Sunday, August 19, 2007


I consider myself a liberal.

I do not consider myself left wing.

I don't actually think the old left/right way of looking at political beliefs works very well. However I do recognise what "left wing" means as opposed to "right wing".

The left worships the collective. The left promotes greater state control. The left believes higher taxes should pay to support the poor and ill and the education of all children. The left thinks the USA is an imperial power determined to achieve total hegemony over the peoples of Earth. The left believes crime is a symptom of poverty, and that personal wealth is largely down to luck. The left believe any problem can be solved by state spending. The left believes multiculturalism will lead to social cohesion. The left don't like nuclear power. The left want to protect the environment. The left constantly tries to reduce personal liberties, except when it comes to murdering foetuses.

The right worships the individual. The right promotes less state control. The right believes taxes should be lowered and state spending reduced. The right support personal responsibility and harsh punishment for criminals. The right believes personal wealth is the reward for working hard. The right believe any problem can be solved by the free market. The right think immigrants steal jobs. The right don't like wind turbines. The right wants to protect the countryside. The right constantly tries to increase personal liberties, except when it comes to women's sexual organs.

...Which is nonsense of course. None of these issues are about right or wrong, they're about finding the right balance, and being moderate in all things (including advocating moderation).

I feel like I've arrived late to some petty argument that has reached the stage where people have started shouting at each other.

The waters of the debate have been muddied by too much ideological nonsense. The only worthwhile way of thinking about politics is by returning to some fairly basic philosophical principles: utilitarianism (it is morally right to try to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, given that happiness is good [see below]), the ethic of reciprocity (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), the meme of enlightened self-interest, and the belief that happiness is good.

Then look at problems and propose solutions. Test the solutions. Find out what works and what doesn't.

There are various valid reasons why this approach isn't widely advertised by politicians. I can't think of what they are, but I suspect it has something to do with people not voting for politicians who propose to treat people like lab rats.

(The people at the Camp for Climate Action are not right wing or left wing. Reports by Johann Hari and George Monbiot indicate diversity amongst the protesters: anarchists and statists sharing a common goal. It is mentioned in several reports that there are many people with qualifications in scientific disciplines.)

So what does it really mean when I say I'm a liberal? It means I believe in the freedom of the individual, that we should find the correct balance between the power of the state and the power of the market, that we should all work to make ourselves happier and help each other to make each other happy, that we should treat each other in a way that we'd be happy being treated ourselves.

No comments: