Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Liberal Dialectic: Dialectic In Question

 Marx to Krapotkin - Freud and Marcuse
Libertarian Centrism - Actual Policy

What is so important about a so-called liberal dialectic?  The importance is simple: history is heading somewhere; the tension between liberal progressives and liberal conservatives will impact the future of history - that is to say our future.  Progress is dead without this tension.  Any effort to revolutionize society on simply conservative or progressive terms alone is at odds with the forces of history.  That is why revolutions fail and history prevails.  The dialectic in question, to reiterate, covers the history of (political) modernity from about the 12th to 15th century to about the present day.*

Two Necessary Sides of Liberalism

Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.

        Dwight D. Eisenhower

Liberal progressives represent compassion and permissiveness.  They also more closely represent the vanguard or frontier of liberalism and Western history.  Even in the collective psychological level, liberal progressives invites us to make new and different choices for better or worse.  Liberal conservatives represent discipline, self-reliance, and the avoidance of moral hazard.  They also more closely represent an older order where kings and queens prevented people from making choices and taking risks independently.  In short, liberal progressive invite us to move forward.  
Liberal conservatives caution us not to move too quickly.

Together we, as liberal progressives or liberal conservatives, have begun to balance the values of compassion, which allows people to make mistakes, and discipline, which demands people live up to the high standards of self-restraint and self-reliance.  Both sides of the tension have a role to play in our political-psychological growth.  
Partisanship distorts progress.  Herein we find the liberal dialectic.  Without discipline and self-restraint, new choices and new ideas will fail to take hold.  Without new choices and new ideas, we have no progress.  People who can't see the necessity of both progressive and conservative ideas will not move forward with history.  If enough such people exist, history itself will not move forward.  I will elaborate on this point in part 3.

That seems obvious but the implications aren't. 


The Liberal Dialectic

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

        Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, 19-28

Each stage of world-history is a necessary moment in the Idea of the World Mind.
        Hegel, System of Ethical Life (emphasis added)

History is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time.


The extreme and painful events of politics themselves need not occur as long as the psychological and spiritual growth of people does.  Through our dysfunctions, we create a peculiar social dross or precipitate in the form of politics, power struggles, and inequity, which often become what we call history.   In others words, if we were healthier and wiser, we could experience history as a psychological and spiritual journey and nothing more.   The contradictions of history simply constitute the accumulation of emotional, psychological, or spiritual contradictions within us as individuals. 

History does not drive us.  We drive history.  Our inner condition determines our outer state.  In this sense, one can argue that so much of what occurs in politics and media is meaningless - full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.  Indeed, I have long felt that a major Freudian subtext of politics involves wearing nice clothing, career building, and 
getting laid - not the public good.

I am not discounting the progress that has occurred since the Magna Carta, since the Declaration of Independence, since the Bills of Rights, since the Nineteenth Amendment, and since the Voting Act of 1965.  I'm simply saying that we are much further behind in political innovation than we think.  Why else do we say that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  Why else do we still have regressive tax policies?  Why do we not fund education and art aggressively?  Why still do we have so much police brutality?  Why do husbands beat their wives in such great numbers?  Why do we still fight the War on Drugs?  Why hasn't medical marijuana taken hold in more states?  Why do we not divest from oil and invest in clean, renewable energy?  Why is unadulterated food such a novelty? 

Below is a final example of our backwardness.


The Great Anachronism

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

        Denis Diderot**

Consider one final sub-point.  I will call it the great anachronism - namely the English monarchy.  Perhaps I can think of not one single institution that better illustrates our continued madness and disdain for human dignity than the English monarchy.  Although Americans don't technically pay homage to the queen, we certainly pay attention and devote enormous emotional and mental energy to her and her family.  Furthermore, for better or worse, we owe a great deal of our political lineage to the English.

Let me be clear.  Liberalism is all about shit-canning the monarchs of the world.  It is about other things but in terms of confronting the past, Liberalism has no business supporting monarchs.  In a sense, we can mark the origins of liberalism with the Magna Carta.  It was a physical document that codified and attributed rights to people outside the English monarchy.  It began to put a check on kings and queens.  And today she still sits on her chair.  And while we are no longer English subjects, 
we live in a highly oligarchical country in the United States.  It has even become increasingly oligarchical. As you probably heard, a 2014 Princeton study suggested that our political system has become an oligarchy - powered by "political elites".

