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political m-type things

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

I took the iSideWith.com meme:

I was quite interested to see I agree with libertarians on so many issues – more than with the GOP, by a long shot. I have some god friends who are libertarians, and don’t wish to offend them, but it really shouldn’t be a great surprise when I say I just don’t agree with that approach to politics. It’s not that I think liberty is a bad thing; you can value liberty without being a libertarian. I just also believe that when you choose to live in a society that involves a moral and, ideally, political commitment to the common good. And while I really do value liberty, as a philosopher I’m intensely interested in what actually is the best thing to do.

However, the meme lets you look at the questions you came close to the official libertarian answer, and in many cases I think we agreed by coincidence. For instance, on the question “Do you support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?” I answered “Yes, I support a majority of the plan but not all aspects. Libertarians preferred “No, open the markets so insurers can compete across state lines and drive down costs“, which the meme thought were similar for some reason. But if you askd me what I’d like to change, I have some distinctly non-libertarian suggestions. I want a public option, a non-profit government-run insurance plan. I want health insurance separated by employment so employers don’t get a chance to impose their private moralities on their employees’ medical decisions, and I want it supported by tax-funded subsidies for those who can’t afford it otherwise. That, or mandatory living wages so more people can afford it.

More generally, I consider myself a virtue ethicist, which means that at the level of a community we should be responsible for helping each other develop virtue. By the time we get to the national or even the state level, though, you’re not dealing with that kind of moral community. At that level I think what we really need is a way to give communities the tools they need to thrive, including those that have historically or economically gotten the short end of the stick. I believe that I, as a middle-class white person, have a duty to support minority communities here at home and poor communities around the world, so far as I’m able. Because I love the people living there as fellow humans, even if I’m not in a position to love them as neighbors. In practical terms, I think John Rawls-style liberalism (which is very different from American political liberalism) is the best way to run things at that level.

So if you asked me: should the government (say) outlaw drug use, my answer would almost certainly be no. Certainly not at the national level – it’s not the national government’s job to make us good people. That doesn’t mean people should be free to do whatever they want so long as they don’t violate anyone else’s right. If a friend was toying with hard drugs I would get involved. At a local level I’d probably fight against access drugs that were damaging – though usually I think making this kind of thing illegal isn’t the most effective method. Much better to address whatever it is that’s making the drug use look appealing. I can see how that would resemble a libertarian approach, but the reasoning for why is actually quite different in my case.

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