Sunday, 3 July 2011

Quick Note: Why Am I A Social Liberal...

This is a topic on which I could, and should, write an extended piece. But I want to write mainly a quick note on the topic for now.

In choosing an ideology, and in creating an ideology, there are many factors to consider, each one of them would deserve several professional theses, and it is simply a fact that we still remain in debate over them after millennia. Among these factors are: How do we see the world, how do we understand Human Nature, how do we see history and is it going towards a particular point and a particular final form of society (Historicism, Hegelian and Marxist Dialectics), what are the lessons we have learned from history regarding how societies and economies and individuals and nature work, what are the resources of nature and how abundant are they and how are they best managed, what are our rights as human beings, and what are our responsibilities as human beings towards one another, and so forth.

Anthony Giddens, one of the main theoreticians behind modern Centrism (The Third Way) with one of the people he influenced the most, Bill Clinton.

Some people believe in rigid ideologies that should just be applied regardless of anything, some believe in a minor range of flexibility around that ideology, and some are Pragmatists. I am a pragmatist, or rather I try to be. In a so-called ideal world, with abundant resources and other conditions, I would be some sort of Libertarian. I would prefer a minimal state, as I do not think the state should interfere in the choices of its people, whether personally or economically, as long as no one harms another. But the world today is not ideal. There is immense poverty around the world. In countries like Egypt and Brazil, there is enormous wealth in the hands of a few, and extreme poverty in the hands of the many, and there are population and resource pressures. It is there that something like Social Liberalism, which is a balanced approach between Free Markets and Social Justice, is direly needed, in my opinion.

John Rawls, the American Philosopher devised a famous Philosophical experiment to determine the proper ideology that people should choose. The experiment is metaphysical and unreal, quite imaginary, and I will recount it now in basics, with modifications for brevity. In it, he assumed that all people are to be put behind a Veil Of Ignorance, imagine it as a dark room where between after a person dies and is about to be reborn as a new person or assume the body and mind of an existing person on Earth, with no recollection of who you used to be. You do not know what kind of person you will be, what age, what gender, what mental state, what disability, what what country, what shape or form, or anything that you will be. You are then asked to define what kind of rules you want to be born into, in the world. What are the rules that you would like to set for society that would assure you, regardless of who you are, a degree of wellbeing and happiness that is sufficient. Rawls decides that people will choose a society where there is freedom and human rights and free economics, but also a degree of solidarity between people to help those who need it, a Centrist Way. Some see it as Centre Right, others argue it is Centre Left, I will just say it is Centre.

Much in the line of the same experiment, and as I look at the world and my country today, I believe that people want and need to be free, to explore, to grow, to experiment, to see the world, to innovate and create, and should be given the freedom to do so, and earn any financial or meritocratic benefit from their work, both because they would deserve it and because it would serve as motivation. On the other hand, there needs to be a degree of solidarity between people, of mutual assistance, in case one of us is unable to fully participate in life from the start, or loses this capacity at some point through life. It has also been my observation that any system that tries to forcibly equate people or plan all aspects of economic and social activity has had horrid results, and societies with extreme lack of mutual welfare and community and state solidarity only thrived when they had a magical mixture of labour, needed resources (of any kind), brain power, and the right conditions. Otherwise, life can crush individuals who fall behind. We need markets and competition to create wealth and spur creativity, and we need some State role to make sure no one misses out, and that those who might suffer on the way can get up on their feet again. I am all for some form free education and national free healthcare (both have multiple policy versions and levels and scope) and strong unions, but not for 40% or 50% tax rates, needless forms of protectionism, and certain megalomaniac Estate Taxes, for example. While most people would find what I say not out of the ordinary, those whom it would affect and quite bother are the extremes at the right and the left of the political spectrum.

And thus, my reasons for being a Centrist or a Social Liberal are essentially Pragmatic. I am not a staunch ideologue, and I do not like them. Anyone who believes he or she has achieved the capacity to understand how exactly societies globally should be structured and should function in the best possible way, and believes these are inviolable eternal truths, well, is someone who needs to take a few steps back. Only Uncertainty is certain. I believe that we should put principles ahead of ideology. My principles are pretty much as you can interpolate from the above, but they are a belief in the necessity of Freedom for individuals (economic and social and cultural and political), as well as the need to help one another whenever one of us falls, to ensure basic dignity and survival and wellbeing. Any State that seeks to forcibly over-regulate people and their work and lives, even for a sublime and great cause such as egalitarianism, is enacting slavery and repression. Much as staunch Socialists like to claim, with some merit, that Capitalism is a form of slavery, I find that the statement works both ways as well. Call me Postmodern, I'll take it as a compliment.


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