You're ideology is wrong! (And so is mine)

Simplistic arguments backed by faulty logic abound on the Internet. Among the most common of these are claims that specific political and economic ideologies have a) proved to be failures or b) never been tried in practice. On the left, writers claim that Somalia is an example of libertarianism or Ayn Rand's objectivism. On the right, writers and commenters point to the former Soviet Union, China, and North Korea as examples of socialism or Marxism failing.

Developed Western nations are, in Europe and North America, democratic republics operating as social welfare states with generally "free" markets.

Pragmatically, whether you believe in Karl Marx's theories of social economic evolution or Adam Smith or Hayek or von Mises or anyone else doesn't matter. Our nations, as their citizens have voted and their politicians have legislated, evolved into hybrid systems of "democratic socialism" with wealth redistribution, social safety nets, and the creative destruction of capitalist markets. Our nations adjust, sometimes suddenly after a cycle of leaders or two, but we are unlikely to reject this mix of markets and welfare.

What we argue about is the extent to which we can trust markets, government, and the general nature of human beings. Sometimes, though less commonly, we pause to ask if our political and economic views are cultural or "natural" — but we generally assume we are the models of how people think. (I do believe humans have some common traits: protecting family or tribe over the stranger, for example.)

Why must we argue the extremes, when we should admit that most people in the West are somewhere in the muddled middle, not ideologues? Because we have to argue vehemently, we assume, to change the opinions of the middle. Plus, arguing loudly earns cheers of support from those agreeing with us.

Now, a return to the absurdity of arguing against the "radicals" — who all tend to claim to care more about the "individual" and the "human" than the system, curiously enough. It's not by accident that Marx and true communists saw perfection as no longer needing centralized government and libertarians in the anarcho-capitalist range also dream of this perfect world without government. These are radical optimists, both with too much faith in human nature… and unable to see their similar end points (see upcoming post on why "Left-Right" is a flawed, circular model).

Somalia is not an example of libertarian policies. In fact, warlords enforce dozens if not hundreds of small fiefdoms with strict regulations. Private property, a key tenant of classical liberalism, is not respected and nor is the rule of law… Unless you count strict religious laws.

and a great write-up on the absurdity of using Somalia as an example of anything Western:

North Korea is not an example of socialism. Claiming a dynastic totalitarian regime represents socialism or any of the ideals of Marx is either intentionally misleading or appallingly ignorant. North Korea is a cult, not a model of communism or socialism or anything Marx theorized. It's a nutcase with a nation.

Even communists reject North Korea as communist.


The only "more socialists" nations (comparatively) we might study are in Latin America, and the complicated post-colonial histories reflect lots and lots of interference in the "natural" development of those nations. Central and South America, like much of Africa, is the consequence of history. Nations didn't view their conquests though the prism of modern values. Today, the best we can do it not mess up other nations even more and justify this by claiming one political or economic ideology is unquestionably the "right" and "natural" way for all cultures to function.

Again, a reminder that an upcoming post explores the complications and problems with the left/right divide in political rhetoric. Of course, it's so much easier to call each other fascists and thugs…


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