Author Topic: Ask A Liberal  (Read 2638 times)

Lord J Esq

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Ask A Liberal
« on: March 05, 2010, 07:29:00 pm »
A thread for the politically curious of all ideological stripes, from a bona fide liberal...

Q: Josh, what are the four most important things I can do to better the country without inconveniencing myself?

1. Join a union, or support the unionization of your workplace if none is available. There is not a single more significant act you can take to better the economic wellbeing of the lower and middle classes than joining a labor union. When you read history, you will understand, but until then you can still do the right thing without necessarily knowing why. To learn more, focus on the historical period between 1880 and 1940, and take a look at what working conditions used to be like and what industry and government used to do to defiant workers.

2. Read history. Yeah, you saw that coming. My great recommendation of the moment is The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, which finally came out in paperback last month. I know I can count on Thought's support for the reading of history, and he's not even a liberal. Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, is also worth a read. You can find it at your local library. Simply put, your ability to understand the nation as it exists today (and thereby change it for the better) is directly tied to your understanding of the nation's history, and to a lesser extent of world history. When George Washington turned over his sword and walked away from the chance to become King of America, that was a turning point in history--and he repeated the same show of humbleness by walking away from the presidency after only two terms. But why did he give up power like that? Read his farewell address (you may remember it from school), and go from there.

3. Vote, and vote Democratic. Okay, so this is "ask a liberal," yes? To make a long story short, the Republican Party is evil and the Democratic Party is incompetent. If you crunch all the numbers, you will probably find, as I have, that voting Democratic is the best way to change the country--better than not voting at all, better than voting for the Republicans to purify the Democratic ranks, and better than voting for a third party. But! There's a caveat: You must vote in primary elections as well as general ones. The key to everything is the primary election, when sucky Democrats can be replaced by better one. You must not vote for the incumbent unless he or she has explicitly earned your vote.

4. Read the news. It's hard for me to tell you in a short space what exactly you should be looking for when you read the news. Just read it with a critical eye, and you will eventually figure it out for yourself. Do not waste your time reading cable news websites (like cnn.com); read news websites that originate from print newspapers, the BBC, or international news agencies. These are where you will find "real" news. Note: News is not necessarily supposed to be entertaining. It is supposed to be informative. If you're reading a story about the world's largest cupcake, or the latest 5,000-person nude photo, you're not really reading the news. Also be sure to read your local newspaper, if you have one.
 
 
Q: Josh, have liberals ever met a tax they didn't like?

Yes. Liberals tend to oppose regressive taxes that disproportionately affect the lower classes. A sales tax, one of the major forms of taxation, is an example of a regressive tax, because material quality of life purchases (like groceries) consume a much larger percentage of a poor person's income than a rich person's, and thus the sales tax's relative rate becomes higher the poorer you are. A sales tax is also heavily dependent on the health of the economy, and is one of the weakest broad-base taxes during a recession, which is the worst time for tax revenues to become depressed. As such, liberals tend to disfavor the sales tax--although most will support it over nothing, as is the case here in Washington State, where in the absence of an income tax it is the most important revenue stream in the state. There has been some sentiment for Washington to replace its sales tax with an income tax, but the conservatives are against it and most everyone else doesn't understand the issue well enough to favor such a radical change to the system.


Q: Josh, do liberals hate America?

Some liberals do, yes. There is a great deal of guilt and contempt in the American ethos. Our history is a brutal one and even today there are serious injustices throughout the land. At the same time, our material quality of living is extraordinarily high by historical standards, which seems insensitive to generations past, to all those peoples who we displaced, and to the people worldwide who are still gripped by poverty or tyranny. Thirdly, ours is a very powerful nation--still the most powerful on Earth and in history--and has exercised that power over the will of other nations. Thus, to simplify it all down, we're powerful, we're brutal, and we live the good life...and we did it all at the expense of the weak. That, in a nutshell, is the nature of liberal hatred for America.

