Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Politics

This will be short since I really should be doing schoolwork. But I wanted to respond to Keith's recent post which was in response to Diane's recent post about politics. Keith said:

The liberal/conservative battle comes down to this: liberals value equality at the expense of freedom, and conservatives value freedom at the expense of equality. When it comes to those two, it's pretty clear that Mormonism values freedom above all else (Christ vs. Lucifer being the most charged example of this conflict), so that's one reason many people, especially in the church, speak of liberals in such negative terms.


While I think that may at one time have been an adequate simplification, I believe things are now more complex. The notable exceptions I am thinking about are issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and civil liberties in regards to national security. These are issues in which a more conservative view would seem to curtail freedoms, such as the freedom to marry whoever one wants regardless of sex, or the freedom to abort a pregnancy, or the freedom to make calls without the NSA listening in. Now I'm not saying that all those previously mentioned freedoms are good or should be granted, nonetheless they are freedoms.

Perhaps a better, or at least a different, way of defining the political spectrum is as follows. There are number of different areas in which politics regard, such as moral/social issues (abortion, gay marriage, religion), economic issues (policy, taxes, welfare), environmental issues (conservation, fossil fuel exploration, global warming), and educational issues (vouchers, funding, educational grants). There are also a general mindset or strategy in which to handle these issues. At risk of oversimplifying, let's say there are two. One is to have faith in the free market (and I'm not talking in the strictly economic sense here) and allow these issues to handle themselves. The other distrusts the free market and feels that these issues will not respond well unless we regulate them through government.

It's easy to at first say that the free market is championed by conservatives and regulation by liberals, and maybe there is truth to conservatives having a more friendly view of the free market, but I think it depends on the issue. While conservatives often advocate severely limiting or lifting government regulation when it comes to issues such as the environment, education, and economy, on the other hand they often advocate much regulation in the moral/social sector. The thought is that the environment can handle itself since it's already lasted this long, education would be better refined under the competitive pressures of the free market, and the economy is most efficient when generally deregulated. Social issues, however, should be regulated to preserve the morals of society.

Liberals on the other hand strongly push for deregulation in the moral/social sector, but feel that the environment, education, and economy require such regulation. The idea being that as persons it is our right to make our own moral and social decisions, which are largely viewed as only, or at least mostly, affecting ourselves. But there is a general distrust in the ability of the free market to preserve equality when it comes to the other issues. They fear that the almighty dollar does not care whether the environment is around for our children, whether quality education is available to all, and whether all have equal access to our inalienable rights.

So, while equality is certainly a crucial issue in defining the political spectrum, I feel like the dichotomy is more complex than Keith presented. However, to be fair, it is also much more complex than presented here. I have probably only jumped a level of complexity, still leaving many of the intricacies unaddressed. Comments? Who's next?

23 comments:

Keith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith said...

Sorry. There wasn't anything offensive in that deleted comment, I was saying I like the post but wanted to say a bit more.

You're right, I boiled my response to Diane's question down to the simplest terms I could. I'm glad you have offered further development. You're a very sensible man, Gabe.

Joshua said...

I enjoyed reading your analysis. I think that you made some good points. It seems that we are dealing with the issue of defining what the definition of "the word is is." lol. What I mean by that, is that it seems that the modern day connotation of "liberal" and "conservative" may have strayed dramatically from what the words actually denote. I always thought that being "conservative" meant adhering to the concepts of natural law, upholding liberty, and protecting the inalienable rights of every citizen as outlined in the Constitution. But George Bush and the gang proved me wrong on that one. Today, being "conservative" means engaging in preemptive war, controlling people outside of your realm of sovereignty, and abrogating the inalienable rights of every citizen in the name of "patriotism" and liberty. Sorry for the long winded comment. I am just frustrated that I never left the values of what I believe to be true and vibrant conservatism. Its leaders became tyrants and left me alone to be mocked as some sort of radical.

Keith said...

Joshua, you said it better than I did. Do you want to have my blog? Seriously, you can have it. What you're talking about is the Republican party having abandoned conservative principles. There are many conservatives who feel the way you do, which is why the Libertarian party is gaining support. The Republican party may splinter if it strays much more from its foundation.

