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"Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude, and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance."
     -- Joseph Story
     Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
     Book III, § 1857.
 

Friday, May 30, 2003

Steven Den Beste on political axes. One of the axes he identifies is:

realism————idealism
I think, based on the use he makes of it later, that he has misidentified it.

My first thought was, he should split it into two axes:

pessimist————optimist
chaotic————systematic
Among other things, I was looking for a way to sidestep fights over "who is the real realist?" The "pessimist/optimist" axis is aimed toward his later comment, "realists are on the lookout for threats..." and the "chaotic/systematic" axis more toward what most most persons would think of, confronted with "realist/idealist" in a political context. The "pessimist/optimist" axis, though, can, by the appropriate choice of context, be mapped to other axes Den Beste already identified, which just leaves the "chaotic/systematic" axis. What I have in mind, here, is the question, "Can human behavior be mapped to a clear set of rules?," where the person on the "systematic" end would say, "Yes," and the person on the "Chaotic" end would say, "No."

(The "chaotic" position is the justification for conservatism, considered as a body of thought. That doesn't mean, though, that all persons calling themselves "conservative" would necessarily be on the "chaotic" end of this axis.)

There's another problem, which is that several of the axes he identifies are not mutually orthogonal. He didn't claim they were, of course, but an uncareful reader might get that impression anyway. And I should note, the "chaotic/systematic" axis, if we dump it into the mix, would not be orthogonal to all the others either.

By the way: Thanks, Steven. I'm looking forward to watching this discussion percolate through the blogosphere.

-- posted by Clayton 5/30/2003 07:28:00 PM


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