Of course, not all liberals hate America. Many if not most liberals don't hate it at all. All of these criticisms of America are valid, but one needn't conclude that hating the country is the correct response. Americans who go so far as to hate their own country tend to be conflicted people, filled with self-doubt, aggression problems, and fundamentalist-style thinking. They draw their hatred not so much from a reaction to America's injustices, but from a larger contempt for all existence. Of course, if you ask them, they'll usually say that they have a desire to fundamentally change the prevailing economic system.

There is room to legitimately hate America, however. There's an old saying, which goes something like "The real scandal isn't in what's illegal, but rather what's legal." If you a true lowercase-D democrat, or a true humanitarian, or a true populist, then the injustices committed with impunity by the wealthy and powerful are an abomination sufficient that I wouldn't stand in somebody's way if they decide that America warrants hatred. But I wouldn't be comfortable around that kind of person, because in America you can change the system without inciting a revolution, and that's impressive. In America you have opportunity: you get a K-12 education and the right to vote at 18. That's impressive. You can start a businesses and plausibly make money from the enterprise. That's impressive. Those three things--access to the law of the land, civil liberty, and economic opportunity--make it impossible for someone like me to hate the country so long as they remain operational, because they are the keys to progress, and if you give up on them entirely, on principle, then you are pretty much giving up on humanity.

It's worth noting that "America-hate" is not a liberal phenomenon. It transcends the political spectrum. One of the reasons patriotism was so highly regarded in times past is that it was an antagonist to the treasonous sentiments which naturally arise in a public body. Today patriotism is regarded as antiquated and childish, but it served an important purpose. Beyond the presently benign grousings of the left is the much more dangerous behavior coming out of the Tea Party right, among whom America-hate is rampant, and the rest of us no longer have the sword of patriotism to wield against them.

chi_z

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2010, 07:56:44 pm »
Do liberals have sex with non-liberals?
I'm not sure what I'd be, probably 'lean' toward a libby though. I hate taxes, I embrace change, and all that stuff. Another site I recommend for the news is abovetopsecret.com.

FaustWolf

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2010, 08:01:37 pm »
Q: What's your opinion of Arnold Schwarzenegger's policies as Governor of California? And should his alleged history of sexual abuse rule him out automatically as a candidate for a liberal's vote?

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2010, 03:26:08 am »
Q:  Wouldn't you say you gotta read W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls Of Black Folk if you read Up From Slavery?  A little back and forth in the two reads.  I can also attest to Harriet Jacobs' Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, and more recently Honky by Dalton Conley.  Sorry for gushing, I just feel that history gains more appreciation laid out like these works than ye olde textbooks of yore.

I agree with much.  I have more questions, a little more detailed politically...the interworkings of politics is admittedly not a strong point.  Know that it will more than likely call for comparisons, it works well for my brain when it comes to politics.

Mr Bekkler

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2010, 11:08:26 pm »
Do liberals have sex with non-liberals?

Never. At least not without chemical showers. :lol:


Q: How is it that two liberals who seemingly have things in common butt heads every time they meet, when people from the Republican party can get together unexpectedly and be on the same page every time? Does it have to do with religion (or the lack thereof)?

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2010, 11:20:12 pm »
Q: What do liberals think of Ron Paul?

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2010, 01:45:10 pm »
Q: What's your opinion of Arnold Schwarzenegger's policies as Governor of California? And should his alleged history of sexual abuse rule him out automatically as a candidate for a liberal's vote?

My opinion of Schwarzenegger's governorship has been one of guarded optimism. It's so hard to find nationally prominent Republicans who aren't crazy or pro-crazy, and he's one of them. He is a socially left-of-center Republican, which is mandatory in this day and age for those who wanna avoid the craziness stigma. Economically I think his mind is in the right place, even if his perceptual framework is more conservative than mine. Yet the fact remains that Schwarzenegger has presided over a dysfunctional period in California's history and thus has been mostly a failure as a governor. I'm tempted to say that it was out of his control, but perhaps a better governor could have proved me wrong.

