Eric Parks' recent post on Personality Types Revisited inspires me to share a few thoughts that may equally apply to the hypotheses advanced by Gary Gibson (see Eric's post) and Arnold Kling, the latter describing his three axes theory in these terms:
My hypothesis is that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes. For progressives, the main axis has oppressors at one end and the oppressed at the other. For conservatives, the main axis has civilization at one end and barbarism at the other. For libertarians, the main axis has coercion at one end and free choice at the other.
Arnold Kling variegates these themes in the context of different political issues, including the minimum wage controversy that he discusses in this post, to which I added the following comment:
Whatever hermeneutic axis you lay over it, and while I concede that the analysis of axes is instructive, the fundamental problem consists in the ineradicable fact that the majority of people are locked into anthropomorphic concepts of the environment that surrounds them, which is also why an understanding of ecological matters is rarely found in people, rhetoric notwithstanding.
Where order exists or is supposed to be provided, it must be created by human minds/actors – this is ‘the model of the tidy desk’ that comes about only by human order-creating intervention.
This perceptional bias is exceedingly strong and ardently adhered to because in everyday life what we typically and often very impressively experience is human created order, not order that creates itself (like the human body, the brain, the climate, the evolution of (our) species, culture, history, nature, the universe).
Then there are people and institutions that thrive on this very bias as well as their ability and willingness to pander to the anthropomorphic preconception so popular with us: political entrepreneurs (politicians, state agents etc.). “Give us power, give us money, and we will create order for you.” People like the offer, they are epistemically doomed to liking it.
The inability “to think beyond step one” (Sowell) and recognise the cybernetic nature of certain types of order vital to human welfare and survival can only be overcome when human beings learn to think ecologically, i.e. in term of spontaneous orders (when it is appropriate – of course, there is a role for human-created order).
Ironically, this ability is almost entirely absent in our present age, even though people pride themselves of their appreciation of ecological matters – in contemporary Germany environmentalism is a religion as strong as traditional religion used to be, say, in the 1950s.
Whether ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’, people today are adamant about their thoroughly unecological views of the world.
Hence, not only do they have unecological ideas about matters subsumed under the traditional, narrow category of ecology that refers exclusively to extra-human nature (monocausal religion of satanic CO2), they don’t begin to understand that human society is part of nature, and as such part of a complex ecological order. Incidentally, many libertarians do not seem to understand this either, especially the hyper-rationalist, aprioristic schools in the Misesian and Rothbardian tradition.
Many themes of our political imagery, including interpretations of the issue of minimum wage, are constructs forced into existence by this epistemic contortion, which aligns, I would think, many otherwise competing political groups, including the progressives and the conservatives of your country, and explains why, in my view, the US is – by popular consent – no less a social democratic society than my own Germany.
(The roots of American social democracy are deep – see “The Governmental Habit” by Jonathan R.T. Hughes, a book that, by the way, has had a profound impact on the late J.M. Buchanan.)