Rocco: Why so Extreme?

Being extreme is not in fashion these days, is it? No one would willingly characterise themselves as an “extremist”. To do so brings to mind terrorism. How about “radical”? Again terrorism comes up. Or, if not terrorism then ideological stuff like communism or racial supremacy.

“Ideological”, that’s another word that is shied away from nowadays. Look at British politics. The last thing any politician would want to be called is ideological. To have an ideology, to suggest policies based on ideology – this is suicide.  Reform the NHS? Ideological. Reform State schooling? Ideological. Suggest that printing money might not be such a great idea? Ideological. Ideology is forbidden in British politics.

Now, an ideology is nothing more than a set of ideas one has, that one acts in accordance with. To have an ideology is to have principles. To have principles is to be “principled”. And perhaps there lies the problem.

Being principled has downsides for a politician, obviously. An MP, while not having to be all things to all men, does have to be alot of things to alot of men. Men who in all likelihood don’t share the same principles. Remember too, that constituencies are made up of ever changing constituents. To be principled is impractical for the politician.

But what about those of us who aren’t politicians? Why do we have to shun ideology? Is there some reason we shouldn’t be openly radical, maybe even extreme, in our political opinions? I for one see no reason why we shouldn’t think big.

As an anarcho-capitalist I do think big. I tend to push the free market idea as far as possible. This makes me an extremist, apparently.  Certainly,  anarcho-capitalism is a minority position. Believing in free trade is a minority position, for goodness sake! So those of us who want a completely laissez faire society are tiny in number. But, that goes for you small government types too, remember. Most people want a big government.

Wouldn’t it be much better then, to be practical? To not mention all the radical stuff? To advocate incremental change?

I think not. The key thing is that we (anarchists and minarchists) are so incredibly few.  What we need is to become, at the very least, a sizeable minority. How do we become that? By changing the publics mind. By presenting our beliefs as a glorious alternative to big government. By winning new recruits. Not by compromising.  Because not only is it wrong to compromise with evil [hi, Rand fans!], it’s also impractical as it turns out.

Take State spending. We might think that cutting it by 20% is a good start. But…10% would be more popular surely. 5% more popular still. 3%? Surely everyone could be convinced to agree to that? But look what we are announcing to the public in advocating this measured, sober, ‘practical’ cut in spending: that we are happy with the other 97%. That’s the message. And don’t think for one second that there won’t be opposition, fierce opposition, to such a small cut. For proof turn on the news, open a paper. That fierce opposition exists because 97% of the ground has been conceded before the argument has even begun, and as a result any small gains will be easily lost.

On the other hand, take Socialism. An idea refuted as many times as it’s been attempted. In theory, in practice, in nation after nation a disaster. But it’s a big, radical idea, and as such there’s never a shortage of folk willing to try it, willing to vote for it. It’s ridiculous, horrifying and wrong obviously – but that is immaterial.  Socialism is a vision of a glorious future. It gives people something to aim for.

Now, I’m not saying that we should reject any small step in the right direction. But we must keep in mind where we want to go, and convince as many people as possible they should come along. To do that requires radicalism. Because if we hide our goal from the public, how will we ever convince them we’re right? And, when the public do happen upon our ideas, at best we’ll be thought insincere, at worst conspirators working for the rule of the rich and the enslavement of the poor.  That is: either we don’t believe the things we say, or we dare not admit how evil we are. As far as winning people over to our cause is concerned, that doesn’t sound terribly practical to me.


24 comments on “Rocco: Why so Extreme?

  1. Talwin
    September 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Funnily enough, I’ve just come to your article having sat, with duffer,Vince Cable, prattling on in the TV background and slagging off someone, almost certainly the Tories, for being ‘ideological’ about something.

    Sorry about the lack of detail, Vince doesn’t exactly make for riveting and compulsive listening, but it nicely reinforces your point, I think.

    • Rocco
      September 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Thank you, Talwin. Good old serendipity, eh?
      As for listening to Vince Cable – you have my sympathy.

