Evolution, Free Markets, and Complexity

Adam Smith
Charles Darwin

Many secular liberals, and even a few secular conservatives, take great pride in the theory of evolution’s victories on the public square. In recent decades, they have forced their Deist opponents to retreat and regroup in response to a new reality.

But the movement of our society toward this more scientific stance brings with it new responsibilities. And, at times, the follow-through has been inconsistent.

For example, many of those who supported the teaching of evolution in schools also favor a shift toward some degree of centralized socialism. You sometimes hear their more strident voices disparage Adam Smith’s description of capitalism as an ”invisible hand”. They scoff at the idea that human economic order could emerge from an unplanned, self-organizing process.

The internal contradictions within these beliefs usually go unnoticed. But commonalities between the theory of evolution and the theory of free markets are quite clear. While Adam Smith and Charles Darwin might have explored separate scientific disciplines, in different centuries, the foundations of their work ultimately addressed the same pattern. They described a process in which a long series of adjustments to the surrounding environment resulted in the creation of some higher order. That order is constructed through trial and error; through many failures and a few resounding successes.

This has led to one of the great ironies in modern political discourse: the centralized socialists and the Deists see themselves as irreconcilable opponents, yet both sides often rely on the same flawed argument, depending on which issue is being defended. The two assertions – anti-evolution and anti-free-market – share the unproven claim that some wise, external, supervisory intelligence is required to shape and stabilize a system that would otherwise devolve into either chaos or formlessness.

Among the centralized secularists, this belief is confirmed by their deep reverence of high-level bureaucrats like Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, or Anthony Fauci. Alan Greenspan, for example, was called ”the Maestro” due to the widespread belief that he could exert an almost god-like control over a wide range of markets from his perch atop the Federal Reserve.

This collective blind spot might have continued unnoticed if not for the emergence in recent decades of a new science: complexity theory. Its pioneers have deepened our understanding of principles that were initially outlined by thinkers like Darwin and Smith. Complexity theory’s growing body of work now grants legitimacy to a wide range of iterative and non-hierarchical ordering processes.

This development, perhaps as much as any other, has contributed to the recent authoritarian power grab by America’s political and economic elites. That gambit is often interpreted as an aggressive act motivated by greed. Which it is. But the power grab also has a defensive component. It can be seen as the nervous counterattack of a deeply entrenched – but now existentially threatened – paradigm against a populace that increasingly recognizes how much it can be empowered by complex citizen-to-citizen interactions.

This is a type of conflict that Americans have not seen for more than two centuries. We often attempt to describe this new battle using imprecise, outdated twentieth century words like liberal and conservative; left and right. While those concepts do still have meaning and merit on their own, they are now secondary factors. Any attempt to use them as descriptors for today’s conflict can only add confusion to an already difficult situation.

Instead of using yesterday’s “values language”, the question that must be answered by today’s society is whether the centralized power structures constructed in previous eras are still effective. In other words, should political power still be controlled in a top-down manner? Or should we instead rely on the lessons learned within the science of complexity?

Complexity theory describes a set of processes that reside at the bottom of the political circle. The sub-processes of evolution and of free markets find shelter under its umbrella (but not, it should be noted, the processes of K-Street crony capitalism).

This iterative, non-hierarchical, edge-of-chaos ordering paradigm stands in opposition to the uniformity-mandating centralized power structures now in place in the United States. Thus, Americans are caught between opposed forces that represent the two poles of an unfamiliar duality. Twenty-first century citizens must learn to navigate between those poles.

Our Posturing Political Parties

Joe Biden and his vocal lieutenant, Cedric Richmond, could not have sent a clearer signal last week. Their proclamations proved that the prime conflict of the previous era – left versus right – has now become a secondary concern. In its place, a more urgent question – top versus bottom – has taken center stage.

Biden’s boastful vaccine mandate, followed by Richmond’s prediction that any opposing governors will be ”run over”, leaves little doubt that the Democratic Party now seeks to rule by decree. The goal is to concentrate power in a very few hands. The constitutional construct of States Rights has become just another barrier to overcome. And the executive order …… a mechanism that was hardly countenanced during the 1787 convention …… has become the tool of choice for enforcing the party elites’ will.

