iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Tag Archives: Politics

U.S. politics and politics in general

Social libertarianism

The term “social libertarian” is an ambiguous term.  Some have used it to mean a political philosophy that is socialist on most issues except certain matters which are considered private (e.g., a candidate for Minnesota Governor, Scott Raskiewicz).  That is a primarily socialist position.

Here the term “social libertarian” indicates someone who is primarily libertarian but who acknowledges the importance of social institutions and the role that government can play to strengthen them without controlling them.  It might be called social framework political philosophy.

Libertarianism is considered the opposite of political authoritarianism.  Its basic principle is “the obligation not to aggress against anyone.”  This is the Harm Principle of J. S. Mill.  It is a purely negative principle that says little about what libertarianism would do in practice other than repeal laws.

The social framework position says that the purpose of government is to establish and maintain a framework for society.  This framework consists of legal structures, judicial rules, and policies designed to promote the welfare of the society as individuals and as a whole.  The state should not usurp the functions of society; it should support them.

There are only a few roles that are proper for the state: justice, defense, and diplomacy.  Beyond that the state should develop frameworks that society can use.  For example, instead of the state directly building and operating schools, the state should provide a framework in the tax structure so schools can afford to exist and parents can afford to send their children to school.  Instead of the state directly building and operating health care facilities, the state should provide a legal framework so hospitals can afford to exist, health insurance companies can stay in business, and people can afford to pay for health care.

Here is another example of this framework approach, this time concerning a very contentious issue: the state and marriage.  In the U.S. and other Western nations a religious dispute is taking place about marriage.  The focus is the issues of same-sex marriage but it also has to do with divorce.  It is a mistake for the state to step in and “solve” this religious dispute.  It will only exacerbate a religious conflict and undermine political cohesion.

The solution is for the state to step back from deciding who is married and who is not and let religious and social organizations take care of that.  Apart from minimal requirements of age and not being married to another person, the state should merely be the official recorder of marital status.  The marital status is condition of being single, married, or divorced and, if married, the person to whom one is married to.  It also includes the disposition of children and property if there is a divorce.

The transactions of marrying and divorcing should rest with religious and social organizations recognized by the state who have basic characteristics such as these: (1) they have written criteria and procedures they follow for making changes in the marital status of anyone; (2) they notify the state within 10 days if they make a change to the marital status of anyone; (3) they obtain if possible the consent of all parties involved to make a change in their marital status.  All changes in marital status include the disposition of children and property if there is a divorce.

Every time the state is informed by a recognized organization that they have made a change in the marital status the state records the change and the organization that informed them of the change of marital status.  This gives that organization jurisdiction over the marriage should there be any issue that arises.  If a married couple wants a different organization to have jurisdiction over their marriage, they may do so at any time if there is mutual consent.

The state does not recognize a marriage which involves anyone already married unless the state has been informed that there has been a divorce.  If the state is informed of a divorce by a different organization than the one that informed it of the marriage, the state informs the first organization of the change in status and the change in jurisdiction, too.

If both spouses want a divorce, the organization with jurisdiction is available to determine the matter.  The organization must follow its own written procedures but apart from that is under no legal obligation to grant a divorce.  If only one spouse wants a divorce, the organization with jurisdiction is available to adjudicate the matter.  If and only if the written procedures of the organization at the time the couple were married allow for contested divorce, may the organization perform a divorce and then only by following said procedures.  There is no appeal of the organization’s decisions unless there is flagrant disregard of their own written procedures.

The purpose of all this is (1) to get the state out of the business of deciding who is and who isn’t married, and (2) to strengthen the role of non-governmental organizations in society.

2010

Secular religion and religious secularism

Aren’t “secular” and “religious” mutually exclusive terms? Not necessarily. The term “religion” has two basic senses. The narrow sense of the term that means an historical religion, a self-identified religion, does not include secular religion. But religion in the broader sense is something that constitutes one’s life goal, the highest authority one recognizes, the self-existing reality one acknowledges. Negatively, it is something that people most resist changing. In that sense a secular religion is the religion of secular people.

Secular people are those who recognize or value no reality other than secular reality — a reality of this world, this era, this life. Marxism is the best known example of a secular religion. It is a religion for people who are anti-religious (meaning against every non-secular religion), and whose life goal is the establishment of a certain political system.