  2. John Eaton
    September 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    This article hits the spot for me. I have been an ‘extremist’ ever since Lady Thatcher came on the scene (and even she did not cut taxes as much as I wanted).

    Still amazes me that telling lefties I would like state spending reduced gets me a reaction of swivel-eyed rage every time.

    • Rocco
      September 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Thank you for the support, John. It is much appreciated.

  3. Angry Harry (@AngryHarrysPage)
    September 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    One big mistake currently being made by many of those who would like to reduce government power is their antagonism towards Greenwald and Snowden – who are desperately trying to explain to the world just how much extra power governments are likely to accrue with their hugely invasive surveillance operations.

  4. emale
    September 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    I think one distinction that may safely be made is that “ideology” belongs in the public sphere whereas “principles” belong more to the personal or private conduct of the individual.

    In many ways, those of us on the right, and I mean by this, those who believe in a small state and personal responsibility, conduct themselves by a simple set of principles. There is no overarching ideology, or set of dogmas dictated to us in the form of a grand plan which has been passed down to us from the fetid mind of an “intellectual” or religious fanatic.

    So we try to get on with our lives, asking for little in return for having little demanded from us. We don’t want to impose a grand plan which must be imposed by force. That is the difference between left and right. The difference between force and consent.

    • Rocco
      September 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

      Well if you want to split hairs, dude!
      But this is a battle between ideas, after all. The “right” not having an ideology is not a virtue – its turning up to battle unarmed.
      Given that, its no surprise that the “left” are winning.

      • therealguyfaux
        September 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

        One is put in mind of the Left being the fellow in the Arab bazaar waving his sword around, with the Right being Indiana Jones:

        The trouble is that we have been conditioned to think of using a gun (literally as well as metaphorically) as something that “just isn’t done.”

        What that “gun” is, we will all have to decide– but we must be possessed of it when we go up against our opponents, or it’s “John the Baptist” time.

      • Rocco
        September 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

        Indiana Jones clip? Unless something spectacular happens, you, my friend, have just won the comments!

  5. theaustrianway
    September 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Welcome to the pulpit, Rocco! Great to see one of our best commenters make the leap across the divide and join our team of mind-hustlers!

    As a libertarian, Austrian and gold fan, I’ve just got used to being looked at as if I was foaming at the mouth these years. Such has been the success of liberal imperialism in seizing control of our nation’s ‘cognitive map’.

    • Rocco
      September 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

      Mind-hustlers, eh? I like the sound of that!

      And I hope that, in whatever small way, I can assist in seizing some of that cognitive map for Austro-Libertarianism.

  6. kevinsmith2013
    September 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    In a similar vein, in my principled, nay radical opinion, we shouldn’t be pushing for a referendum on EU membership, we should campaign to leave the EU, ASAP.

  7. Anthem
    September 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    Hey Rocco! Good stuff there my friend.

    I do believe that Rand’s take on compromise that if you take one drop of poison and add it to a bucket of water then what you have is a bucket of poison.

    In my view, the reason why “the left” always seems to win (even if the victory is only illusory and temporary before being bailed out by some “crisis” or other which “no one could have seen coming”) is because “the right” requires people to be responsible for their lives. It’s a scary thought.

    Far better for most people to have that cuddly comfort blanket that is “the state” to keep you safe and warm from cradle to grave.

    It’s obviously a vote winner, anyway.

    • Rocco
      September 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

      Anthem, what a pleasure to get a comment from you! Thank you, very much.

      On the ‘scary-ness’ thing, our job is to convince people that – contrary to appearances – it is in fact the State that is truly scary. That’s why its so important to have an ideal to aim for, so as to be able to ‘show’ to people. Criticising big government is all well and good, and its neccessary, actually. But you have to offer something positive too.
      Another, more pertinent, example is Objectivism. Miss Rand had an ideology, and she was proud of it, and she was forthright in proclaiming it. She shouted it from the rooftops that her way was better. Yeah, she slagged off plenty of people. But more importantly she showed the world something worth striving for. As a result, she convinced more people than anyone in history to adopt laissez faire economics. This is a magnificent achievement. But it would have been absolutely impossible if she’d have been ever so, ever so careful not to rock the boat, not to be thought “out there” by her enemies.