Adherents to an outdated model of the political spectrum might think, “The DNC is a creature of the left. Therefore, Biden’s mandates are liberal initiatives.” They wouldn’t be alone in this flawed assessment. Many intelligent analysts suffer from a similar blind spot as they conflate power grabs with assertions of values.

The values of Democrat elites do lean left. But liberalism is no longer the prime goal of that Party. Its current leaders have committed themselves to the transformation of American society into a top-down system. Maneuvers over the past decade have left no doubt about this goal of centralized, siloed control.

In retrospect, it was inevitable that America would come to this moment. As I explained in The Great Conflation, the dominant economic and social trend …… from Alexander Hamilton, through Lincoln, Rockefeller, Wilson, FDR, and beyond …… has been a gradual and inexorable increase in the centralization of political power. Eventually, this process was bound to reach a critical mass. There would be a point in time where those at the top felt that the brass ring was now within reach. A final authoritarian grab would commence.

The woke movement did not just coincidentally arrive on the national stage at the same moment as this authoritarian overreach. Wokedom is a stalking horse. It isn’t a prime impetus of party politics, as they would have us think, but instead the means to an end. It is power hiding behind values. Just beyond the rhetoric about justice and equity lies an effort to concentrate more control within a few specific institutions.

Climate change, affordable housing, Covid19 controls, and other party initiatives are similar. Like the social justice movement, these issues do stand up to scrutiny on their own merits. They address important questions that require serious debate and decision-making. But discourse has been hijacked. The elites have used the seriousness of these topics to grant themselves greater control over the nation.

The Republicans have lately been posturing as an alternative to the authoritarian impetus. But to the Citizen, that party has become an example of “fool me twice, shame on me.” Experience has shown GOP party policies to be a confidence game.

When the Republicans are out of power, as they are now, they pander …… representing themselves as the final firewall between the Average American and Big Brother. It’s a message that often brings them back into the majority. Then the wars, executive orders, and draconian values legislation resume …… the Texas anti-abortion bill being one small example.

The GOP does lean conservative. In this it has been consistent. But a national party will, by definition, be oriented toward national control. While the GOP now markets itself as a defender of “the people”, its elites respond to the Power Question with bi-polar, erratic, hypocritical, and undependable answers. A few of them do seem to support citizen empowerment, while most remain mired in alliance with the Deep State.

Unfortunately, there exists no large-scale political alternative for the growing number of American citizens who seek an egalitarian approach to the exercise of power. On the other hand, however, the vacuum has not gone unnoticed. Intellectually sincere members of the lower left quadrant have recently begun to comment on this deficiency. For example, Matt Taibbi here, and Jonathan Turley here.

But even the most astute minds are still failing to discern the question that begs to be confronted at this point in our country’s history. Turley addresses America’s traditional reliance on “federalism” while choosing not to clearly define the core term in his argument: therefore, he fails to make a direct assessment of today’s bold effort to fully centralize social and economic power. For his part, Taibbi laments the lack of an alternative political party, and the sad ramifications of its absence, while glossing over the difficult work that must be done on the ground to give birth to a viable alternative. The first step in this groundwork is for those with common interests to get on the same page …… to adopt an accurate common model of the political spectrum …… and to use it as a basis for their vocabulary.

These gifted thinkers are held hostage by their own talent. Yes …… there are many times in which a sophisticated and detailed assessment is necessary to develop a full understanding of some problem. But a once-in-four-generations conflict must be distilled to its most basic elements. The elegant simplicity of a core construct – that any doofus can understand – must be established before the more complex analysis can commence. This is the nature of a societal paradigm shift. As Neil Howe and William Strauss observed, Fourth Turnings boil down to a single succinct Question.

The shift to a two-dimensional political spectrum is the first step toward framing that Question …… and its answer. Citizens on the right and left can only come together to cooperate in this framing when they rely on a model that shows how their commonalities outweigh their differences. Occupants of the lower quadrants will need to no longer self-label primarily as “left” or “right.” Those terms must be superseded by self-identification as “citizens first”. Only then can effective alliances be pursued.

