Friday, August 8, 2014

The Adaptive Politics Manifesto

Having seen the world develop in various parts of history and the way society responded to new challenges, I have come to the conclusion that adaptation to new realities is one of the most important tasks of any political ideal. If a political ideal or program is implemented maladaptively, it may end up harming its own aims. Consequently, ensuring adaptiveness in this aspect, and ensuring that there are no unjust outcomes during periods of adaptations, becomes very important.

The rest of this manifesto will address just how we can achieve these objectives.

1. Continued adaptation in policies and politics will always be necessary.

The world is always changing, and further change is inevitable. The world now is different from the world in the 1910s, which was different from the 1810s and the 1710s. There's no reason to suggest that things will look any less different in the 2110s. Technology certainly has a central role in this change, and it is only accelerating.

We also discover new things about the world every now and then. For example, just 50 years ago most people thought that being gay was a lifestyle choice, and that interracial marriage was bad for families. In light of new facts, it would be unjust not to change some pre-existing arrangements. The best example of this is the recent marriage equality movement. Whilst we may think we are civilised now, there may still be many things we don't know yet. People in the 1600s considered themselves very civilised too.

In light of the above factors, society will need to continue to adapt to new environments and newly emerged facts of life for the foreseeable future. There is no use running away from this fact. Therefore, a framework for adaptive politics, i.e. how society should best adapt to changes, is needed.

2. Adaptation must be principled, else it will become maladaptive.

When we respond to things, we must do so in a principled manner, with those principles informed by our values. Using 'maintenance of the status quo' as the ideal (a common theme of conservative politics) is therefore counterproductive. Maintaining the status quo in light of new developments may mean the introduction of blatant injustice into our culture. By conserving the literal status quo no matter the price, our pre-existing social values like justice, fairness and compassion often disintegrate.

Note that this does not preclude one from responding to certain things using traditionalist or even 'reactionary' principles. But the application of the principle must be consistent, rather than shying away from the new development and pretending that it does not exist.

3. Adaptation methods can be progressive or reactionary. Both have their value, and both can be dangerous too.

Two main categories of ways to respond to new challenges, which can be equally principled (or not), are progressive ways and reactionary ways. Progressive ways aim to invent new solutions, and reactionary ways aim to bring society back to its original principles. Therefore, both can be valid. However, both can be dangerous too. Fascism came from reactionary impulses, and eugenics came from progressive impulses. Both were classic cases of each form of impulse 'overreaching'.

4. No adaptation method is perfect from the start. All adaptation attempts have to learn from plenty of previous mistakes, often horrible mistakes.

Especially in the beginning, attempts at responding to new developments often overshoot in either, or even both, of the directions described above. Therefore, they are maladaptive at least to a significant degree. Although the mistakes made are rarely as big as fascism and eugenics, they often include a huge amount of injustice, often necessitating official apologies from future administrations. Examples include forced adoptions during the post-war era, racist immigration policies in the 20th century, attempts to provide 'treatment' for gay and lesbian individuals, and segregation in the American south.

It is often only with trial and error that we gather the evidence to rule out maladaptive and unjust practices. For example, we now know that curative therapy for gay people is ineffective and harmful, but in the past people thought they were doing these 'ill' individuals a service. We now know that forced adoptions, and the associated practice of secretive adoptions was a tragedy, but similarly in the 1950s the experts thought that was a good thing to do. Therefore, adaptation taking time to perfect is an inevitable thing.

5. Therefore, the most efficient and painless and the only just way for adaptation to happen is with maximal freedom of conscience.

In light of the above, any response (or lack of response, for example refusal to legislate for marriage equality) society has collectively made in response to new developments may be severely unjust and harmful, especially in the earlier phase of the response. Therefore, such collective decisions must not be forcibly applied to any individual, consistent with the 'do no harm' idea. The decision to be part of a response or not must be voluntary. Therefore, maximal freedom of conscience must be granted to every adult citizen in a society.

A model of 'free market of ideas' also allows ideas to be experimented on in parallel and selected through competition, thus increasing the speed in which a response becomes adaptive, and hastening the awareness and removal of any unjust aspects. Of course, such a market also functions best when proper debate, without requirements for political correctness and with respect of all parties, can occur in society. Therefore, this should be encouraged.

