Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Liberal Mind

At various times, I have wondered why anyone would ever be a liberal. (To be fair I wonder a bit more about the neo-cons too but that is a different topic.) So I thought I would put my thoughts down here.

So why are there liberals? Well I have come upon an answer that satisfies my curiosity. The liberal mind is one that puts ideals before principles and utility. The specific ideals vary somewhat, but generally they are based on the ideal of nobility of man. Some specific policy goals based on this idealism include: No one should ever go hungry. Everyone should get health care and education. The elderly should all be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone should have the chance to own a home. The poor deserve welfare. and so on

Now don't get me wrong, as ideals go, these are worthy. I fully endorse any private, charitable enterprise that seeks to fulfill in part one of these goals. And there are many great charities out there.

But where government attempts to step in and meet some of these goals, there are several issues that are given short shrift. The biggest of these is based on principle. In order to effect mandates, government uses force or its threat to attempt to ensure compliance. The principle violated here is the libertarian principle of non-aggression, or prohibition on the initiation of force. It is a wonderful principle because it does not fight human nature. No one likes to be told what to do after all. And any public policy that must resort to compulsion is doomed to fail, at least some of the time. It will require more resources and provide more chance for government initiated acts of injustice.

So we have a choice. We can put ideals before principles and accept the use of compulsion for things like collecting taxes, with the idea that government can somehow be trusted to adjudicate how to spend those taxes. Or we can work toward our ideal voluntarily as guided by principle. The choice seems obvious to me.