My stance on politics

After long and hard thinking about politics, I have come up with a political philosophy. It's a short philosophy:

Ideology is bad.

I dislike ideologies in all forms: liberal, conservative, libertarian, whatever. Right at the moment, I think that the liberal/conservative divide is the single most harmful thing about American politics. Politicians don't seem to care about solving problems, they only want to know whether a particular idea is liberal or conservative, and then, presto, they are for/against it.

Ideologies are an excuse for people to avoid thinking. Once people adopt a political philosophy that has all of the answers, they stop thinking and start rationalizing. I find it difficult to take anybody's opinions seriously when it is clear that they started with the answers, and then worked backward to select facts that would support their views, and ignore facts that don't. Most people declaiming their opinions succeed primarily in convincing me that they are too stupid to understand any viewpoint other than their own.

In short, if you want me to take your opinions seriously, you will have to convince me that you in fact understand both sides of an issue.

Overall, I don't like people assuming that one opinion locates me at some point on a liberal/conservative scale-- I've never seen a logical reason why my opinion about, say, gun control ought to have some ideological correlation with my opinion about birth control. I'm not a liberal. I'm not a conservative. Mark me down as "other."

That's the major part of my political philosophy: thinking good; ideology bad.

For more of my opinions, the following points summarize my politics:

  1. Ditch the ideology, and tell me the facts.
  2. Freedom of speech is important.
    If there's one single point which is key to my political beliefs, it is an emphatic belief in free speech. Freedom of speech (and writing, and art) is critical to the free exchange of ideas, and any society that does not allow the free exchange of ideas will slide into totalitarianism. Yes, I do know the arguments against hate speech, against child pornography, against allowing terrorist to recruit on the internet, against several other good reasons that free speech shouldn't be unconditional. I understand and sympathize with them. But if anybody is given the power to decide that some particular form of speech is forbidden, this power is simply too easy to abuse. Or, to phrase it differently:
    Pay attention to the words you say when you try to curtail speech of people you don't like: they are the same words you will hear when others take away your right to speak.
    Freedom of speech is so important to me, that for a while I was considering listing this as the only political view I have. However, as somewhat less important subjects, here are the rest of my (hard thought-out) political opinions:
  3. Technology is a tool for solving problems. (I'm in favor of appropriate technology: that means the technology that is appropriate to the problem.)
  4. Prosperity is better than poverty.
    Or, to quote the campaign of a former president, it really is "the economy, stupid."
  5. We have a nice planet here, let's not destroy it.
  6. Democracy is good.
    (Winston Churchill said that democracy is absolutely the worst form of government, except for all the other forms of government which have been tried. I agree.)

From these main points, you can pretty much triangulate my views on other subjects.

One more thing: Wanting something to be true doesn't make it true.

Current events

Here in the United States, the "war against terror" has me badly scared. Free speech and fair, open trials are two of the things that I think makes America great, and I'm horrified at the way that these ideals have been abandoned in the urgency of the moment. Ben Franklin said that people who give up essential liberty for temporary security won't get either one, and I think that fair, open trials are an essential part of American liberty. Secret trials are the signature of a dictatorship, and freedom of the press is what keeps us free. When the administration told us that it was going to take these freedoms away to stop terrorism, how come nobody objected? It's almost enough to get me to hold my nose and join the American Civil Liberties Union. I'm really thinking about it.

This is important: Pay attention to the words that you hear yourself saying when you justify why you should take away the rights and free speech of people you think are your enemies. You're going to hear these words again, when they take away your rights.

More sound-bite thoughts on government and politics

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copyright 2002,2003 by Geoffrey A. Landis