Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pendulum, Part 2

A response to a question I had about my original post:

How do you keep the pendulum swinging - because it will have to's a pendulum - without some polarization? I understand that over divisiveness will only create trauma for all parties involved, but there comes a point when neither side can meet in the middle. How can anyone keep a part of themselves (true individuality) ... without sacrificing who they are or what they believe in - even if it helps the greater good? Are you stating that each party should lessen off of who they are?

It's a confusing issue.... made as such because we've squeezed it down to a one dimensional way of looking at it (btw, I'm using IE right now, so spell check is off... I'll edit it later in Firefox). Let's take a look at the ideological spectrum (in other words, the path in which the pendulum travels) as seen by most people. There's the Left, and the Right. A line in which most Democrats are on one side, and most Republicans are on the other, with a smattering of Moderates in the middle. This look compresses what I'm really talking about, namely, that there is another axis on which the pendulum can move. While "beliefs" are on the X-axis, "control" is on the Y-axis. The amount of power that a government has, the control that it has over the lives of it's citizens. We can all keep our "beliefs" and be as vehement and as passionate about them as we want. We would cease to be human if we didn't. It's the involvement of the government in those beliefs that I want to talk about.

An example. Let's take the issue of same sex marriages (since the other viable option, Abortion, deals with the liberties of another being, which is an entirely different set of arguments.) When dealing with homosexuality, we have peoples' beliefs, be they the prominent Christian beliefs that it's a sin, or the more secular, biological notion that it's normal, possibly a way of nature to control population growth. There's the belief that love, in whatever form, is right, and is much more desirable than hate, which is displayed by bigotry and crimes against gay people. Okay. Wherever you fall on the ethical axis on this subject, you have to look at the Y-axis. Namely, control over the issue by the government. Do we move to one side of the spectrum and outlaw all homosexual relationships, including marriage, because the government has the right to control any aspect of it's citizen's lives? Or do we allow relationships of any kind, believing that the government has no right at all to control any aspect of people's lives? This, of course, legalizes pedophilia, polygamy...etc.... Again, these are simply the extremes on the spectrum. And it's much more complicated that this.

Let's pause for a moment and put some labels on this. Visualize the x/y axis chart. Everyone has their own beliefs, their own ideals about how government should work. Generally, however (and we are applying stereotypes here, for sake of making things simple), Republicans (especially those that would align themselves with what used to be the Moral Majority or Christian Right) have two positions on the Y axis. For issues dealing with finance and material things, they can be graphed on the Y as wanting little control (let's put No control on the bottom, and Total control on the Top). But on issues of ethics, such as that mentioned above, they would rather have more control, thus most conservatives would vote against same-sex marriages on the basis of their X-axis beliefs (I wish I could draw what I'm seeing in my head on these graphs, it would help). Democrats (especially those we could label Liberal or Progressive), would have the opposite marks. Little control on ethical issues like Same sex marriage, but more regulation on the financial and material aspects of society (such as the Environment, for example). I can see it all in my head, stretching and angling on the graph like rubber bands.

The Libertarian graph look much different. While they may be on either side of the X axis (being socially conservative or liberal), the main difference is on the Y. Libertarians believe that, no matter what the issue, the Government should not intervene in the lives of its citizens. Therefore, they are on the bottom of the Y axis. This brings up the Libertarian Paradox, as I call it. Because, if the government does not have control over its citizens, then who does? The answer is a staunch belief in individual freedom and individual responsibility. In other words, it is up to each of us to be self-disciplining as to how we live our lives. Makes sense, doesn't it? Except it can't always work that way. We have seen in the past couple of years how the financial markets, without government regulation, has suffered at the hands of investors who have manipulated and cheated the system. They took advantage of no regulations and profited improperly because of it. Reality says that people do not have the ability to self-govern. The government has to step in where the people won't. (This is also oppositely true, if you take a look at the Arizona immigration issue. The people have to step in when the Government won't, but that's another blog.) Therefore Libertarianism only works when a self-governing principle is inserted when the government's control is removed. This is why most Libertarians come across as nutcases, because either they want anarchy so they can do what they want, or they wrestle with the paradox so much that they say opposite things one after another, and therefore cannot be depended upon. If you wish, you can take a look at a previous blog of mine, on legalizing drugs, for more examples of this:

So the answer to people having different opinions is this. We can disagree on our beliefs, and be as passionate about them as we want to be. It is up to us to discipline ourselves to live according to those beliefs. It's when we use the power of the government to control other peoples lives (especially when no other person's liberty or safety is involved) that we give a push to the pendulum, making it move further out. It's the Y axis we need to control, not the X. We have to separate "ethics" from "law." Bob Barr did this by voting against the Same Sex Marriage amendment to the Georgia Constitution. He realized that even though he disagreed with the idea of same sex marriage, he voted against the amendment because the government should not have the right to interfere in the personal lives of its citizens. He separated his beliefs from the Law. This separation is what the Constitution is based on, and it's what we have forgotten in our desire to place our beliefs on the lives of others. The government becomes a tool for secular humanism, or for Christian evangelicals. It should promote neither. Our relationship with other people, or with God, should be our own choice. The government should only step in when those actions interfere in other people's lives. The government is a protective power, not a proactive one. Thus the military should be given high priority, as well as the police and fire departments. But I'll not go into all of this, as that is another blog.

I haven't quite got it all worked out, as the Libertarian Paradox is something to be reckoned with. Libertarianism is a philosophy for an ideal society. We must strive for that ideal, while recognizing that reality must rely on a government that is less than perfect, as we are less than perfect. We should mirror the Federal Government after God Himself. God has the power to control every aspect of our lives. He could tell us what to eat, what to do, who to love, all according to His design. But He doesn't. He lets us make our own decisions, and we suffer consequences if they are the wrong ones. It doesn't mean that God is less powerful doing it that way, but rather, He chooses to be more a Clockmaker than a Micromanager. He realizes our individual sovereignty, as we are beings He created. After all, His kingdom is much stronger if His citizens voluntarily do as He commands than having simply robots. God wants people He can be proud of. Our government should do the same.

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