Millman’s Taxonomy ctd.


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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41 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:


    Maybe that’s the missing piece.

    Romantic vs… what? Realist is too loaded, “rationalist” doubly so. Cynic?

    Would it boil down to Optimist vs. Pessimist?

    Maybe that’s the last piece.Report

    • Avatar Freddie in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, my own tendency is just to think of it in terms of faith in human “goodness.” I don’t have much.

      Or something similar. It’s tangled. More than anything I am deeply uncomfortable with the rise of this triumphalist attitude towards human progress, this enforced presentism, this insistence that things are getting better, and everybody better get onboard.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    By this taxonomy, I’d have to call myself a liberal/right/progressive. Can I just say that that feels wrong?Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, But it’s so much more precise than calling you “libertarian.”Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Will says:


        More terms won’t necessarily mean more precision. In particular, using the word “libertarian” puts me in an intellectual tradition, something that the taxonomy fails to do.

        When an educated person in the United States sees “libertarian,” they may think of Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Robert Nozick, and Milton Friedman. And they will be right to do so. To a large degree, these are the people who shaped how I think about politics. With just one word, you know a lot about me. It might not be quite as precise as I’d like it, but it’s definitely something.Report

  3. To re-iterate the comment I made on William’s post, I think it’s incorrect to see reactionism as some kind of affinity-for-the-past mentality. Often it’s a resistence to excessive or unneccessary change, not change itself.Report

    • @Mike at The Big Stick,

      yes, and today it’s a reaction to direction, calling for a different direction to progress.Report

      • @Mike Farmer, Quite true. I think what you’re describing would be Progressive Conservatism a la Teddy Roosevelt or Eisenhower. Forward thinking, willing to accept or even pursue change, but adhering to some notion of tradition and cultural norms. The question is, in our current hyper-partisan climate and with the Left in charge, can Progressivism exist on the Right? On a few issues it does (education being the shining example) but it struggles.Report

        • @Mike at The Big Stick,

          I think a redefined progressivism can exist, but it will entail Republicans articulating the progress in terms of private sector empowerment, a new moral direction, voluntary and innovative, enlisting fresh young brains to put their compassion to work replacing the failing welfare state. It could be a dynamic, exciting direction, but Republicans lack the vision and courage, so far. Our society needs such a challenge and they need the responsibility and involvement — and I believe they would willingly take it on. Our power exists in the hearts and minds of the people, not in politicians perpetually running for re-election. One of the parties needs to break free from the cold chains of statist solutions. Such a direction could inspire the young, women, minorities and independents who are disgusted with the status quo. We have no visionary leaders.Report

  4. Avatar Schofield says:

    And here is a beautiful line from Phillip Blond to screw up the taxonomy:-

    “In fact, any anarchic construal of the self requires for its social realization an authoritarian statism to control the forces that are unleashed. ”

    The line is to be found here:-

  5. Avatar Schofield says:

    It’s a bit of a stretch to call Blond a Reactionary Will when he’s saying that both Libertarianism and Socialism come from the same litter and should have been smothered at birth!Report

  6. Avatar Steven Donegal says:

    When I read Millman’s taxonomy, I thought he had his tongue firmly in his cheek and was using it, with a glimmer in his eye, to gently poke fun at those who feel a compulsive need to categorize everyone on the political scene. That so many seem to be taking it seriously makes me appreciate the joke even more.Report

  7. Avatar Schofield says:

    Pretty true. Ideologies as a veneer to cover our ape like behavior!Report

  8. Avatar Rufus says:

    I’m still stuck on the conservative/liberal distinction. You write:
    “I have very little faith in authority, perhaps because I find authority a cheap and meaningless substitute for voluntary virtue.”

    That’s the thing- I do too, which would seem to put me on the “liberal” side. However, I also recognize that plenty of other people embrace authority and use it to guide their lives. I certainly think there’s something cheap about that too. But, really, who am I to say?

    The problem I have with liberalism, in general, is that it often goes from, “You’d be freer outside of this structure of authority” to, “No, seriously, you need to drop this nonsense and start thinking like us”.

    I think the last time I discussed this issue with a liberal, it was about her comment: “The world will be much better off when people finally stop believing in God”.

    Having said that, the problem I have with the conservative embrace of authority is that it’s often just an unthinking embrace of the powerful status quo as good for the rest of us.

    So, like Steve Martin said, I probably wouldn’t believe in anything if it wasn’t for my lucky astrology mood watch.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus says:

      @Rufus, I tend to sympathize… I mean, I can think of a handful of authorities that I would defer to. If they would say “you are going to start doing this”, I probably would start doing this. (Mostly because, knowing them, I know that the likely values of “this” are pretty much good things that I don’t do because I’m doing different, not necessarily bad, things.)

      But my Classics professor from my Sophomore Year isn’t going to be mayor anytime soon.

      If you find the right authorities, I’d be the rightmost guy in the room. The folks we have now? There isn’t “left” enough on the chart.Report

      • Avatar Rufus in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, But I’m not saying there any authorities worth submitting to, nor that I’d want there to be.