Gabe said...

Well put, both of you. Just yesterday I was walking into a store and I saw a sign for "Patriot Day." Sadly I shuddered, because the first thing I thought of was the Patriot Act. Now to me being a "Patriot" connotes military aggression, blanket hatred of other cultures, and the sacrifice of individual rights in return for a supposed feeling of national security.

It is interesting to see what the Repubican Party has been rallying around lately, because, as you both so aptly put, it has strayed from its values of a small, fiscal government set up to preserve the constitutional rights of its citizens. I think you need to look no further than Ron Paul's campaign and his very extensive grassroots support to recognize the dissatisfaction among conservatives. Certainly McCain, a self-labeled Maverick who has departed from conservative norms on several accounts is not helping the unity as well. So, I feel the sad result is a party struggling to maintain its identity to stay unified, but the only thing they can find to rally around is a deep loathing for Democrats. The result? A dirty campaign full of negativity and speeches such as Sarah Palin's where half of the substance consisted of personal attacks such as the comment that being a Governor was "kinda like being a community organizer, except you actually did things."

It will be an interesting November 4th.

Keith said...

I feel similar disappointment in the campaign scene, Gabe, though the Democratic party is certainly not innocent when it comes to getting away from the issues. I had the same reaction to Palin's speech, but in all fairness there are Democrats doing the same thing - both launching personal attacks against Republicans and drumming support for Obama based on personal reasons rather than on his positions on specific issues, his proposed strategies, and his record.

When it comes to voting, though, I dismiss these mistakes by both parties and chalk them up to politicians appealing to dumb people. This is the real problem with America, by the way, in my opinion - the voters.

The point is, though, and I'm not saying this to attack liberalism, my point is that there are important values behind conservatism regardless of where either party stands.

Keith said...

Just because the party that has traditionally espoused conservative principles gets warped doesn't mean those principles are wrong or that the other party is the only true one.

Gabe said...

Very true. To be honest, when I listened to Obama's speech I cringed every time I heard McCain's name. Not because of dislike for McCain but because I wanted the Democrats to be above the name-calling. I felt antsy inside and kept wishing they would get back to the real issues at hand. The real reason one should vote for party X is not because of faults in party Y. A candidate should have enough merit to qualify himself, regardless of any lack of merit in the opposing party. The further we get away from that, the more politics becomes a lesser-of-two-evils game.

Barney Lund said...

Yeah, I cringe at those moments as well, Gabe.

Ryan said...

Some very good points here! Gabe, you know it is more than once that I have almost been convinced to vote for a democrat, but I think liberalism is still even further from my core values than the ever sliding republican party "values". One of the biggest disagreements I have with liberals is exactly what are our rights. I feel that in a search for equality, liberals attempt to redefine many privileges as "rights". To offer an regrettably over-simplified example, health care. While I think it would be a perfect world where everyone has all of the health care attention they need, I do not in any form believe that health care is a right. This belief can be somewhat simplified by the fact that health care requires the services of another individual. How can we force this other individual to provide health care to the first? Is not this a deprivation of their freedom?

Gabe said...

How? The same way we "force" teachers to teach our children. The same way we "force" our citizens to stand on a jury so that the accused has the chance to a fair trial. There are plenty of rights that require the services of others. In fact, I'd say many of our rights, including the right to a representative democracy, require the services of others.

Ryan said...

I think you may have misunderstood part of my post. I wasn't asking how do we motivate individuals to provide services such as health care. I was asking, is it the obligation of some individuals to offer health care services to others? If no, then we certainly can't expect that everyone is entitled to such a service. If yes, than some individuals' time, knowledge, skills, and basic inalienable rights are in fact not their own, they therefore belong to the general population. I believe that everyone has a right to their own time, knowledge, and skills. If this means that children go without teachers, defendants without jurys, and patients without doctors, then so be it. I believe this would be a dramatic oversimplification of the issue because as demand for these services go up, people will gladly fill the spaces and accept the motivational benefits.

Barney Lund said...

