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« Iran's "no nukes guarantee": And damages for breach of contract would be? . . . . | Main | I'm to the Left of Everyone! »

August 28, 2004



I ended up
Axis Position
1 left/right +1.1951 (+0.0719)
2 pragmatism +5.7363 (+0.3453)

Kevin Jon Heller

Jesus, you really are reasonable!

Kevin Jon Heller

That comment, by the way, was for Tung. I'm a little disappointed in Fed.No.84 -- I knew he wouldn't be anywhere near as far left as I, but I was at least hoping he'd be on my side of the spectrum...

No. 84

In a way these tests mess with me. I always leave them feeling like I have no overarching political theory.

No. 84

Yeah, I was very surprised to see myself to the right of Prof. Yin. The last time I took one of those quizzes I ended up 1 point to the left and dead center.

The vagaries of these quizzes always bother me. For example, "Religious faith should be based on the literal word of God." I agreed with that. Not because I necessarily believe in God, but because, by definition, "faith" implies a belief in God and adoption of certain religion principles. Otherwise, it wouldn't be faith - it's be empirical truth.

But I think what put me to the right is my belief in capitalism, which comes, from all things, my cynicism (which also explains my distrust of the government).

So, Prof. Heller, I have a question for you. Where does your pro-defense view come from? I know a lot of liberals who thoroughly distrust the criminal just system. But then they trust the same government to run everything else.

If Uncle Sam can't keep wholly innocent people from prison (or even protect people in prison from rape), then how can we trust this same Uncle Sam to run healthcare, education, etc.?

Kevin Jon Heller

Hmm -- you've raised an interesting question. My pro-defense biases definitely come from a fear of, and hostility toward, state power. I've always loved the underdog. So your point is well-taken that it seems contradictory, at least at first blush, to trust the state to provide social services and the like. I guess where we differ is that I neither believe in capitalism nor believe that capitalism is in any real sense a "check" on state power. On the contrary, radically oversimplifying (pardon the pun), I believe that the state is structurally dependent on capital to such an extent that its primary purpose is to ensure the smooth functioning of capitalism -- by ensuring a regular workforce, by protecting rights to private property, by redistributing wealth when inequality threatens to undermine demand, by using its military might to open up new markets and new sources of raw materials, etc.

Now, none of that answers your question about why I "trust" the state to provide social services when I don't trust them to administer the criminal law. I guess my answer is a pragmatic one: although I trust neither capital nor the state to provide social services, I distrust the state less -- for the simple reason that whereas it is the nature of capital to maximize profit regardless of the social consequences, it is the role of the state in a capitalist society to make sure that those social consequences don't threaten to destroy society as a whole. And part of that role is to provide the social services that individuals need to continue to function within capitalist society: education, health-care, housing, food, etc.

That said, I have no faith in the state to provide the level of social services that I would like to see: universal health-care; free education; welfare sufficient to provide everyone with decent housing, food, and clothing; guaranteed employment; and so on. Such things are impossible given the laissez-faire ideology that underlies our unique -- and particularly vicious -- version of capitalism (in contrast to the state capitalisms of a Germany or a Japan, which tolerate far more state control over private capital and thus provide their citizens with a far higher standard of living). But something is better than nothing, and nothing is what average citizens would have if capitalism was left unchecked and uncorrected by the state.

By the way, Fed. No. 84, feel free to call me Kevin. I think you've earned it, given that you are one of the very few people on this blog who ever agree with me about anything!

Law Monkey

Axis Position
1 left/right +0.6093 (+0.0367)
2 pragmatism +3.1093 (+0.1872)

Tung Yin

Fed. No. 84 wrote: Yeah, I was very surprised to see myself to the right of Prof. Yin.

Really? You're far more libertarian than I am, and depending on how these tests weight things, that could easily put you to my right. Also, Kevin probably makes me seem more to the right simply because I disagree with him on some (many?) -- but certainly not all -- things.

On the pro-defense/pro-social services view, one other explanation could be that government ineptness in the criminal setting is concentrated on the particular defendant and results in the loss of liberty, while government ineptness in the social services imposes costs broadly upon all taxpayers and otherwise provides some benefit to some individuals. As Kevin notes, the benefit may not be as large as he would like, but it's a far cry from being thrown in jail.

Prof. Yin's Wife

Axis Position
1 left/right -0.7637 (-0.0460)
2 pragmatism +0.9344 (+0.0562)

Not sure why I always end up on your left on these tests (when I think I ought to end up on your right).

Federalist No. 84

I wonder if I originally posted the wrong numbers, because the image I saved shows me as only slightly to the right of Prof. Yin.
Now that I have a snazzy Typepad account, I can link to images:

I still think Yin should be to the right of me, and I am drafting a rather lenghty explanation. (Oh, the horror!)

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