Moderation, in moderation

Extremist governments murder millions: moderate ones let them die of neglect. The idea of moderation in opposition to extremism though is a wilful deception. The only solution – is a dangerous fallacy.

The murderous fault of the extremist is his one-dimensional approach. Marx was one-dimensional in his theory and it led to evil beyond anything seen before him. Adam Smith (for example) looked at a huge sweep of data and effects and produced more benefit to mankind than any mortal man has done before. I could not call Smith ‘a moderate’ because when you step out of the single dimension, the word is meaningless – ludicrous in fact.

The faults in the infamous dictators of the twentieth century were worsened immensely by their belief in false theories of Marxism and racial  theories, which are still haunting us; as Churchill put it “a Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”. Bad science is always with us and does not always lead to the death camps. My concern here is the nature of extremism or what we think of as extremism.

I have previously taken a cynical view of the demand that a political candidate  be a moderate candidate: commentators who use the word often mean ‘one who agrees with me’. It is worse than that though. The word ‘moderate’ assumes that the subject can be placed somewhere on a single scale, moderating between extremes. There is no single scale though, unless the ideologue sets one and refuses to look outside it, and that makes for what we call extremism.

The words “left” and “right” are one-dimensional words. They are nonsense for a thinking politician. You could define a specific spectrum and look at placement along the spectrum on a specific issue, but that tells you nothing of issues outside that spectrum.  The idea of a right-left spectrum running from Hitler to Communism is a spectrum only of socialism: most people and politicians are not socialists and have no place on that spectrum. One could try a spectrum of libertarianism, presumably from anarchy to Hitler-and-Stalin, but again that tells you nothing much of value, as attitudes to liberty depend on every other opinion and balance reached.

There is no moderation between left and right because left and right are without meaning.

The first cause of Absurd conclusions I ascribe to the want of Method; in that they begin not their Ratiocination from Definitions; that is, from settled significations of their words

I  have ranted in the past about America’s liberty to have guns taking away the practical liberty to walk freely without fear, and that is just one, narrow point of balance. Every element of political policy leans upon every other: spending priorities against tax against deficit management against economic effects against levelling-up, will be just one network of competing forces familiar to all. Effective law enforcement against liberty-and-due-process against efficient use of taxpayers’ money begins another.

The only solution is – no, it is not the only solution. The idea of there being one answer to any situation is in itself is a self-deception. It is adopted to avoid the horrible realisation that one may have to think and reason through a complex matrix of factors; but if a policy-maker does not think through that complex matrix, testing the interactions and likely results, he or she is not competent to make choices.

A journalist can catch a politician out by asking a one-dimensional question, as a simple answer may show the politician as foolish and a complex one as evasive. It gets a headline for a day, and provides something to wrap the fish and chips in tomorrow.

The deathly fault of those we call extremists is not their absolute belief in an idea, but that they have no other. He will take one aim and pursue it in spite of all the other factors, leaving millions slain in his wake and ruin for his nation. A responsible politician may be just as extreme in their belief in certain ideas, but will pursue the idea in the context of the web of factors affected by the pursuit. Those of us who campaigned from Brexit knew there were some in the camp who had no other idea and would have ruined the nation in its pursuit, but those who led with their heads knew that Brexit had to be just one outcome of a push for free trade and sensible government, without which Brexit would be an empty gesture.

The terms ‘extremism’ and ‘moderation’ are misnomers and I would rather they be abandoned where they offend against Hobbes and his requirement for sound ratiocination.  The distinction is not in absoluteness of belief or action as that belongs to both: it is the extent to which the politician takes account of the whole of reality and its multitude of factors.

See also


Author: AlexanderTheHog

A humble scribbler who out of my lean and low ability will lend something to Master Hobbes