Whenever I hear the term “moderate” in political parlance, I tend to think of the kind of person who reaches a fork in the road and goes whichever way it’s hanging. Or I think of the type who, never able to decide between steak and lobster in a restaurant, ultimately chooses based on pressure from his companions. But when the choice lies between food and poison, as it often does in politics, the problem takes on a measure of more gravity.
If you call yourself a moderate, you can mean one of two things. You could have a strong opinion on a host of issues in a way that doesn’t combine to fit a common group, such as being pro-war and pro-whore, which is commendable. Or you could mean that – being part Democrat and part Republican- your principles are literally half-ass.
Most moderates are of the second variety. They constitute the enlightened swing vote that can sway an election based on a decades-old scandal uncovered at the last minute. While moderation is commonly valued for being non-threatening, room-temperature politics, it actually underlies much of what we find so stupid, inconsistent and hypocritical about the political world. After all, if you have half ass principles, the least you can do is not follow them.
The vice of moderation is that it undermines any basic moral principle to which it’s applied. The moderate will tell you that if you believe in something, and believe in it hard enough, then you are an extremist. But certain fundamental matters are extreme, like the universal depravity of murder. If moderate exceptions were made to that principle, you can imagine what would happen. It’s exactly what’s happening to the extreme political principle of freedom.
It is the moderation of freedom that has led to indecency laws and campaign finance directives that violate free speech, sodomy laws that violate free association and a whole crap load of regulations that hinder free trade.
Take the Republicans, who once believed in the inalienable principle of a minimal government. Having gained power, they’ve conveniently decided that the growth of power is inevitable, and that it might as well be stroked to their own ends. If you can’t beat ’em, beat ’em. So they’ve become moderate about their original principle – discovering new notions of decency and compassion that make the nation less free but more civil in the eyes of Republicans.
All forms of freedom suffer from the biases of moderation, but free enterprise is the most vulnerable, since it has the most biases working against it. Despite the fact that almost every showering person accepts a free market as the best general system, its full application still meets dogmatic resistance. It threatens not only the power of the privileged, but also the righteousness of helpful.
That’s why our own Global Studies Dept. has been active in the resistance. A shibboleth runs in the department that the rise of Japan, for instance, was due to direct government involvement in the economy. But like most pontifications from moderation, the claim relies more on hope than thorough scholarship.
Not only was the major Japanese market crash a direct result of its command economy, but every industrial success is also traceable to sectors government left alone, while the four industries in which the government invested crashed.
Dr. Tom G. Palmer, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, had this to say about all those who think Japan’s ministry of the interior is God: “The MIT loves to take credit for Japan’s successes and avoid blame for its failures.”
Fine, so maybe they are like God. But it’s a good thing faithless Mr. Honda ignored their advice against his idea to first export cars.
But if the truth was accepted that pure economic freedom produces the best possible results given present circumstances, there would hardly be a need for a bunch of college courses bemoaning the supposed victims of free enterprise. Moderation isn’t merely a psychological affliction; it can be a profitable one, too.
Alec Mouhibian is a Daily Nexus columnist.