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  • Saturday, January 21, 2006


    Why I Am Neither A Republican Nor A Democrat

    I agree with John Stuart Mill, who argued in On Liberty that every person is entitled to the maximum liberty - both personal and economic - consistent with the liberty of every other person in the society. The government should not seek to repress "self-regarding" behavior, i.e., behavior that does not palpably harm other people. In other words, the government should not outlaw or criminalize behavior that only harms other people by virtue of the fact they are "horrified" at the thought of it. See, generally, Richard A. Posner, Overcoming Law.

    For me, the Republican party is the party of moral conservatism. It is the party of those who seek to impose by legislation their personal moral or religious values on every other member of society. Republicans advocate economic freedom and the "deregulation" of business. But when it comes to personal freedom, Republicans, in general, seem eager to repress self-regarding behavior, often hypocritically so. For example, Republicans came to power in 1980 with an agenda to reduce the federal government and a renewed commitment to the right of individual states to make their own laws. But when some states passed referenda decriminalizing marijuana possession or authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the Republicans in Washington seemed to have forgotten about states' rights and were ready with federal legislation and arguments about federal preemption in order to, in effect, overrule the laws voted on and passed by the states. The truth is that the Republicans believe in states' rights only as long as they agree the states are right.

    Another example is in the area of homosexual rights. I believe people do not choose to live their lives as homosexuals. Homosexual people are the way they are not because they chose to be that way but because they were genetically predisposed from birth to become homosexual. And who does it hurt if homosexuals have sex with each other or are allowed to marry or enter into legally recognized domestic partnerships, as some states are now officially recognizing? Apparently, it hurts a lot of Republicans. Despite all their self-righteous, holier-than-thou blathering about the "sanctity of marriage" and the "protecting the traditional American family," their objections boil down to the fact that they are simply horrified by the thought of two people of the same sex making love, getting married, or having a legally recognized partnership. And that is reason enough for many Republicans to push for federal legislation and even constitutional amendments to stop any states who, by a democratic process, have already dared to or would dare in the future to take a more enlightened approach to the issue. I find the Republican party, in general, too much inclined to repress and restrict personal liberty for me to feel comfortable affiliating with it.

    What about the Democratic Party? The old but still-echoing critiques of the Democrats as "tax and spenders" increasing the bureaucracy of the federal government, allowing a bloated welfare system that created a permanent underclass, and imposing unworkable and unreasonable regulations on business were not wholly undeserved. But in terms of tax and budget policy, government operations, human services, and economic regulation, there is no longer a meaningful difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

    In general, both parties primarily represent and favor the interests of multinational corporations and big business over the interests of individual American taxpayers and consumers. The only difference is that, unlike the Republicans, the Democratic party pretends to be on the side of the "little guy," and is more likely to enact programs purportedly aimed at helping individuals, but which, in fact, are purely cosmetic and devoid of any real, substantive measures to protect individuals from the depredations of the large corporations.

    In addition, the Democratic party is more likely to favor programs and legislation that interfere in economic freedom to promote and pander to the interests of certain constituencies, like labor unions and African-Americans, deemed essential to the party's political viability. For example, affirmative action laws that require, simply based on race, gender, or national origin, the hiring, promotion, or acceptance of less qualified people over those who are better qualifed and more deserving based on merit unduly interfere with economic liberty. At the same time, when big business comes calling with their big money, the Democratic party will happily sell those constituencies right down the river with everyone else. Although it is to their credit that the Democrats are not as likely to favor repression of self-regarding personal behavior, the Democratic party, when you remove the sugar-coating, is too similar to the Republican party and too hypocritically unprincipled for me to feel comfortable affiliating with it.

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