Monday, March 24, 2008

My Political Positions

I promised some time back I'd put a post up about my various political positions, in part as a reaction against my dislike of certain politically charged labels. Then I never quite got around to it for various reasons, many baby-related.

I'm not sure anyone was really waiting with bated breath to see what my views are - one could probably guess what most of them are anway, based on the previous 275 or so posts I've made on this blog. But I figure it is still a useful exercise for me. I don't claim this list is exhaustive - partly because I'm exhuast-ed and so little bits of information tend to slip by me, including such tid-bits as what day of the week this is, and whether it is day or night. That said, here goes:

One common theme for me, the core of what I value, is civil rights. And by that, I mean the rights of the individual that trump anything that government can do. When it comes down to a determination between government power and individual rights, I'll err on the side of individual rights. Because I don't trust the government - not because I'm a conspiracy nut, but because

1) power corrupts - anyone with power is going to be at least somewhat corrupted by it. Best to limit that power, and one limitation on government power is inalienable rights of individuals. Every court case that affirms constitutional rights of individuals over government power is like weed killer, killing a little of the weed that is government power.

2) power tends to grow over time (much like the aforementioned weeds) - as time goes on, governments try to grow their powers, increasing opportunities for 1) above - it is just an inevitable thing. And power, once gained, is really hard to pry out of the hands of government - civil rights, enforced for individuals against the government, is a check on this - to a certain degree, each expansion of government power can only come by ignoring or abridging individual rights - so to protect those rights is to give less avenues of approach for government to grow in power. (Think of it like a maze designed to keep weeds from growing too far).

3) government power tends to go to the ones who can afford office - that tiny minority known as the rich upper class - and so though we have a representative government, they really tend to represent only that core constituency - the rich and powerful - but where there are individual rights that trump government power that means, since there are far more individuals who are not rich and powerful than those who are, that is another check

In sum, I'd rather limit as much as possible what government is allowed to do, particularly when it comes to what it can do to individuals.

That said, I'm not anti-government. There are plenty of things that can probably only be done by a government - public services and things that really are not profitable or are natural monopolies that simply would not be done well if they were in private hands. One can debate which things fall into that category and which things don't, but the existence of this category is undeniable. Public roads, for instance, or the regulation of the limited band of the airwaves and airspace are other examples. I'm starting to think that national health insurance of some sort should also fall into that category, simply because I don't think there is any way to make treating illness a profitable enterprise where it can be so expensive that most people really can't afford it, so the only way to make a profit on health care is to let poor people (and now middle class people) die. I don't claim to know what the best way of doing this is, but with a national plan, the risk can truly be spread around to everyone, as opposed to being borne by a small segment of the population.

I'm pro free-market - because I truly do think that is the best way to handle MOST of the economy. Republicans claim to be free market, but I think the latest scandal (Bear Stearns) proves that what the GOP wants is to privatize profit only while making losses public - in other words, they want corporate welfare and socialized economics that allows the wealthy to get wealthier when times are good, and when times are bad, it bails out the wealthy from having to take responsibility (or any losses) for their own free choices made when times were good. They also like to give huge contracts of questionable value to their friends -- in the end, what they do when they have control of government is they appoint cronies and drain the treasury for their friends, and use the Justice Department to prosecute Democrats (and other political enemies) while shielding their own felons from scrutiny.

While I don't particularly think the Democratic Party is all that great, either, at least the people they tend to put into power believe in government, are competent, and less corrupt than the GOP people.

I am a skeptic - I favor evidence rather than fantasy or wishful thinking. Which is why I'm an atheist. It is also why I like to eschew labels - some will decide whether or not a given government program, for instance, is a good thing based on the ideology of who suggested it or who it might benefit politically - I prefer to look at the evidence and ask the question - will it work and do what was intended?

I've been somewhat vague thus far, so here are some specifics. I zealously advocate all of the civil rights in the Bill of Rights. (In contrast to those on the left who seem to forget that the 2nd amendment is in there and those on the right who seem to forget that there is anything in there BUT the 2nd amendment). Maybe someday I'll get into the individual amendments, but for now, suffice it to say, I think we've just about flushed the 4th amendment (search and siezure) down the toilet and I truly think the 2nd amendment clearly protects an individuals right to bear arms - the whole thing about militias is an indication of part of the reason why that right exists - militias used to be defined as 'every able bodied man' of a certain age - and so for a militia to really work along those lines, every able-bodied man would have to own and know how to use a gun. So that right needed to be protected. And so that also means it includes military weapons. Now, I'm not some nutcase advocating everyone have an assault rifle, hand grenades, and a tank in the garage, but taken in context, it is hard to see how the amendment itself can be read to limit it. The writers of the amendment sure didn't trust governments telling the populace what arms they could keep and where. The whole Revolutionary War started based on an attempt to confiscate arms and ammunition. In the end, what does this mean? It means I think everyone has a constitutional right to arms, and not just handguns or hunting rifles or non-assault weapons. Any arms.

There, now I've said things that on the one hand would get me labeled a looney leftie, and on the other hand, I'd be labeled a right-wing nutcase. Which is why I dislike labels. Because I'm neither. And the right and the left both annoy me to a great degree. I think the left now annoys me more, perhaps because I share more positions with some lefties than I do with those on the right and so I get the illusion of reasonableness from those shared issues - a notion that can often be shattered when I actually have a conversation with certain lefties and find out that the position comes from ideology rather than from any serious examination of the issue. Obviously, not everyone is like that (thank the stars) but enough are that I've come to conclude that what matters most is that someone be a reasonable (and intelligent) person, not what side of the political spectrum they are on.

That's why, though I don't agree with everything he says, I have some respect for Andrew Sullivan. He was big enough to admit he screwed up on the Iraq war, and then, about the GOP and conservatism in general. That is a hard thing to do, publically admitting you were a fool. There are still things I think he's a bit of a looney on, but then, nobody agrees on everything. He has the usual blindspot in his rationality that the religious have, for instance. He's also a rabid Hillary Clinton hater. I mean, on a lot of the things Clinton has done, he has a point, but that can get lost in the frothing-mouth hatred.

Another "libertarian" aspect to me is that I am against the whole stupid drug war, and other "consensual crimes" such as prostitution. If two consenting adults want to have sex for money, why the hell is it anyone else's business? Or if someone wants to dope themselves up in private, why should anyone else care about it? Almost all of the problems with drugs and sex for money are caused because they are illegal. Almost all of the other crime associated with both would disappear if they were legalized. And no, this does not mean you couldn't make driving while high illegal or that suddenly women could be forced into slavery as prostitutes - kidnapping and operating a vehicle while intoxicated would still be very much illegal. As would slavery. Those who can't separate the former from the latter have some serious issues that probably are beyond my ability to solve.

(And getting back to my point about government power above - I'd immediately rule all federal drug laws unconstitutional because there sure as hell is nothing in the constitution granting the federal government the power to outlaw drugs of any kind - commerce clause my ass!)

I'd greatly curtail the power of prosecutors, whom I think have way too much power. I'd also open up offices for public defenders, paid the same as prosecutors, with their own separate staff of experts (forensic laboratories, investigators with police powers, and so on), who are all run out of a department in each locality that is headed by an elected official akin to a DA but who is instead a Public Defender - and I'd tie all increases in "fighting crime spending" to that office, such that for every dollar spent on prosecutions (in any capacity, from police on up) to a dollar spent for the defender's office. Only then would I consider us to have "equal justice under the law." I know, good luck with that one.

Oh, and I'd prosecute half of the Bush administration for various things...

Ok, enough pipe dreaming for now. Maybe I'll continue this later.

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