      • therealguyfaux
        September 16, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

        What needs to be done is for the Right to do as Ayn Rand did, and work out for everyone the implications of what happens when you concede any portion of the “moral high ground” to the Left, and allow them to implement programmes that are not moral in the least when put into practice.

        Ultimately it comes down to telling people it IS all right to think of yourself societally as the mother aboard the depressurising jet plane who must don the oxygen mask first, before thinking of her infant– contrary to whatever instinct might tell you to do– because “instinct” won’t save your infant in that particular instance.

        You must tell them it IS all right to “go Galt”– it is the counterpart of and the counteraction to the Left’s Cloward-Piven strategy and will expose that strategy for what it is, an amoral-at-best and immoral-at-worst piss of biblical proportion being taken.

        And specifically, if your opponents should attempt to engage in the sort of “Ayn Rand, THAT old harridan? The biggest hypocrite?” vituperous name-calling should her name come up, neither defend nor condemn her and tell them to deal with the issues presented.

        My tuppen’orth in all this.

      • Rocco
        September 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

        I get what you’re saying about sticking to the issues, but I’m not sure about that ‘not defending Ayn Rand’ stuff, dude. (I presume you’re talking about the claiming social security thing, yeah?) I won’t spoil out for you, but Walter Block has an excellent article on this: “Its Ayn Rand bashing time again”. He shows that there’s nothing wrong with an opponent of the welfare state accepting benefits. You should give it a glance when you get a minute, man. As should anyone else who reads this. You can find it on Lew

  8. chrisjmanby1989
    September 16, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    The problem isn’t just that principled conservatives are hesitant to confidently articulate the case for sanity. It’s that left wingers can espouse the most ridiculous, illiberal nonsense and get away with it, whilst loudly caricaturing their right wing opponents.

    Support wholesale nationalisation of industry, confiscation of private property or even full-on communism? Proudly declare your love for mass murdering revolutionaries and dictators? Rant loudly and often about ‘neoliberalism’ without quite understanding anything about economics? Or perhaps you just hanker to be the guy with the machine gun massacring reactionaries after the revolution. That’s all fine, because you’re left wing, and therefore ‘principled’, ‘radical’ and caring.

    Suggest that the state takes too much of our money to spend on useless crap like wind farms, the NHS, or the welfare state, and you are dangerously ‘ideological’, right wing, probably a fascist and your opinions must be immediately and loudly condemned by every liberal journalist, presenter, commentator and activist in the land.

    • Rocco
      September 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      Exactly, Chris. That’s why if we want genuine liberalism, we shall have to grow thicker skins.

      • chrisjmanby1989
        September 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

        Or make a point of deliberately pissing off every left wing journalist, presenter, commentator or activist in the land. My reasoning being that if you draw their ire, you’ve obviously done something right.

        Great post, by the way!

      • Rocco
        September 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

        Thank you, Chris. It’s very much appreciated, I assure you.

  9. Russell Taylor
    September 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Welcome to the team, Rocco. Great first piece!

    • Rocco
      September 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      Thank you, very much Russell.

  10. therealguyfaux
    September 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    My “neither defend nor condemn Ayn Rand” was meant to convey that she has been made into a bogeywoman whose name is used as a “conversation killer”– my point was not that she was not worth defending on a personal level on some matters (and perhaps worthy of condemnation on others– though not on receiving a benefit into which she had paid).

    My point was that debating Ayn Rand herself is an exercise straight out of the Saul Alinsky bag of tricks– “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” (It must be said, however, that many of his other rules have universal application, and we would do well to study them.)

    The person of Ayn Rand herself is irrelevant to the discussion, and it is a diversion which in some ways cedes to them a “right” to claim a moral high ground to which they are not entitled, if they attempt to moralise about her.

    • Rocco
      September 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Yeah, I know what you mean, dude. To be honest, I just wanted to plug Walter Block.

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