While I can conjure up no single real and meaningful purpose for having a queen or royal family in England, the cost of her presence is very real.  I am not going to go into the details of the income and wealth of the royal family mostly because other people have given this question plenty of attention.  For me personally, their obvious purposelessness is a sufficient argument for cutting them off economically.  They can all come compete in the job market in which we compete.  End of discussion.

* Keep in mind, I do not think these dates are exact.  They become clear over time.  And over time, their exactness has less meaning.  I also doubt that modernity ended with the Cold War.  In fact, the whole thrust of my argument is that the anti-liberal tradition, which aligns with socialism, is still impacting history.

** I am not calling for violence in any way, shape, or form.  It is simply an illustrative quote.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Liberal Dialectic: Terms

 Marx to Krapotkin - Freud and Marcuse
Libertarian Centrism - Actual Policy

Liberalism is a big subject.  It may seem like an abstract subject especially with all that is going on recently - particularly this week.  But this blog is especially important to me.  It has been on my mind for a while and serves as a part of the intellectual infrastructure of option3.  Not only is Liberalism a big subject, it is a poorly understood one.  I hope to change that a bit.  Ironically today when many people use the term liberal, they are almost always referring the anti-liberal tradition of Rousseau, Marx, and Engels.  They are wrong.  Let's see why.


Open to new behavior or opinions and are willing to discard traditional values.


Liberal, as a political term, arises in the English language between the 15th and 17th century.  I mark the 15th century as the end of the medieval period (or the Dark Ages) and the start of political modernity* which is the political age in which we both live and out of which we have begun to mature.  I also note feudalism as roughly a component of the medieval period.**  As such, I consider liberalism as both (1) the chief political economic force of history today in the modern Western (and Westernized) world and (2) a rejection of the monarchism and elitism of the medieval period - if not going back further.  

For the purposes of this blog series, the dialectic in question covers the history from about the 12th to 15th century to a date yet unknown.  That date may have passed or remains in the future.  We must now introduce the term anti-liberalism.  Anti-liberalism is the response to classical liberal thinking.  Rousseau is the father of anti-liberalism.  Some have crudely interpreted modern anti-liberalism as collectivism and (administrative) communism.  They overlook anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, and still other nascent movements.  

Some use the terms 'classical liberalism' against 'social liberalism'.  I think the terms liberalism and anti-liberalism have their place.  But, for me, the single term 'liberal dialectic' best describes the entire process; in that process, I use the terms 'liberal progressives' and 'liberal conservatives'.  As such, liberalism and the liberal dialectic are, in a sense, synonyms that represent a period in history.  They also point to a politic-economic-historical process.***

I digress.

We are all liberals in America.  Many people - especially on the Right - incorrectly conflate classical liberalism and progressivism.  A better approach involves putting liberal conservatives on the Right and liberal progressives on the Left.  The primary issue that distinguishes a liberal conservative from a liberal progressive is their disposition towards state involvement in the economy.  Conservatives desire less intrusion.  Progressives advocate more.**** 

State involvement in the economy is not the only question.  State involvement in the reproductive lives of women or gun ownership, for example, suggests politics is not always strictly economic - even though both those examples definitely have economic interpretations.  Regardless, some questions of history are indeed complex, primal, cultural, and/or more.*****  

However.  To reiterate, the primary issue that distinguishes a liberal conservative from a liberal progressive is their disposition towards state intervention and intrusion in the economy.  (I may one day regret advocating this view so strongly.)  



A method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth.

Any systematic reasoning, exposition, or argument that juxtaposes opposed or contradictory ideas and usually seeks to resolve their conflict.


Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

A great deal has been said about the term dialectic.  In the context of modern philosophical and historiographical ideas, people think of Hegel.  But, from my reading, German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte first helped to develop the notion that a dialectic is a three-part process: thesis-antithesis-synthesis.  An antithesis opposes a given thesis.  Out of that tension and opposition arises a synthesis that resolves the conflicts that sit between thesis and antithesis.  At face value, it's not that complicated but dialetics may permeate all of human life everything.******

(Among conspiratorial thinkers and researchers, another notion of a dialectic exists: problem-reaction-solution.  This notion has a more nefarious interpretation.  Conspirators create a problem.  The public reacts.  The conspirators provide a solution, which they consciously fashioned in advance in order to augment or to control events.*******  IMO this conspiratorial understanding of the dialectic is not the whole story.  Conspiratorial thinkers have, in some cases, failed to see the more simple view of the dialectic, as described above.) 

