Archive for August, 2011


Revisiting Meade
by DataPacRat


Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Jacksonians, Jeffersonians, Hamiltonians, Wilsonians—the idea isn’t new, but looking at it from certain perspectives can still offer new insights.

For some time now, I’ve associated Meade’s four archetypes with colours, both to remind myself of their meaning, and to save my fingers when typing about them. Wilsonians are White, the colour of hope and peace; Jacksonians the Red of blood-stirred martial pride; Jeffersonians the cool Blue of rational thought; and Hamiltonians the Green of greed for money. I’ve long associated myself with the Blues, and doing so has helped me to be able to frame why I disagreed with various people about whole clusters of issues. However, I recently noticed that while I was able to come up with insulting stereotypes of the other three groups, I was having trouble coming up with a similar negative version of my own group—and this lack of self-awareness gnawed at me.

Taking the time to think about it, I realized that the negative versions I was able to come up with had something in common: the negative form of Whites is exemplified by the Hollywood elite, who spend their time trying to impress their peers by talking about helping others rather than actually doing anything that helps; the negative Red stereotype is the jingoistic redneck, who tries to impress his peers by talking about being honourable rather than actually being honourable; and the negative Green, the fat-cat banker and financier, tries to impress their peer by talking about the wealth they make rather than trying to improve their company’s finances. Looked at that way, I was finally able to identify another group that can spend more time trying to impress their peers with a virtue rather than actually practising said virtue: the hallowed halls of backbiting tenure-track academia.

Once I knew the negative forms of each group, I was able to take a better look at them: by stripping away those people who exemplify each faction’s worst, I could finally get a better understanding of what each group could be at its best: Whites who actually do go out and try to help other people; the personal honour and integrity of the Reds; the skill at increasing wealth and the economy of the Greens; and the rationality to solve abstract problems of the Blues. And from there, it becomes easy to see what such people have in common: their desire to go out and improve the world, as exemplified by the archetype of the hard-headed Engineer. Similarly, the negative forms have their own overlap and archetype: their desire to increase their status compared to other people and so control them, in the form of the Politician.

While on opposite poles, both Engineer and Politician have one thing in common, the axis around which the entire system revolves: whether you’re trying to control the world or other people, the one thing that’s a necessary prerequisite is controlling yourself.

Lastly, comparing the methods of Engineer and Politician, when they work in the other’s area, reveals that their methods have a fundamental difference. Should a politician try to convince a bridge to try harder to carry more weight, or the Earth that holding off on having an Earthquake past the next election cycle is in its own best interests, or simply repeat to the sky that it can’t fling down meteors until the sky itself believes it can’t… then reality will simply continue following its own natural course, completely heedless of the Politician’s efforts. However, an Engineer who, as usual, carefully examines how people react to various events, what levers can be used to push them this way or that, and then applies such observations and corrects the application with increasing experience… can, at least in theory, do at least as good a job at persuading people as a Politician who seeks control over them.

Of course, there’s a difference between theory and practice. There has been a distinct lack of people who are able to frame arguments appealing to Whites, Blues, Greens, and Reds—and so there seems to be some additional insight I’m missing to explain that lack. Or perhaps this entire structure is flawed from the start and would be better thrown away by a model with better explanatory and predictive power. If such is the case, then I welcome any feedback that would improve my understanding.

Thank you for your time.