partisan identification circa 1930 is that many of the people one might expect to be “authoritarian followers” from the nature of their personal experience in life ended up predisposed to identify as Democrats. Because they were union men in the working class, or Catholics, or white Southerners. So, FDR, as a Democratic President in a crisis, was well-positioned to successfully elict their support.

    In our present circumstances, we are not so lucky. The Republicans and their plutocrat sponsors have wised up, hired Frank Luntz and Glenn Beck, and deliberately make populist appeals. George W. Bush bought a ranch in Texas, and cut brush on weekends, just to seem a man of the people. And, Republican dirty-tricksters gin up the birther controversy and rumors about Obama being a muslim.

    Authoritarian followers are, almost by definition, populists, or ready to respond to populist appeals, whether those appeals are from the Right or Left. Their resentments are a given; on whom they focus their resentment is up for grabs. They are not automatically fascists. They have an acute sense of fairness in certain circumstances (they can actually respond quite well, from a liberal perspective, to the drama of a non-violent protest being violently suppressed), and once you get past the in-group/out-group thing, they are determined egalitarians.


    Being an “authoritarian follower” is having a cluster of attitudes, and in a politics in which tribal identifications are built around the expression of attitudes, that’s a very dangerous thing. You can get all the authoritarians crowded together in one Party, on the basis of sharing attitudes with a few charismatic demagogues, and one political tendency or movement. And, that’s the last thing that’s healthy.

    In any organization or political movement, some authoritarian followers is healthy for the organization. These are the good soldiers, who will get with the program, follow orders, and, thus, strengthen the ability of the organization to get work done, and done right. But, if the group has only authoritarian followers, its teh crazy.

    Job #1 in any politics isn’t really to win for one Party or the other, or one ideological program or another, it is keep either the ruthlessly corrupt or the completely crazy out of power. The healthiest thing is to divide the mass of authoritarian followers among the powerful factions or parties, and to marginalize the crazies and the demagogues, who will attempt to exploit the gullibility of authoritarian followers to gain power. We want politicians with some integrity to lead, and for people to support, or punish, as necessary, to check elites, when they deviate from at a muddled pursuit of the common good. Not easily done. Not being done at all, today, in the U.S., where accountability does not exist for elite opinion, public policy, or private corporate policy.

  23. S Brennan

    Bruce, to:

    “Being an “authoritarian follower” just means people, who tend to have a certain cluster of attitudes about authority, social conformity and so on.”

    “authoritarian follower” is as pejorative term as any I have heard, perhaps innocently done by some ignorant bumpkin, but if so, such an author is certainly not worth listening to or repeating.

    Almost without exception, anytime a human creates needless complexity in an argument, deceit and dishonesty are the means to perpetrate a wrongdoing. Frankly, all the current labels employed with such relish obscure truth and facilitate ignorance.

  24. Conservative

    Have you thought that maybe Obama is putting on a Reagan facade in order to get reelected? Then in his last term he will swing far left. Of course, by then, both the House and the Senate will be solidly in Republican hands. (Notice I said Republican, and not conservative.)

  25. Morocco Bama

    From Bruce’s link:

    Let me ask you, as we’re passing the time here, how many ordinary people do you think an evil authority would have to order to kill you before he found someone who would, unjustly, out of sheer obedience, just because the authority said to?

    I would say the first one he came across, and so too, would Charles Bukowski.

    The Genius Of The Crowd

    there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
    human being to supply any given army on any given day

    and the best at murder are those who preach against it
    and the best at hate are those who preach love
    and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

    those who preach god, need god
    those who preach peace do not have peace
    those who preach peace do not have love

    beware the preachers
    beware the knowers
    beware those who are always reading books
    beware those who either detest poverty
    or are proud of it
    beware those quick to praise
    for they need praise in return
    beware those who are quick to censor
    they are afraid of what they do not know
    beware those who seek constant crowds for
    they are nothing alone
    beware the average man the average woman
    beware their love, their love is average
    seeks average

    but there is genius in their hatred
    there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
    to kill anybody
    not wanting solitude
    not understanding solitude
    they will attempt to destroy anything
    that differs from their own
    not being able to create art
    they will not understand art
    they will consider their failure as creators
    only as a failure of the world
    not being able to love fully
    they will believe your love incomplete
    and then they will hate you
    and their hatred will be perfect

    like a shining diamond
    like a knife
    like a mountain
    like a tiger
    like hemlock

    their finest art

  26. Morocco Bama

    American society, over the last 70 or 80 years, has seen a huge decline in the degree to which people seek social affiliation

    A nice thesis would be how Eisenhower’s Interstate System helped facilitate, exacerbate and cement this outcome. The exponentially increased mobility reordered the economy and the attendant community and culture. It ushered in what is now referred to as the Corporatocracy. It helped to divide and conquer the old order of things. It was during this time that the substantial shift from non-urban to urban populations took place, or at least that trend was catapulted. Certainly there were a host of other factors involved, but certainly the speed of transport, accentuated by the Interstate System, had a significant impact.

