Political Beliefs

Those of you who are like me, understand the significance of the above political spectrum. I teach this in all of my courses. Moreover, one of the key components to fully understanding this spectrum is understanding the role of pluralism in the American polity. In pluralism, the polity for which we all are a part of is made up of competing fashions in which not one is strong enough to dominate. Advocates such as my self for this system contends  that it allows for diverse views. Thus, being a self-subscribed advocate of liberalism, I believe that it is paramount that views and constructs are not censored… even those that are not popular. However, critics of pluralism usually make two arguments:

  1. They argue that pluralism represents a cynical view towards values with the exception of manipulating power. According to such, supporters of pluralism are chiefly concerned with their view(s) being most reflected in society.
  2. They also believe this form of liberalism is too dogmatic and not as progressive as once believed.

The reality of course is that the vast majority of Americans are liberal. Thus, they land to the left of center. However, some might contend that nationalism is a threat to liberalism in that it espouses a notion of right-wing contention in which freedom of thought, views, and expression are deemed anti-state. Nation states such as Iran and Fascist Germany are the best examples in that the former believes in a state religion, whereas the latter supports state glory. I do think that most Americans see nationalism as good, however, there is much danger in the ideological spectrum above when one is too nationalistic (jingoism) and loyal to the state; he or she shifts too far to the right and desires a “sense” of uniformity in that there should be a society of “absolute” shared values. People will disagree with me here, but even within the confines of a nation-state, there cannot be a “sense” of shared values if pluralism is valued. It is safe to say that I know or have encountered members that land on each of the above ideological points charted, with the exception of an anarchist.

I do not believe anarchy exists. Of late, two students of mine — Reid Bishop and Emma Brown have taken up the cause of exploring the extent to which Thoreau was an anarchist in his values and teachings. According to Bishop, “Thoreau was a theoretical anarchist but not a pragmatic one.” Bishop got this one right in that the notion of being an anarchist is close to impossible. Though Thoreau and other 19th century transcendentalist attempted to be pragmatic, the inevitability of such failed due a human desire for political organization and structure.

As for conservatives, those that claim to be such are so because they believe the home, family, and religion should be at the core of all values. This means there is a place for women which is in the home, a strong opposition to abortion, and support for required prayer in schools, opposition to the teaching of sex education in schools as well as evolution. Conservatives hold to such social views but tend to hold even stronger views on political and economic issues, too. Case in point: A nation should hold to having a large and dominant military, and thus should use force if deemed necessary. Moreover, action against ideologies deemed “un-American” should be addressed. Though much of this seems good, however, it does counter pluralism in that there is a sizable population of Americans that see little value in using war as an instrument when diplomacy is good. Or, the values of religious faith dictating the private lives of individuals. Here, pluralism contends that acts of gay marriage or abortion are 9th amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution.Those in opposition to matters such as gay marriage will tell you that they are conservative in their opposition to this institution, but liberal in that they do not want to see the Constitution amended to define marriage. There is a fear social conservatives hold in that the government should not legislate a 9th amendment issue. Social conservatives do find value in the 10th amendment as a body to legislate such acts. Again, case in point: During the election of 2004, the state of Texas voted via referendum to define marriage between a man and a woman in Texas, but many of those people might not do so at the national level. Keep in mind I am speaking in the form of conjecture here.

After reading the latter paragraph, many might state that most Americans are not liberal but conservative; I say “NO” in that many Americans favor the right for one to believe in God or not without the state dictating a belief as found in Iran or the former USSR. Furthermore, the right to vote (or not), speech, press, gather, and expression are values deemed liberal but can be expressed differently. Liberals, including myself, believe people should be helped if needed so that they can live a more productive life and reach their potential. This help, through the operation of the government, promotes the goal of an organized polity.

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13 thoughts on “Political Beliefs

  1. You ended with,”Liberals, including myself, believe people should be helped if needed so that they can live a more productive life and reach their potential. ” Sounds good. Then you had to add “…help, through the operation of the government,” thats where it falls apart. The government forces me to participate in its godless message of feed the body, not the soul. Why is it the “liberal” objects to the church when it wants to feed the poor with help from the state but doesnt mind the idea of the state alone forcing charity from the people? Is spreading the word while feeding or helping those in need so horrible.