        All I’m saying is that plenty of other people choose to willingly submit to authorities, whether it’s studying under their favorite professor as a grad student or moving in with the Branch Dividians or just doing whatever their priest tells them to. What is the liberal response to that? How do we kindly say, “You’d probably be better off if you didn’t submit to that authority”, without eventually coming to saying, “No, seriously, we’re here to liberate you now”?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus says:

          @Rufus, oh, I see what you’re saying… yeah, that is a corker.

          It’s easy to fall back on the whole “false consciousness” thing. Too easy. You can end up asking “What’s The Matter With Kansas?”

          On the other hand, there is crap like David Koresh out there and you know that those folks were, in fact, nuts following a guy who was, in fact, nuts.

          Yeah, you’re right. I dunno.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, It’s easy to fall back on the whole “false consciousness” thing. Too easy. You can end up asking “What’s The Matter With Kansas?”

            Exactly. Too often, when I’m hearing liberals describe their vision of progress it sounds to me like, “gradually, of course, everyone will come to think like I do.”

            On the other hand, there is crap like David Koresh out there and you know that those folks were, in fact, nuts following a guy who was, in fact, nuts.
            And too often when I’m listening to conservatives talk about authority it sounds to me like, “How dare you accuse those priests of molesting children!”Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Rufus F. says:

              @Rufus F.,

              > Exactly. Too often, when I’m hearing liberals
              > describe their vision of progress it sounds to
              > me like, “gradually, of course, everyone will
              > come to think like I do.”

              That’s a pointed and appropriate criticism, and I agree. I happen to think the converse problem is just as pervasive:

              “Man, everything was great until people started not thinking the way I do. Get them damn kids off’n my lawn!”

              @ OP

              I’m starting (just starting) to get a handle on you now, E.D. You’re an interesting cat, that’s for sure.Report

    • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus says:

      I don’t find that liberals have a problem with liberal authority — in fact, most liberals are promoting liberal authority.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Mike Farmer says:

        @Mike Farmer, Well, right. What I’m trying to say is that it’s difficult to criticize everyone else’s version of authority without implying that your own authority would be better for them.Report

        • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

          @Rufus F.,

          I was agreeing — however, there is a view which promotes freedom from all coercive authority, except the authoritative body which has been given consent to prevent coercion. Libertarians are calling for limitations on authority, and, yet, they are dimissed. I find that odd.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Mike Farmer says:

            @Mike Farmer, I haven’t dismissed libertarianism as of yet- which is funny because I’ve sort of bashed liberalism and conservatism in this thread and elsewhere, so it seems like an oversight!

            One critique I would make- and it absolutely does not apply to present company- is that my own personal experience would seem to indicate that some libertarians might have trouble selling their ideas to others because they can be… well, insufferably self-righteous in a way that rivals the hippies.

            But, I guess my own political instincts tend to be 50% libertarian/anarchist, 20% liberal, 20% conservative, and 10% socialist. I’m my own party. I will prevail!Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Rufus says:

      @Rufus, I think most “liberals” in the conventional US use of that term are actually left-wing conservatives. They want an authority that helps the disadvantaged, not an absence of authority.

      Liberals in Millman’s sense – people who really believe that people usually make better decisions for themselves without authority intervening – are and always have been quite rare. Even many libertarians limit themselves to saying that governments tend to make bad decisions, hence the widely varying libertarian attitudes towards other forms of hierarchy and authority.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Simon K says:

        @Simon K, I think it’s hard to be anything 100% of the time. I have this Sufi anarchist friend who likes to say “we’re all conservatives sometime”.

        Actually, that’s what seems so strange to me about this period in time. I never met people who really seemed to want to be 100% liberal, or 100% conservative, or 100% libertarian before about ten years ago. I did meet people who were 100% Marxist, but they seem to have disappeared.

        I mean, really, all political ideologies have certain areas where they work really well. I generally turn into a raging libertarian most quickly when it comes to unnecessary laws being applied to non-problems. But, overall, I think of political ideologies as akin to a salad bar- use what’s best when applicable and don’t try to load up on nothing but croutons!Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Rufus F. says:

          @Rufus F., There’s definitely tribalism going on with current liberalism and conservatism. It something to do with the strengthening of the part system, and that outside of Ohio liberals and conservatives live quite seperately. Here in Northern California, I know plenty of people with conservative opinions, but only one person who calls himself a conservative. Its always a bit surprising to me that there are people who want to be 100% libertarian – they seem to be an internet phenomenon, I never meat them anywhere else.

          To some extent all three axes Noah talked about are false dichotomies. Very few people would claim that trusting individuals over authority is appropriate in emergencies, or that authority should run every detail on day-to-day life, for example. So its always surprising that people really want to attach themselves to these extremes. It seems they do though – a lot of political discussion is about explaining away the areas where your particular extremes don’t seem to work, or besmirching your opponents for deviating from them. Which is to say, its much more about reinforcing tribal loyalties than it is about solutions.Report