As for your other question, I find it hard to give a plain yes or no. First of all, an alleged history of any impropriety is hard to justify as grounds for disqualification. Second of all, I am always skeptical of broad-sweeping rules for "automatically" establishing something, especially if I do not develop them myself. Third, there is the complicating factor that Schwarzenegger may have changed for the better over time, and I think it is very important to keep vengeance out of one's judgment. Fourth, there is the question of the degrees of severity of these abuses. Fifth, to my chagrin, sexual abuse of one kind or another is common enough in humans (and males in particular) that to issue the kind of ban you are talking about would prevent an individual of good conscience from voting at all in many contests, short-circuiting the process of social change.

Assuming the allegations against him are generally true, since there were multiple instances and Schwarzenegger's own tone seemed not to discredit it, then, on the whole, I would be disinclined to vote for him personally, because you know how I feel about sexual abuse. (And the Democratic candidate was better anyway.) But I don't know enough of the story to say that he should be automatically disqualified for a liberal's vote. It would depend on the truthfulness of at least some of the allegations, his rehabilitation by the time he ran for office, and the severity of the abuses.


Q:  Wouldn't you say you gotta read W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls Of Black Folk if you read Up From Slavery?  A little back and forth in the two reads.  I can also attest to Harriet Jacobs' Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, and more recently Honky by Dalton Conley.  Sorry for gushing, I just feel that history gains more appreciation laid out like these works than ye olde textbooks of yore.

Well-said. Individual book recommendations should not be inferred as primers for expertise, but points of entry into the wider subject.


Q: How is it that two liberals who seemingly have things in common butt heads every time they meet, when people from the Republican party can get together unexpectedly and be on the same page every time? Does it have to do with religion (or the lack thereof)?

I am sympathetic to this question, but at the same time I have to point out that it is a loaded question. The answer comes in parts:

1. The Republican Party is ideologically homogeneous nowadays. If you say that two liberals have a lot in common on average, then you have to say that two Republicans on average will have even more in common. So, in part, the disparity is caused by definition: Your question could be rephrased as "How is it that two people who agree on some things will disagree more often than those who agree on most things?"

2. The Republican platform is manipulative more so than substantive. The GOP strategy to win elections is based almost entirely on changing the minds of the public, as opposed to winning them over without changing their minds by themselves changing to fit the people's will, which is what Democrats tend to try to do. Such a strategy, to the extent it succeeds, will promote the very homogeneity I mentioned in the previous point.

3. The Republican base has been indoctrinated by a hugely successful long-term propaganda campaign. A key goal of the manipulation I mentioned in the previous point is to rally people around a common cause. Republicans are united in their opposition to all things "liberal," and that unification tends to shine quite brightly. Republicans actually do argue among themselves a great deal if you can get them off the subject of their enemies, but they're very tenacious at spending their time and energy on vilifying the opposition, and so we we tend not to see much of their internal strife in the national news. There is, however, a Republican "civil war" underway right now between various factions.

4. Conservatism itself, by which the Republican Party has been dominated, is reactionary and mistrusts the unknown. Republicans rarely say "Let's find out" the way liberals might. "Let's find out" is a very easy invitation to argument and debate, and Republicans miss out on much of that.


Q: What do liberals think of Ron Paul?

They respect his honesty, mock his cult of personality, and despise his totally discredited ideology of "government so small it can't do anything."

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2010, 02:03:22 pm »
Q: In your opinion, what would be the best way for our government to mitigate the deforestation of the Amazon?

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2010, 03:37:15 pm »
Question the First: Josh, you stated that "the Republican Party is evil and the Democratic Party is incompetent." Short of imperial dictatorship, how would you, as a liberal, recommend that society move to a political system in which competency is the norm? (please list more than one but less than four specific courses of actions that the "common" citizen could undertake to achieve such a goal)

Question the Second: Are you secretly (or not so secretly) glad that Liberals are referred to as being on "the left," rather than the "right" (possibly on account of you being Sinistralian)?

Question the Third: Hypothetically speaking, can a conservative perspective ever be the correct perspective (specifically on a topic that conservative and liberal perspectives disagree)?

Lightning Round Question: Is modern society functional enough to be worth working to save, or ought we scrap it and start over?

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2010, 07:03:43 pm »
Q: In your opinion, what would be the best way for our government to mitigate the deforestation of the Amazon?