The two corrupt political parties will remain in power until this difficult work is undertaken.

Why Marohn Matters

There are many reasons to feel disconcerted by recent events in America: Covid runs unabated, Afghanistan devolved into chaos, inflation fails to be transitory, important supply lines are disrupting, authoritarian power grabs are on the rise, and long held rights are in retreat.

But the news is not all dark. Sincere and intelligent voices are now entering the public square in growing numbers, determined to speak up on behalf of timeless human yearnings, like free speech, universal justice, objective public analysis, and the right to make one’s own choices.

This new band of activists has gravitated recently toward Substack. But its writers, including Glenn Greenwald, Michael Tracey, and John McWhorter, stand on the shoulders of an often-unacknowledged previous group. The Substackerati and their allies should really be characterized as a “second wave” of thinkers whose message is emerging in a post-Trump political era.

They follow in the wake of a “first wave” of writer/activists, some of whose messages were crafted in the pre-Obama era. This earlier clan includes prescient voices like James Howard Kunstler, Chris Martenson, and Charles Hugh Smith.

Both groups produce effective, insightful analysis today. Their common perspectives place them in the lower quadrants of the political circle ……

The two “generations” give similar answers to a fundamental question about power: each member addresses the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and is skeptical about the controls now being asserted by top-down institutions. But despite these commonalities, the two groups differ in one important aspect.

The pattern exhibited by the more recently emerged pundits is to comment on national events and on mainstream initiatives. Thus, you see Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, and others writing about Washington DC policies, the military-industrial complex, flawed major media narratives, and corporate woke initiatives. This indicates an orientation toward – and a criticism of – those who hold positions of centralized power. In other words, the newer generation of writers attempts to hold its diametric opponents, the top-down institutions, accountable.

In contrast, observers like Kunstler and Martenson emphasize the impact of centralized policies on the decisions that individuals and local communities must make about their own lives. While the first wave’s political position is in proximity to the second wave’s, their focus points in a different direction. The first wave thinkers speak less about what’s wrong at “the top”, and more about what can be made right at “the bottom”.

One American figure is playing a crucial role within this dynamic. Charles Marohn, author of the deeply insightful new book Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, is aligned with the earlier wave of more locally-oriented thinkers, many of whom he has close ties with. But Marohn differs from the bulk of first and second wave activists because his influence has never been restricted solely to commentary. While he does excel there, Marohn is an instigator of effective action, in addition to being a person of letters.

This combination has created synergies. For example, his commentary has always been notably disciplined in its focus on pragmatic, grassroots, incremental, and local solutions. He only makes brief, strategic, high-level forays into commentary on national issues. When he does, the clear emphasis is on analysis over opinion …… an emphasis that resonates with readers and listeners who previously associated with the traditional left and the traditional right.

Marohn has also charted a route that no other prominent contemporary figure is pursuing. Over the past decade, in concert with like-minded thinkers, he has built a grassroots, nationwide organization. This broad network – Strong Towns – serves as an excellent example of how citizens can organize horizontally and non-hierarchically to address issues they’ve observed in their local communities.

The work Marohn has undertaken is not easy. Local politics are just as dysfunctional as national politics …… if not more so. This has caused progress during the early stages of the Strong Towns movement to be necessarily slow: defeats must, by definition, outpace victories. Throughout this long initial phase, Chuck has remained both respectful and resolute. He seems to understand that turbulence must be expected in an emergent, self-organizing process.

But the important work of building a viable organization has been undertaken. A band of equals has been formed. This large and growing movement will be ready to influence outcomes as local jurisdictions are forced to address the difficult new problems of an unexpected future.

Commentators are valuable, including those who hold powerful institutions to account. But a flexible organization that’s effective on the ground is indispensable. Marohn has been instrumental in providing both at a very high quality.

Who Is Donald Trump?

Most discussions about Donald Trump serve as indicators of just how broken and bi-polar American political discourse has become. For his loyalists, Trump represents the MAGA savior, courageously and cleverly taking on all Swamp Creatures. To a different group of partisans, he’s a singularly evil character, the Hitlerian figure who will make democracy die in darkness.

