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Further to my earlier-today post[1]: the business about individual (“quantum”) versus generalized (“classical”) analysis is exemplified by Rules for Radicals. All politics is local is sort of the Exclusionary Principle of individual-oriented politics. Whether or not they’ve ever read the book, today’s Left has shown itself adept at using the principles to advance their cause.

The good news is, like all such theories it’s a tool. The characteristic of a tool is that it will do its job for whoever holds its handle, depending only on how well the holder knows the tool and task, and how much the wielder has practiced its use. The Right is starting to grasp bottom-up tactics, and having at least some preliminary success.

Why did it take so long?

Well, for one thing, it goes against the grain. The Right has always preferred top-down explanations, even in its earlier incarnations. Today’s Right (at least the part of it I inhabit and advocate for) has adopted the “level playing field” concept, which would be sneered at as fuzzy-headed liberalism by the monarchists and noble dorks who were the original inhabitants of the “right side of the aisle”, but even those guys were interested more in describing how the system worked and how to maintain it than they were in its anecdotal effects. It was, and still is, primarily the Left that concentrated on the effect of the system on individuals, and advocated changes in the system to ameliorate the bad effects.

Now the Left’s notions have, for the most part, become The System, and (surprise surprise) the system still has bad effects on some individuals — arguably worse effects than the original one did. It’s now the Right’s turn to accumulate anecdotes and sad stories, and to grab short-term issues and blow them up into forceful attacks. Keep up the skeer!

In the short term that’s likely (virtually certain) to be a bad thing. It’s going to turn into duels with sob-stories at ten paces, and the level of rancor is going up, up, up. We can only hope that, in the long term, the result is both describing The System and looking out for the individual pieces of it. If the Right spent too much time in the past looking at the problem from the top down, the Left has now invested ‘way too much blut und eisen on fragments and failed to address anything like a coherent whole.


Footnote[1]: I’m no longer going to link back to previous posts or comments, even when I mention them. I’ve noticed that they inflate my hit-count and comment-count, and feel that that effect ends up giving me a misleading impression when I fire up the Dashboard.

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Give a little clicky-love to The Weasel Times and Stoat Intelligencer, will you?

Her top post today doesn’t grab me — I don’t care what Michelle Obama (or any other person In The Public Eye) chooses to wear, and I don’t regard her as either particularly ugly or particularly pretty. (Note: shipload of salt required. I’m a white guy who thinks Juliette is sexy.) Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around black people, including black women, all my life. Michelle doesn’t stand out, particularly.

The one I’d like you to look at is today’s second on the page.

Commenter cynn sneers:

Your childish assumption is that we on the left can’t think or intuit for ourselves. That is is a costly misapprehension.

Well, yes. A goodish chunk of what I’m trying to do here — besides attract enough readers to make the tip jar a viable income supplement — is to explain that to my fellows in enough detail to help them avoid paying those costs. You should pay attention as well. You might learn something.

Cowboy asks:

…do you think there are two “camps” (for lack of a better word) in the Progressive Community…

Well, yes and no. Remember Rule #1: It ain’t that simple!

What there is, is a spread. It can’t be called a continuum because it’s composed of individuals, so a complete analysis would depend more on quantum concepts than classical ones, but there are so many dimensions to the problem that you have to drill down pretty deep before you have to deal with individuals rather than statistics. Just as in physics, some of the individual interactions (“quantum effects”) are contradictory or counterintuitive to the overall statistical (“classical”) analysis, and where the transition occurs from one set of rules to the other isn’t at all clear and sometimes seems to change. What makes the problem really intractable is that we aren’t dealing with neutrons here; these are people, prepared to stick their oar in the water and row vigorously at the drop of a proposition.

What happens in these discussions (and it always happens, if the discussion goes on long enough) is that one party starts out discussing overall conditions, taking the “classical” approach if you will, and the other gets uncomfortable with that and starts insisting that the individual or “quantum” effects are controlling — or the other way ’round. If you know about that sort of thing, it ought to remind you of the arguments between Einstein and Bohr (and their various allies) at the beginning of the last century, although Albert and Nels didn’t often get quite as raucous as these arguments do.

The “right” tends to approach the problem from the “classical” side, talking about policies and proposals that lead to secret police, death camps and/or committees, and damage to the general welfare and overall prosperity. Somebody from the “left”, like cynn, is then sure to chime in, to the effect that her interlocutors are absof*inglutely insane, that she doesn’t want any of that crap, that all she wants is to make sure that the children are fed, and you guys are positively wicked and evil for trying to prevent that — the individual or “quantum” approach. Somewhat less often, the “right” starts from the quantum approach, talking about individual rights and opportunities and stuff like “property” and “free speech”, and the “left” starts its rebuttal from F=Ma and works down, talking about the good of the people and the overall health of societies that do or don’t work as a team. Once in a while we get into lively discussions where both are approaching the problem from the same level, but they tend not to last long, because if you stay at the quantum level the “left” tends to come out ahead, and the classical approach tends to confirm the “right”, so one or the other participant is sure to introduce the other domain in self-defense.

And just as in physics, both parties are “right” in the sense of “correct”. Both parties are also wrong — and either can prove that by introducing arguments from the other domain of analysis. If we’re going to settle this, we’re going to have to start figuring out where one domain begins and the other ends, and confine our analysis to the proper domain. Otherwise we just go ’round and ’round, and nobody gets the brass ring.