This attempted zoology seems sincere… and is utter malarkey. It leaves out the dominant component of the Democratic Party Coalition, which I’d call “Smithian Pragmatic Centrists”. These are folks in the FDR-Truman-Clinton tradition who are despised by the left as compromising “DNC democrats,” whose fealty is given to positive sum outcomes. In other words, they seek to nurture a mixed society that follows Adam Smith’s prescription: In order to maximize the output of capitalist markets, you must first maximize the number of free and capable competitors.

Smithian Centrists like all the goody-goody things, e.g. to expand tolerance and inclusion and free education and health for all children — but there is a pragmatic underpinning to their liberalism, because (as Adam Smith himself said) markets are most productive when talent is not wasted through poverty, class or prejudice. Moreover, if the input of healthy competitors is maximized then so will be the taxable output, allowing that positive-sun effect to flourish, letting more funds be spent on priming the pump. And on goody-lefty things.

It is understandable that Mr. Zunger ignores this faction, though it describes a majority of democrats (and some republicans) far better than any “leftist” appellation. That is because the SPG types don’t fit anywhere along a hoary, stupid, obsolete and lobotomizing so-called “left-right axis,” a metaphor we should drop (if for no other reason) because it is French.

Evidence for the importance of this category can be found in simple outcomes comparison. The fact that every large-scale attributable metric of US national health does better across democratic administrations, including such conservative desiderata as economic output, rate of change of deficits, military readiness and rates of entrepreneurship. This blatant fact is inexplicable according to Mr. Zunger’s bestiary. But it makes sense when you add in the tens of millions of American Smithian Pragmatic Centrists.

See the outcomes comparison:

Oh sure, members of the SPC faction may choose to call themselves slightly “lefty” while being browbeaten into feeling guilty, because their leftist neighbors seem more passionate. This is unfortunate, since the SPCs are the true heirs to the world’s only pragmatically moderate and militantly reasonable revolution.

Moreover, SPCs are the ultimate answer to the insipid National Review conservatives, who claim to be defenders of enterprise, markets, entrepreneurship and all things Smithian… when all of those things are far, far better engendered by Smithian Pragmatic Centrist democrats. The NR faction invokes Adam Smith as a mantric shield, a totem to distract from their real role as the rationalizers of oligarchy. They are spokesmen for a return to the kinds of inherited wealth and privilege and power that made life hell for all our ancestors, for 6000 years.

They are proto feudalists. And Adam Smith — who knew the enemy of flat-open-fair market competition was always oligarchy — would have told the NR apologists to go to hell.

Author, scientist, public speaker. My books include The Transparent Society, The Postman, Earth, Existence, and Startide Rising.

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