Let's Come Together

I was not happy with my rant earlier this week. I read it aloud for the first time, after it had been published, and I was struck by it's sprawling, unstructured form and it's off-putting second person tense. I set out to intellectual crucify someone, but that shouldn't have been my motive. My writing was too confrontational, too alienating. I was in such a hurry to get it published that I didn't take the time to properly edit it, or re-think its approach.

Fortunately, I have a great editor. She's in advertising, and she gave me some great advice about paring it down and making it more relate-able. In that spirit, allow me to start over. This time, I will try to make it brief. If you've been following Starkraving for any length of time, you'll know how hard that is for me to do.

I wanted to discuss why Libertarianism has always made me angry. The representatives for the political philosophies of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman are often intellectual bullies who tear down others' moral convictions for sake of winning a logical argument. 

My first introduction to such a person happened many years ago, when I was dipping my feet in the pool of political awareness. It was not a pleasant encounter. Have you ever met anybody who rubbed you the wrong way. I know you have. He brings out the worst in me, and I hate that. This guy was and is an idea bully. He wields his ideas like a sledgehammer. The details don't matter, but my point is - after that, everyone I met with extreme Libertarian convictions came across the same way - arrogant, unwilling to consider others' views, and a little bit obnoxious. Since then, it's been hard for me to imagine people like that are cordial in presenting their ideas. 

I want to meet more Libertarian minded people who also harbor intense social compassion. (Okay, so I am related to one, but he's an exception.) I want to meet someone who really believes Ron Paul would make a great President, but who also is willing to acknowledge the presence of structural poverty in our society as a symptom of policies that benefit a privileged class. That's not a radical notion; it's a moderate social idea that, pre-1980, was a foregone conclusion in our society. 

In your life, I'm sure you've known at least a few people who believe fervently in eradicating the Fed, re-establishing the Gold Standard, stripping most Government regulation, privatizing social welfare programs, and getting rid of collective bargaining rights. The people we know who believe in all these things genuinely see these systems as an impedance to social mobility for the lower class. They see New Deal liberalism as an affront to upward mobility and an insult to success. They are not evil, and I am not in a position to call them 'wrong.' There are numbers to back up their theories, but then again, numbers can be used in the service of any theory, no matter how untested. The policy of social welfare is history tested, but even now, people are re-visiting the impact of FDRs post-war policies and calling them disastrous. The truth is hard to find, because every side has an army to support their point of view.

Please understand; I am not trying to knock the Neo-Liberal set of ideas off the pedestal they have been placed on. I just want to understand why it always has to be an extreme. Most historians will agree that absolute forms of Communism and Socialism have often ended in disaster. I'm not an extremist but I believe that pieces of different social theories, even those that seem contradictory, don't always have to cancel each other out. Why can't our society continue to be what it was through much of the 20th century - a hybrid of Capitalism and Socialism and other approaches, always seeking to better and diversify itself?

There is a myth out there that for our country to succeed, it has to be a pure form of Government that pushes everything to one side of the moral and social spectrum; that it must ascribe one belief system to all approaches to tackling our problems. I am wary of extremism in any form. The truth is, our country has always been a messy hybrid of ideas founded on Constitutional principles from centuries ago. People have a tough time agreeing on how those Constitutional principles should be interpreted in modern society. It's like with the Bible - depending on your interpretation, you will ascribe a wholly different notion of what it says.

Getting people to agree on what the right thing is for our country is going to be impossible. There is always going to be a convincing argument from someone, somewhere, that justifies any idea. All it takes is the right assembly of evidence and the right historical data. So, let's agree not to agree on many things. Can we, though, agree that sometimes the best way forward for any society is to construct our country's policies on a foundation of diversity rather than rigidity?

Compared to a lot of far left Liberal ideas, the President has Governed as a real moderate. He is a Hawaiian Christian with fixed views on the importance of Democratic institutions, and an almost old fashioned view of what it takes to succeed in America. He is not a Socialist, any more than any President who presided over any number of Egalitarian policies in our country over the course of its existence. Some may rightly feel he harbors an over-reliance on Government's role in fixing structural social dilemmas, but let's all agree that he's not an extremist. That's just absurd.

Listen, I didn't mean to make this any longer than it had to be. The Libertarian man who I don't like is still out there, debating people, creating acrimony and frustration for people who disagree with him. I don't think this helps the discourse. I don't think this advances his views or the views of his opponents. I wish we could all be more civil to each other. We don't have to remotely agree, and we can still get emotional - as I do - about our convictions. Let's just not let that passion turn us brittle and uncompromising when it comes to hearing others out, no matter how worked up it gets us.


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