For the few who choose to stand at arms’ length to either tribe, such good-versus-evil assessments seem counterproductive on their face. But there is perhaps even more damage beneath the surface of our collective discourse because few have asked an important question: Where does Donald Trump stand within the long arc of American history?

The most reasonable answer to that question would be to compare Trump to other American presidents. This approach presents a problem to both sides, however. The Never-Trumpers are stumped because they can find no suitably fascist predecessor. The MAGAs draw parallels to Reagan, or even to Lincoln or Jackson, but such connections tend to be overblown and narcissistic.

Comparisons to previous politicians fail to be relevant in Trump’s case because no other president embraced the role he has chosen to play. To understand that role, one must recognize that the country is in a particular phase of a specific historical cycle.

America finds itself within the early-to-middle stages of our era’s Fourth Turning …… a cycle that has repeated every eighty years or so since before the nation’s founding. Therefore, based on past experience, the current conflict seems likely to escalate into something more dysfunctional, more intense, and more existential as the next months and years play out.

To understand the role the Orange Man plays in today’s political conflict, we must look back to the agitations of similar figures during the same phase of previous Fourth Turnings.

For example, in the events preceding the Civil War, John Brown filled a role that parallels Trump’s. When Brown arrived on the national scene, the plight of Black Americans was festering below the surface of collective discourse. But the country refused to address it, preferring instead to be distracted by flawed compromises and irrelevant conquests. Brown’s rhetoric and actions forced the country’s citizens to make a choice. They declared their allegiance to one side or the other …… even if they disliked the man or disagreed with his methods.

Similarly, the Boston lawyer James Otis played Trump’s role prior to the Revolutionary War. He too brought suppressed sentiments out into the open by inserting statements like “no taxation without representation” into the public discourse. Here again, onlooking citizens felt compelled to declare their loyalty to one side or the other.

In both of the earlier cases, the instigator’s understanding of the nation’s plight was instinctive. It was also, to a large extent, unclear to the man himself. Each pursued an intuitive vision of where the country should head, but that vision moved toward fruition haphazardly, through a process of trial and error. In short, each of these personages functioned as one crucial variable within a larger, emergent, self-organizing process.

Unfortunately, in the two previous examples, the anti-hero was fated for demise. John Brown died on the gallows. James Otis suffered a complete emotional breakdown and was ushered off the public square into ignominy.

The 45th president displays moments of volatility and instability that are disturbingly similar to those earlier figures. Yet Trump’s 2016 candidacy and ensuing presidency began to shift the country’s terms of debate. He forced a growing plurality of citizens to choose their side on the Fundamental Question that will drive our society’s decision-making going forward: will America become a centrally governed, semi-authoritarian nation …… or will its earlier commitment to individual autonomy and local self-governance re-emerge?

As each day of 2021 passes, the old divisions of left versus right, or liberal versus conservative, are becoming less relevant. Our Turning’s conflict – that of top versus bottom – has become the more urgent topic of political discourse. We see this manifested in a series of Otis-esque dichotomies, like the The Elites versus The People, masks versus mandates, woke education versus school choice, social media bans versus public debate, or vaccines versus free will. Trump instigated this debate in 2016 with his vague and rambling calls to “drain the Swamp.” The outlines of the conflict have steadily become more clear to the rest of us ever since.

It’s possible that a businessman who survived several bankruptcies could re-invent himself politically and return to the World Stage as a Lincolnesque figure. But a more likely outcome is that America will turn its attention toward more sophisticated thinkers. A Churchill or a Gandhi might soon emerge. Or, as Glenn Greenwald suggests, a smarter, more stable version of Trump.

As new leaders help the nation to frame the existential decisions it faces, The Donald will ultimately be acknowledged as an important instigator, but his influence over future outcomes will likely fade. Trump will be referenced in the history books as a crucial early figure in an unfolding process. But he won’t be considered a main player in the founding of a new, more just, and more sustainable political paradigm.

