Home > Domestic Policy, Personal > Trends and other thoughts

Trends and other thoughts

September 9, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

You know, I don’t seem to write about politics all that much anymore. That is, unless there’s some sort of religion or science angle in there.

In any case, I’ve been trying to write a post outlining exactly where I stand on most issues but the going is slow. For one thing, I simply don’t know where I stand on a lot of issues. I have a general idea of where I am on most, but no specific stance. Granted, I’m very sure of where I stand on a lot of “cultural” issues and that’s staunchly liberal (my atheism being the obvious source here).

I’ve also been trying to write out a post on my sort of philosophy of life, the universe, and everything, so to speak. That’s also fairly slow going. Actually, I’m probably just lazy here. One of the interesting things to come out of that is figuring out exactly what I want government to do and determining how exactly that matches up with my current liberalism. I’m trying, maybe misguidedly, to match up some sort of system of ethics and morals with the role of government. Should government try to do the most good for the greatest number? That seems to be liberalism’s justification for taxation, which is an infringement of personal freedom to a certain degree. I’m not sure I like utilitarianism, though. My current idea is that ethics should function to allow people the most freedom in acting out their desires. Any action that you do that affects only you is ethically neutral and any action you take limiting someone else’s desires is unethical. Unless, of course, you’re limiting someone else’s limiting of someone’s ability to act out his or her desires and so on. The problem here for liberalism is obvious. By taxing someone you’re limiting that person’s ability to act out their desires. There are other issues here, too, though. This would seem to prevent taxation of any kind, including to prevent crime, which even the staunchest libertarian accepts. As I said earlier, it’s ok to limit the freedom of someone who is violating someone else’s freedom, but can you violate the freedom of someone whose rights aren’t being violated to end the violation of someone else’s rights? Not without that person’s permission, it seems.

Does that mean we have a solution? Democracy is essentially obtaining the permission of citizens to carry out policies in their name.

Sadly, it’s only a solution when we have unanimity. It would mean that policies limiting the freedom of others with just one dissenter are unethical, as you are limiting the rights of someone without his or her permission. One solution I thought of is that somehow there’s a broad permission that taxes are to be accepted on the basis of democratic (or, specifically in this country, republican) decision making. One could argue that by virtue of being a citizen you accept taxation on the basis of democratic decision in the same way that being a citizen means you have to allow the police to search your house if they have a search warrant, whether you happen to agree with that idea or not, as the constitution allows for taxation for the general welfare of the people of this country. That leads to the question of whether it’s ethical to have a document that you are forced to accept simply by living in a certain area. Granted, you can move into say, the Yaak, and avoid it, but is it ethical to force someone to do that? Maybe.

Let’s say yes for now. Now maybe we have a basis for taxing people even without their explicit permission for a certain tax. So then, does this give us an ethical basis for liberalism based on my ethical system? Sort of. It’s now ethical to tax people at whatever level if the level is chosen democratically. But why would we tax people in such a way? ShouldI choose to tax someone to provide a general service (universal health care or some sort of food stamp program, for example) to others? I can, but if I believe a certain tax is an infringement of personal freedom against some person’s will, should I?

There still seems to be some tension here. I do think we should strive to improve the lives of people generally. There still has to be some room for people to fail, though, which limits what programs I’m willing to support towards that goal. However, I don’t think such goals should be attained unethically according to the system I laid out earlier. I may not be violating that actual logic of my system, but it does seem like I’m violating the spirit. Or am I? I don’t know.

Another question here is of minority rights. Where do they start and where do they end? I’ve just said taxation is fine as long as it’s democratically regulated. So then, is it ok for the majority to force me to support a church or limiting my right to free speech? What do we make taboo? Why is speech a protected right and income not?

I need to go to bed, so I’ll think about that later. I’m not bothering to re-read this, so please excuse the grammatical errors and such caused by my rambling.

Categories: Domestic Policy, Personal
  1. September 9, 2005 at 6:48 am

    I would argue that by voting we are empowering government to take necessary steps (within reason) to accomplish necessary governmental goals. That includes taxation. If we want to have good schools and we believe it a societal good to have good schools than we should be willing to pay for said schools.

    Thoughtful post though.

  2. September 9, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    Good lord, you really tackle a topic, don’t you. In some respects you’ve encapsulated the core thoughts of many political philosophies. I think you somewhat taint the process by beginning with where you’re at (social liberal) and assuming the modern result of that is justified taxation. There is a cause -> effect relationship (seemingly) in America, but you treat that as if it is a necessary condition when you begin to explore the justification. I’d posit that it’s not, because it assumes that grant and protection of right (social liberalism) is essentially economic. Though I mean no insult to you by this, I call that the Koopman argument, for he holds it as an established truth against all evidence.

    Anyway, that’s about all that I have time for right now. Maybe later …

  3. September 9, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    @Bryant: Even if there’s a common goal, it still would be unethical (assuming my ethical ideas) to force someone to get to it in a way they believe is wrong. There are also issues where there aren’t common goals. Drug policy comes to mind.

    @Wulfgar: Hmm, I think there’s a misunderstanding here somewhere. When you say “social liberal” do you mean where I said I know where I stand on cultural issues? I wasn’t saying those are connected to my current fiscal liberalism. The post is not very well organized, but I meant that I know where I stand on those and I don’t see a conflict in my current ideas about ethics, but I’m not so sure about the fiscal policies of liberalism.

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