The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Why no viable center party?

A few hours ago I was looking at a post on one of the other blogs I like, Dennis Sanders' "Big Tent Revue." This post had to do with the fact that no viable centrist party has been created in the years he's been blogging, though people keep saying it ought to be done. And Rev. Sanders quotes with approval an essay by Malcolm Gladwell in "The New Yorker," making the comparison with the civil rights movement of the 1060s and 1970s, when people were willing to risk their lives for a cause. In that case, the people joining together were often personal friends — Rev. Sanders (and Gladwell) points to the contacts the four students responsible for the sit-in in Greensboro, N. C. had among themselves prior to the sit-in (including the fact that one of them dared the others to do it) as an example. By contrast, contacts people make on Twitter or Facebook are weaker ties. They may be "friends" in quotes, but they really aren't friends.

But while this is part of it — it is not the same kind of commitment to pledge a few cents on Facebook to help people in Darfur as to get together in East Berlin for a rally to bring down the Wall in 1989 — I think one must realize that there is a good reason, having nothing to do with being closer to people you have met face-to-face than "friends" on Facebook. It is this: African-American students in North Carolina in the days of segregation, and East Germans in the 1980s, were really oppressed. Their lives were bad enough that it was worth the risks. Centrists here may be unhappy with the direction of this country; but it isn't really hurting them the way segregation in North Carolina or Communist dictatorship in East Germany was oppressing the people described earlier.

In short, it's a cost-benefit thing. There are still major tasks required to create a viable third party in this country; it's not easy. It may not entail as much risk as sitting in at a lunch counter in Greensboro in the 1970s. But it's still a big project. And what you get is not as valuable — it's not as if centrists are currently as downtrodden as African-Americans in the segregated South.

Yet another point is unity of purpose. The people fighting for civil rights in the South were all looking to accomplish the same thing. "Centrist" here in 2010 America is not a united concept. Mike Huckabee and I might both qualify among Republicans as "less extreme." But Huckabee is frequently "left" where I am "right," and "right" where I am "left." I'm actually in less agreement with Huckabee than I would be with a totally far-right Republican. Centrists are really like the proverbial Jews (I can say this because I am Jewish!): You get two Jews in a room, you'll hear three opinions!

So Rev. Sanders may have, from Gladwell, one reason there is no viable center party; there are other reasons, however, which are important as well.

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