May the Phrase “Non-Partisan Science” Rest in Peace

It should come as no surprise to Americans that mantras like “follow the science” have been asserted in the wake of 2019’s Covid outbreak. The statement is an attempt to establish the superiority of one’s own views. It posits one opinion as objective and well-reasoned. Conflicting viewpoints can then be labeled as pseudo-science or conspiracy theory.

I discussed the foundations of this flawed assumption in The Structure of Political Positions, page 110, where the nature of partisanship was explored. The conclusion: Partisan viewpoints aren’t the one-dimensional left-right outlooks that everyone assumes them to be. Instead, partisanship is two-dimensional. Some of our disagreements weigh more toward subjective questions. Others involve objective assessments.

Since science orients toward logic, its conflicts orient vertically on the political circle ……

I took this point further in my book by observing a pattern: “If a person claims to be ‘non-partisan’ in one direction, then they will be highly partisan in the other.”

The description fits the “follow the science” proponents with precision. Their narrative presents science as a non-partisan standard, with the implication that no rational person could come to a conclusion that differs from theirs. But it’s more accurate to describe their approach as a specific form of partisanship. Their “scientific conclusions” still require robust debate. Sometimes such conclusions become stronger under scrutiny. Other times, they weaken.

Unfortunately, within the Covid narrative, one set of partisans is attempting to shut down debate, in an effort to anoint their conclusions as “truth.” The latest iteration of this trend can be seen in initiatives and policies that mandate the use of mRNA vaccines. Establishment scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and other representatives of entrenched top-down bureaucracies have spearheaded such attempts.

But a “diametrically opposed” viewpoint also claims to follow the science. PhDs and MDs like Bret Weinstein, Robert Malone, and Chris Martenson, point out a series of blind spots and flaws in the establishment’s reasoning.

The dispute between these two camps can either be described as featuring differing interpretations of a set of facts or as the application of differing sets of facts. But the conflict also runs deeper: the two sides support opposed assessments of science’s meaning and role in society. The non-establishment figures address science as a process which leads to conclusions that must be tested. They never present science as “settled.” In contrast, the establishment players increasingly present science as an unassailable standard to be established by credentialed experts.

In truth, most advances throughout the history of science have been accompanied by inter- and/or intra-disciplinary partisan divisions. One recent example is the debate over whether a comet collided with the polar ice cap approximately 12,800 years ago, resulting in unprecedented environmental changes. Scientific discourse has displayed strident conflict on this question in recent years, just as science has engaged in similar discourse in past centuries regarding other objective questions like the motions of the planets or movement of the earth’s continents. Scientists line up on either side of these partisan divides with predictable regularity.

But today’s Covid-related divisions differ in nature, and in scale, from the typical scientific conflict because vaccine mandates are also features of political power. They aren’t just professional disputes about reasonable conclusions surrounding objective facts. They are also political disputes about who, if anyone, should be granted the power to make decisions about other people’s lives. Some people believe that specific “experts” are qualified to mandate control over others. Others believe that most individuals should maintain wide latitude over their own decisions.

To be understood properly, these issues must be distilled to their essence. “Follow the science” has been presented as an objective proposition …… which it is. But it’s more accurately described as a partisan assertion of centralized power, which now increasingly ventures into authoritarian territory.

The debate over Covid mandates, allegedly in the name of science, follows the paradigm I’ve discussed many times in this blog. The twenty-first century’s primary conflict is not horizontal: left versus right has become a secondary concern. When two opponents argue that “the science” exonerates their views while dismissing their adversaries’ assertions, they are engaging in vertical political conflict ……

In this context, the debate about science is subsumed by a larger conflict. That larger conflict is framed by a Fundamental Question: What should the structure of power be within our society? In other words, who should have control? Should heterodox thinkers like Weinstein, Martenson, and Malone be allowed to air their analysis on the public square? Or will the heads of centralized bureaucracies, like Fauci and Walensky, be the only voices we hear …… and the generators of mandates we all must follow?

It falls to our era to determine the outcome of this larger power struggle. It is an objective question that is nevertheless quite partisan.

