For those of you who don’t know, I have for most of my adult life been a libertarian or as some might say classically liberal – at least in the sense that my point of view is that the best form of government for people in general is one that has limited control over the economy paired with also having limited control over social policies and culture. It didn’t take long for me to realize that party-line Libertarians were by and large out of touch with what is going on (after all who would run with a candidate like John McAfee) and that supporting them was not going to result in any great change. I had to accept over time that for my forseeable lifetime I’ll be voting for either Democrats or Republicans for President and to sit in the seats Congress and just have to accept whatever flaws that system comes with (consequences like Donald Trump having a plausible chance of actually becoming President). In general it is just a sad state of affairs for me personally as I have no real candidates to support.
“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”
For a while when I felt more expressive I took to a little writing online having a small blog called the “New American Myth” and one of the projects that I put on that site a while ago was a little subsite called “SocialismWORKS!”, a sort of snarky look at Socialism. My subsite was never really promoted, just kind of wandered out into the ether of the internet and despite me shutting down the New American Myth and saving a copy of SocialismWORKS! to my personal website library it still somehow gets circulated. It was probably originally created a decade ago, and while it is uncommon I do still get feedback once in a while. Most of the time the comments were from devout Socialists or apologetics of Socialism who just wanted to reach out to let me know that I’m truly uniformed about the world, the way things work, and just about life in general.
So randomly I received a question on Facebook this last week from someone who had read “SocialismWORKS!” and asked me who I was voting for in the upcoming 2016 elections. I realized right away this was a loaded question – anyone who watches my Facebook should know I’ve vocalized support for Bernie Sanders, easily the most openly Socialist of any presidential candidate to date. His campaign seems to be one of the few openly willing to let that term be used to describe their platform most shy away from it as divisive. Most other American political candidates even when supporting Socialist ideas stay away from the term like a plague. Also doing a little more digging, you’ll find that I’ve spent a bit of time showing satisfaction with Barack Obama’s Presidency. Doesn’t sound very classically liberal or libertarian on the face of it.
So I thought I’d take a second and record my thoughts and in the process explain something crude and simple that I’ve come to believe that not many people understand – at least not many I’ve met. The problem with most people’s ideas about government, morals and just life in general is real basic. While dealing with critical points of view groups of people tend to poorly implement critical, objective thinking. In groups, people do awful and stupid things. We yell down opposition, we try to bully and intimidate others who think “wrong” and we largely ignore the input of reasonable, intelligent people if we have agendas contrary to theirs. You’d probably think I’m just being cynical, but that isn’t my intent at all.
During the last 300 years we saw quite an expansion of political ideas, many governments moving from crude monarchies to modern constitutional republics. Despite the number of times governments have let us down in that time, people still think that groups of people in government have our intentions better secured for us than we do ourselves. Now spending a lot of time dwelling on the morally absolute component of that – whether you believe in ideologies based on individual rights or on group entitlements – is a bit fruitless because where we’re at is somewhere else. Right now in America, we have a fairly large federal government with a metric ton of laws. We have to start there if we want to change anything.
One project I believed in that I scrapped when I essentially went silent on political matters was a wiki dedicated to drafting laws that could deconstruct existing major legislation. I believe it is entirely healthy for our government to need to periodically renew programs, scrap them and change them. I’m also a big believer in any legislation that compels Congress to read laws they intend to enact, so closer scrutiny can be made to filter out bad legislation. I’m also a big fan of revoking the line item veto, if a bill has bad components it should be thrown out completely. As we sit here, the lawbooks that actually govern our nation which create all the stupid situations we all so thoroughly criticize the government for just grow and grow, with relatively little effort put into controlling it.
I’ve never once heard a mainstream candidate talk about things like this, so again, no real candidates to support. Which leaves me in an awkward situation. No matter who I essentially vote for, I’m voting for someone who does not represent my opinions. However, I’m willing to wager you’re in the same situation, if you think about it closely.
The most opportunity to change something about government comes from when popular opinion has spotlighted it as an issue. Usually we’ll find an opportunity for a good issue to get a movement to support change in it. However here come in my criticisms of group logic. Usually when an ideological movement – at least in my experience in America – virtually any movement gets momentum it gets derailed in direction by those who do not have its best intellectual interests in mind. A lot of people have used the term “regressive left” to describe some movements today which could be good examples, but I honestly do not believe this is merely a leftist quality. It is a component of human nature to be regressive when in groups. We have to sort of step outside ourselves to acknowledge regressive behaviors if we want them to change, name them and shame them within our own interest groups. Of course most political ideological movements develop defense mechanisms to prevent like I mentioned before: thought police dictating “wrong think”, groups controlling the narrative in media by any means necessary going so far as to create safe spaces to restrict flow of information, and outright bullying and thuggery when the group is big enough to make it safe for the members to act out in this way.
I guess what I’m getting at, in short, is I believe that while there are a lot of good topics on the table – health care reform, gun violence especially within black communities and with how police officers mishandle their right to kill responsibilities, economy and trade, correcting remaining social injustices amongst various cultural backgrounds, overwhelming deficit spending – where we have a ton of opportunity to change the way things are now, we are essentially shouting down logical discourse in favor of regressive thinking across the board.
Reaping What You Sow
The result? At the time of this writing I personally believe the Democrat candidate is most likely to be Hillary Clinton, and the Republican candidate is most likely to be Donald Trump. While I might have a bit of respect for Hillary’s career she is by no means representing very many political issues very well I think most will agree with me on that and the idea of Trump being an American president is outright shameful and disgusting.
Which is where I’m at today. A libertarian who hopes an outright socialist like Bernie Sanders wins the liberal ticket merely because I believe he has a better chance to prevent America from the general destructive humiliation of a Trump presidency. Someone who wants the political process to change, has strong beliefs as many of you do, but ultimately finds himself unable to support most modern movements with those interests in mind due to dominance of regressive thinking. Someone who believes that the bullying epidemic in our country doesn’t end in the schools, but continues into adult life and dominates most popular movements – people like Clinton and Trump both being good examples of people who use group manipulation (of press and interest groups) to dominate their own political movements.
If you’re happy or content, and the nuance of this type of position is lost on you, then I’m sure you’ll be happy when you cast your vote in the 2016 election. If you’re not though, perhaps think a little bit about your own favorite political groups – ask yourself if they are helping or hurting the political process. They are after all, a big part of why we’re here where we’re at today. Just ask yourself – is regressive thought in my community hurting the overall political process? Are we supporting people with the right causes for the wrong reasons, and is that actually hurting the cause?
I believe the answers to those questions will be a good first step to challenge the new American myth we still live in everyday.