    I love this quote from Steinbech about the Interstate:

    Instructions screamed at me from the road: “Do not stop! Maintain speed.” Trucks as long as freighters went roaring by, delivering a wind like the blow of a fist. These great roads are wonderful for moving goods but not for inspection of a countryside. When we get these thruways across the whole country, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing!!!

    And so it was, and so it is. The U.S. roaring down the path of “progress” without seeing a single thing.

    Today, we have a new Interstate System….that of the electronic information highway. And, like its predecessor, the effect is identical…roaring along without seeing a single thing, including our fate, as this video both literally, and figuratively, illustrates.

  27. Or maybe the Singularity will beam us up.

  28. Rilen

    @S Brennan

    Almost without exception, anytime a human creates needless complexity in an argument, deceit and dishonesty are the means to perpetrate a wrongdoing. Frankly, all the current labels employed with such relish obscure truth and facilitate ignorance.

    I absolutely concur, and would like to add that anyone citing Altemeyer in defense of some sort of spurious Golden Mean is being quite disingenuous. As Altemeyer himself writes: (note that the New Democrats are Canada’s social-democratic party)

    If you look at just the New Democrats’ and the conservatives’ scores on the
    RWA scale, party affiliation correlated .82 on the average with authoritarianism,
    which is one of the strongest relationships ever found in the social sciences. The
    RWA scale divides these two groups almost as cleanly as a vote in the legislature
    Nothing else, so far as I know, correlates so highly with left-wing versus right-wing
    politics, anywhere. In Canada at least, when you are talking about the “left-to-right”
    political dimension among politicians, you are talking about the personality trait
    measured by the RWA scale. At least until something sharper comes along. This
    might be true in the United States as well, but it doesn’t show up nearly as crisply in
    terms of party affiliation mainly because the Democrats have a lot of high RWAs in
    some of their caucuses, particularly in the South.

    There’s the the rub–the erstwhile advocates of the Golden Mean would have us believe that authoritarianism as a function of political alignment forms a sort of U-shape, with authoritarian personalities of either end of the scale and sensible, independent-minded people in the middle. As you can see in Figure 5.2< in The Authoritarians (page 215 in the PDF edition), this is NOT what Altemeyer found. The left-wing NDP and right-wing Conservatives and Socreds cluster at opposite ends, while the centrist Liberals (not plotted on the chart but the figures are still given in the accompanying table) occupy, miracle of miracles, THE CENTER, and not the low end as some would have one believe. Again, Altemeyer’s research does not support the thesis that “both extremes are equally authoritarian” at all, and actually indicates the opposite.

  29. Rilen

    Ugh, sorry about the formatting.

  30. Morocco Bama

    Again, Altemeyer’s research does not support the thesis that “both extremes are equally authoritarian” at all, and actually indicates the opposite.

    That thesis is offered up because the far left has inappropriately, and quite underhandedly, been represented as the Soviet Union, which we all know was about as “left” as my right hand. Anarchy is a more valid representation of the far left, and in its purest form, embraces anti-authoritarianism. I suppose it could even be argued that Anarchy doesn’t even fit nicely on such a shoehorning spectrum.

  31. Rilen

    Bruce Wilder: Just how can you invoke Altemeyer in support of your theses, (the militant left and militant right are equally authoritarian, authoritarian personalities tend to be egalitarian) when Altemeyer’s findings point to the opposite conclusion on both counts?


    Bruce Wilder, you’re on fire.

    I agree, but it doesn’t appear to have spread beyond his pants.

  32. @Rilen

    I don’t recall asserting any kind of balance, to wit, “the militant left and militant right are equally authoritarian”. It is certainly not what I believe.

    Altemeyer does use the term right-wing authoritarian and distinguishes it from left-wing authoritarian, but, basically, discusses only the former; I thought the adjective “right-wing” (in the sense Altemeyer uses it, as opposed to its political sense) would be confusing and just drop it. When I reference the personality of the authoritarian follower, I am talking about Altemeyer’s right-wing authoritarians, only. “Authoritarian follower” is a label for a personality, characterized by a particular cluster of attitudes — it is not, itself, about politics. Being an authoritarian follower does not make one’s politics right-wing. Populism, I assert, is a style of political appeal made to people, whose personalities and attitudes put them in the cluster, authoritarian follower.

