Political ideology and the Overton Window.

overtonwindow

I’ve realized over the past year that political ideology is not a straight line, but more of a circle.

If you move too far to either extreme, whether it’s the far left or the far right, you wind up in pretty much the same place:  an oppressive, centralized government, removal of individual freedoms and rights, and suppression of the free press and free speech.   Authoritarianism and totalitarianism is not limited to the far right (fascism).  It also occurs on the far left (communism, which is found in places like China and North Korea, and in the old Soviet Union).

The only difference between fascism and communism is that in fascism, the corporation, a religious organization, or a group of oligarchs become the government and set all the rules.  Dissent is not allowed.  There are signs of this happening in the United States today, and it has already happened in Russia (after a brief experiment with democracy once the Soviet Union fell).  Authoritarian Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran are also examples of fascist regimes, as was Hitler’s Germany.    Eventually, free enterprise is undermined or suppressed.  In communism, the government itself rules over everyone’s lives, all production is centralized, and free enterprise is not allowed.

Trump’s “food boxes” program reeks of communism to me.    It’s the kind of thing you used to find in the old Soviet Union.   Rather than encouraging personal responsibility by allowing the recipient the dignity and empowerment of making their own food choices (at the same time, boosting the economy and business because food manufacturers and stores make money through SNAP purchases), it gives the recipient no choice and puts that choice instead in the hands of government bureaucrats.

There’s an interesting concept called the Overton Window. This means that as a society moves farther to the right (or the left), what seems to be the “middle ground” also moves farther to that extreme.   The Overton window slides along the scale as public attitudes change.  This is why extremist policies at either end begin to seem normal over time.   A policy that once seemed “radical” or even “unthinkable” begins to seem more acceptable to more people. At the same time, attitudes at the other end of the scale that were once deemed “popular” or “sensible” to most begin to seem unthinkable.  But no matter what extreme a society winds up adopting, tyranny and authoritarianism ensues, and even this can become normalized.

Over the past four or five decades, America has moved farther and farther to the right, and this includes Democrats, who have moved to the right as well.  In fact, today’s Democrats are much more like Republicans of decades ago.    FDR-type Democrats (common during WWII and the early post-war years) are rare today, and are often accused of being socialists.

OvertonWindow (2)

 

A healthy society is always a balance between the right and the left, though it may tend to lean slightly one way or the other.  Extremes on either side only lead to tyranny and misery for most people who have to live under such extremist regimes.   Democracy requires bipartisanship and cooperation between parties.   In my own opinion, a European or Canadian style of democracy works best, but you can be a little farther to the right and still have a healthy, prosperous, and vibrant society, the way America used to be not that long ago.

Extremes of any ideology never lead to prosperity and happiness.  They always cause a nation to eventually fall into tyranny and finally, ruin.

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