30 May 2015

Charity to rivals

Some nice things to say about people I will tend to disagree with.

1) Conservatives
 - Abortion- Many ardent pro-life persons actually do seem motivated by a genuine belief and desire to protect the lives of the unborn as a basis for argument, rather than some innate hatred of women. Indeed I don't begrudge those few who seem willing to state that they oppose exemptions even for rape and incest, simply because their priority is on the as yet unborn life in a consistent moral argument. While those making carve-outs are effectively ceding the battleground on which they are fighting to the "I don't like your reasons for an abortion, while mine are perfectly fine" position on which most people are contending with this issue.

My disagreement is whether these prospective lives of the unborn tend to justify the variety of policies put in place to police the activities of women and doctors, whether these are from a moral or ethical standard actual lives or not (in many cases, I would argue not, at least in the legal sense that we could design any practical policy to enforce and protect them that would not also punish or provide investigatory powers for common natural events like miscarriages). And then in many cases, either the tactics or laws pursued are either trivially annoying and ineffective or outright counterproductive to their purported goals. I don't not believe their motives as real in many cases (some perhaps are opportunistic or patriarchal) despite the inability to match up policies they would support with actual results.

- Drug Warriors - Are in fact motivated to combat a potential social problem, drug addiction (or general irresponsible drug use as a secondary issue). They have chosen the worst possible methods I can imagine (police and force instead of doctors and social work). But there is at least the existence of a problem they are choosing to fight using the social tools available to them.

- Police more broadly - I'm sympathetic to the problem of having to enforce a myriad of laws and social mores and directives, with a changing set of political agendas hovering over all of this. I feel the easier solution is less to provide more tools and weapons and aggression for the command of authority to rule the day but for fewer things to be resolved by police and laws, and to allow police to do things on which they are more suited to enforce and investigate (eg, not worrying about vice laws or drug crimes, and more of a focus on preventing murder or theft). Police are not social workers in the broad sense on which we have often deployed them to deal with parenting questions, mental ailments and issues, endemic poverty, race relations and so on. To expect all of that to go swimmingly by using force through the police is to expect something that isn't possible.

- Religious conservatives generally - While I have all manner of theological and atomistic reasons to think religion (any religion) is silly, a great many people seem to extract a sensible set of value from participating in their religious traditions. Tradition in and of itself isn't interesting to me, but it often can contain kernels of wise council about our actions. A broader sense of community isn't interesting to me, but for many people provides purpose and a camaraderie that they enjoy. Metaphysics generally isn't interesting to me at all, but for many people, answering "life's big questions" with a set of prepared answers (whether or not those answers make any sense) is a satisfying practice. Occasionally religious entities even do useful and good things; helping the poor or indigent or providing aid and shelter after a disaster.

There are downsides to the "community" aspects of religion, namely the in-group/out-group dynamics are extremely strong (perhaps rivaled only by nationalist fervor in the modern context), such that outsiders can easily be viewed with suspicion or hatred. And bothering people who don't have much interest in being part of these communities gets really annoying.

- Neoconservatives - Do at least seem to be trying to pay attention to the international community by observing the rise and fall of potential threats. They've often overblown how dramatic the threats are, or have no idea what methods would best resolve the threat before it becomes a real danger. But it's a starting point relative to many who utterly ignore the affairs of other countries, governments, and the people and associations they form, complete with their own interests and goals, in other lands.

This bleeds into security state defenders (strong/invasive NSA policies), where I would agree these are people generally motivated by an interest in protecting people from harm, but who have crafted policies that either fail to do so, fail to do so at the cost, or which are more harmful than beneficial (because others have less noble ends in mind, such as prosecuting the drug war).

- Nationalism - Does form originally from ardent patriotism in most cases. Which would be productive. I don't have anything else good to say about it though so I should probably stop talking. (this is probably one of the worst modern "sins" I can conceive of people having endorsed is to place nationalism ahead of patriotism, or humanism, or their faith, or basically any value set whatsoever would be superior).

2) Libertarians

- Ayn Rand fans - I appreciate that these are people who are starting to grapple with a wide set of public policy questions and issues. The lens used for examination is problematic, but it's a start and people need to start somewhere. Most people rarely study public policy questions with any degree of seriousness, with no eye for coherent ideologies or practical effects. Political philosophy is probably an even rarer source of investigation for most people. Her's isn't much of a philosophy as it is a guideline, but again, baby steps.

- Ron Paul fans - paleo-conservativism has its uses in moderating many of neoconservatism's worst impulses (IR aggression or the security state as examples). I still question the motivations pushing for much of any anti-globalism or anti-trade or anti-immigration notions that sometimes arise in these far fields of political conservatism. But tamping down the worst excesses of another political structure's intentions by offering an alternative interpretation (even if often straying way out into paranoia), is a vital enterprise for public policy.

- Gold bugs/end the Fed types - The average person spends almost zero time observing monetary policy, seeing it as opaque and insignificant. These are people who seem to focus on almost nothing else. I'd hope for a more happy medium from both the public and government officials in the amount of attention and less fussing over precious metals as though that would somehow resolve our financial position ("strong" currencies, of the type usually favored by gold specie demands are meaningless because they can be potentially damaging or self-correcting to economic prospects and provide no additional stability that isn't created by moderately competent central banking).

3) Liberals/Progressives

- Economic views - Seem to be largely concerned about concentrations of wealth or the condition of the poor. I'm ambivalent about the first being a huge problem in and of itself, but the latter certainly is a powerful and concerning issue. Often don't seem to grasp effective solutions and causes very easily. This isn't a critique of progressives or liberals specifically however as most people do not (conservatives are often just as bad on economic policies that they want to put forward).

- Environmentalism - Most people seem to accept a genuine concern for the natural world as a sensible motivation. Activities or positions taken on some issues (nuclear power or fracking for example) are alarmist and counterproductive. There's a real danger in environmentalist positions and movements of the same variety of closed-minded-closed ranks behavior that conservatives have tended toward, where adherence to a set of positions on issues supersedes evidence of actual risks involved in those issues, or adherence to rigid policy outcomes while disregarding any path to them (that isn't an absolute drop/change).

A way to summarize most of these disagreements would be as follows:
"I believe you are well-motivated and have identified what you feel is a problem. But your actual positions and motions to do something about it are misguided, ineffective, or totally symbolic rather than meaningful and productive. Stop being symbolic and do some real work to think carefully about what you want to achieve and whether what you are asking can be done, or can be done in this way."

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