Doug Casey on How to Solve the Problem of Politics in the Divided States of America

Doug Casey on How to Solve the Problem of Politics in the Divided States of America by Doug Casey for International Man

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The terms liberal (left) and conservative (right) define the conventional political spectrum. But the terms are floating abstractions, with meanings that change with every politician.

In the nineteenth century, a “liberal” believed in free speech, social mobility, limited government and strict property rights. The term has since been appropriated by those who, while sometimes still believing in limited free speech, always support strong government and weak property rights and who see everyone as a member of a class or group.

Conservatives have always tended to believe in strong government and nationalism. Bismarck and Metternich were archetypes. Today’s conservatives are sometimes seen as defenders of economic liberty and free markets, although that is mostly only true when those concepts are perceived to coincide with the interests of big business and economic nationalism.

Locating political beliefs on an inaccurate scale, running only from left to right, constrains political thinking. It’s like trying to reduce chemistry to the elements with air, earth, water and fire.

Politics is the theory and practice of government. It concerns itself with how force should be applied to control people, which is to say, to restrict their freedom. It should be analyzed on that basis. Freedom is indivisible, but in the abstract, it can be seen as composed of two basic elements: social freedom and economic freedom. According to current usage, liberals tend to allow social freedom but restrict economic freedom, while conservatives tend to restrict social freedom but allow economic freedom. An authoritarian (they now style themselves “middle-of-the-roaders”) want both types of freedom restricted.

But what do you call someone who believes both social and economic freedom should be allowed maximum rein? Unfortunately, something without a name may get overlooked, or if the name is only known to a few, it may be ignored as unimportant. That may explain why so few people who believe in both of these dimensions of freedom know they are libertarians. A more useful way of looking at the political field can be found in the diagram below:

Source: Advocates for Self-Government

A libertarian believes individuals have a right to do anything that doesn’t impinge on the common-law rights of others—basically anything but force or fraud. Libertarians are the human equivalent of the Gamma rat, which bears a little explanation. Some years ago, scientists experimenting with rats categorized the vast majority of their subjects as Beta rats. These are followers who get the Alpha rats’ leftovers. The Alpha rats establish territories, claim the choicest mates, and, generally, lord it over the Betas. This pretty well corresponded with the way the researchers thought the world worked.

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Doug Casey

For over a quarter of a century, legendary investor and best-selling author Doug Casey and his team at Casey Research have been helping self-directed investors to earn superior returns through innovative investment research designed to take advantage of market dislocations..