Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rehabilitating Traditional Values

I believe that some traditional values, like a lifelong commitment to one's partner and family, public modesty, and modesty in the entertainment sphere, and associated lifestyle habits, like saying no to 'recreational' drugs, are conducive to living a great life. As much as I know that these are great values to have, however, I do know that just this preceding sentence will have made some readers uncomfortable. As a result, this is a topic we don't often get to talk about in public. And it is something we need to address.

I believe the reason why certain traditional values have almost become a taboo topic is because some of the people that have been proponents of these values in the past few decades have been judgemental. We need to change this image. For example, whilst I may be a proponent of the 'just say no to drugs' movement, I am also not going to be judgemental towards any drug user. In fact, I am of the opinion that what they do should not come under legal punishment, although I know that too may be controversial in some circles. In other words, although I live by this 'just say no' principle and I am proud to promote it from time to time, unlike many other people I don't feel that I am morally superior to drug users because of their lifestyle choice. It's just that I propose and promote what I believe to be a better lifestyle choice. The same principle can be applied to many other things in life.

The traditional values movement has a right to promote its values. However, it really doesn't have a right to treat those who don't follow as inferior or less moral in any way. Like any other movement, we need to attract followers by standing on our own merits. And being judgmental is never going to be viewed nicely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Libertarian Vision: Better Achieved Gradually

The libertarian cause, i.e. to reduce government intervention in every area of life and to give people more flexibility and 'freedom to do the right thing', is a very noble cause. However, I believe that it must be achieved gradually, perhaps over decades. Let me explain.

Firstly, whilst libertarian policies as we commonly understand them are ultimately what we should strive for, in some cases their immediate implementation would cause some people to lose freedom. For example, the withdrawal of anti-discrimination laws would mean ethnic minorities and LGBT people have less freedom to access opportunities in life, the withdrawal of government welfare would mean those living in poverty have less freedom to negotiate their working conditions, and the complete and immediate withdrawal of gun control may mean those who cannot afford to buy a gun or learn to use one feel unsafe and therefore effectively lose their freedom of movement. Whilst all these policies may eventually be able to be implemented in a society that is mature enough for them, in the 2010s we are simply not there yet.

Let me take this from another angle. Whilst those of us familiar with libertarianism find libertarian policies logical, whether we agree with their (immediate) implementation or not, the wider world really doesn't understand them at all. The Libertarian Party may be the third largest party in the USA, but stereotypes about libertarians being conspiracy theorists or even anti-social remain strong in some circles. In Australia, where a senator representing a libertarian party was elected recently (something US libertarians can probably only dream of right now), many people across the political spectrum, from the environmentalist left to the religious right, still appear to completely misunderstand the new senator's positions on various matters. All this just shows that libertarianism continues to have a communication problem worldwide, and many non-libertarians continue to view it as, to put it mildly, eccentric.

In a society that measures policies and ideologies by their results more than anything else, libertarianism cannot exist in a bubble. It must generate acceptable results regarding its stated goal: to maximize freedom for everyone. And if it is to do so, then libertarian policies must be rolled out gradually, and only when they do increase freedom in the current society. If we can consistently stick to this plan, libertarianism will become better understood by society, and will be seen as practical and the right thing to do.

Marriage Has Changed, and it's Too Late to Go Back

Once upon a time, marriage always represented a lifelong union. Well, there were exceptions, for example regarding domestic violence, but in more than 95% of cases it lasted for life. Like most pro-marriage people, I have long lamented the change away from this concept in the wider society in the past five or so decades. In the past, I have tried to support everything from divorce reform to denouncing Hollywood celebrities who don't take marriage 'seriously', by our standards. I have even tried to tie my support for marriage equality to a demand that gay and lesbian couples who do marry take marriage 'seriously'. Guess what? None of that worked at all, and all of that was seen as offensive by significant numbers of people.

And I probably should not have expected any differently. Marriage may traditionally have been what we believed it to be, and it may have been that way during our own upbringing because our families were more traditional than many others out there, but for many people the marriage they buy into does come with the option of walking away when they don't like how things turn out. And when we try to uphold 'traditional marriage' by criticising those who have opted into 'modern marriage', we only end up offending many people.

Whilst we may not like how marriage evolved into 'modern marriage', it is a fact of history, and it is something that has already become fact (perhaps even before our generation was born). Whilst we may not like 'modern marriage' very much, it is now a legitimate option, and one that is chosen by many people. We just have to accept it for what it is. To many people out there, 'modern marriage' was always available, and those seeing marriage this way right now effectively just opted into what was already available. They are not responsible for 'cheapening marriage' (that occured long ago), and any movement suggesting that would rightly be seen as offensive.

I guess those wanting to support traditional marriage as it existed before the 1960s should find another term. Some have suggested 'covenant', whilst others have suggested something along the lines of 'lifelong partnership' or 'lifelong marriage'. Whatever we end up choosing, however, we should not aim to expand the new description beyond those who really believe in lifelong commitment, 'for better or for worse'. I believe one reason why marriage became 'modern marriage' was that there was great pressure on couples to get married back in the 1970s and 1980s, when many couples just weren't ready for that commitment, due to the temporary influence of various 'liberation movements' back then. If we let these couples just cohabitate without social pressure, we would have been able to retain the traditional spirit of marriage, ready to become mainstream again perhaps in the more family friendly 1990s. Belief in commitment, like all other traditional values, must never be forced onto an unwilling majority. Otherwise, it will be the traditional value that ends up being subverted, because the majority always wins.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Referendum for Climate Change?

Many people I know have been complaining about how governments around the world are not doing enough to address climate change, and how Western democratic systems have not adequately met the challenge.

Whilst I am not unsympathetic to their concerns, I really think the issue should be addressed through democratic consensus. This is because climate change can only be addressed through collective action, and if you believe strongly in liberty and democracy, you realise that collective action must only come through a strong democratic mandate. In fact, when climate action is implemented without a clear democratic mandate, you get what has happened in Australia recently - the tearing down of whatever achievement made, plus the election of a government that is detrimental on many other fronts too.

Therefore, any future climate action must have a clear democratic mandate. How do we establish this? A referendum may be a suitable vehicle, I suggest. We can have a clear campaign on the issue at hand without other aspects of politics interfering, and a resounding 'yes' will provide ongoing legitimacy to climate action. Of course, many governments are not interested in referendums. However, that does not prevent interested people in campaigning for one to be held. Better still, we could institute a citizen initiated referendum system once and for all.