With some of that logic, though, Ryan, you would start to take the 'govern' out of 'government'. Think about the draft. All of a sudden, your time does NOT belong to you, especially as you claim rights as an American citizen. Just as Gabr pointed out, you're going to have to pay some dues (jury, drafts, taxes) to legally continue being a part of this club that we call a country, this, sometimes you DON'T get to govern even your own time (or thoughts, if ever someone is really required to think a ton on jury duty). :) I'm just pointing it out.

Barney Lund said...

I know, I mispelled 'Gabe' and forgot the word 'means', but I blame it on typing quickly on my iPhone. Sorry.

Ryan said...

That's why you can't reduce such complex issues to simple analogies and why I began the comment with "to offer a regrettably over-simplified example". You must draw the line at some point and although it is difficult to articulate exactly where it should be, it is often easier to take a step back and realize when you have crossed it. Working together obviously gets us further along but that doesn't mean that we have the right to force those that don't want to participate to join us.

J. L. A. said...

15 comments and no one compared anyone to Hitler: an anomalous counterexample to Godwin's law?

In all seriousness, though, I wonder if I may get your thoughts on this notion:

J. L. A. said...

Political inclination is governed mostly by the desire to root for a team. This explains why certain views coincide (e.g. certain opinions on gun control tend to coincide with certain views on warrantless wiretapping, certain views on taxation tend to coincide with certain views on abortion) while their justifications may be based on completely disparate or even contradictory lines of reasoning.

J. L. A. said...

I think we all base a lot of our values on those of people in our communities. I've certainly felt my own views on issues gravitate towards those I associate with (especially on issues that I haven't thought much about). I mean, why do so many geographical regions in the US have definite ideological predilections? Why are most Mormons Republicans? Why are most academics Democrats? It is not clear a priori that they choose these political affiliations and so many of their accompanying views because the policies of one party or the other clearly favor them. Nor is it clear that their shared ideology leads to an obvious party choice. Even if the ideology of the group favors one party over the other, it is not clear why nearly every aspect of that party's platform is so often adopted by most the group (for example, why has the invasion of Iraq enjoyed such consistent support in the LDS community when LDS theology doesn't (in the view of this author) seem to clearly favor one view or the other).

J. L. A. said...

None of us is really capable of understanding all of the intricacies of most of the issues. I think that's part of why we let the groups think for us. By following the same people we agree with on other issues, we group closer with them and form a self-reinforcing community of ideology with people of our party.

J. L. A. said...

It is worth noting that once in office, moderation is the norm. I believe that this is as it should be. Economists of the Public Choice line of thinking will contend that this is because of the nature of 2-way elections (i.e. to get a majority, a serious contender tends to have moderate views). In any case, I think this is fine. Just because Barack Obama was nominated by a group of people whose feelings on free trade are sometimes hostile doesn't mean that once he's in office he's going to try to gut NAFTA especially if his economic advisers tell him such a course of action would be detrimental (as I believe they would based on the comments of Austan Goolsbee). This is not a dig at Obama (I love free trade, NAFTA and I would be very sad to see it curtailed). Rather, I think it is a credit to the system that so many presidents end up adopting policies that their party doesn't traditionally support. I also think this supports my contention that people choose their views based on those of their communities. The fact that a president of one party often adopts policies that were traditionally advocated by the other party demonstrates I think that these ideas have merit and supports (albeit weakly) the contention that the ideas were rejected by the one party only because most of them never thought much about it.

J. L. A. said...

To conclude, I give an analogy. Ideology is determined in the same way that people decide whether to root for BYU or the UofU. Both institutions are geographically similar (in Utah), have similar student bodies (lots of Mormons, many Utahns, mostly white, of comparable academic caliber, similar numbers of students) and have many, many virtually identical objectives in most of what they do (both educate undergraduates, do research, have good football teams this year). Why does one choose to love the one and absolutely despise the other? Probably because BYU rocks and the UofU is full of apostate scum. Or maybe we just pick based on who we know, where we (or our friends/family members) went to school or who we were with when we watched our first BYU vs UofU football game. In any case, the most sensible explanation is that your community does the picking.

J. L. A. said...

I have posted the last word! My conclusions are final. My last 6 blog responsa are unchallenged.

Gabe said...

last