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Friday, January 02, 2015

To Declare Oneself Beyond Left And Right Is Almost Always To Disavow One Is On The Right

Another reddit comment:
I think the important distinction for BI is between authoritarian and anti-authoritarian, not between left and right. The two dichotomies are orthogonal. Anti-authority/pro-liberty types typically require only a brief explanation of BI before enthusiastically signing up; this is true of principled libertarians as much as it is of the counter-culture. As for authoritarians, I don't think the UBI movement has yet had to stare into the howling abyss of left-wing authoritarian hatred of BI and all it stands for. Not everyone who is allergic to individual independence and self-rule is a right winger. Many of them are working class. How can we ask a member of the working class to support SLACK? So yes, I agree with you; but only because I think that right vs. left is not the dimension that counts for BI.
Where to begin?!
The "authoritarian axis" introduced here obscures much more than it reveals, and it comes from a very interested right-wing rhetorical position. Market libertarian ideological proselytizing via the "World's Shortest Political Quiz" and related "Political Compass" (a compass that makes you get lost, how droll!) but also via mainstream pundit commonplaces about "independent" majorities who are presumably "culturally or socially liberal but fiscally conservative" provide the key context here.

These frames seek to obscure the relevance of left-right analysis to certain right-wing politics in order to support the status quo and the incumbent-elite interests aligned with it. Of course, market libertarians like to pretend they are "beyond left and right" (or try to market themselves with distracting neologisms -- independent! upwinger! dynamist!) because they can no more prevail with majorities than conventional Republicans can if they are too explicit about their actual alignment with the interests of plutocratic minorities.

Market libertarianism is a right-wing ideology -- it claims to be anti-authoritarian while endorsing corporate-militarism, and to advocate non-violence while endorsing contractual outcomes as non-violent by fiat whatever the terms of misinformation and duress shaping them. Since "fiscal conservatism" always cashes out in de-regulatory and privatizing schemes dismantling the legal/welfare affordances of social equity and cultural pluralism this means that the "cultural/social liberalism" always proclaimed alongside the "fiscal conservatism" has no real substance.

It is no accident that the anti-authoritarianism of market libertarians always plays out as hostility to almost all government except for armies and police to keep the wage slaves from revolting against their plutocratic masters. It is also no accident that market libertarian arguments only impact actual politics when they provide selective justifications for GOP positions.

People manifestly mean different things by basic income advocacy depending on whether they are coming from left or right, but it isn't exactly surprising that someone who falsely imagines right-wing libertarianism to be beyond left or right would imagine basic income advocacy figured through a libertarian lens to be the same.

The commenter declares "the UBI movement has yet had to stare into the howling abyss of left-wing authoritarian hatred of BI and all it stands for" -- but the reason for this non-event is that the howling left-wing authoritarian abyss conjured here is a classic paranoid fantasy of the reactionary right. In this it is not unlike that slip-up about "working class" folks "allergic" to "independence" -- ooh, just smell the makers-v-takers race/class politics of "liberty"!

I'm sure Stalinist industrial-militarism and Maoist feudalism will leap to libertopian minds at my dismissal of these reactionary fever-dreams, but it really isn't difficult to grasp that the totalitarian impulse is a right-wing one, once you shed the re-mapping demanded by the World's Shortest Political Quiz. If you can grasp that Nazism was a movement of the right despite the word "socialist" in the logo it shouldn't be that complicated after all to trouble too slick an identification of the left with the gulag either. Neither is it so much of a leap to grasp the left impulse is essentially democratizing work toward equity-in-diversity once you set aside market fundamentalists pieties and the GOP corpse-cold Cold War playbook.

Comparably fantastical is the commenter's confident assertion that "pro-liberty types typically require only a brief explanation of BI before enthusiastically signing up." Yeah, except when they don't, which is pretty much always. Sure, a few market fundamentalists have tossed out thought-experiments about basic income when they were looking for a chance to score rhetorical points (what they mean by "signing up") about how awesome it would be to demolish the New Deal once and for all, but they never want to actually do anything (what it should mean to "sign up") to end wage slavery, eliminate the precarity draft, or secure informed non-duressed contracts. When have they "signed up" to do anything so jack-booted socialist as all that otherwise? When have they made their actual cases on such terms anyway? Attributing such motives for the occasional right-wing pseudo-scholarly foray into basic income thought experiments seems pretty far-fetched.

No doubt I am being biased, tribalist, immoderate, unreasonable to ask anybody to face these awkward facts.


Elias Altvall said...

It is always funny how people who claim that there is such a thing as "beyond left and right" ignores the history behind people claiming. Especially the first ones to claim to be beyond left and right, Fascism and Nazism. Obvisiously they were not beyond left and right because they were recruiting from and helping right wing interests and perpetuating class/plutocratic rule of course in a some what changed form.

Dale Carrico said...

You are right about this, and the ethnic/nationalist pan-movements preceding the rise of fascism and providing rationales for racist imperial systems did the same (for which, read Arendt, Said, Gilroy). The norms and forms of marketing discourse that have suffused the public life of mass-mediated extractive-industrial corporate-military capitalism since the late 19C (setting the stage for the second 30 years war of WW1&2 and its neoliberal late/post-modern aftermath) are all about repackaging old assumptions, aspirations, and commodities as novelties... which leads us right into the critique of futurology that usually preoccupies my work and this blog.

Chad Lott said...

The Reddit comment line about asking the working class "to accept SLACK" reminds me of the Church of the Subgenius.

Who wouldn't want slack?

Lorraine said...

Usually when people say they're "conservative on economic issues, liberal on social issues," what they mean is that they want social issues to be considered non-political issues. Those conservatives who call themselves "independents" won't even give that much; saying they'd pass social issues to the states. The position of these lower-right quadrant (of political compass) folks on economics, of course, is "separation of economy and state," which means zero tolerance for subsidy, regulation, or elements of mixed economy. Relative to the left, they inevitably take a lot more than they give.

Dale Carrico said...

People who speak of a "separation of economy and state" presumably don't believe in macroeconomics? It would be like saying that flat-earthers are on the lower right quadrant of the geology compass. I personally think the metaphor of the mixed economy has done a lot of damage to sense.