Substack Nation = Proof of Concept

When I spoke with James Howard Kunstler, way back in the antecovidian days of 2019, his first question was tough, but fair: “If the political spectrum takes the form of a circle, then where are all the residents of the lower quadrants?” He noted that Ron Paul and Ralph Nader fit the profile, but both were getting long in the tooth.

Julian Assange and Edward Snowden had already performed much of their work before I wrote The Great Conflation, so a handful of members did represent the lower quadrants ……

But Kunstler had a point. Few figures stridently combined a citizen-empowering power answer with their longer-held values orientation, whether that values belief resided on the left or the right.

This dearth had always been less pronounced on the right, where libertarian leanings occasionally allied with conservative values. On the left, however, the thrall of progressivism caused many liberals to equate centralized power with insightful wisdom and a seemingly limitless capacity for good works …… if stubborn obstructionists would just get out of the way.

But today, for a growing number of liberals, faith in the state has eroded.

Exhibit A for this trend is the group of left-leaning writers who now congregate on the online platform Substack. Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Bari Weiss, and Michael Tracey are just a few of the journalists, formerly employed by mainstream publications, who have become “substackerati” …… either by choice or by circumstance. They’re joined by thinkers like John McWhorter who maintain a relationship with their mainstream institutions while speaking out against the direction of those institutions’ policies.

These figures have two key characteristics in common. (1) Each represents a set of values that is avowedly liberal. (2) They are also some of the strongest voices arrayed in opposition to the authoritarian policies of the establishment (in general) and the Forces of Woke (in particular).

Unfortunately, while their writing establishes the transformational edge of today’s political discourse, they often fail to recognize the paradigm that they themselves represent. This becomes apparent in their use of language. Even the most gifted of writers, like Taibbi and Greenwald, frequently use the same term (“liberal,” “left,” “progressive“) to represent opposed concepts …… occasionally connoting contradictory definitions of the same term within consecutive paragraphs. But “The Left” cannot represent the good guys and the bad guys at the same time. An entity cannot oppress itself.

Clearer distinctions will emerge over time, as more minds move toward the lower quadrants, and as existing occupants become more familiar with the twenty-first century’s terms of engagement.

What are those terms of engagement? ……

While divisions between the left and right – our values orientations – will remain important, they have now become secondary to the other Fundamental Question, which addresses power. The prime conflict of the current epoch orients vertically. Our era’s battle is waged between the march of uniform centralization at the top of the circle, and an edge-of-chaos empowerment of citizens – including their communities – at the bottom.

Substack Nation has chosen its ground in this conflict.

The Two Words to Watch For

DeltaNewsHub (CCBY2.0)

When some political entity feels backed against a wall, and in need of a knockout punch, one of two words will be featured in their language. This pair of terms provides clues about our political system’s structure. And you can learn a lot about an entity based on which word their statements emphasize.

For example, the CEO of Delta Airlines issued a release last week about Georgia’s election bill. The money line was concise: “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.

One can imagine his team of consultants carefully crafting the language …… debating the impact of phrases like “crystal clear.” By finishing with the word “values” they tried to establish an unassailable position. Who could argue with a company that defends its values?

A different kind of statement was also made last week: one I discussed previously. During an NCAA basketball tournament telecast, Charles Barkley said: ” I think our system is set up where our politicians …… are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power.” Here again, a sentence’s final word received the most emphasis: power.

These two words – power and values – sit at the heart of every debate in America. And it’s instructive to observe whether one (or the other) of these terms is left out of some entity’s effort to influence those debates.

In Barkley’s case, an indirect reference to values was added to his more direct reference to power when he said: “I think most white people and black people are great people.

On the other hand, Delta wasn’t fully forthcoming about its orientation toward power. The company was deeply involved in crafting the Georgia election bill, as were other corporations. But this attempt to influence politics was downplayed until others called the company’s bluff. Delta is organized around a top-down structure, with employees and customers arranged into silos. The company skillfully exercises centralized power, both internally and externally.

Americans were free to feature the values debate throughout the first two centuries of the country’s history because our initial governing framework featured a robust balancing of power. But that dynamic has gradually shifted as centralized institutions – corporations like Delta, and statist bureaucracies – have garnered outsized influence.

