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Quora Answer : As a leftist, what is your opinion on the centrist?

Jun 30, 2018

As a far leftist I don't try to make judgements about people based on a simplistic one-dimensional left-right spectrum.

I want to know what kind of "centrist". What does this person think that the centre is? What values and policies do they actually support? Etc?

But, of course, I have some heuristics about centrists which I'll use until I find out more about the particular centrist.

1) I tend to think that "the centre" is a myth. It's like the average human with one breast and one testicle.

Very few people actually have one breast and one testicle. And very few people actually hold positions that are half way between what you think of as left and right. You can want higher taxation and a hospital or lower taxation and no hospital. But who wants a bit of taxation and half a hospital? To make that any kind of meaningful you need to get much more specific and concrete about how you'd make half a hospital. What trade-offs it would involve. Once we find those out we'll find more interesting positions which the word "centre" doesn't really capture.

2) With regards to the liberal centrists, particularly those who have been in charge in recent years, I think they simply don't understand or underestimate the revolutionary / transformative power of capital. I think they don't like the destructive power of capital but they see that more traditional left-wing responses have "failed" or gone wrong. So they think "OK. Let's have the right mix of capitalism, constrained by government oversight and taxed to pay for a welfare system to compensate for the problems it creates. That way we can have the best of both worlds."

Now there's nothing inherently wrong with this desire. But, in practice, this kind of system is rather like Jurassic Park. The golden rule of Jurassic Park is that if you try to keep dinosaurs in cages to perform for the people, sooner or later the dinosaurs are going to break out and eat you and everyone else.

Same with this centreish liberal democratic park. If you try to keep the capitalist in a cage to work for you, sooner or later he is going to break out and eat you.

He'll use his money and power to bribe the guards, undermine the regulatory security systems you put in place to contain him, sponsor anyone who tries to overthrow your liberal order and its ideals of justice and equality, and will try to replace them with an oligarchy dedicated to increasing and protecting his own wealth and power.

The capitalist can't help this. As many on the right like to warn / remind us, "people respond to incentives". And capitalism, the system, creates the incentives for the capitalist to overthrow the liberal "accord" between capital and the rest of society.

So I think people who support such a liberal accord between capital and society are naive to believe that such an accord can be sustained in the long run.

3) But really, dear centrist, tell me what "centre" actually means to you. And what values and policies are there. And I'll tell you what I actually think of you.

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