  2. Denton:
    You stated:”Why is it the “liberal” objects to the church when it wants to feed the poor with help from the state but doesnt mind the idea of the state alone forcing charity from the people?”

    Help me with this: How might a nation divided religiously among various sects go about a collective process of supplanting such a plural polity addressed by Carson to help the poor? I would like a response. This is not an anti-religion post. You are turning it into that.

  3. Denton:

    “The government forces me to participate in its godless message of feed the body, not the soul.”

    Are you saying that the United States government is anti-religion? If so, re-read my post. I think I missed your point.

  4. Some parts of liberalism are anti-religion, despite claiming to be pluralistic. Anti-religion liberals and pro-faith liberals both would prefer more government involvement in society, so the suspicions aimed at the former sometimes generally hit the latter as well.

    I share Denton’s frustration at the suggestion the country should look first to the government to solve our problems. As the graph illustrates, too much individual liberties surrendered to the government move us past liberal and toward the fascist left side of the line. However, teacherwoman’s point is well-taken: how can comprehensive help be given without ample infrastructure and coordination? Too much “every man for himself” can lead to lapses and anarchy.

    We just need to find a way to be smart about it. We are told not to feed wild animals to preserve their way of life, but if a species is on the verge of extinction we try to step in. On the flip side, when we feed and nurture the endangered animal there is no need to air drop Kibbles n’ Bits to the entire animal kingdom.

  5. Matt:

    …but we are missing the point of creating a political system; it is for the purpose of collective unity, protection, and survival. With so many different types of people, we must honor and respect a diverse set of values due to demographic changes and shifts over time. A system is in place because each member helps define it.

  6. I get the ying-and-yang relationship of political diversity, I just don’t believe liberals and conservatives are as close to the “center” as they think they are.

  7. Matt:

    I am with Carson in that you are correct, neither are close to the center, but I do think as Americans we are in general liberal.

  8. Matt S (and Denton too I suppose), I have maintained for a long time that I would love to see the church take care of people. And yes, I’m a liberal, who is not afraid to let the church take care of benevolence. However, generally speaking we are too wrapped up in building bigger buildings and hiring name brand ministers to pay any sort of attention at all to what’s going on in our cities. Until that happens, until the church gets it together and starts to effect real change in our own cities, and not just in Africa, then I’m happy to let the government take care of it. Please know that I’m not attacking any member of this blog specifically. I’m simply talking about what I see all the time as a member of the church. It bothers me a lot that our charity is giving away things that are no longer good enough for us. It bothers me a lot that we don’t give our best and our first fruits. And yes, it bothers me a lot that I’m included in that group of people who don’t give properly. More than anything, it bothers me that we have this attitude that people somehow have to deserve our kindness. I did nothing to deserve the kindness of God and he saved me and then showed me how to live better. Shouldn’t we extend that same courtesy to our fellow man? And yes, I’m including myself in that deplorable sentiment.

  9. The Right might be the “callous bean-counters”, while the Left might be called “impulsive dreamers.” Perhaps between the two we can help the helpless AND find a way to pay for it.

    Rather than the Lineaer Political Spectrum being shown as a straight line, I think I’d prefer it shaped like a hill or triangle. The center is the top of the hill, the left and right go down either side, and the extremes are at the base. The further a political process goes to one side, the easier it is to slide down that side of the hill. There is a certain grim momentum to surrendering our freedoms to the government. Sometimes it may be necessary, but it should not be taken lightly. The same can be said for rolling too far right.

    Question: Based on the law of political gravity as pertains to my hill-shaped curve, if the nation is indeed already liberal, why would we want to go MORE liberal?

  10. What about neo-conservatives, like the pundits at Fox News? Surely that would be much closer to National Socialist than conservative? 😛

  11. I have, for a long time, found the linear model to be unrealistic. Jimmy brings up a good point about neo-conservatives. The problem I have with the above model is that it places libertarians to the right of conservatives, yet libertarians like Ron Paul or Murray N. Rothbard would not be considered more conservative than say Dick Cheney. As I can’t post a file in this post I will post an entry in my blog with the model I use, or you can check it out by googling the world’s smallest political quiz.

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