That's a good question, and unexpected. The first thing to do is lead by example when it comes to managing and protecting our own forests at the governmental level, and respecting and preserving their health the individual and entrepreneurial levels. Because America is so influential, American ideas are inevitably exported, so it does good to lead by example.

The best direct solution, in my opinion, would be to negotiate a treaty with the Brazilian government, either bilaterally or through a world organization, under which Brasilia would agree to preserve the most substantial portion of its forests in exchange for whatever incentives. The second-best solution would be to restrict the import of anything that is produced on the grounds of cleared forest--a sticky proposition, and guaranteed to light the free trade people's heads on fire.


Question the First: Josh, you stated that "the Republican Party is evil and the Democratic Party is incompetent." Short of imperial dictatorship, how would you, as a liberal, recommend that society move to a political system in which competency is the norm? (please list more than one but less than four specific courses of actions that the "common" citizen could undertake to achieve such a goal)

Civics and history should be taught in our classrooms more intensively than they are today. A non-military national service should be integrated into the public education system such that students in the middle to upper grades can perform practical work for part of the school year in lieu of classroom instruction. Elections should be publicly financed. In a reversal of my position in years past, terms should be limited in both the House and the Senate. The Senate should be reformed so that it operates more like the House (not in its inherent protection of small-state interests, but in its minority-protection mechanisms). Media companies should be broken up and all recent laws allowing mass ownership of the media should be reversed. The Fairness Doctrine should be reintroduced, and the government should set stiff boundaries on what can qualify as "news." Actual news operations should be subsidized so that companies do not continue to rely on them as a profit stream. Citizens should have their own account to vote their opinion and provide comments on pending legislation in a more streamlined fashion than is presently available today. And we as a nation simply must stop with the anti-intellectualism and faith-based judgment.

Question the Second: Are you secretly (or not so secretly) glad that Liberals are referred to as being on "the left," rather than the "right" (possibly on account of you being Sinistralian)?

Every -ian is another count against you, and I'll remind you that the Ides are on their way.

Question the Third: Hypothetically speaking, can a conservative perspective ever be the correct perspective (specifically on a topic that conservative and liberal perspectives disagree)?

By my philosophical working definition of conservatism, yes. I myself am conservative in a number of areas. However, by my much more commonly used observational working definition of conservatism, it is rather unlikely that a conservative perspective would be the correct or superior one. It does happen, though. When it does, it's almost always the result of ideological dissonance or flanking instabilities. (For instance, the mainstream conservative position on nuclear power is better than the mainstream liberal one, since mainstream liberalism is more concerned with pollution than energy production. However, this is not necessarily true at the individual level, as pro-nuclear liberals tend to have an even better stance than mainstream conservatives.)

Lightning Round Question: Is modern society functional enough to be worth working to save, or ought we scrap it and start over?

I would have a very hard time writing off any society with such a high material quality of life and so many civil liberties. While scrapping it would be my qualified preference, working within the system is eminently plausible for almost any desired change.

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2010, 07:19:54 pm »
mr j, are there any decent republicans out there? how can i tell the decent ones from the bad ones?

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2010, 07:31:33 pm »
mr j, are there any decent republicans out there? how can i tell the decent ones from the bad ones?

There are lots of decent Republicans out there! The trouble is that conservative ideology is disastrous for females, non-Christians, workers, liberals, the poor, gays, foreigners, nonwhites, and other classes of people. This creates malice or bigotry in many Republicans, which overrides what decency they might have, so that, if you belong to one of the suspect classes, you're going to be denigrated if not mistreated outright. But plenty of Republicans are better than that, such that even if they know that you belong to one or more of those suspect classes, they will not only treat you well in person but will sincerely mean to do so--as opposed to the Republicans who may treat you well in person but would do so insincerely.

Part of the tragedy of the GOP is that much of their fueled anger is, itself, only half-hearted. Many Republicans would be far more decent people if they weren't convinced that there is virtue in protesting reproductive health clinics or trying to ban atheists from serving in the government. This becomes evident if you get to know these people when they don't know that you belong to one or more of the suspect classes. (Liberalism, for instance, is easier to hide than femaleness or black skin.)

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2010, 01:20:43 am »
Elections should be publicly financed.

