Points of View
I have little patience with all the talk I have seen on the web about socialism, capitalism, and other political theories. To me, most politicians and political theorists are just arguing the merits of what are only points of view, not the underlying reality visible from them. I suggest instead the use of an engineering methodology for describing the reality by finding and exploiting orthogonal views.
Imagine the U.S. Capitol building, scene of so many of these futile arguments — seen from directly above, the huge dome looks like a flat disk, seen from the front steps, the building is a Greek temple with no visible dome, but seen from the top of the Washington Monument, the dome completely dominates the building.
Yes, one can argue the merits of these points of view. The view from overhead gives the best idea of the size and structure of the building, and although it doesn’t show the dome’s height, we might point out that nothing of any importance takes place in the high empty dome. But the view from the across the mall shows the grandure of the dome and of the building as a whole: surely this is the best point of view.
But politics is not a matter of aesthetics; nobody cares how pretty society looks from a particular political viewpoint. People are going hungry, homeless, or jobless, falling into drugs and crime, all intimately affected by what the politicians ultimately do. This is the reality, which we fail to grasp as a whole because we are obsessed with our own points of view.
I recommend instead a methodology such as engineers use in describing a building or any other object. An engineering description of an object is not one drawing, from one point of view, but several drawings, representing several points of view at right angles to one another. The term “orthogonal” means at right angles, and in an abstract space there may be many more than three orthogonal axes.
Political thought can also be described in terms of coordinate axes. One axis is very familiar: left-wing to right-wing. An extremely left-wing person, or leftist, is someone believing in the egalitarian ideas of socialism or communism, or at least supporting the rights of the poor and being critical of the rich. An extremely right-wing person is someone believes in unrestrined capitalism, or the rights of the nobility or the very rich, people who have money, probably blaming the poor for their own condition. You may disagree with my account of this distinction, but I am sure you recognize the axis I am describing.
Another axis that is easy enough to identify if you study the history of political movements is what I call the “vertical” axis, because it related to expressions for the source and movement of political power. Political power can be “top-down” or “bottom-up”. Top-down power is authoritarian power, from the top of a hierarchy it flows down to the poor powerless individuals on the bottom. Bottom-up power is the power of “grass-roots” movements, the power of the masses, visible in the way powerful politicians suddenly do everything they can to please the voters when an election is near.
We can find extreme left wing and extreme right wind authoritarians: Hitler and Stalin come to mind but more typical would be any of their more idealistic followers. Russian communism was an authoritarian left-wing movement, while the various forms of fascism were more or less right-wing elitist movements of an equally authoritarian character.
The other end of the vertical axis is anarchism, which advocates the elimination of hierarchies and political (top-down) power. European anarchism, and the anarchism of European immigrants to the U.S. was left-wing, equalitarian or socialistic anarchism, but the United States had a home-grown form of anarchism, usually called libertarianism, which was individualistic and elitist in tone.
Can we identify a third axis? Perhaps.
The motto of the French revolution, was “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”, or expressed in English, “Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood”.
The idea of Liberty roughly corresponds to the vertical axis, authoritarian vs. libertarian, top-down vs. bottom-up, and in fact represents a point of view on that axis, the view from the bottom, so to speak, the viewpoint of a person who rejects authority and values personal freedom.
The idea of Equality is concerned with the left-to-right axis, and represents a point of view from the left.
But what is Fraternite or Brotherhood?
To me what the French call Fraternite is better expressed in English as Friendship. The problem is identifying the coordinate axis it represents. Like Liberty and Equality, Friendship or Brotherhood is one of those motherhood issues, so to speak, on which everyone pretends to agree. But there is still a right-wing and an authoritarian element in modern society, and in the same way there are those who work to minimize opportunities for friendship and make brotherhood impossible. There are people who label others as enemies and eventually lead us to war with them.
At the other end of the scale are people who don’t just oppose war but actively seek to promote “the brotherhood of mankind”. But the pure form of this activity is hard to distinguish, since humanitarian and peace movements are so often also anti-authoritarian and equalitarian movements.
The key thing to remember about the engineering methodology is the importance of orthogonal axes. Describing a building from any three points of view is better than just describing it from one, but the closer the viewpoints are, the less distinct information each one can provide.
So while appreciating the anti-authoritarian and egalitarian efforts of the humanitarian and peace workers, what I am most interested in is something else, what is unique to the goal of world brotherhood, what is the essence of the problem of friendship.
