Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Amorphous Lines in the Sand

Looking at issues in terms of what party supports them is really an absurd idea. When individuals have their own opinion on every issue that they're concerned about, and the average person probably doesn't care at all about more than half of the issues, how do you lump these individuals into groups?

As far as I can tell, the deciding factor is that beliefs described by terms like "Conservative" and "Right" which fall under the Republican Party in the United States are based on the idea that things are are good now and/or were better in the past, and "why mess with a good thing?", while "Liberal" and "Left", represented by the Democratic Party, revolve around the belief that we can work to make the world better than it's ever been. I came to this conclusion largely based on an argument that I saw, from someone who seemed to be a Libertarian voting Republican, that the Democratic Party was too "anti-personal freedom" because it advocates increased taxation and gun regulation. This initially sounded insane to me, as the Liberal values of the Democratic Party tend to fall on the side of increased personal freedom on most issues (this might be partially in reaction to the authoritarian tendencies of the current Republican administration, which are not supported even by many Republicans). So, if the Democratic Party is generally pro-personal freedom, but takes the opposite stance on these issues, what really defines the line between the two? The answer is in the justification for these stances.

The reason for gun regulation is the belief that the need for the average individual to hunt and to protect themselves, particularly in a militia-like fashion as they argue is the purpose behind the second amendment, is outdated, and that the average well-intentioned citizen is more likely to accidentally hurt himself or another with a gun than defend himself. They believe the the primary usefulness of firearms outside military and law enforcement duties is for nefarious purposes, and if, say, a mugger is not able to obtain a gun to mug you, you won't need one to defend yourself from him. In this way, gun regulation attempts to create a better future.

The other issue mentioned is taxation. Nobody likes being obligated to pay money to the government, but taking the money isn't the point of taxation. The purpose is to provide for public programs to increase the general welfare. Everything from road maintenance to business subsidies to universal healthcare requires money. Liberals don't advocate increased taxation, they advocate government programs designed to create a better future that have the side effect of increased taxation because those programs need to be funded.

It is, of course, absurd to agree with either of these solely based on party affiliation. Parties are just a way of organizing these beliefs, and its unfortunate that our system forces voters to decide between such arbitrarily-divided groups rather than voting their own beliefs on individual issues, because that would become so unwieldy with so many issues that even the career politicians elected to represent us can't keep up.

As always, these are my conclusions drawn based on my own observations, and constructive criticism is welcome and encouraged. What do you think defines the division between the parties?

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