Sunday, January 13, 2008

Perhaps the quest is merely academic

In a recent post, A call to arms, I bemoan the paucity of strong background analysis of the election processes in the US. I am not America bashing, by the way, though I admit I’m sounding that way lately – just telling it s I see it.

Having been spoiled by a reasonably independent media here in Australia, in Canada and Britain and parts of Europe; been dazzled by feisty academics, economists and historians ready to go bare knuckles on issues of critical analysis; and perhaps a culture less inclined to be compliant, I find the lack of intellectual curiosity in the US disturbing.

Now I know one example isn’t the be all and end all, but it is a start and one I’m willing launch from and with a little luck be proved totally wrong. In my search I found The Gruntled Center. I have no doubt this bloke is a nice guy and well meaning, but he is also a Sociology professor, though he qualifies that with ‘Latte-sipping intellectual’. Anyone slightly serious would settle for nothing less than an espresso…

Let me put this in a too-strong way at first in order to be clear:
A centrist wants to promote what is best for society, tolerate what is good enough, and prevent what is harmful.
Conservatives want to promote what is best for society, and prevent everything else.
Liberals want to promote all options (except the truly dangerous ones) as equally good.

If your first reaction to this is, “Who is to say what is best?” you are a probably a liberal.
If your first reaction to this is, “Why settle for mediocrity?” you are probably a conservative.

If this bell-curve picture of the social options seems reasonable to you, and you have no principled objection to making discriminating judgments – welcome to the Gruntled Center.

One of the first things I was taught was ‘define your terms’. Coming out of the English, Westminster culture a liberal, big or small L, refers to an economic liberal based on teachings of Adam Smith et al, perhaps loosely through to Keynes/Galbraith. The philosophy is largely centred on providing a healthy functional workforce and is hardly left wing.

I don’t totally disagree with Gruntle’s centrist, though I normally express it as a reflection of the old Scottish commonweal (commonwealth), i.e. for the good of all rather than simply for the good of sectional interests.

Conservative has been twisted out of shape everywhere in the past few decades. The arch conservatives, Thatcher and Reagan rank among the most radical leaders the western economies have known. The left tend to be the conservatives today, although they are trying to conserve life and not simply sectional privilege.

So Gruntle “What I Think Principled Centrism Means,” gives us an interpretation of various issues from his ‘centrist perspective’ a category of social practice between the preferred and the prohibited.

…historically and cross-culturally, marriage is the preferred institution in which to raise children, and incestuous unions are a prohibited way. What centrists need to be able to say is that marriage is preferred for raising children, and some other ways – my nominees would be single parenthood and same-sex unions -- are tolerated, acceptable, good enough

Then in his comments: I think there is an intermediate moment in liberal thinking, when a previously "not good enough" option is judged to be tolerable. Then, the logic of egalitarianism kicks in, and liberals find it uncomfortable to merely tolerate what they now judge to be acceptable.

That does not strike me as a well researched, sociological conclusion, rather a proposition to support a pre-existing prejudice - Liberal’s are woolly thinkers, liberals yearn for a peace/love utopia, liberals are blind to harsh realities…

I think a closer look at commercial prerequisites, of marketing and advertising imperatives, many of the ‘family values’ breakdowns are driven by the market and not by so called liberals. To claim otherwise smacks of poor research and a complete lack of critical analysis.

A little support

I recently saw an interview with tennis great and lesbian, Martina Navratilova, launching her new art venture in Australia. She was asked about her work for various organisations in the US and said that times have changed and advertising and marketing people have moved on from the old prejudices.

The term the ‘Pink Dollar’ was not coined by the loony left or wishy washy liberals, it was identified and labelled by hard headed corporate types. It is a simple reality which those in love with money cannot afford to ignore. So it is just a little supporting argument, but more than I have been seeing lately.


abi said...

liberals are blind to harsh realities

You're right - that's usually the knock on liberals. But it's completely the opposite. Liberals tend to see hard realities and are willing to work with them. Conservatives tend to believe all kinds of fairy tales that fly in the face of reality - like hard work always leads to the good life, lowering taxes brings in more revenue, and privatizing social security is the only way to save it.

D.K. Raed said...

ah yes, we USED to have a somewhat free press here, but those days are gone. we used to laugh about many foreign countries' horribly biased news, but now we look enviously toward those places abroad where truth is allowed to be printed & broadcast.

I do find myself disagreeing with the labels conservative and liberal. maybe those labels are more clearly defined by actual policies or issues in other countries. Here, it has devolved to:

Conservatives want to preserve the status quo, as long as that benefits them. If it doesn't benefit them, they work like hell to ensure one-party rule in order implement their agenda. Their agenda is not about "conserving" anything other than ongoing power for themselves.

Liberals, on the other hand, want to create a society that benefits all, not just a wealthy few. They are falsely accused of wishing to equalize the classes at the expense removing any incentive to grow & prosper. The fact that when liberals are in power, the economy is more likely to boom, the budget balance, and the national debt recede in importance is conveniently overlooked.

Just my 2-cents for The Gruntled Center. You are right about "defining your terms". I just don't agree with many of those definitions.

Cartledge said...

Abi, d.k. thanks for your kind affirmations. The more I learn about our cultures the more convinced I become of shared values, good and bad. For all that our printed media and some electronic are a blessing in this market driven world, the difference that makes is barely noticeable.
I just passed on one of the best newspapers in the world so my neighbour could line her bird aviary.

D.K. Raed said...

So which page ended face-up for the bird goo? If it was the Op-Ed, which writer or subject? this could be a big breakthrough, better than entrails or tealeaves, for political forecasting!

Cartledge said...

funny you should ask that. I thought it would have been the spread on the cricket - well it is our holiday season...
No, in fact the first poop fell on dear Hill. Now go figure...

D.K. Raed said...

HAHAHAHAH! I think we've got a new forecaster, a prognosticating bird, an avian genius capable of putting his bum on the line for science! We'll know if he was accurate as we watch the debates Tues night in Nevada. What color is this bird? You know our political parties have colors.

Cartledge said...

Alas it is just a pigeon, a waste of a $300 cage set up as it should be flying free shitting on statues.
However, from my limited experience of disemboweling avian species I expect we would see a great deal of red.
Now in Australia that would normally denote socialist to communist, but I'm not sure the colour coding works the same there.

D.K. Raed said...

noooooo, can't be red. Whilst Red used to mean communist here, it has been appropriated by Republicans. You sure the pigeon isn't Bluish? or ... maybe it IS RED denoting that IF Hillary wins the nomination, she will be defeated (shat on) by Repubs. That is one of my biggest fears because she does not garner any crossover votes (repubs hate all things clintonish), and very few independents. So she is in fact the weakest of the dem candidates against someone like McCain who appeals to independents. hmmm, maybe your friend's pigeon is desperately trying to warn us. See where he plops tomorrow.

Cartledge said...

But then I'm well aware of the Pictish leaning to crystal ball reading. You already know the next major blog bore I am working on. Preempted again...

D.K. Raed said...

ooops, well, pictish portents aside, do not assume preemption, because I really have NO idea where you're going with this ... blog away!