Seeking to Empower Humanity with the Perspective to Manifest Evolutionary Change Everywhere

In the last few decades, it has become increasingly clear that humanity is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. The problems that stand in the way are not of economical or technological nature. The deepest sources of the global crisis lie inside the human personality and reflect the level of consciousness evolution of our species.

- Dr. Stanislav Grof

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I'm going to go straight for the jugular today.

Let's talk about how the Green/Progressive movement and the Libertarian/Tea Party are born from the same pool of American cultural ferment.

Still with me? You may need to read that one again to make sure you caught what I wrote.

Yes, I did write what I meant. And I do so because the time has come to explain why these movements are far less divergent than contemporary political consensus believes - and how the convergence of these two forces will have significant implications for the political and cultural fabric of the country.

Before you dismiss me out of hand, take a moment to consider these two movements AS THEY ARE. The Libertarian movement, which is seeing a recapitulation within the broader Tea Party movement, and the Green movement, which is being increasingly incorporated into the more mainstream Progressive movement, are born out of a disillusionment with certain fundamental assumptions and points of consensus by the national culture about the whole sphere of shared life - economic, political, cultural. While both of the modern movements can trace their current incarnations to the tumult of the culture wars of the 60's and 70's - they represent a bifurcation in focus on the most pressing issues of concern (the Greens the environment on a global level, and the Libertarians the Constitution and the Federal system), as well as a significant contrast in the ideological lenses each uses to judge the world.

But there is much more there that is shared than is not - and it is a quirk of the lingering hatreds of the post-Vietnam era that have prevented these shared visions from becoming clearer. Both advocate for localized, democratic, transparent, lawfully-ordered society. Both embrace the ideals of personal responsibility and economic self-sufficiency. Both reject American militarism and empire-building. And they both are skeptical of modern American society, which they tend to view as dominated by corrupt, counter-productive government agencies in league with over-privileged corporate interests that preclude the effective exercise of the democratic process.

But these correlations have not been sufficient to overcome the points of dissonance between these two movements. The Libertarian/Tea Party generally rejects concerns about climate change and other global problems as part of a "globalist conspiracy", and highly undervalues the environmental crises that are pivotal to the concerns of Greens/Progressives. While the Greens tend to fear Libertarians as reactionary anarchists who reject collective action and seek to undermine the cause of social justice. Worse, there is a fundamental disconnect between the social values of Progressives and Tea Partiers that tends to rapidly hijack any sensible dialogue between the two groups. While social issues (gays, drugs, abortion, etc.) tend to be less of an issue between "true" Greens and "true" Libertarians, they represent minorities in the mainstream movements that have built up around them.

Should Libertarians change their perspectives on the dangers of ecological collapse, and Greens moderate their advocacy for centralized decision-making - we could very well see a significant convergence that would significantly challenge the status quo, both politically AND socially. And what may ironically spur the potential for such a turn of events is President Obama.

Having generated a significant surge in poltical participation by Progressives during his presidential campaign, his ascencion to the Oval Office essentially gave birth to the Tea Party movement. His Presidency has, by and large, managed to please no one but the mainstream political consensus seen as the crux of the problem by both movements. While he certainly has slowed or deferred the reckoning of the American Empire (due to its overreach and near-bankruptcy), there is no hard evidence of any significant structural reforms that change the status quo.

Obama is representative of what the American mainstream considers the best about itself: a meritocratic, color-blind, ethical, thoughtful, world traveling, patriotic almnus of Harvard Law. If the best of the best of the status quo is incapable of leveraging the reforms needed to pull the country out of its slow death spiral - who else can do the job?


  1. Interesting post. For the most part, I agree with you. What I disagree with you about are the following:

    1. The Libertarian movement is unchanged. What's changing is the composition of the Republican Party. 16 years ago, the party had a set political identity: smaller government and significantly reduced federal spending. 8 years of Bush II caused a schism in the federation between the fiscally conservative-focused members and the socially conservative-focused members (a.k.a., the fascist imperialists).

    After watching a so-called conservative increase spending at an unprecedented rate while simultaneously marginalizing their voices, the fiscally conservative opted to reassert their voices in a call for sanity. Joining forces with the Libertarian agenda was just politically expedient.

