Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Politics and Values

The instant that one election ends, the next election begins.

Part of my interest in writing this blog is to pay attention to this next election, and to pay particular attention to the question of values.

The past few years have shown us the importance of values in political office. We have, in the White House right now, a group of people whose values tell them that:

  • It is permissible -- perhaps even obligatory -- to deceive a nation into war.
  • Our government may treat prisoners in ways in which, if any other nation were to treat American prisoners the same way, would be considered so wrong as to justify war.
  • Believes that the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment means, "No government shall take any action to prevent any church from turning America into a theocracy."
  • Maintaining political power is more important than national security.

I think that values are important. One of the primary reasons why we must select our leaders based on their values is the fact that we cannot watch over their shoulder as they make each decision. We need people that we can trust, even when we are not able to watch them. If a neighbor has good values, you can trust him to watch over your house. If you have to watch what he does, he is not a good neighbor. The same is true with representatives.


I do not wish to spend much time discussing policy. I want to spend my time discussing values. With that in mind, I have come up with a questionnaire that seeks to help determine a candidate's values.

  1. Do you believe that there should be two different standards of behavior -- a loose set of standards for members of your own party, and a second, stricter set of standards that apply to the opposing party?
  2. Do you believe that guilt or innocence should be judged first by party affiliation and then by the evidence? Does the presumption of innocence until proven guilty belong only to members of your party?
  3. Do you consider it wrong to bear false witness against your neighbor? Do you believe that taking something that somebody says out of context or twisting his meaning, claiming that he said something he did not say, counts as 'bearing false witness'?
  4. Do you believe that non-monotheistic belief systems are on the same patriotic level as rebellion, tyranny, and injustice? Do you favor a national ritual where school children are encouraged to stand each day and say that non-monotheistic belief systems are on the same patriotic level as rebellion, tyranny, and injustice?
  5. Do you believe that the most important principle for this country to adopt -- the principle that is so important that it deserves the status of "national motto" -- is the principle "National populations ought to be divided between a we group who trust in God, and a they group who do not?"
  6. Do you believe that a wise person looks at the evidence and then makes policy to fit the evidence? Or is the wise leader one who first decides on a conclusion based on faith and from that point on accepts only that evidence that supports his beliefs?
  7. Do you believe that scientists are basically interested in the pursuit of facts, or have they instead formed a secret organization where they have secretly agreed to promote fictions such as evolution and global warming?
  8. Do you believe that because future generations do not yet vote that their interests are politically irrelevant, and that they are to be sacrificed for the pleasure of fulfilling the demands of the current generation who do vote?
  9. Do you believe that there are limits to what the majority in any society may do to the minority? If so, which branch of government do you suggest be positioned to protect the rights and interests of the minority against a tyranny of the majority? How should they be protected from the majority's eventual anger?
  10. Do you basically agree with the principles set down in the Bill of Rights? If so, do you think that they describe a set of political rights that one is entitled to in virtue of being an American? Or do they basically describe a set of moral rights that one is entitled to in virtue of being human?

A Fair Questionnaire

This is not a fair questionnaire. This is not actually designed to solicit somebody else's opinions. Instead, it is designed to express a set of opinions -- namely, my own. It would not be fair to actually ask somebody to answer these questions as written, because most of the questions are engineered in such a way that they provide only one reasonable-sounding answer.

Many other organizations will be using questionnaires such as this. However, they are going to pretend that they are asking fair questions -- as if they really care about the answer somebody might give. This is a rather devious way of talking to others -- attempting to influence their attitudes without actually engaging them in debate. I, at least, will be honest and say, "This questionnaire is not designed to solicit opinions, but to express them."

Full Disclosure

I am registered as a Democrat, though I am not active. I tried to be active in the Democratic Party, but I quickly became disappointed and disillusioned. The thing that disappointed me the most was the large number of people who adopted the system simply because "the party" told them that this was the position to adopt. It is a part of the Party's culture to believe X, so they believe X.

I'm simply not somebody who likes to defend the Party Line -- when I think it is wrong.

I was, at one time, a registered Libertarian. I gave that up when I determined that third parties ultimately end up hurting the causes its members care most about. Ralph Nader's political campaigns resulted in far more damage to the environment and jobs than they would have suffered without his candidacy.

Given this, I am not particularly thrilled at the idea of Democrats gaining control of the government. I consider some of their policies to be dangerous to the very entities they claim to want to help.

For example, what is going to be the effect of lowering energy prices? It means that people will continue to consume fossil fuels at a high rate and not conserve. This will result in a more rapid depletion of our remaining oil reserves. This means that, when a shortage does hit, it will hit harder and faster than it would otherwise hit. It means that alternative energy is less price-competitive, which means that it will attract fewer investment dollars, which means even more dependence on fossil fuels, made cheap by the actions of Democratic legislatures.

Yes, I agree that there are people who are made worse off by high prices. They should be helped. However, for the most part, this help should come in the form of energy assistance, not in the form of lower prices. We need to put the free market to work finding ways to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and finding alternatives, and high prices is the best way to do this.

I am not particularly thrilled about the prospect of Democrats winning control of the Legislature. I believe that some of their policies -- particularly with respect to health care, jobs, and energy are destructive enough that I would consider risking the Republican alternative that blends corporate feudalism with theocracy to prevent this.


So, let the race begin. I am looking for readers who would like to alert me to instances where politicians use faulty logic -- examples where they use fallacious reasoning to defend their position, twist the words of their opponents so as to misrepresent their views, twist the words of their opponents, hypocritical standards, and the like. I am looking for anything that tells us about the moral character if these people that you care to point me to.

If you would be so kind.


Anonymous said...

I tend to believe it is everything I read and hear now.

Anonymous said...

Let me rephrase what I mumbled above (if anybody cares). It is difficult to pin-point what a liar is lying about. But I can tell when people are lying or seems to be lying. What they are saying simply feels like a lie. I know, I could be wrong. It has to do with why they are saying what they are saying. Once I feel somebody has lied, I never trust them again. Now, I am at a point where everything that these people say is a lie. I am talking about almost everybody in the news media. I've become so discouraged about the news media, that I rarely even pay any attention.

Boelf said...

I believe that some of their policies -- particularly with respect to health care, jobs, and energy are destructive enough ...

I don't know if its outside the mission of your blog to be more specific. I detect an overly abundant faith in free markets in some of your post.

But if you care to elaborate it might lead to an interesting discussion.

At least on energy prices I agree with you.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


I would hope that, over time, to get into some of these issues in more detail.

I am not a free-market purist.

One of the problems with a free market is that there is a cost associated with establishing private property. That cost is exceptionally high with respect to some goods -- such as sunsets, breathable air, and ocean fish. We have to accept the fact that, in some cases, the cost of establishing property rights are simply significantly higher than the benefits.

Another problem: To the degree that capitalism is based on "natural rights" -- there ain't no such thing as a natural rights. A situation that I use to discuss this situation involves an airplane crash in the desert, next to the estate of a recluse with a great deal of water, who does not wish to give it up. Theories that state that the survivors of the plane crash have an obligation to sit and die rather than take the water by force are fundamentally flawed.

Anyway, I hope to get into this.

Boelf said...

I look forward to the discussion.

The fact is that sometimes the government is the best vehicle for a social good. For instance what private corporation is in a position to guarantee social security benefits to a 25 year old?