In our own century, the Power Question is no longer resolved. More citizens, like Barkley, are calling for a re-balancing between centralized and citizen-based power. But the elites insist on hiding behind indistinct assertions about values, without acknowledging their behind-the-scenes machinations.

The liberal versus conservative values debate can no longer be regarded as the primary conflict of our society. Instead, the late-1700s power conflict of centralized versus citizen-empowerment has reemerged. But a deeper conflict always lies below these two fundamental debates. The Power Question and the Values Question compete for every entity’s loyalty.

Barkley and Delta have made their choices on the deeper debate. Both are focused on power. Unfortunately, only one of them will admit it.

Barkley and the Backlash

chensiyuan (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

Recent political comments by Charles Barkley have received a lot of attention, including an intense pushback. But his dust-up isn’t just another example of mudslinging. A sound structure sits below both sides of the debate he instigated. And every citizen will need to become more familiar with it.

Using unambiguous language, Sir Charles blamed both major political parties for America’s divisions: “I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power.” (Spoiler alert: regular readers will notice the importance of that last term.)

In response, Barkley’s detractors accused him of blindly following a “both sides” fallacy. One twitter user summed it up: “I’d love to see someone ask Charles to explain exactly which D politicians are trying to make white people and black people hate each other, which ones are using racial dog-whistles or racist tactics like voter suppression/accusations of fraud to divide and demean.”

This debate was instigated by the topic of race. But it’s centered on the two political parties. Barkley astutely wove together several subjects that weren’t often grouped together in past eras, but are increasingly associated with one another in ours: race, power, political parties, and intentional division.

Beneath the surface of our discourse, America has been experiencing a surreptitious yet unrelenting shift toward such connections. Barkley’s comments bring that perspective into the mainstream. But the underlying framework needs to be better understood ……

At the most basic level, Barkley acknowledges that the country’s primary conflict is not left versus right. Instead, he sees a top versus bottom division: centralized power structures in vertical opposition to the citizens. Then he favors one end of that axis by professing faith in those citizens: “I think most white people and black people are great people.”

Barkley’s detractors, on the other hand, insist that the country’s only conflict is left versus right: a horizontal framing that can label “the other side” as racist.

At the heart of this debate sit the RNC’s and DNC’s chameleon-like, shape-shifting self-presentations. Barkley calls out both as coercive, top-down forces. He accuses them of controlling people from their powerful position.

The response can be distilled to: “No, the parties are opposed!”

Where do the parties really reside? Both sit high in the upper quadrants of the circle ……

The two Fundamental Questions function as the foundation of this conflict. Barkley favors one: “Who should control power in America?” The backlash favors the other: “Which side exhibits better values?” Each of us much choose which to prioritize: Is the horizontal values question more important? Or should I focus vertically …… on power?

The parties pretend to compete on one, while they quietly cooperate on the other. Their power grab is becoming difficult to hide, though. If they can’t tamp down on comments like Barkley’s, they’ll be facing a two-front war for the hearts of the American people.

It’s not a war they can win.

Twitter’s Love Fest With …… NATO?

In a bizarre new chapter, the latest headline coming from social media reads, “Twitter Says It Purged Dozens of Accounts for ‘Undermining Faith in NATO‘.” The company’s explanation? The perpetrators had “ties with Russia.”

Why would a leader of the woke movement go to bat so assertively for a military organization? When Twitter shuts down accounts – and consequently free speech – it typically asserts social justice or other allegedly noble motives. Why NATO? Why now?

Two categories of justification characterize social media’s typical cancellations. In one, technicalities are cited: “Twitter prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization.” This was the excuse presented when they buried the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story.

The other justification is loosely defined as “preventing hate speech.” This one comes closer to a values assertion. It has been paraphrased as “we don’t want to be this kind of country.” While they rarely explain their motives thoroughly, the values Twitter promotes are aligned with ideas like community, the commons, and compassion.

