Saturday, November 22, 2008


I keep hearing folks remark that America is "Center-Right", but nobody ever seems to ask them what they mean by that. Just where is this Center of which they speak?

Let us imagine the political spectrum as a straight line in keeping with the usual metaphor. If that line is infinite in length, as straight lines are, then any point on the line would be the "center" because there would be an infinite length on either side of the point. If America is even one point to the right, would that make it "Center-Right"? And what would that even mean? Nothing really unless you have some definition of the center.

Let's suppose instead that the political spectrum is a line segment with a finite length, in which case the center would be a point precisely halfway along the segment's length. The attributes of the center would depend on where one placed the end points of the segment. If I take the right hand point as National Socialism under Hitler and the left hand point as Hutterite communal society, where would America be? Would it be closer to Hutterite life or to Nazi Gemany? What if I take a Taliban-like theocratic tyranny as my right hand point and Western European Socialism as the left?

To compound the problem, how does one quantify degrees of leftness or rightness so as to render a precise measure of where the center is located?

And while we're at it, what does "America" mean? I hope I'm not Center-Right or any kind of right, and lots of folks I know who claim to be conservatives aren't really right wing at all when you examine their views. They're more like classical liberals.

I reckon America is Center-Left, and I am confident in this pronouncement because I realize that it is a meaningless statement.

No comments: