Archived 3-04-04

“Political Ideology”

By Larry John

It goes without saying (so I will say it) that we all view government and politics differently. It is hard to even get two of us to agree on all subjects let alone a party or a nation. We all see the “issues” of government and politics a little differently based on our experiences.  I think the reason is that we think about the issue before we decide on our political ideology. Thinking about the specific “issue” first, rather than your ideology of government, assures you will waffle back and forth on every issue because you are approaching the issue based on your “feelings” at the time, and not a predetermined ideology or belief about how you stand on government’s role in our lives. We have to decide what we want from government, how best we can solve the problems we face in society through government, and if we can afford the services we want from government, or if it is worth the sacrifice to have them.

I make 100% of my political decisions based on ideology. For me, it is much easier to see a clear picture of the “results and effects” of my thinking, when I start with a basic political conviction and then evaluate the political question or issue based on that conviction. For example, if I start with the fundamental political conviction that “freedom of choice” is paramount; it is easier to express my views on hard questions like gun laws, abortion, gay marriages, church and state, drugs, etc. For example, I could never support legislating morality in any form because “freedom of choice” is fundamental. Let me make myself clear, in no way does my fundamental political conviction mean that I agree on the “results” that may occur when you allow people to choose. Many times I am against the “result” of letting people have the right to make their own personal decisions. In my “opinion,” people sometimes make bad decisions with their personal freedoms. It just means that even if I don’t agree with the final result that may occur, I can’t compromise on the fact that FREEDOM of choice is paramount! I believe that the human has the right to choose, and make good or bad decisions, as long as those decisions don’t hurt anyone else. If they choose to hurt themselves they must suffer the consequences and results of their own personal choices. I do believe there is a difference between freedoms, rights, and privileges….but that’s another discussion.

So even though I will try to make this simple to understand, I know that when you try to generalize anything, there are always several, if not many, exceptions. I do realize that even within a party that has a written platform for all to understand, very seldom do two of the millions of people who say they are of the same political party agree on anything perfectly. That is because we look at the issues and the politician FIRST. If we were to start evaluating the issues based on an ideology we have internalized and believe, discussing the issues that divided us would be a whole lot easier. We still may not agree on the perfect solution to the issues and problems of society and how government must respond to the questions facing society, but as for your “personal” stance, knowing your personal ideology BEFORE you think about the specific issue allows you to think more clearly. I am sure you are like I am when it comes to watching the politicians and pundits when they discuss the issues and their proposed solutions. These people are so convincing that by the time they get done explaining their point of view, I am like Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, “I’m a Believer!” If I just look at each issue of society, be it drugs, war, morality, taxes, laws, right, wrong, good, bad, and stupid, I am swayed by the debate and find it hard to make a “practical, factual, and logical” decision on any subject. I am like a leaf fallen from a tree, blown by the wind in any direction the “hot air” is blowing.

So, just for fun (at least for one of us) let’s take a look at the five political party platforms we have, realizing that there are factions of these five main platforms of political view.  There are the Republicans, Democrats, the Independents, the Libertarians, and the Authoritarians. Again, I know there are more parties and party platforms, but most of the other parties fall to the right or the left of these nationally recognized parties. The reason, by the way, that they are nationally recognized is that their candidate normally has a chance of winning. Smaller parties run on principle or ideology, but don’t get very many candidates in high office. In order to discuss this complex matter in a simple way, I am going to be so basic that it is like talking about electricity and only talking about “positive” and “negative.” But hey, sometimes all we want to know is “how to turn the switch on.” So here goes.

Simply put, this is not simple, but simply put, all parties believe in protection. They don’t all agree about war and how much to spend on the military to protect us, but we all agree that some protection is necessary in today’s world climate. We also agree that we need to be protected internally from coercion and violence. How much protection do we need is another matter for discussion. It is all about how much do you want to spend on the protection? Protection aside, if you are a member of a political party, here is what the simplistic belief of each party is. There are only two main ideological areas that “headline” all the other issues we talk about. Those two “stars” of politics are personal freedoms and the economy. It is up to you to decide your ideology of government based on those two subjects, and only those two subjects. You have to keep personality and the good looks of the candidates out of your decision if you are going to make your political decision based on ideology. Politicians have to get elected. That said, many times they say what they think we want to hear in order to get elected. So I am not talking about candidates and politicians here. I am talking about the main beliefs of the parties as they relate to personal freedoms and the economy.  The question then is, how we can use government to best make sure that our personal liberties are protected and our economic wellbeing is insured?

Republicans think that government must stay out of matters of the economy as much as possible in order for the economy to flourish, yet when it comes to personal freedoms and liberties, government is best for taking care of these societal questions and concerns. They want the government to defend the community from threats to its moral fiber. Legislating morality or what we must do with our bodies, our religion, our sexual activities, our vices, etc., is best controlled, legislated, and directed by the government.

The Democrats believe just the opposite. They think that government should not legislate morality.  They think that our having personal freedoms and liberties insures that government will stay out of the bedroom and our personal lives, but they do believe that the economy is best controlled and directed by the government. Democrats want government to serve the disadvantaged in the name of fairness. They tolerate social diversity, but work for economic equality. Protecting the middle class is a high priority. They want government to “raise up” the poor by subsidizing the poor through government programs. They want the rich to contribute more to facilitate this economic equity, whereas Republicans believe the best way to help the poor is to protect the rich who will give the poor better and higher paying jobs.

The Libertarians believe that we as humans have the power, the right, and the personal responsibility for self-government in both areas of personal liberties and the economy. They believe that government should be involved in our lives as little as possible. They value individual responsibility, and tolerate economic and social diversity.

The Independents are also called Centrist, because many are right in the middle, or the center, of political ideology. Many however, tend to be conservative in thought but their ideology is one of independent thinking. They want to keep the options open. They tend to keep an open mind on new issues. Many centrists feel that government serves as a check on excessive liberty. They look at the issues one by one and then make up their minds. This is a hard group to categorize, because the very name of the party, Independents, connotes independence from concrete political views.

And finally there are the Authoritarians. They think government should be involved 100% in the central planning of our nation and society. They often doubt whether self-government is practical. Many are called socialists and some fascists. The words socialist and fascist are not words we normally like to hear, but you would be surprised at the number of people who subscribe to the Authoritarian ideology. To Authoritarians, government is the only answer to the questions and concerns of society, the economy, the nation, and the world.

 So there you have it.  What is your political ideology? Where do you choose to stand? Regardless of what ideology you choose, I assure you that if you choose your ideology first, your personal answers to the questions that face society, our nation, and the world, will be made much easier for you to decide.  You’ll know more clearly “where you stand” and “why you stand there.” If your ideology is the “cause” of your thinking, then the “effect or result” of your thinking will always be in agreement with what you “really” believe, not just how you “feel” at the moment. Think about it.