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October 2, 2019 / Congau

Unhealthy Moderation

Who are the extremists? Those who are farthest from the middle. Where is the middle? Where most people are. The extremists are those who are farthest from most people. Is that bad?

The golden mean is a virtue. There shouldn’t be too much and not too little and what is just right is in the middle. Do most people get it right?

The political moderates praise themselves for being moderate; it sounds as if they are in harmony with reason and common sense. But the middle ground that they pride themselves of having occupied, is rarely an absolute middle; it all depends on where you place the extremes.

The mainstream is not always the same. It will be different at different times and places. The moderates in America would be right wing in Europe and in times of turmoil the more moderating elements are actually quite radical.

If we were to search for an absolute political middle ground, it’s hard to say where that would be. Perhaps somewhere between total state intervention and no state at all, between no private property and only private property, between all military and no military, between war and peace. Now where could you find a convincing balancing point between these arbitrary extremes?

The extremes that are used to qualify the moderates in an actual political environment are even more arbitrary. Between the extreme left and right in the American congress, for example, there is relatively speaking not so much space, and especially to the left there is ample unoccupied room. Being a moderate in this environment does not imply much virtue. It is rather likely to indicate a lack of courage or imagination; a wish to feel safe by not straying too far from other people and finding it difficult to envision the world being any different than it is.

True moderation means avoiding unhealthy excess. Political moderation may be no moderation at all.

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