Stock answers: What is my political leaning?

April 7th, 2011 § 1 comment

This is a new regular feature, which—like the other regular features I’ve introduced in the past—will no doubt be a one-time thing that I forget and never return to. However, the intent is that I will periodically use a blog post to answer a question that often comes up in casual conversation but is too tedious or involved for my poor verbal skills to articulate on the fly. This way, if these questions come up in the future, I can tell my conversant to get out their iPhone and read the relevant post while I drink my beer in peace. Below is an undergraduate-level wishy-washy explanation of my political beliefs. If you have not just asked me about them, there is no reason you should continue reading.

Other than “How are you?” there is no question I’m loath to answer more than “What is your political leaning?” or any variant thereof. The question is, understandably, very important to some people; it does say a good deal about one’s world view in most circumstances. I don’t dread the question because I fear argument or exposing myself as an idiot; I simply don’t have a good answer.

I find answering difficult because—contrary to confidence I sometimes project—I generally don’t know what I believe. This is the quick answer.

In the past, I’ve been called almost everything—a liberal, an anarchist, a technocrat, confused—and I would say all are accurate. Balance and efficiency are the lenses through which I generally see the world and judge the merits of actions. Maximize efficiency; understand the balance—not that we always need to maintain balance, just understand the constraints it imposes.

This is a hazy path to a lazy recommendation: Pick objectives; do what works. Isn’t that what all political beliefs come down to? I think so, but then we plate the raw components in abstract but overly-specific principles, sometimes for good reasons, like empirical evidence that they have worked in observed applications, and sometimes for shoddy ones, like status plays.

If socialism works for the pressing objectives, I’ll be a socialist. If autocracy works better, let’s do that. Right now, it’s most convenient to say I’m a bleeding-heart libertarian. I have a natural proclivity for empathy—I don’t say that to brag; I often wish I were more callous—so I’m drawn to the objectives that guide most socialists. This past weekend, in fact, I was accused of being a closet socialist (what prompted this post in the first place), and that may be accurate.

My measured but fallible reading on our current state says that realizing these objectives via responsible government intervention is hopeless. People of all parties seem pretty unanimous that the government we have now mostly serves the powerful, and we seem caught in a feedback loop that will only perpetuate the arrangement.

Given our present technology, demographics, set of problems, etc., my skewed and unsubstantiated mental calculus says that if we focus our time and resources on collective actions that circumvent the constraints of government—even if that includes the occasional criminal action— it will get us where we want to be more quickly.

Thus, right now I consider participation in elections and support of lobbies to be wasted efforts. I could easily be wrong, but I wish concerned people would spend that money effort considering and experimenting with alternatives.

Simply put, right now, I believe what would work would be more libertarianism. I don’t think this necessarily makes me a libertarian. Given the right scale and set of objectives, all forms of governance seem capable of working.┬áIf some future scenario requires an autocratic, militaristic leader making snap decisions to guide us through crisis, I think I could accept this and would like to be that ruler.

Is this one long weaselly cop out? Absolutely, but it’s the best and most honest answer I can give. For now. Under present circumstances. Come to think of it, maybe this isn’t such a stock answer after all.

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