Update (March, 2020): In 2020, I made some additions to this blog series - including general revisions in part 4 and more details on theory in part 5. 

* Political modernity is post-Machiavellian thought that led into classical liberal thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke

** I freely admit I am not a trained historian.

*** These terms create further problems because, in a sense, I am saying that anti-liberalism is a part of liberalism.  For the time being we simply have to move forward.  Puns intended.  Also, yes, I am saying that history, at least, (political) modern history is economic in nature.  But that could change with time.  And it may not have always been true.

**** I once learned the following model of intrusion ranging from 1) laissez-faire to 2) contract / property legal system to 3) a system that manages allocative efficiency to 4) a system that allows redistributive justice to 5) a full control system (ie socialism).  Liberalism ranges from about stage 2 to 4.

***** In the short run and within the period of time needed to resolve the liberal dialectic, elections can be about personalities, parties, communication strategies, slogans, or a changing cultural and moral landscape.   In the long run and within the period of time needed to resolve the liberal dialectic, policy and politics revolve around money - economic transactions.  The core question for both liberal conservatives and liberal progressives is always: how to build a free and equal society.  And that question always ends up involving money.  (The reason I emphasize this point so much is that people spend a lot of time talking about liberalism and really don't know what the fuck they are talking about.)

****** We can find others who discuss ideas similar to thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure.  George Gurdjieff, for instance, spoke of the arising-negating-reconciling structure.

******* For the purposes of providing an example, some argue 911 was just such an example of a problem-reaction-solution conspiracy.  The attack was not from terrorists (or it was a hybrid-let-it-happen scenario), which enabled The War on Terror.  I'm not arguing this idea at this time.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Future is Now: Spiritual Awakening

option3 began as a policy blog in 2012 with the first entry in this blog series: The Future is Now.  A lot has changed since then - not only in the world but in me.  All my misgivings about rationality, politics, and public policy remain in effect.  I began articulating these misgivings in two blogs - one called Governance Failure and another called Arrationality.*  I'm here to push the envelope further.  Spirituality is not a core subject for option3 but it deserves some attention.

Political Activation to Spiritual Awakening

For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated...global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.

        Zbigniew Brzezinskiformer US National Security Advisor2008

There is a revolution occurring in the world today, but it is not fought with armies and it does not aim to kill.  It is a revolution of consciousness...

...The mind does not want to hear this, but the heart rejoices in it.  The dictates of science aren’t so sure about it, but the dictates of consciousness are clear.  Humanity doesn’t need to make another machine; it needs to make another choice.  We need to consider the possibility of another way, another option, another path for the human race to follow.

        Marianne Williamson, 2014 (emphasis added) 

In 2012, I shared the above quote from Brzezinski.  Despite being an unlikely source, he spoke to a profound truth: humanity is waking up.  His focus was the political realm.  However, the rise in global awareness likely exceeds the political into the spiritual.  
As much as I attempt to present the work of empiricists and evidence itself, this blog entry also finds its inspiration in creative and arrational thought.  Finding empirical evidence that global consciousness is rising is difficult.  So I'd like at least to share the work of some thinkers that impacted my view of the subject.

David Icke, Dolores Cannon, and David Wilcock are three unconventional people who believe that global consciousness is rising or at least that a unique opportunity to elevate one's consciousness is here.  These three thinkers are not traditional policy people at all.  Some might call Icke and Wilcock conspiracy theorists - or experts depending on your perspective.  Cannon is perhaps best described as a New Age hypnotherapist.  

Icke speaks of 'truth vibrations' as a set of forces that have begun to permeate our world and to enable us to see beyond the madness of contemporary life.  Cannon speaks of a 'new earth' splitting off from our existing earth.  Human life on this 'new earth' will vibrate at a higher frequency; the people who can vibrate at that higher frequency will find a home there.  Wilcock has quite a similar set of ideas to Cannon's.  More could be said about all three.  Perhaps they do not prove that consciousness is rising but they, in conjunction with others, have me believing that spiritual life on Earth is rising.**  (IMO they all merit some Youtube time.)  

