Why I am not a Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, Progressive or any other label.
What I Don’t Like
Modern-day Liberals believe that government can fix problems that have been going on for longer than any proper form of government has existed. This is not logical and it is the source of much of the stupid ideas that Liberals propose, which leads to much of the anger modern-day Conservatives direct at them.
Modern-day Conservatives believe that beliefs matter more than actions, ideas count for more than the people hurt by applying those ideas, and whatever they consider to be Legitimate Authority must be obeyed.
Libertarians, who might be called Classical Liberals in recognition of their similarity to the thinkers who founded the USA, believe that having figured out that there are four types of political belief and theirs is one of the four means they can contest with the other three and eventually win. This belief is incredibly naive and ahistorical, no matter what public opinion polls and Tea Parties may indicate. They also share the modern-day Conservatives belief that ideas count for more than people. Also, they elevate the so-called Free Market (which has never existed) and Capitalism (those who have the capital make the rules and too bad for anyone with too little capital, which has existed sometimes, sorta kinda) to the place of Holy Authority.
On the other hand, Liberals believe that government should stay out of personal (non-economic) affairs and Conservatives believe that government should stay out of market (economic) affairs, so maybe the Libertarians could form single-issue alliances to advance their agenda if they had the social skills and determination to actually participate in politics, rather than shout from the sidelines about how evil politics are.
The ineffectiveness of the various Libertarian groups is probably why the corporate elite bankrolling them shifted to forming the Tea Parties. If you don’t believe the connections, look at David Koch and his brother — once on the ticket of the Libertarian Party as nominee for Vice President of the USA, now a major financial backer of Tea Party groups, anti-union Republicans & others of like ilk. The Koch Brothers and their involvement with recent events in Wisconsin are well-documented.
Both Liberals and Conservatives have been accused of trying to silence differing view points and of committing numerous acts of hypocrisy. There is some justification for the accusations on both sides. I am deeply opposed to censorship and to hypocrisy, especially in the political arena, as they each tend to distort and pollute the discussion, which makes the consensus-building necessary for good decision-making much more difficult.
The fourth political type, which the Libertarians call Statists, the Conservatives call Socialists and the Liberals call Progressives, does not appeal to me at all. When you start with the assumption that the US Constitution is an antiquated document and the philosophy behind it is bunk, you lose me right there.
That philosophy can be summed up as limited government with checks and balances to keep it limited by making it deliberately messy and ineffective except when consent can be reached. None of the current crop of political leanings seem to accept that philosophy in total, alas.
What I Do Like
I believe that the Libertarians are correct about their four-types of political beliefs, even though their World’s Smallest Political Quiz has some very shallow questions that make it less than effective as a means of self-discovery.
I believe the Liberals are right that there are SOME things that government is good at, or at least that it is necessary for government to do them, if they are going to be done at all. I also like their support of re-examining traditions and laws to see if we still believe them to be just and fair.
I believe that Libertarians are right that government has gotten involved in far too many things that are not proper or wise or allowed under the US and state Constitutions.
Liberals have a valid point about the need for change in many areas of our society and the likelihood that government may be the only effective way to make those changes in our lifetime.
Conservatives have a valid point about rapid change having costs of its own and the need to weigh those costs against the likelihood of improvements, as well as the justice of imposing those costs on whoever will be forced to bear them without regard for their involvement in whatever is being changed. I also like their support of traditions and the rule of law, especially when those traditions and laws are just and fair.
I do agree with the Conservatives that Liberals tend to be a good bit too much in favor of Big Labor and vocal minorities — and with the Liberals that Conservatives tend to be a good bit too much in favor of Big Business and vocal majorities. We need Unions and we need Business, although no one will ever convince me that either of them need to be Too Big to Fail. It appears to me sometimes that many Conservatives act as if they are Individualists while proclaiming that their Group (corporation, family, church, nation) is the Important Thing — and Liberals are just the opposite (proclaiming their individuality while acting as if their group is the be-all-and-end-all), while Libertarians claim to be Individualists but put Ideals ahead of anything else.
Where does all this leave me? I am independent of the usual labels. I try to approach situations with my values and my logic BOTH in hand, taking into consideration the effect of actions upon the people who will be impacted by those actions and choosing from the options in front of me, even when those are not what I might prefer the options to be. Sometimes (many times), I fail at this balancing act – and I try to be the first to notice and admit to those failures, although even there I am far, far from perfect.
I do not accept that Liberal equals Democrat or Conservative equals Republican or Libertarian equals kooky fringe party. The over-reliance of these political types upon one political party is part of the problem and must be fought against if are ever to rebuild the consensus that must underlie any decent civilization.
While I would like to see a more Libertarian future generally, I do not have a strong enough imagination to envision how we are going to get there without hurting so many people (who are relying upon the current situation to survive) that it can happen.
Along the course of the past few years, I have come to heavy concern over the growth of huge for-profit corporations, especially in the financial sector, and I believe that if the government is going to grant people the ability to form perpetual corporations whose sole purpose is profit, then there should be limits to how large these corporations can get.
Too Big to Fail should automatically be translated into Too Big and the corporation should be broken up and not allowed to reform above a certain size. Concentration of too much economic power and too large a portion of the nation’s wealth into too few hands is a recipe for disaster, as no one can know enough to make rational & wise decisions for that many people.
All the Libertarian arguments against Big Government need to be applied toward Big Corporations and, wherever the same results are seen, the same remedies should be applied.
I will admit that I am afraid that the situation here in America will change for the worse before it gets better and, at 50+ years old, I do not expect to see it get better in my lifetime.
AND YET, despite it all, I continue to be hopeful that something unexpected will change the entire paradigm, as it has been changed several times in the history of the USA.
— Tim Gatewood,originally posted 29 April 2010. Updated 8 April 2011.