Noah Millman offers a three dimensional taxonomy political leaning aptly summarized by William Brafford

    • liberal vs. conservative (attitudes toward the individual and authority)
    • left vs. right (attitudes toward social/economic winners and losers)
    • progressive vs. reactionary (attitude toward past and future)

Noah asks where we fit in. On a line by line analysis I would have to call myself a conservative left-leaning progressive, but that doesn’t seem quite right. I tend to have more in common with Will Wilkinson ( liberal right-leaning progressives) than either Ross Douthat (conservative left-leaning reactionary) or Matt Yglesias (liberal moderate-leaning progressive).

To me the problem seems to be in the term liberal/conservative which conflates elitism vs. populism  with authoritarianism vs. liberalism. I would probably more accurately call myself an elitist liberal than a conservative, but my elitism probably outweighs my liberalism and thus according to the Millman taxonomy dumps me in the conservative camp.

To be more specific I am highly skeptical about the ability of individuals to understand their choice set. I generally think politics doesn’t work because the general public is always interjecting their mostly foolish ideas. I also think that the dominance of major corporations, think tanks, universities and to a lesser extent religious institutions are a good thing for society.

At the same time, however, I am highly skeptical of attempts to prescribe behavior for individuals. I don’t think that the social problem is tractable and I don’t think that socialism qua socialism will ever be able to compete with a market economy. It is because this that I think I side more with the Cato boys who are right-wing and elitist than say Yglesias who is moderate-leaning but populist.

About these ads