Religious secularism uses traditional religious language to express secular motivations, means, and ends. For example, those who use religious language to promote political or social goals are engaging in religious secularism. Both religious liberalism and militant forms of Islam fall into this category.

Secular religion and religious secularism find it advantageous to hide their agenda. Secular religion hides religion behind a secular facade. Their words are secular but their goals are religious. Religious secularism hides secularism behind a religious facade. Their words are religious but their goals are secular.

How do you tell whether someone has a religious agenda hidden behind secular language or a secular agenda hidden behind religious language? “By their fruit you shall know them.” Actions speak louder than words. Do they always interpret religious matters as secular realities or secular matters as religious realities? Do they consistently demonize their opponents? Does their agenda consume their life?

2009

Politics by other means

There are two key social movements in modern society: the movement to make society more subject to politics and the movement to make society less subject to politics. The former movement is called socialism (it would be better called “politicism”). The latter movement has no single name but is called conservatism more than other names. In the French Assembly the royalists sat on the right and the radicals sat on the left, so socialists have come to be called the Left and non-socialists called the Right.

Historically, socialism burst on the scene with the French revolution, although precursors and related movements have earlier roots. Historically, conservativism as a political philosophy began as a reaction to the French revolution, although it has much older roots. In Europe, conservatives were identified with defenders of the “old regime”, the monarchy. In America, the monarchy ended with the American Revolution so there is no “old regime” to return to but there are cultural, economic, and religious traditions inherited from European roots that could be re-invigorated.

Today socialism has won most of its aims as stated in the nineteenth century, which were primarily economic. There are new aims now, particularly since the New Left surpassed the Old Left in the latter part of the twentieth century. These new aims are primarily cultural and moral.

The situation today in many developed societies is a high degree of politicization. There is little that is not politicized anymore: education, science, culture, morality, religion–all are influenced by the political order, subject to the political order, and commonly understood in political terms.

Carl von Clausewitz’s famously wrote “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means (Der Krieg ist eine blosse Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln). While there is some dispute about what he was trying to say, it suggests that politics can be continued in other ways, which is what socialism does.

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On the Centrist Project

The Centrist Project proposes to break the gridlock in Washington by electing five independent Senators.  It’s an appealing strategy.  But their Centrist Principles show a moderate go with the flow attitude that eschews “ideology” for trendy politics.

For example, under Environmental responsibility it reads:

“I will act as a steward of the environment for future generations. I believe that climate change represents a potential threat to the United States and the international community. I will support international efforts to curtail carbon emissions, including policies that raise the cost of polluting behavior.”

There is no awareness of trade-offs here or of the extremes of environmental and anti-environmental politics.  Without an “ideology” of centrist philosophy this effort will drift into going with whatever direction the political winds are blowing.

The centrist

In my usage, centrism is distinguished from moderation as follows:

The moderate seeks the relative middle so if the winds blow in one direction, the moderate moves in that direction to a moderate degree.  In contrast the centrist stakes out a position in the long-term middle so if the winds blow in one direction, the centrist leans against the wind.  The centrist may seem contrarian in two directions at the same time depending on the issue but their focus is always on maintaining a place between the extremes.

Centrists are aware there are always trade-offs and oppositions:  liberty vs. safety, property vs. equality, big business vs. big government, present generations vs. future generations, economic stability vs. economic growth, etc.  Centrists seek a middle way between these extremes, a compromise that is aware of the tension between these extremes and expects adjustments in the future.

The order of life, liberty, and property

The first and second article of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was written by George Mason and adopted unanimously by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776, states:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

The (U.S.) Declaration of Independence, which was primarily drafted by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, states:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I suspect that the omission of “property” from the Declaration was to avoid the potential for this revolutionary document to be challenged as an attempt to abrogate British property rights.  In any case, the rights to “life, liberty and property” are asserted in the Declaration of Colonial Rights, a resolution of the First Continental Congress.  The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution declare that governments cannot deprive any person of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law.

The U.S. Civil War can be understood as a conflict over the rights of liberty vs. property.  Slaves were chattel property and their right to liberty was not acknowledged until the war was decided.  The right to liberty trumps the right to property if there is a conflict.

The continuing clash over abortion can be understood as a conflict between the right to liberty and the right to life.  It is greatly to be hoped that the right to life will prevail as liberty means little if a life can be taken without due process of law.

In short, the rights to life, liberty, and property should be acknowledged in that order with life taking precedence over liberty and liberty taking precedence over property.

January 2011