AdrianG (adriang) wrote,

Reluctant Liberal

I am a reluctant liberal. This means that, while I think the best future in this country lies with moderate liberals, I am troubled by a number of positions commonly held by other liberals:

  • I do not agree with the idealogical bigotry against conservatives that I see in some of the more extreme liberals. We should attempt to move people with the strength of our ideas and our arguments, not with the threat of shunning and character assassinations for those who express dissent. Accepting that honest people can still disagree with us and are worth talking to will help us form better arguments and better ideas.

  • I think many liberals forget that to enact laws to enforce our vision of how things should be is to mobilize the machinery of government violence to compel the conduct that we want. Those liberal who claim that "violence never solves anything" but are quick to advocate new laws to compel the kind of behavior that they like need to think things through a bit more carefully.

  • I think Unions serve as an important protection for workers against corporate greed. I've worked in companies where managers found excuses to avoid caring how their foolish decisions affected their employees, and it's obvious why workers in those companies might consider unionizing. A manager who callously drives his employees toward unionization should be considered incompetent and is clearly not working with the companies best interests in mind. At the same time, I've worked in at least one company where union workers deliberately dragged their feet at work to show their management how powerful they were. Belonging to a union should not be an excuse to slack off. An employee who plays these games has only himself to blame when the company relocates to a state with laws more favorable to the company. Employee greed and power games are not morally superior to corporate greed and power games. The failure to recognize this principle and to recognize the importance ethical behavior towards the employer makes many unions their own worst enemy. Note that unethical behavior by the other side is never an excuse to let our side abandon ethics. Union extremism is no less wrong for all that it may appear to be on the side of the working class.

  • While many corporations in the U.S. are often guilty of reprehensible behavior, the simple us-against-them attitude held by many liberals is not helping us. When the law turns its back on any group, that group will naturally tend to have less respect for the law. We must make it clear that when corporate executives behave honorably, they will not be made to suffer injustices at the hands of the law. The tort system must be reformed, not to shield corporate irresponsibility, but to make sure corporations have clear, reasonable, moral paths they can take and be sure of safety from litigation driven by the bigotry of liberal extremists.

  • I believe that this trend among some liberals to assume that the rich do not deserve sympathy or the protection of law is rooted in bigotry and moral cowardice. When determining how to distribute the burden of taxes, we should establish reasonable principles, and then move the tax system in a direction that is more consistent with those principles. Every liberal politician who says "the rich don't deserve these tax breaks" when taxes are lowered and "lets make sure the rich get their share of the increase" when taxes are increased is inciting class bigotry, is a political coward, and is proving himself or herself unsuitable for an office of public trust. Taxes go up and down, in cycles. If we stick the rich with their fair share of the increases but deprive them of their fair share of the decreases in cycle after cycle, only a fool can fail to see that this will lead to unfair taxation of the rich. The rich should pay more in taxes, but the exact amount should be determined by reasonable principles and not by the sympathies or lack of sympathies of the morally bankrupt politicians who hate them simply for being rich.

As a community, liberals do not get everything right. But, they come closer, in my opinion, than any other political faction. Liberals get into trouble most often when they focus on whom they oppose rather than what they favor. And, as is the case with any political group, liberals are always in danger of endorsing ideas out of loyalty to other liberals rather than because of the merits of the ideas. And once this mistake becomes the norm, the next logical step is to hate people who express dissent. This uglier side of liberalism make me reluctant, at times, to be associated with liberalism.

I have friends who are conservatives, and I value those friendships. I listen to what those friends have to say, and try to learn from them, where I can. It's often true that their view are too simplistic (in ways that are surprisingly similar to those of some of my liberal friends), but the knowledge that I will occasionally express my views to them has a civilizing effect, I think, on my own tendency toward the liberal ideals that appeal to me. We all do a better job of contemplating ideas when we consider who we would explain them to a more skeptical audience.

To those liberals who surround yourselves with other liberals to the exclusion of people with other viewpoints I say this: Conservatives fear us because of less thoughtful liberals. They fear us because of the Us-Against-Them retoric that they hear from us. Conservatives have good reason to join together to fight us, politically, because some many of us proclaim in no uncertain terms that we are against them. To understand how strong their motivation must be, consider how we react to their holier-than-thou retoric against us. Consider our fear of their efforts to impose their religiously motived system of morality on us.

We should reach out more to the more rational among conservatives. To those conservatives who really do want to turn our government into a Christian theocracy, we really are against them, and we should be. I think most liberals would be surprised to know how many conservatives are also troubled by the religious extremists in their movement, and we should stop working so hard to make ourselves into a more serious threat to those more moderate conservatives than the extremists in their own movement. We should work with those more rational conservatives to find ways to accomplish important goals without making ourselves into the enemy of moderate conservatives. Note only would such a strategy make us more successful, the excercise of considering more points of view will help us develop better ideas.


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