Woke beliefs reside along a specific range of the political circle. And like all partisan movements, wokedom answers two fundamental questions. So, while it leads with progressive values – practically yelling them at every opportunity – the impact of its power answer now comes across louder. Social media’s efforts to control the flow of information using centralized structures have become a primary characteristic of the movement.

This exposes a fault line within a movement that would like to be known for its inclusive values. We can be certain that many members do lead with their conscience. But the leadership is now focused on top-down political control. And their motivations can no longer be hidden.

In this regard, the social media monopolies are following in the path of the Democratic Party. Its leadership – represented by the DNC – purportedly supported the citizen throughout the twentieth century, as demonstrated by its working class policies. In the early twenty-first, however, their policy objectives have moved much closer to those of the Deep State and its allies …… including the military.

This shift in position was driven by tactics. As entrenched national bureaucracy grew, it wielded more political power, despite claiming to be “non-partisan.” The DNC then had to move toward centralized policies because alliances were more effective there.

Twitter, Facebook and related companies occupy a location on the circle that’s quite close to (if not exactly aligned with) the position of the DNC. While they’re relatively new players in the game, their position is ages old. They know who their comrades are. They’re creatures of centralized power.

So it should come as no surprise that social media is acting on behalf of NATO. The military organization is actually much closer to Twitter’s political position than are the more values-oriented members of the woke movement.

This presents a problem for those whose consciences have drawn them toward woke beliefs. Should they continue to support centralized power? Or is there a better way to accomplish the societal improvements they seek?

Why the Citizens are Losing the War

This week witnessed two important actions that drew only slight notice. The first was a series of Eric Weinstein tweets directed at Jack Dorsey. The second was a mass email sent to Gab members by Gab’s founder, Andrew Torba. Both efforts tell us what’s right – and wrong – with their nascent movement.

Weinstein’s tweets attempted to call out Mr. Dorsey’s opaque algorithms that shadow ban citizen-empowering voices. Torba’s goal was similar: to rally “populists” toward new methods of action.

Both men are enlightened and erudite representatives of their positions. And both show the courage of their convictions. But there’s a difference between recognizing a problem and building an effective solution. They’ve completed Part A. There is no plan for Part B.

Their common theme centered on Big Tech’s disingenuous controls. But neither could separate his left-right leanings from the larger issue at hand. Weinstein’s tweets read like the plaintive pleas of a liberal jilted by a fellow member of the left. Meanwhile, Torba’s quite accurate comments about centralization were mixed with unproductive exhortations about his Christian beliefs.

Neither man was able to visualize today’s conflict with the required accuracy.

For example, social media wields influence at the behest of its enablers …… the DNC, Deep State, globalist CEOs, and related groups. None of those players functions as a free-standing entity. Each operates within an alliance that works to concentrate power. Their agenda sometimes leans liberal, but the far larger goal is control.

What Weinstein and Torba are missing is this: The primary conflict of our era is Centralized Power against Decentralized Power. It’s a significant shift from the previous era, where liberal values squared off against conservative values.

Each of these Fundamental Questions – Power and Values – drives a society’s decisions in different epochs. Torba and Weinstein have nobly stepped forward to lead today’s conflict, but they’re like generals fighting the last war. Left-Right divisions are now secondary.

Can either side of this new battle – centralized or decentralized – be considered inherently good or categorically evil? Many examples show the damage wrought by overly-concentrated power: Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Saddam’s Iraq. Likewise, too much decentralization leads to chaos, as Somalia shows. The question America faces today is one of balance: can each side keep the other in check?

It’s clear that the elites are not being held in check. No citizen-empowering alliance counters today’s centralizing coalition. Instead, decentralizing voices “on the left” still naively address monopolistic figures “on the left” as friends. But Jack Dorsey is not their friend. Neither is any figure associated with the DNC. Meanwhile, on the right, activists like Torba don’t separate their religious beliefs from the society’s move away from liberty. This conflation of power with values has hamstrung efforts to build citizen-empowering coalitions.

Weinstein could easily undercut Twitter by becoming a prominent voice on Gab or Parler. But Torba has dis-invited liberals by mis-associating Christian values with free speech. Neither person will develop into a effective leader until he draws better distinctions between his adversaries and his allies.