Rereading the last paragraph, I may have been a little to dramatic and plead gulity to over-generalization. I claim insomnia and a really rotten week at work. As I work for the county government and watch what goes on from the inside, I may be a little prejudiced. At any rate the comment was directed at politicians and structural problems, not at the ideologies and social and economic theories themselves . It came off as more cynical than usual.
So maybe the last paragraph should have had the caveat that I was talking about politicians and practicality more than any theoretical ideologies of left or right, up, down or center. My point should have been that limiting the debate to right versus left, democrat verus republican, true blue American versus bleeding heart liberal/commie sympathizer, is superficial. It ignores structural issues that seem to mitigate against principled solutions. The idea of ?circulating elites? (which I think was Pareto) comes to mind. More recently, Who Rules America by Dobhoff highlights the concentration of power and the similarity of type an belief of those who are elected to run things. The sad trend seems to be that even the good ones end of thinking that rather than just winning a popularity contest they have been anointed.
If you look at a history of public policy, in seems that the swings (despite all the rhetoric and History-According -To-Sound-Bites revisionism) are less swings than circling closely around a common set of beliefs and assumption that are accepted as ?givens? and never questioned.
The idea of a "principled politician" remains an oxymoron, or at least rare. The fault is (IMO) ours for electing them and structurally because our current system moves too much responsibility up the feeding chain and works against personal principals. It does seem to me that the ?need? for a hierarchal power/decision structure is more a self-created illusion than a Law of Nature. Our representational democracy seems to be a natural habitat for those enamored of expediency, efficiency, compromise and themselves. Moving power back down, more direct democracy, would seem to address some of these issues.