11 April 2006

Am I a liberal?

The election season is starting to heat up. Scandals rock DC on what seems like a daily basis. The public is split, at least according to the polls, on many major issues. We are heading toward a political (and probably historical) crossroad. Now is the time for people to stand up for what they believe, and to help move the country in the right direction.

But where do I stand? Sometimes I have a hard time figuring that out.

I think of myself as a moderate, but whenever I take one of those online political spectrum tests, it tells me that I am a liberal. One of them even called me a socialist. I just don't get it. Why aren't my views middle of the road?

I believe that it is better to let a guilty man walk free than to incarcerate someone who is innocent, and that our legal system should err in that direction whenever possible. I believe that privacy is essential if a country is to truly be free, and that the convenience of law enforcement should come in second when weighed against privacy rights. I also believe that people who commit crimes should be held responsible for their actions, and that prison sentences should be considered to be a punishment for those actions, not just as an opportunity to rehabilitate the offender.

I believe that parents, not the government, are the best judge of what children should be exposed to on television and the internet, and that parents have both the right and the responsibility to oversee what their children watch and where they surf.

I believe that both religion and the government are better off when they are rigidly separated from each other.

I believe that the right to bear arms implies a responsibility to use them appropriately and safely, and that the government should be able to link the responsibility with the right.

I believe that all Americans should have an equal opportunity to succeed. I believe that the best route toward this ideal involves education, and that it is in everyone's best interests to have the government fully fund education for everyone here.

I do not believe that my ancestors would have wanted to lock the doors of Ellis Island behind them.

I believe that having a strong military is in the best interests of our country. I do not believe that our leaders have always used the military appropriately.

I believe that decisions about the economy and the environment should be made, as much as possible, from the perspective of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I do not believe that they should be made based on the next election cycle, much less the next news cycle.

I do not believe that there are many politicians in Washington who are capable of thinking past the next news cycle. I think that is a bad thing.

I do not believe that spreading American ideals around the world is a bad idea. I do believe that it should be done by example. It certainly should not be done at the point of a gun.

I believe that corporations will act in the best interests of their shareholders whenever possible. I do not believe that the best interests of the shareholders will always correspond to the best interests of the environment, the economy, or the country. The government should, when necessary, stand up against the corporations to protect the rights of citizens.

I believe that if the health of our economy depends on a having certain unemployment rate, then we do have a responsibility to help the unemployed. We also need to recognize that unemployment isn't completely random, and that some people will be more likely to be laid off than others. We need to do what we can to give them a better chance to stay employed.

I do not believe that any of the things I've said are unreasonable or illogical, and I don't know why they make me "liberal." Personally, I think "common sense" is a much more accurate description.

But if "liberal" really is the best word to describe those beliefs, than I am proud to be a liberal.

7 comments:

Zeno said...

By golly, I think I'm a liberal, too!

Anonymous said...

Well, if it helps, I have picked out the bits where you seem to be different from a "conservative", in the stereotypical form:

not just as an opportunity to rehabilitate the offender.

I believe that all Americans should have an equal opportunity to succeed. I believe that the best route toward this ideal involves education, and that it is in everyone's best interests to have the government fully fund education for everyone here.

I believe that decisions about the economy and the environment should be made, as much as possible, from the perspective of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

I believe that corporations will act in the best interests of their shareholders whenever possible. I do not believe that the best interests of the shareholders will always correspond to the best interests of the environment, the economy, or the country. The government should, when necessary, stand up against the corporations to protect the rights of citizens.


That all about sums it up. (A small caveat- I am a UK citizen, so looking at it from outside) In some ways, the whole Liberal/ cosnervative or left/ right thing with regards to crime and individual responsibility etc is simply a matter of emphasis. Only the barking mad (like MRs Thatcher) say there is no such thing as society. You say you want prison to be punishment as well as rehab- yup, fine by me.
You also say equal opportunity to succeed- well, the big elephant in the room in the "conservative" case is that success in many areas seems to be related to education and your parents etc. And lets not forget that different people have different genetic starting points as well- I would never make a rubgy player, I would get broken in 2, nor would I make a good salesman, since I am by nature rather introverted.

Also, you seem not to worship the market, which thanks to the shift rightwards in the past 30 years means that this position is not central, as it was 30 or more years ago, in fact it has become positively lefty. But then I maintain that you cannot be a free market proponent as well as a "Conservative" because proper free markets mnake no difference between hard core pornography and taps- the market has no morals, only humans have, but if you want to impose morals on the market, you are interfering with its operation- ergo, you are trapped.

guthrie

Blake Stacey said...

You might be what David Brin calls a "pragmatic moderate". His essay on gerrymandering is a pretty good read, as is "The Case for a Cheerful Libertarianism".

