CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Statism
The American perception of the Left/Right Paradigm rests upon a hodgepodge of notions that are sketchily understood and periodically discredited—yet persist, due to the uniqueness of American history and our cultural aversion to deep political theorizing.
America is an historical anomaly. Relative to the rest of the world, it is a very young nation that has had few cataclysmic upheavals. We did (of course) have the Civil War, but England (in contrast) had to contend with two civil wars, the Norman Conquest, the black plague, the Hundred Years’ War, and the Protestant Reformation—just to name a few upheavals.
Most of the other nations of the world are similar to England. Comparatively, America’s history has been one of virtually uninterrupted stability and security. We have suffered our attacks from the air, but not since the War of 1812 (and then only briefly) has a soldier from a foreign nation touched a hostile boot upon our soil.
This lack of upheaval and existential threat has made us prone to lazily accept political labels that we have borrowed from other countries without much analysis. Few Americans know that the concept of left and right upon which the Left/Right Paradigm is a vestige of the French Revolution of 1789, where supporters of the king sat to the right in the National Assembly and supporters of the revolution sat to the left. Where one sat had real significance because, as the revolution degenerated into extreme political violence, sitting too far to the right made one a candidate for the guillotine.
Eventually, this French concept of Left and Right seeped into American politics, such that today Democrats (a political party that did not exist in 1789) sit to the left of the central aisle in the House and Senate, while Republicans (a party founded in 1854) sit to the right. But that is all it really means—it certainly won’t get you killed. In America, Left and Right are no more than labels used by politicians to impeach the motives and character of the members of the other party. It is a Myth.
Likewise with the political philosophies known as communism and fascism. Because the United States has never suffered under a communist or fascist dictatorship, most Americans do not have a thorough grasp of the practical realities of either totalitarian system. We don’t recognize that both are equally premised upon the prioritization of the state over the rights of the individual, and that each relies upon authoritarianism to centrally control every aspect of life.
Because we have never lived through it (or between it, like Poland has), Americans don’t understand that as a practical matter there was no difference in the lives of people living in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia—the places where both Statist systems were put most fully into disastrous practice. For most Americans, communism and fascism have never been tactile realities. They (like Left and Right) are just borrowed labels that our political factions use to attack the opposition. As a result, we lazily accept the superficial premise that communism and fascism occupy the opposite ends on the perceived Left/Right Paradigm. But that is not so. It is a Myth.
In 1917, a communist faction seized power after the Russian Revolution. Like the French revolutionaries of 1789, they executed the monarch (in that case, the Czar) and set about destroying every trace of the old regime that supported him. The similarities between the French and Russian revolutionaries led to the communists being viewed externally as being on the extreme Left.
After the revolution, the newly minted Soviet Union’s attempt to export communism into Europe met with its strongest opposition in Italy and Germany. That opposition was initially amorphous, but gradually congealed itself into the political theory known as fascism. Because communism already occupied the extreme Left, fascism—it’s perceived antagonist—was placed on the extreme Right, despite the fact that the two philosophies had so much in common:
Both were revolutionary in the sense that they overturned the existing governing structures and discarded all of the traditional notions associated with them.
Both emphasized the needs and ascendency of the state over the dignity and liberty of the individual.
Both were godless, or more accurately, each created a new “god” in the form of the state, which they required every citizen to “worship” with the totality of their being.
Both wholly rejected the deep body of political and cultural philosophy that had been developing in Western Europe for a millennium, in favor of the totalitarian crackpot theorizing of Karl Marx (in the Communist Manifesto) and Adolph Hitler (in Mein Kampf).
Both created a class of vulnerable “victims”—for Soviets it was the laborers, and for the Nazis the Germanic-Aryans.
Both created a class of evil oppressors—for Soviets it was capitalists, and for Nazis it was Jews.
Both asserted that it was the state alone that was destined and empowered to deliver the victim class from the predations of the oppressor class.
Both promised a utopian future occupied by the “new man”, who the state had stripped of selfish atavistic individualism to become its servants.
Both aggregated power around autocratic despots who constructed cult-like mythologies about themselves in furtherance of the state’s dominion over the populace.
Both were totalitarian dictatorships that, in the name of state security, terrorized their own people through a vast network of informants, and a secret police force that arrested, tortured, and executed its citizens without due process of law.
Neither were content with mere tyranny over their own people but were obsessed with worldwide hegemony of their particular brand of Statism.
Finally, and most importantly, both communism and fascism were driven and sustained by the Control Impulse—the need and desire to determine events and direct the actions of others. While Stalin and Hitler were sociopathic autocrats, they could not have gained and maintained power without the aid and acquiescence of a sizable portion of their respective populaces who were mesmerized by the Control Impulse.
The same could be said of the post-Revolution French who willingly placed themselves under the thumb of Napoleon in 1804, and the Romans of 49 BC who passively submitted to Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon to seize control of the Roman Senate. Napoleon and Caesar were both generals who appointed themselves emperors and ruled as Statist dictators. Whether they were full-blown sociopaths like Hitler or Stalin is unknown (probably not), but they were equally successful in tapping into the desire of high-Control people to determine events and direct the actions of others by whatever means necessary—including becoming subjects of a totalitarian dictatorship. Driven by the Control Impulse, they were hard-wired to be Statists.
Regardless of the governmental form to which they purport to subscribe, a Statist is any person who believes that the best form of governance is through the exercise of centralized power that determines events and directs the actions of the populace toward a collective vision of what Should Be. Statists are high-Control people who prioritize the interests of the state over the liberty of the individual. Their concern is with rules rather than Governing Principles.
The antithesis of the Statist is the Liberal—a man who believes that the best form of governance is that which diffuses power and recognizes the right of individuals to freely pursue their own happiness within the bounds of specified Governing Principles. While a Liberal is not opposed to collective movement toward what Could Be, he insists that it be done through consent without sacrificing individual liberty. Liberals correlate with the high-Adaptability end of the Chaos continuum.
Note however, the Liberal of the Statist/Liberal Paradigm is not the same as the “liberal” of the Left/Right Paradigm. That type of liberal originated with the welfare-state policies of Presidency Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, merged with the anti-establishment movement of the 1960s, and morphed into what today would be more accurately called Liveralism, which is the belief that a person’s self-proclaimed lived experience is morally superior to Societal Traditions and beliefs about human nature that have been developing over thousands of years of human history. Because it requires Control to enforce, Liveralism is inherently Statist and thus hostile to Liberalism.
Between the Statists and the Liberals are the Selfists, who are neither high-Control nor high-Adaptability. Selfists prioritize their own status quo over the interests of the state and the liberty of individuals (other than themselves). A Selfist is agnostic about Statist tyranny and will will not defend the Governing Principles of individual liberty unless and until it his actions that the Statists are seeking to direct. Selfists correlate with the Passive mean of the Chaos continuum.
This, the Statist/Liberal Paradigm (and not the Left/Right Paradigm), is how it actually is. It is the Is, not the Myth.