Thursday, November 15, 2012

Of Labels and Liberty

Resisting the urge to think less

Earlier this year a column in the Reston Connection described my politics as "hybrid libertarian, progressive & conservative". Huh? The author also said that I offered a "a clear, new platform", so at least I have that going for me.

People tend to apply political labels within the context of their own ideology because it helps them evaluate positions and policies. Some people stop evaluating once a label is established, be that label a political party or a part of the political spectrum while others see past labels. The two political labels typically applied in American politics are conservative and liberal. But these labels have different meanings elsewhere in the world. According to an article in Wikipedia: "In North America, unlike in Europe, the word liberalism almost exclusively refers to social liberalism" where government policies are established for the good of  the community.

American liberals are strong believers in personal liberty but also see a strong role for government in economics and publicly provided services. American conservatives are strong believers in economic liberty but – especially in recent years – have pressed for government policies that legislate traditional social values and mores. American liberals often argue that American conservatives stifle personal freedom; American conservatives often argue that American liberals advocate income redistribution. I argue that each has a social and economic agenda that impinge on liberty without advocating responsibility.

I'm neither an American liberal or an American conservative, and that's why I ran for U.S. House as an independent.

I believe in personal liberty and responsibility: I will be secure in my person, I determine how I spend my money, and I am responsible for any of my actions that may affect others. I believe in economic liberty and responsibility: I will be rewarded for my economic successes, I pay for the public services available for my consumption, and I am responsible for any economic cost I may impose on others.

In the end there's only one label I seek: trusted – for my honesty, integrity, and evenhandedness. Those are the attributes I seek in friends, business associates, and policymakers. Did you notice that I didn't use the label "politician"?