Discussing Politics

Under most circumstances, I do not care for discussing politics. (You can see this by how few conversations I initiate on the subject.) This is due not only to today’s acrimony, but because we don’t discuss politics correctly.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, we argue the top-level issues of the day: pending legislation, the latest riot, scandals, welfare, foreign policy. This is not our fault; these are the subjects that TV and the internet put under our noses. But disagreeing over them is a waste of effort if we actually disagree on the underlying issues, things such as human nature, what our goals as a nation should be, how we define fairness, and so on. Our stances on high-level issues arise out of these fundamentals, so it is here that any real discussion should begin.

Below, I share my stances on the fundamentals. By way of introducing them, let me say that no nation has, or ever will, realize them perfectly. That is simply not possible. They are a vision, the ideals toward which I think humanity should continue to strive. I realize that other nations and cultures may not share them, but I would argue that they are among the noblest ideals that mankind has at least tried to bring together in one place.

The rule of law. We should all live under the same set of fair laws, justly enforced. Nobody should be above the law—not even a politician who is advancing a goal I favor.

A personally-held right to life. By implication, we must have the right to personally take part in protecting that right, which directly implies the right to own reasonable means of self-protection.

A personally-held right to liberty, and by extension, a personal right to act to protect that right. Liberty is not mere freedom—the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want. It is rather freedom coupled with self-restraint out of consideration for others. Liberty requires that a people have a sufficiently similar set of morals (and sufficiently high morals at that), for if they do not, then the conflicts that will arise will be too great for liberty to survive.

An individual right to own property. People must earn life’s rewards through performance, and be able to enjoy them. Otherwise, there is no incentive to work and achieve. This implies capitalism, with all its benefits and problems. (In contrast, centrally-planned, command economies provide demotivation and poverty for almost everyone.)

A fundamental right to self-determination (i.e., the Declaration’s “pursuit of happiness”).

Our representatives should be elected by secret paper ballot. (And by the way, we should implement some of David Chaum’s ideas for verifiable-yet-secret ballots. And keep voting off the internet.)

Government must be limited. It is better when limited by a document than by a person, because individuals are more easily corrupted than systems. Therefore, political power is best when spread out among many people.

On the negative side, I oppose anarchy, and I oppose totalitarianism in all its forms.

As a result of the above, I support the Constitution of the United States in its original interpretation, and the Declaration of Independence, and the fundamental principles they lay down. Our Founding Fathers had a better understanding of human nature and the nature of government than anyone since, and deserve our respect for that achievement. Not only did they give us the blessings of liberty that we still largely have, but they accurately predicted the ways in which a nation could/would go off the rails when in decline.

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