The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 April 2005

Sort of centered

I have generally described myself as a "centrist," a word which in today's political context means something like "moderate," a word which in today's political context means absolutely nothing, according to Francis W. Porretto:

"Moderation," shorn of all context, is not only value-free but semantically empty as well. The same could be said for its linguistic opposite, "extremism."

Name a political subject; that is, name a condition, process, or hazard that might conceivably be improved by State action. Conceive of a position on that subject. How does one judge it to be moderate or immoderate? By where it fits into the range of possible positions on the subject? Or by where it stands in opinion polls? Or by how dramatic its results are likely to be?

Were I completely given over to cynicism, I would be inclined to say that, on this particular scale, the "moderate" position is the one that is least likely to work: its results will be the most dramatic (or most ignominious) failure.

Most issues are, to greater or lesser extent, binary: any intermediate positions are derived from the desire to create exceptions to a rule.

(Note: This was written on 4 December 2004, never posted, forgotten, and rediscovered during routine maintenance; I decided to put it up anyway.)

Posted at 7:57 PM to Political Science Fiction


I like Francis Porretto. I like observing the workings of his intellect as manifest in his written words. Sadly, the problems that libertarians and Marxists have are much the same: their theories are lovely but they just aren't keen enough observers of the behavior of their fellow human beings to have enough genuine insight into what people actually want or how they will behave.

Perhaps rather than “moderate” (which clearly doesn't characterize my views) or “centrist” (which only characterizes my views in aggregate not when considered seriatim) a better designation is “pragmatist”. The slogan of the pragmatist is “half a loaf is better than none”. Pragmatists have quietly observed and acted and effected small changes and improved things little by little while the radicals of the Left and the Right have spun their elegant theories and complained that the world just isn't good enough because it doesn't conform to their beautiful ideas.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at 7:32 AM on 2 April 2005