I’m a secular, french-existentialist literature reading, academic. So it’s not too much of a surprise that the group of folks I hang out with usually do not own a shotgun, pickup truck, and/or a ranch. Put another way, outside of grappling (my “hobby”) I think only a few of my friends are members of the Republican party.
That said, I have been noticing ever since 9/11/2001 (when I started paying attention to politics) that a lot of my friends are not admitted members of the Democratic party either. They vote Democrat for the most part, but admit it slowly and with a sad far-away look in their eyes. There is a natural inclination toward the libertarian ideology among the younger generation. I don’t know if that has to do with them being young, or with the changing values of society. Politics has made people cynical it seems, and the idea that freedom of choice and personal responsibility is an option appeals to more and more people. I think many of these ideas are a bit naive in their optimism, but I often catch myself drawn to them as well.
I wonder if the Republican party will move in that direction in this decade to try to win over the young vote. Ron Paul was an early representative of that movement, and perhaps others will pick up where he left off. I don’t think I would vote for a Libertarian any time soon, but I would very much like to see their voices welcomed in debates, interviews, and C-SPAN-type educational programs in the years to come.
I knew Jesse Ventura vaguely as a “pro” wrestler and less vaguely as an actor who played alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. So when he ran for governor of Minnesota, without bother to learn anything more about him, I just assumed him to be no more than a gimmick candidate who didn’t really stand for anything, but was damn good at riding talking points and the power of his name.
A couple of days ago, I saw this talk of his at Google and was pleasantly surprised:
The man is principled and reasonable. It’s not easy to put a label on him. He seems to basically be a libertarian, but he is a big supporter of investing in infrastructure. The big thing he wants to cut is defense spending. Like most good libertarians, he is a bit quirky, borderline mad, and totally out of fashion with the way mainstream politics works. But he is full of good ideas, and seems to be incapable of lying which in the very least makes him an interesting speaker and writer.
In the talk he briefly proposed two simple (arguably small) ideas for reforming elections:
Don’t show party affiliation on the ballot.
Add “none of the above” as an option.
The first idea he feels will encourage people to learn about the actually candidates and the details of their positions instead of just voting all Democrat or all Republican. It’s an interesting idea but my cynical side assumes that voters will not do any more research and will either not vote or vote based on something meaningless like the sound of the candidate’s name.
The second idea is interesting as well. It gives the voter a way to voice a disapproval of the system in general, and makes the reason of “I don’t like any of them” a less valid excuse for not voting.
Conflict can be a powerful way to provide meaning to your life. Without conflict, what else can fill that void?
I have been thinking about war a lot in the past year, from the historical, philosophical, and psychological perspectives. The approach to warfare seems to be one of the key concretes that distinguish different philosophies (liberal, conservative, objectivist, libertarian, etc). I am fascinated by the subject in general. How we as a society and individuals can hold pacifist values and yet support an unending sequence of wars.
One of the questions I’m ultimately concerned with is if world peace is possible. The more I learn about human nature, the more cynical I become.
Two books that have especially inspired my thinking on this topic is A History of Warfare and War is a Lie. These are two brilliant books that I will talk about more in the future. The first admires war as a fundamental (and necessary) part of human society. I’m not sure “admires” is the right word, but the author is fascinated by the richness of its history to a point of obsession. The second is a brilliant deconstruction of all the ways in which war is absurd and the justification we provide for it is a contradiction of the logical and moral compass with which we guide our life.
I’m sorry for the dramatic photograph of a child casualty. It’s more for me to remind myself of the reality behind the philosophy.
I’ve been hearing a lot of criticisms of the social security system from my libertarian and objectivists friends. I personally believe that the only way to ensure that young children eat brocolli is by enforcing or incentivizing that action through government policy. What am I talking about? Basically, we do not always know what is good for us, until it is too late. This will make Ayn Rand turn over in her grave, because the idea of freedom to many people is that they can do whatever they want (as long as it doesn’t harm others) and must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
This is all well and good, and it’s a beautiful theory of how a society should function, much like the theory of a free market. However, we must then be willing to live in a society that provides no safety net. We must be willing to close off all emergency rooms to patients that can’t demonstrate the ability to pay for their treatment. We must be willing to let the unemployed, homeless, senior citizens suffer or die from malnutrition due to insufficient funds to purchase food and minimal shelter. I am not willing to live in such a society.
We have to acknowledge that a safety net is needed because human beings operate in a state of highly imperfect and incomplete information. We do not know enough about the decisions we make to predict to a reasonable degree the long-term effects of our decisions in all circumstances (especially given the circumstances not within our control). We should let experts help us out. Much like Google helps us sort out search results, we should let social security establish a basic guarantee of survival no matter the consequences of our decisions. This, in my opinion, allows for greater freedom than without such a basic guarantee. FDR put it well: ”Necessitous men are not free men.” (source)
What I am arguing for, is the same thing that Thomas Paine argued for: a safety net. Whether government or private industry is better at managing such a system is a secondary argument. I believe, much like with the broccoli, private industry will let people slip through the cracks which defeats the purpose of a safety net.