It's a really long page, but buried in John Baez's 2004 economics diary is some really thought-provoking stuff on corporations and wherefore their "best interests" lie the places they do.

Dave said...

One key liberal point is the separation of church and state.

Since I moved to Oklahoma I've had several conversations where it was explained to me that the Constitution and Bill of Rights should be trumped by the Bible.

I recently spent some time musing on this same topic.

Mary Ann said...

Most people believe they're average. And by definition, most people are. But you (and I) are not among them. I would debate a few points you've made here, but it would only be to nudge you a bit more toward liberal.

Your points are very well taken. And if they did represent American ideals, I would agree wholeheartedly that they should be spread, by example, around the world. As it is, I'd be happy if we could agree that your view represents common sense and spread it around this country.

Tukla in Iowa said...

You're only considered a liberal because the US political climate has shifted so far to the right in the past quarter century. Nowadays, Barry Goldwater and maybe even Richard Nixon would be considered liberals.

James Redford said...

TQA, you're no liberal. You are indeed a socialist. I'm a left-wing liberal.

The terms "left" and "right" in the political sense go back to 1789 France. When the French Estates-General met on May 6, 1789, the Third Estate commoners, who wanted less taxes and government control (i.e., "laissez-faire"), were seated on the left side of King Louis XVI, and the Second Estate nobles and First Estate clergy, who were the conservatives and wanted to maintain the government's power, sat on his right. (Prior to the May 1789 convention of the French Estates-General [the first meeting of which was on May 5, 1789], the last time the Estates-General had met was in 1614.)

Also, "liberal" originally meant what we would call today (at least in the U.S. and Canada) "libertarian," i.e., laissez-faire free market, less taxes, less regulation, and gun ownership by the common people. Thus, in the original sense of the words, someone who wanted no taxes, all drugs to be legal, a free market, and armament of the common people would be a left-wing liberal.

But, TQA, if you'd like to become a left-wing liberal, then below is an excellent reading list for you (all of the articles and books mentioned below are online for free).

Below are some excellent articles concerning the nature of government, of liberty, and the free-market production of defense:

"The Anatomy of the State," Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought, Summer 1965, pp. 1-24. Reprinted in a collection of some of Rothbard's articles, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays (Washington, D.C.: Libertarian Review Press, 1974):

http://www.mises.org/easaran/chap3.asp

"Defense Services on the Free Market," Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, Chapter 1 from Power and Market: Government and the Economy (Kansas City, Kansas: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1977; originally published 1970):

http://www.geocities.com/vonchloride/marketdefense.html

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/power&market.pdf

"The Private Production of Defense," Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Winter 1998-1999), pp. 27-52:

http://www.mises.net/journals/jls/14_1/14_1_2.pdf

http://www.mises.org/journals/scholar/Hoppe.pdf

"Fallacies of the Public Goods Theory and the Production of Security," Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Winter 1989), pp. 27-46:

http://www.mises.net/journals/jls/9_1/9_1_2.pdf

"Police, Courts, and Laws--On the Market," Chapter 29 from The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism, Prof. David D. Friedman (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 1989; originally published 1971):

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Machinery_of_Freedom/MofF_Chapter_29.html

Concerning the ethics of human rights, the below book is the best book on the subject:

The Ethics of Liberty, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (New York, New York: New York University Press, 1998; originally published 1982):

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp

If one desires a solid grounding in economics then one can do no better than with the below texts:

Economic Science and the Austrian Method, Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Auburn, Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1995):

http://www.mises.org/esandtam.asp

"Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics," Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, On Freedom and Free Enterprise: The Economics of Free Enterprise, Mary Sennholz, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: D. Van Nostrand, 1956), pp. 224-262. Reprinted in The Logic of Action One: Method, Money, and the Austrian School, Murray N. Rothbard (London, England: Edward Elgar, 1997), pp. 211-255:

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/toward.pdf

Man, Economy, and State, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (Auburn, Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, second edition, 2004; originally published 1962):

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp

Power and Market: Government and the Economy, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (Kansas City, Kansas: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1977; originally published 1970):

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/power&market.pdf

These texts ought to be read in the order listed above. I would also add to the above list the below book:

America's Great Depression, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (Auburn, Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, fifth edition, 2000; originally published 1963):

http://www.mises.org/rothbard/agd.pdf

The above book concerns the how governments create depressions (i.e., nowadays called recessions) through credit expansion.

The small book Economic Science and the Austrian Method by Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe doesn't get into political theory, but only concerns the methodological basis of economics (i.e., the epistemology of economics). I would recommend that everyone read this article *first* if they're at all interested in economics. There exists much confusion as to what economics is and what it is not. This article is truly great in elucidating the nature of what economics is and what it is not. If one were to read no other texts on economics, then this ought to be the one economic text that one reads. Plus is doesn't take all that long to read it.