To the extent that spiritual life is changing, all levels of our lives will change - including how we think, how we set policy, and how we live.  So what does a more conscious society look like?


A New Operating System and Concrete Policy

Rapid transition to a regenerative society requires a reboot of our political and economic system to support ecological restoration and the health of the collective.  We can think of this process similar to the design and installation of a new operating system for human society.  Technically, we have the ability to experiment, iterate, and reinvent our political and economic system.  Currently, the inertia of our present social, political, and financial order blocks our ability to envision and enact this metamorphosis.

        Daniel Pinchbeck, Towards Regenerative Society***

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

        Buckminster Fuller

Indeed, the subtitle of this section ought to read: Clean Energy, Clean Food, Clean Governance, and the End of Garbage.  Fortunately, the changes themselves are not that complex.  
Clean, renewable energy is closing in on fossil fuel.  According to Bloomberg, the average global cost of solar may become cheaper than coal by 2025.  According to The Independent, solar and wind have become competitive with fossil fuel capacity in 30 countries.  Clean food is all but inevitable.  People in the First World want clean food.  People elsewhere will follow and in some cases may actually be leading in this regard.  I am willing to call that without reference.  

Clean governance is not so simple.  Do we have the sufficient consciousness and (political) will for clean governance?  I do not know.  For now, I have hope that we are on the right path and reference Icke, Cannon, and Wilcock.  People will need to learn to make sacrifices.  One of the first things I learned about policy change from Professor Mike O'Hare at UC Berkeley was that policy change, no matter how advantageous, creates losers.  We may need to learn to have less, to wait longer, to experience less convenience, and, most important, to invent completely new ways of governing ourselves.  None of these requirements are so bad. ncertainty and personal sacrifice are very unpleasant but they make us stronger.  (I'm quite aware that I do not define clean governance.  I am only beginning to address this subject.  More to come.)

Last but not least: garbage.  The Great Pacific garbage patch and the overall presence of garbage and plastic in global flora and fauna is a serious risk to human livelihood in several forms such as ground water pollution, respiratory problems from garbage burning, increases in diarrhea, and exposure to lead, mercury, and infectious disease.****  Perhaps most important is the relationship between biological diversity and the physical presence of garbage and their overall relationship to human livelihood.

The solution to this question seems obvious: the end of garbage.  Achieving this aim is not so simple and will likely involve landfill (and garbage) mining, garbage taxes, increases in recycling, re-using, and repairing, and material science innovations that make all garbage 100% biodegradable or recyclable.  The hardest and most valuable step is simply establishing the idea in the Zeitgeist that we have no business creating garbage any longer.  Garbage is a notion that has found its end.  
To borrow the words of Marc Gunther and to use more nuance and descriptive words, we "want industry to mimic biology, where one species' excrement is another's food."  (Gunther wrote a piece called The End of Garbage for Fortune.)  He is describing a full system, zero waste policy.  

In order to achieve these goals, we are almost certainly going to have to take a step back and evolve at our highest level - that of our spirituality and consciousness.  How else can we sharpen our minds and harden our will?  To quote Einstein, "We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them."


* Policy is succeeding in a few senses.  For instance, we have not had a World War in decades.  The Clean Air Act of 1970 and Clean Water Act also demonstrate relatively recent and quite substantive achievements in policy.  But acidification of the ocean or the loss of global biological diversity again illustrates we are on a very problematic path as a race.

** A highly reasonable counterargument is the following: if global consciousness is rising, why do we see so much stupidity and destructiveness.  My theory is that, while a larger portion of society is becoming more unconscious, a smaller portion is becoming more conscious.

*** Here is another great and slightly relevant Pinchbeck quote from 
How Soon is Now: "To realize the latent potential of our digital communications networks, we would build decentralized, peer-to-peer systems designed to be perpetually evolving, supporting social coordination, making easy and hyper-efficient to share skills and resources.  Politically, we would establish something like a functional anarchy, based on nonviolent Satyagraha principles, to supersede the current system of military and corporate control.  New social technologies would train people to make effective decisions together, based on consensus methods as well as ongoing referendums."

**** The LA Times article The World's Trash Crisis, and Why Many Americans Are Oblivious was helpful in writing this blog entry.