I've considered this before myself. Elaborate on your own considerations, if you would.

Also: 'bona fide liberal'. Very good!

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2010, 01:50:11 am »
Elections should be publicly financed.

I've considered this before myself. Elaborate on your own considerations, if you would.

First, the simplicities. Money advantages the richer candidates. Sometimes the richer candidate is the better candidate, but this is, after all, a representative democracy and not a democratic plutocracy. I have observed in America the incredible correlation between a politician's voting record and their major donors' positions on the issues so voted upon. It boggles my mind, because in most politicians' cases it completely overrides their publicly stated positions most of the time. Now, it could be that some of this is a feedback loop: Donors will surely donate more to those who are already more likely to those who are sympathetic to their views. Given the absolute pragmatism of big-dollar donors, however--and I remember how they abandoned ship with the Republicans in 2006 and 2008, as voters would do, and gave money to Democrats instead--I must conclude that much of this is indicative of the character of most politicians, and not a tautology. I do not want money to be the decisive factor in politics. The theoretical advantage of public financing is that, ideally, the best-run campaign, not the best-funded campaign, would win, and hopefully "best-run" would include the candidate's actual virtues as a human being and would-be legislator, rather than marketing savvy alone. I know there's a lot of wishful thinking inherent.

Now, the complexities. Money advantages those who can raise the most of it, and can provide a powerful tool against incumbency. My solution: Eliminate the dangers of incumbency by imposing term limits. In fact, this is why I reversed my position on term limits: I did it so that public financing would be less naive. Public financing would also shorten the election season, which nowadays is preposterously long at between eighteen months to two years, with "crunch time" consuming one year for presidential elections and half a year for other federal elections. Public financing would give legislators running for reelection more time to actually legislate.

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2010, 02:32:25 am »
The theoretical advantage of public financing is that, ideally, the best-run campaign, not the best-funded campaign, would win, and hopefully "best-run" would include the candidate's actual virtues as a human being and would-be legislator, rather than marketing savvy alone. I know there's a lot of wishful thinking inherent.

This seems to me to presume that all campaigns would be allotted the same campaign resources. Were this the case, this would mean that all campaigns (regardless of size) would receive the same resources. So we might have campaigns of sizes (in persons) of different orders of magnitude but that would still receive the same resources. Is this desirable?

That aside, I don't see that how well a campaign is run correlates with the preferability of that campaign. Perhaps you say this because of the renowned efficacy of the Obama campaign. However, this mustn't distract us from the efficacy of the Republican dogma; had the 2008 Republican campaign gone up against more typical Democratic opposition--Barry was a Democratic golden child, and Hillary seemed to be an uncommonly strong candidate too, even if not to the same level--it seems to me (based on my limited knowledge of U.S. Presidential Elections) very likely that the Elephant could've stomped.

That is: I don't think that there's a correlation between how well campaign resources are used and electoral success to which you could point as a theoretical advantage to public funding of elections.

The advantage I see to public-only financing of elections is simply that it avoids the problems caused by private financing themof.

Now, the complexities. Money advantages those who can raise the most of it, and can provide a powerful tool against incumbency. My solution: Eliminate the dangers of incumbency by imposing term limits. In fact, this is why I reversed my position on term limits: I did it so that public financing would be less naive.

You mean that public financing is presently naive because it automatically favours the incumbent, not giving a fair shake to challengers?

Also, how would you reconcile term limits with your own political ambitions?

Public financing would also shorten the election season, which nowadays is preposterously long at between eighteen months to two years, with "crunch time" consuming one year for presidential elections and half a year for other federal elections. Public financing would give legislators running for reelection more time to actually legislate.

Although, would there not also be a lot more government work created to ensure compliance with the rules governing use of campaign resources and to ensure that private funds weren't used? The latter could only be done by accounting for the government-allotted funds, which would have to be done, for the most part, well before elections would end (so that any anomalies could be investigated and dealt with before the election would conclude). This would mean that a lot of people would either have to be diverted from their usual government work or hired (I presume hired) from outside during every election cycle.

But yeah, I reckon such bureaucratic concerns would be minor, far from insurmountable.