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We don’t need our political ideologies anymore
Just our political ideas.
After last week’s post, a few people looked at my upcoming fields of study (capitalism, cooperatives and employee ownership, the commons, and democratic socialism) and made an assumption that they might disagree with my political beliefs. But I want to be clear that I do not adhere to any one tenant of faith as I set about my research.
I always say that I have a lot of ideas but no ideologies. And that’s because I don’t think it’s helpful to attach myself to any particular ideology—whether that’s Republican or Democrat, capitalist or post-capitalist, socialist or communist, anarchist or libertarian. All of these movements, and many others, have ideas about how to solve the problems of humanity and those are all ideas worth having. And worth sharing!
They are also ideas worth studying! I do not intend to limit the pool of ideas I can borrow from in my research. When it comes to figuring out better systems, to imagining a better future, it makes much more sense to have access to all of the ideas rather than just some of them. My previous essays have borrowed from every possible ideal, and my new ones will continue to do so.
The Elysian is thinking through a better capitalism, democracy, and humanity. Join us? ✨
Maybe this is uncommon in online discourse. That’s probably whywas surprised when I used a right plan to support a left ideal in my piece, “Opening our borders will solve just about everything.” “Normally, the side that advocates for open borders is very opposed to the idea of a consumption-based tax,” he commented. “So, I was pleasantly surprised to see you making an argument for both in the same piece.”
But why shouldn’t that be the norm? This year, I have been studying classical utopian thinkers, and they very much borrowed from just about every philosophy they could get their hands on. When I was studying Plato and Thomas More I met with competing philosophies about statehood, democracy, and authoritarianism. Now I’m studying Edward Bellamy and William Morris and I’m studying the benefits of both capitalism and socialism.
If you subscribed to my newsletter right now, in the middle of my capitalism and socialism phase, you might think I ascribe to one philosophy or the other. But the truth is I think both have a point. At the same time that my next four essays will think through the benefits of capitalism and how it could be better, my next several discussion threads are with post-capitalist thinkers about the alternatives. Why should we not learn from both at the same time?
Later in the year, when I’m studying Ursula Le Guin, I’ll be learning more about anarchist and libertarian thought as well as the alternatives. Then shortly after, I’ll be studying Kim Stanley Robinson and new economic models for capitalism and democracy. If you start following my newsletter at any of those points you might be tempted to place those labels on me too. But I don’t think the labels are helpful. I am merely studying them, learning from them, and thinking through how they might best benefit humanity.
And I don’t think any of us have a lock on the truth. Each of these modalities might venture a hypothesis about how we might create a better future, but I’m not convinced any can claim a thesis. We’ve spent the past 200 years experimenting and we’ll spend the next 200 years experimenting. Our political systems are a complex evolution of thought and ideas and we’re figuring it out as we go along. And each of us may have a different idea about what a better future looks like. Maybe we’ll eventually have one perfect world government, or maybe we will have a hundred different ones and everyone can pick which variety of perfect they prefer to live in.
(Like my essay “What if countries had to compete for citizens?” imagines.)
As I think through these structures, I’ll have my own ideas and write essays about them, and maybe I will even come up with a manifesto of sorts as I do. But I can’t claim my ideas are the right ones either. Any of them might be disproven by further research or experimentation. So why should I hold my ideas so tightly? Why should I make them into an idealogy? Into something I believe without a doubt? I much prefer to evolve my thoughts as I learn more. To change my mind when I’ve been proven wrong. I am a flip-flopper of the highest order and I think we all should be. Asperfectly put it “Somehow I trust the flip-floppers more.”
This may not make me a good politician, but I think it makes me a better thinker, and that is what my literary salon is all about. (In my head I’m calling it The Elysian League.) My paid subscribers include CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, economists, post-capitalist authors, anarchist newsletter writers, and literary authors—all of us are thinkers and all of us have ideas worth sharing. Just think about what might happen if we can learn from one another, even combine our ideas! The present ideas are not the only ones on the table, we can also come up with new ones.
I often think about the doctor who had an epiphany while attending a Formula 1 race. As he watched the pit crew change out the car tires with rapid precision, he wondered whether hospitals could use a similar strategy in the high-risk patient handoff from surgery to recovery. He invited pit crews to the hospitals and they taught the doctors how to manage such a well-coordinated transition. The strategy has since been implemented worldwide, increasing patient outcomes. And what if we can do the same by putting all our ideas on the table? And sharing them?
Maybe I’m asking too much of the internet. I can already see people latching onto terms I’ve used and restacking them. I said the word capitalism, and that’s “evil.” I mentioned socialism, and that’s “backward.” Several thought I referred to the term “enlightenment” as a positive thing when it should have been a negative thing. There are many triggered by my use of the word “utopia,” thinking I should favor “eutopia” or “protopia” instead. I am very aware that our words have become politicized, that they come with biases and baggage. But they don’t need to. They can just be words. Words we use to explain things.
I used to call my posts “blogs,” but now I call them “essays.” I picked a better word to make it sound nicer to you, more grown up. But they are the same thing. And maybe one of the most important things we can do right now is figure out how to share ideas with one another. To stop dividing ourselves into sections and closing ourselves off from other thoughts and words. Maybe we’re tired of that kind of division and it’s just not getting us very far. Maybe we need to try something else. Maybe I’m also being idealistic, but that’s kind of my jam so I’m keeping it. I think I can do more with my idealism than I can with pessimism and I’m happy to let that reside elsewhere.
And anyway, so far it’s working. Already, the discussions that happen in the comments of my essays and discussion threads have been entirely respectful. They have recommended books to one another and shared ideas with one another, and no one has tried to prove anyone wrong. I want to keep that going. If you choose to become a paid subscriber and join the literary salon, bring your ideas, but not your ideologies. This is not a place for “you are wrong, I am right”—there are plenty of places for that on the internet and I will delete those comments if they show up here. This is a place for, “that’s an interesting idea, something I’ve also wondered is…”
The first step toward a more beautiful future happens in the way we discourse with one another—in the ways we are able to share ideas together. That’s how we’ll build a new enlightenment together—or whatever you want to call a period of great ideas and experimentation. This is a place to think, not a place to preach. And I hope you’ll join us in the discourse.
Thank you so much for reading and supporting my work!
P.S. Next week I’ll be back with the debrief of our work and leisure series. Then we start our capitalism series June 5th! Can’t wait!