The coming election in the fall of this year has me in a quandary. In the Arkansas U. S. Senate race, I have a choice between John Boozman and Blanche Lincoln, two candidates who turn out to be not much of a choice after all. On the issues of concern to me, they tend to vote in similar ways and support similar ideas. Whether I agree with them or disagree, I don’t see much difference. I have voted in every general election since 1990, but this year, I’m feeling particularly out of step with both major parties, and the minor parties continue to leave me unimpressed.
That being the case, this essay is to express a few of my political beliefs. I don’t know if anyone running stands with me, but here goes:
In general, I call myself a moderate libertarian. That’s for lack of a party to identify with, and perhaps the term is disingenuous, but I’ll try to clarify. The guiding principles of government ought to be a few ideals strongly promoted, a few laws strictly enforced, and a few programs intelligently run. Sounds simple, right? Let’s look at the details.
In a previous essay, I wrote about American values, particularly a stubborn belief in liberty and individualism. Add to that a sense of obligation to help our neighbors, and that’s a good summary of what it means to be American.
How do those values translate into policy? Take one case: small arms. I believe that it is the right of every individual, with a few exceptions, to own, carry, and use small arms for legitimate purposes. This means a machete, a snub-nosed revolver, a switchblade knife, a fully automatic AK-47–anything that one person can use against one target at a time. (In other words, excluding explosive devices.) I shouldn’t have to get a carry license to pack heat; my natural rights as a free human being covers that already. If I do something wicked with a weapon or if I demonstrate that I’m dangerous to law-abiding citizens, then I deserve to lose my right. Otherwise, what I carry is my business.
Or consider recent government intrusions into our lives, laws such as the PATRIOT Act and other similar abominations. It is no business of any government employee what books I check out of the public library, what websites I visit, or what persons I talk to on the telephone, unless a judge has signed a warrant, and there need to be rigorous standards of evidence for securing such warrants.
Rather than being meddlesome, governments ought to promote environments in which individuals can succeed and then leave them to do so.
Healthcare is one example of this. Can we acknowledge that the American healthcare system doesn’t work? If so, let’s look at other solutions that do. The Canadians, the French, the Japanese all have found ways of promoting their own health. Please don’t cite the horror stories. For every one Canadian who had to wait a few months for a hip replacement, we can find many cases here of persons who can’t get essential medicines. As the old saying goes, if you have your health, you have everything. Healthy persons can start businesses, invent new products, play guitars, or whatever else contributes to our society. There are systems that work, so let’s pick one and go with it.
Public education is another needed service of the government. The liberal arts are the subjects that free persons needed to know and thus are essential to a democracy, a government run by the people. I’ve heard it said far too often that we can’t just throw money at the problem, but that’s being silly. I have taught in high schools with more than two thousand students, and I saw how not spending money ruins a school. Teachers need to be paid as much as other professionals with similar levels of education. No class ought to have more than twenty students, and no school more than four hundred. No Child Left Behind must be recognized as an effort to destroy public education. Multiple-choice tests tell us nothing about what the student knows. Yes, we need to teach skills, but the central skill is critical thinking, and that cannot be tested by a blunt instrument. This all means a big change in how we teach children in America, and I’ll write more on this at a later date.
As I wrote, these are a few of my positions. Some of what I believe puts me in the Republican party, and other ideas make me a Green. I do get tired of voting for the lesser of two idiots and would like to have some Good Sense Party candidates to vote for. I’m too grouchy to be a politician myself, so don’t tell me to run. Besides, as Michael Newdow pointed out in his arguments before the U. S. Supreme Court, non-Christians have little chance of being elected in this country.
What I do want is for others who agree with me that our politics operate on the level of the lowest common denominator to force a change. We come from rebellious and educated stock, and we can reclaim that spirit. Who’s with me?