In conventional political theory, two political opposites fight in a tug of war for control of the little, yellow flag in the middle. In theory, communism is on the left end of the rope and fascism on the right, with each team pulling and digging in their heels to get that little, yellow flag on their side. If the rope is the state —government —and the two sides are dictators fighting to control the state, who is the little, yellow flag? You and I.
Like two rival suitors fighting over a girl, who wins? Neither, if she has any sense. She rejects them both, lives her life in freedom, and hopefully finds a boy who respects her freedom, rather than tries to control her. Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day, let’s consider: Who would be America’s better lover, the left or the right?
While the linear illustration dominates political rhetoric, the political spectrum is more accurately depicted by a broken circle, or a horseshoe, as some theorists describe it. Presumably, the communists and fascists are polar opposites, but in reality they are first cousins descended from tyranny. Their shared goal is to amass power and control the state, thus the individual, causing the line to curve and almost meet. Either direction in extreme leads to totalitarianism. While their economic methods for control differ, their approach to freedom is the same: subject the individual to the state through legal and extralegal means.
Basically, communists and socialists believe in state control of the economy through ownership, with the socialists falling into a more incremental model, and the communists favoring revolution and violence.
The fascists seek to control the economy, but not to take over businesses through ownership. Fascism may seem like soft socialism, but their premise of subjectification of the individual through intimidation is the same. None of these models respect the freedom of the individual.
So, where is the freedom-loving girl to go to get away from the jealous, dictatorial suitors, who are focused on fighting each other much more than wooing her affections?
Welcome, our lovelorn girl, to the political center and classic liberalism, where the individual is free from state control. Preceding communism/socialism and fascism, great political theorists, including John Locke and Adam Smith, formed classic liberalism, based on the premise that a limited government protects the freedoms of the individual, creates a peaceful society, and allows for economic freedom and prosperity. In modern American political rhetoric, classic liberalism has taken on the monikers “conservatism”and “libertarianism,”but the principles remain the same: limited government vs. big government. With the growth of government comes a reduction of individual freedom and responsibility.
With the fluctuation of political trends, the little yellow flag has incrementally shifted left, leaping at times, since the country’s founding. What was once the radical left of center shifted to the center, and is now extreme right, as is being played out in the current debates over raising the minimum wage and mandated health insurance. Were Locke and Smith to drop in to check how their theories played out, they might would be confused by our use of political terms, but they would quickly recognize the largesse of the U.S. government and its very familiar resemblance to the tyranny that they argued against in their lifetimes.
What might surprise and confuse them more than anything is that the Americans set up a republican form of government based on classic liberalism, created a stable and prosperous society, then chose to grow the state and reduce individual freedom, following the example of less free and less prosperous societies.
On this St. Valentine’s Day, our freedom-loving girl is in a quandary: What happened to her freedom-loving beau, classic liberalism, and how can she bring him back to the center?