Liberty makes it easier for people to be friends, and so does equality, but the true core of the problem is that people are different and not just anybody can be your friend. Each person has a personality and temperment which distinguishes him or her from every other person in the world. Finding a complementary or otherwise matching personality to form a genuine friendship, or a sound marriage, or to form a successful team to work together — that is the hard part.
From the point of view of an anarchist, all social problems arise in compulsion from authority, and the one thing that has to be done to cure society is to eliminate the authoritarian hierarchy.
From the point of view of an equalitarian socialist, all social problems arise in the unequal distribution of goods, and the only thing that has to be done to cure society is to distribute all of its goods and services equally.
From a point of view that we might call fraternalist, all social problems arise in the difficulty of finding compatible friends, mates, and co-workers, and the only thing that has to be done to cure society is to arrange for people to readily meet others they are compatible with.
I am not writing this just for the purpose of arguing a fraternalist position, or whatever we call it, but to to suggest the engineering methodology, in which we examine society from many different points of view on many different coordinate axes, compare what we see, and from these various views make plans to fix society and make it work in ways that people from all of these points of view will recognize as better.
Copyright © 1998 Douglas P. Wilson
Copyright © 2009 Douglas Pardoe Wilson
Other relevant content:
Please see these web pages:
The main Social Technology page.
Find Compatibles , the key page, with the real solution to all other problems explained
Technological Fantasies , a page about future technology
Social Tech a page about Social Technology, technology for social purposes. I think I was the first person to use this phrase on the Internet, quite a long time ago.
Roughly corresponding to these web pages are the following blogs :
Social Technology the main blog, hosted on this site, with posts imported from the following blogger.com blogs, which still exist and are useable.
Find Compatibles devoted to matching people with friends, lovers, jobs, places to live and so on, but doing so in ways that will actually work, using good math, good algorithms, good analysis.
Technological Fantasies devoted to future stuff, new ideas, things that might be invented or might happen, such as what is listed above and below.
Sex-Politics-Religion is a blog about these important topics, which I have been told should never be mentioned in polite conversation. Alright that advice does seem a bit dated, but many people are still told not to bring up these subjects around the dinner table.
I believe I was the first person on the Internet to use the phrase Social Technology — years before the Web existed.
Those were the good old days, when the number of people using the net exceeed the amount of content on it, so that it was easy to start a discussion about such an upopular topic. Now things are different. There are so many web pages that the chances of anyone finding this page are low, even with good search engines like Google. Oh, well.
By Social Technology I mean the technology for organizing and maintaining human society. The example I had most firmly in mind is the subject of Find Compatibles , what I consider to be the key page, the one with the real solution to all other problems explained.
As I explained on my early mailing lists and later webpages, I find that social technology has hardly improved at all over the years. We still use representative democracy, exactly the same as it was used in the 18th century. By contrast, horse and buggy transporation has been replaced by automobiles and airplanes, enormous changes.
In the picture below you will see some 18th century technology, such as the ox-plow in the middle of the picture. How things have changed since then in agricultural technology. But we still use chance encounters, engagements and marriages to organize our home life and the raising of children.
I claim that great advances in social technology are not only possible but inevitable. I have written three novels about this, one preposterously long, 5000 pages, another merely very very long, 1500 pages. The third is short enough at 340 pages to be published some day. Maybe. The topic is still not interesting to most people. I will excerpt small parts of these novels on the web sometime, maybe even post the raw text for the larger two.
This site includes many pages dating from 1997 to 2008 which are quite out of date. They are included here partly to show the development of these ideas and partly to cover things the newer pages do not. There will be broken links where these pages referenced external sites. I’ve tried to fix up or maiintain all internal links, but some will probably have been missed. One may wish to look at an earlier version of this page , rather longer, and at an overview of most parts of what can be called a bigger project.
Type in this address to e-mail me. The image is interesting. See Status of Social Technology
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, Douglas Pardoe Wilson
I have used a series of e-mail address over the years, each of which eventually became out of date because of a change of Internet services or became almost useless because of spam. Eventually I stuck with a Yahoo address, but my inbox still fills up with spam and their spam filter still removes messages I wanted to see. So I have switched to a new e-mail service. Web spiders should not be able to find it, since it is hidden in a jpeg picture. I have also made it difficult to reach me. The picture is not a clickable link. To send me e-mail you must want to do so badly enough to type this address in. That is a nuisance, for which I do apologize, but I just don’t want a lot of mail from people who do not care about what I have to say.
Copyright © 2009 Douglas Pardoe Wilson