6. Maximal freedom of conscience comprises of a balance of negative and positive freedoms.

The provision of this maximal freedom of conscience must include a balance of negative and positive freedoms. Negative freedoms are freedoms that occur when the government does not interfere against them, and positive freedoms are freedoms that can only be guaranteed with suitable intervention, for example anti-discrimination laws and economic safety nets.

The concept of 'positive freedom' is required, because otherwise we would have a tyranny of the rich and powerful. Poor individuals could essentially become slave-like in their existence and forced to conform to whatever demand from the rich just for survival. The rich and powerful will then be able to shut out the voices of the poor in any debate. However, a strong concept of 'negative freedom' is also required, as it guarantees that people will not be required to go along with a practice just because it has been collectively determined as 'good'.

This is a rough rule that can be used to assess this balance I have proposed: governments should only be able to intervene and thus take away some 'negative freedom' when it will result in the net gain of 'positive freedom' or at least no net loss of freedom overall in society, and the redistribution is just, i.e. from a party having more freedom to a party having less freedom, with the result of the distribution not reversing this relationship. This rule can be used to justify welfare programs and anti-discrimination laws, whilst limiting the ability of the government to tax excessively or run forced adoption programs again.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Promoting the Abstinence Message Again Part 3: A Matter of Definition

by TaraElla

Regarding my last two posts on abstinence, a few people have asked me what does 'abstinence until marriage or similar commitment' mean.

'Abstinence until marriage or similar commitment' is basically the same as the more traditional 'abstinence until marriage', merely a more inclusive form of it. It takes into account that some people may want to make the same kind of permanent commitment marriage entails, without wanting actually to identifying their relationship as a marriage. This is what I mean bt a 'similar commitment'. Of course, people who are only casually dating or otherwise not committed to 'forever' does not fall into this definition.

I believe it's important to specify this inclusive language, even though it makes for less of a 'slogan', so we don't delegitimise non-marriage relationships which are otherwise as committed and as permanent. I totally support the tradition of marriage, but for the sake of stable families, it is commitment, rather than whether that commitment is called a 'marriage', that is important. Also, once we start to think that only marriage counts as commitment, it would inevitably bring on the question of what is a legitimate marriage. From there, it would be a slippery slope down to ideas like 'a marriage isn't really a marriage unless it's registered with the government', or even 'a marriage not recognised by the church is not really a marriage'. This is clearly anti-freedom, and we should not go anywhere near there, I believe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Complex Families

Recently, sections of the right wing have been increasingly vocal about championing the traditional nuclear family as the 'gold standard' of family, saying that it is better than blended families, step-families, single parent families and same-sex parent families.

Whilst I have long been a champion of stable family structures, I simply believe that it is inappropriate to pit one form of family against another, as long as it is a stable structure. I have long believed that large extended families are much better than isolated nuclear families for the purposes of raising children. Should I disparage isolated nuclear families then? No, because those families are still clearly of much value to their members and to society. Furthermore, each form of family has its pros and cons, and cannot be easily compared. For example, families headed by lesbian parents are often believed to be better at caring for young children and raising boys to respect women as adults. Children in step-families and co-parenting agreements have two sets of parents looking out for them.

Also, whilst I believe in stable family structures, life isn't always ideal. I am a firm believer in giving your all to preserve a marriage, always. But there are situations where people have no choice but to walk away, for example where there is domestic violence, emotional abuse or other severe problems that cannot be resolved. Families have to do their best to survive in these situations, and we have to applaud them for their efforts.

All families should be celebrated, and none should be disparaged.

Promoting the Abstinence Message Again Part 2: It's a Cultural Belief, Not a Judgement

by TaraElla

In the last post I discussed how making abstinence a logical thing rather than a 'cool' thing was a better way to sell the message. However, there is still one more barrier we have to overcome. There are sadly plenty of people in the community who see those promoting abstinence as fundamentalist religious bigots or moronic ultraconservatives. And I guess you wouldn't be able to blame them, with a lot of abstinence education being carried out by homophobic right wing religious groups.

The point we should make is that we believe in abstinence until marriage or similar commitment, we live our lives according to this belief, we support each other in living this belief, and we are happy to share this belief with others. This, however, doesn't mean we think that everyone who doesn't believe and live this way are somehow less 'moral' than us. People live differently for different reasons, and whilst celebrating and promoting our own culture and lifestyle, we cannot really judge others'.

For this very reason, I believe the way abstinence only education is run is actually bringing abstinence a bad name. We need to reclaim the abstinence movement: it's a cultural belief that we share, not a judgement on the rest of the world.