    2. I don't think that society is dominated by "corrupt, counter-productive government agencies in league with over-privileged corporate interests". Honestly, the amount of coordination and logistics it would take to make something like that actually work far exceeds what any expected return would be.

    Rather, I think that American society is dominated by a network of corrupt individuals who operate in both the public and private sectors and exploit a web of complex and arcane processes (a.k.a., "the system") for their own personal gain. If others gain along the way, so be it.

    3. Lastly, I think that the difference between the Libertarians and the Greens seems to be in approach. To me, the Green approach appears to be force people to act responsibly through threat of punishment for not behaving as expected, while the Libertarian approach is to encourage people to act responsibly and reward them for doing so.

    Now, to your final question, I don't know who can do that. But I'll be willing to be that attempts to change the status quo will be met with vociferous resistance. The most significant of which will not come from the key players, but from those who benefit from them.

  2. I just have to pick a minor nit, because it irks me whenever I see it. I have some trouble ascribing a desire for personal responsibility to the Progressive movement. The have always seemed to me to be in pursuit of the Scandinavian model. If your concept of responsibility is to pay very high taxes to the various layers of government in exchange for services, then this may work for you. For me, it represents more an abrogation of responsibility, surrendering control to a bureaucratic machine in exchange for less fuss.
    On your larger point, that the Green/Progs and LiberTeaPartiers are both products of massive dissatisfaction with an establishment that has become, well, The Establishment, I completely agree. I am more on your side than Frank's with regard to institutional corruption. One need look no further than Senator Nelson's shameless bribe-seeking - and Senator Reid's shameless bribe-paying in response - during the recent health-care kerfuffle to see this in action.
    With regard to President Obama, his problem in main part is nothing more than expectations. By the time the general election actually wrapped up, he had been effectively beatified. There was simply no way that he could live up to the image that had been created for him. A few own-goals (tax-cheat Cabinet nominees, for instance) certainly did not help the cause, but there was just no way that Obama could ever live up to the role of The Chosen One that had been created for him.
    I suppose at the same time that to expect him to actually change the status quo is naive. He is a Harvard Law Review guy, a pol who came up in the Democratic machine in Chicago. To say that someone from that background is going to land in the White House and suddenly turn the entire system on its head does not seem logical to me. It was always more likely that we would get more of the same, just with a Left twist instead of the previous Right twist.

  3. Gentlemen, thank you for the comments. Very well said on a number of points.
    I do want to clarify that I was expressing the view that American society “as dominated by corrupt, counter-productive government agencies in league with over-privileged corporate interests” was representative of the two movements in general terms – and not necessarily the editorial opinion of this author. There is a lot of corruption and privilege and self-destructive inefficiency, but I would tend to view this as a product of bad design and petty individual interest more than a grand deliberate conspiracy. Living in the DC orbit, I would concur with Frank’ view that any conspiracy public or private having the kind of competency and organization necessary to pull such a thing off would be UNLIKELY.
    Also, to the difference of approach between the Greens and Libertarians, it’s interesting to me from my generational and social perspective how increasingly untrue that is about Greens. Using the term “Greens” broadly, I find that there is a rapidly increasing tendency to encourage people to act responsibly and reward them (or detail how they will rewarded as a consequence of their actions). The approach of the old guard falls more in line with a threat/punishment model – and the new generation is moving away from that because it isn’t effective at accomplishing positive change.
    That being said, it is important to state that the idea that punishing people for ecologically irresponsible behavior is hardly out of line with the dictates of simple Utilitarianism/Constitutionalism. If we assume that the basis of the law is that your right to swing your fist ends with the tip of my nose, and it turns out that you’ve been punching people (including me) in the face for decades – then it would seem that we would have a right to prevent you from continuing to do so.
    Of course, ecological responsibility does start getting outside the realm of personal responsibility. While I don’t concur with the assessment of Mark’s that Progressives simply fail to recognize the value of personal responsibility, I will agree they don’t place the same level of emphasis on it as Libertarians by a long shot. The point of contention is the role of social or collective responsibility – which Progressives clearly do place more emphasis on than personal responsibility.
    I will speak more to social responsibility vs. personal responsibility in my next post, since its gets straight to heart of the debate about making human society sustainable.