  33. @Rilen

    I don’t advocate a golden mean, or think much of the corrupt Centrism that currently dominates U.S. politics and government.

    I think genuine compromise can be a fine thing, but healthy compromise requires healthy conflict, and that we do not have. Not in the economy and not in our politics.

  34. Anonymouse

    In North America people who submit to the established authorities to
    extraordinary degrees often turn out to be political conservatives, so you can call
    them “right-wingers” both in my new-fangled psychological sense and in the usual
    political sense as well. But someone who lived in a country long ruled by Communists
    and who ardently supported the Communist Party would also be one of my
    psychological right-wing authoritarians even though we would also say he was a
    political left-winger. So a right-wing authoritarian follower doesn’t necessarily have
    conservative political views. Instead he’s someone who readily submits to the
    established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly
    conventional. It’s an aspect of his personality, not a description of his politics. Rightwing authoritarianism is a personality trait, like being characteristically bashful or
    happy or grumpy or dopey

    This is from page 10 of Altemeyer.

    Bruce – I agree with most of your posts but my interpretation of Altemeyer hinges on the above passage – more of a deference to existing authority. You see this throughout the US political discharge. During the election campaign I flipped through the McLaughlin Group – and this was about when Obama was not supporting the Democrat in some backwater New England State – and the democrat expressed his displeasure. All 4 of the commentators, especially Pat Buchanan, were horrified anyone would tell the president of the USA to get stuffed. This was not about left or right but deferring to authority. From a political party perspective the democrat was correct in telling the President to get stuffed. What’s the point of political parties if they campaign against you?

  35. S Brennan

    Look Bruce, I normally think of you as one of the brighter stars out in this media…where shouting louder through multiple posts and sock puppetry is seen as a legitimate way to win an argument.

    But this:

    “Populism, I assert, is a style of political appeal made to people, whose personalities and attitudes put them in the cluster, authoritarian follower.”

    is stupid. From Wikipedia:

    “[Populism] It is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “political ideas and activities that are intended to represent ordinary people’s needs and wishes…This is in opposition to statism, which holds that a small group of professional politicians know better than the people and should make decisions on behalf of them.”

    From the people, democracy, the opposite of top down “authoritarianism”

    That is not to say that “authoritarian” figures have not tried to induce up is down Orwellian language as corporations have increasingly increased their stranglehold over academia:

    “Academic and scholarly definitions of populism vary widely and the term is often employed in loose, inconsistent and undefined ways to denote appeals to ‘the people’, ‘demagogy’ and ‘catch-all’ politics…as Margaret Canovan notes in her 1981 study Populism, unlike labels such as ‘conservative’ or ‘socialist’, the meanings of which have been ‘chiefly dictated by their adherents’, contemporary populists rarely call themselves ‘populists’ and usually reject the term when it is applied to them by others…for example, farmers’ movements, New Deal reform movements, and the civil rights movement) that were often called populist, by supporters and outsiders alike. It may also be due to linguistic confusions of populism with terms such as “popular”

    Populism used as a pejorative term is a full time avocation of corporate flacks in the media and it’s founts in academia:

    Consider the following defense of redefining populism:

    A word whose meaning traces through Classical Greece, perhaps Mycenae and Minoan cultures is given an inception date of the 19th century…sloppy, stupid, or an attempt to cloak venality behind the respectability of academia?

  36. S Brennan

    Should have been:

    That is not to say that “authoritarian” figures have not tried to induce “up is down” Orwellian language as corporations have increasingly strengthened their stranglehold over academia:


    Ian, speaking of software upgrades…I wish for comment sections that would allow for editing after the post, but allow for inspection of the original comment to prevent a commenter from playing games.

    Not that you need my praise Ian, with a couple of exceptions I’ve noted, you do have the strongest comment section in the anonymous ether-world of Blog-go-stan.

  37. Rilen

    Populism, I assert, is a style of political appeal made to people, whose personalities and attitudes put them in the cluster, authoritarian follower.

    On what basis do you make that assertion? Again, look the the survey results plotted in The Authoritarians‘ Fig 5.2. The NDP and Socreds are both populist by the usual definition, but their scores on Altemeyer’s authoritarianism survey cluster at opposite ends of the graph, the Socreds at the high-authoritarian end, consistent with your assertion–but the NDP, on the other hand, are all clustered at the low-authoritarian end. Just how do you account for that, if all populism is innately authoritarian?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén