Saturday, April 8, 2017

It would be Very Dangerous to Trivialize Religious Freedom

Religious freedom has recently become the favourite cause of those opposed to LGBT rights, in the US and other Western countries. Many commentators have highlighted this tactic's potentially devastating effect on LGBT lives, and unsurprisingly, these 'religious freedom' efforts are generally opposed by those supportive of LGBT lives (including myself). However, I am also equally concerned that this whole exercise may lead to the trivialization of religious freedom, with dangerous consequences for all.

Religious freedom by definition requires allowing religious freedom to follow the religious doctrine of their belief, to share that belief where they see fit, and to live their lives according to that belief. Anything less would not be true religious freedom. Therefore, I believe few would argue against the idea that religious freedom would mean a freedom to continue to subscribe to and promote the ideal of 'traditional marriage', even where marriage equality is legal. Even somebody as staunchly pro marriage equality as myself can support this point.

However, many recent 'religious freedom' initiatives are about entirely different things. For example, what does making life hard for trans people via bathroom bills have to do with religious freedom at all? What kind of religious freedom does deliberately putting statist barriers in front of gay couples wishing to adopt promote? (I'm not talking about exempting churches from gay adoption here.) And how exactly do anti-discrimination laws requiring equality in employment hurt religious freedoms? I'm not aware that religious doctrine demands gay employees be fired from secular jobs, after all. These initiatives, all of which are clearly not required for religious freedom but definitely make life hard for LGBT people, have served to trivialize or even demonize religious freedom in the eyes of many people.

And what happens when religious freedom is no longer held in high regard? We are already seeing it in some parts of the world, where certain religious dress or even the construction of certain religious building have been banned. Or where health care workers are forced to take part in abortions they do not believe in. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Donald Trump Victory Lesson: The 'New Left' are Destroying Solidarity, Even as they Demand It

This is a series of articles about learning lessons from Donald Trump's victory, and how to re-invigorate liberalism in the current situation.

While I am a liberal and this is a liberal blog, in this entry we will examine the leftist idea of solidarity, because I believe it holds one of the keys to Donald Trump's victory.

The left has traditionally valued, as one of its highest goals, solidarity. The term originated in workers' socialist circles, where it referred to the solidarity of workers over their economic conditions. These were one group of people with a simple, common goal. Of course there could be some solidarity, agree with them or not.

Yet the new left we have today is a different animal. It staunchly supports many non-economic goals, sometimes even taking precedence over their economic goals. Their agenda includes environmentalism, refugee rights, marriage equality, perhaps abolishing marriage altogether, some form of feminism (but it surely isn't liberal feminism), support for Palestine, affirmative action, abortion rights, animal rights, and more. I personally support some of these and oppose some of these, and I guess it's the same for most people. How can there be solidarity on all these issues, anyway? Environmentalists will find solidarity amongst environmentalists, but supporters of marriage equality do not always find solidarity with environmentalists, and vice versa, for example.

Rather than creating solidarity, the new left's demand that people support all their agenda, no ifs ands or buts, has destroyed solidarity and caused division in society. And while solidarity originated in socialist circles, you don't have to be left wing to realise that society does need a bit of solidarity around the idea that we are all in this together, to solve our common problems and crises. However, with the new left insisting on their program and for it to be implemented by government force, politicians and political parties have been divided along lines of social issues, making this solidarity impossible. So, in 2016, some people trusted Clinton, some trusted Trump, and some trusted Sanders, despite having similar concerns. And in the end, those who trusted Trump simply had the numbers, even though Trump was probably the most divisive of all. This is a climate that rewards those who can exploit the division.

So what will restore the solidarity society once had? Liberty for all is the answer. Just like in my Princess's Spirit novels, people can agree to disagree, but still come together to defend liberty and solve common problems. In the modern day and age, there may not be able to be a unity around a common culture or common views, and any attempt to do so, like the new-left is trying, will only create even more division. However, there can certainly be a unity in liberty. And it's our only hope.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Donald Trump Victory Lesson: The Emerging Liberal Majority: Will It Happen After All?

This is a series of articles about learning lessons from Donald Trump's victory, and how to re-invigorate liberalism in the current situation.

In the later Obama years, many American progressives were optimistic that a permanent Democratic majority, made up of young people and minorities, was emerging. They believed they owned the future, because the demographics favor them. In fact, they expected the Republicans to start having difficulty winning elections starting from 2016.

Ever since Donald Trump's win, this theory has been questioned. Perhaps that is due to most people being short-sighted to the point of thinking that the present is always predictive of the future. For example, while in Obama's America dreams of a permanent progressive majority were being made, during the same period in Australia under the conservative Tony Abbott, no progressive commentator thought something like that may happen in Australia too. Perhaps now America is in the position Australia was in three years ago, at least psychologically.

A balanced prediction of the future should not be influenced by psychological factors like who is in government right now. Rather, it should be based on real, long-term evidence. And right now, the evidence seems to be mixed. A recent analysis showed that, while the proportion of young, presumably liberal-minded voters and minority voters is ever increasing, there have also been trends towards a slightly increasing share of these voters going Republican in each mid-term election since 2006. Overall, it appears that while the Democrats may have a future demographic advantage, it doesn't look as assured as some people may think.

Knowing the statistics outlining trends is one thing, but we also have to know the reasons behind these trends. Right now, I would say we need further research to determine those reasons precisely. But from my own experience, I believe one important factor is that American liberals have become less liberal in recent years. Under the influence of the social justice warrior mindset, American progressives have increasingly embraced restrictions on free speech and freedom of conscience, and many young people and minority voters have simply had enough. In last year's election, some young adults said they would vote for Trump just to combat political correctness, with many of these voters previously voting Democratic or Libertarian.

It is perhaps still too early to say whether the emerging liberal majority will happen or not. But I believe this is actually in the hands of liberals. The age of statist conservatism is over, in any case. People no longer want government social engineering, and will support whichever side that offers the least. If liberals go back to their roots and embrace liberty and equality, the support will come. If, however, so-called liberal progressives show that they are just as authoritarian as Donald Trump but only in the opposite direction, then more and more people will become fed up.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Challenge on Trump Travel Bans shows State Rights are actually Liberal too

It has long been said that state rights are a bastion of conservatism, something that liberals and progressives don't believe in. While states' rights have favored conservative policies in some instances, I have never understood why this should be a general rule. After all, libertarianism, a branch of liberalism, also supports state rights.

The Trump administration's travel bans have served to highlight this. When the federal government overreaches, in any given direction, it's better for the states to be able to challenge them. State rights are ultimately a protector of liberty, when the federal government does not take liberty seriously. Centralization, on the other hand, has always been among the favorite tools of authoritarians.

Of course, state rights have been invoked against marriage equality and anti-segregation laws too. But that's the fault of authoritarianism, not the fault of states' rights itself. For example, in Australia, marriage laws can only be changed by the federal government, resulting in exactly zero states having marriage equality at the moment. In a truly liberal society, individual rights should trump collectivist designs, whether state or federal. But that's another issue altogether.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Donald Trump's Victory is a Failure of Liberalism

Ever since Donald Trump's victory last year, there have been many theories flying around: that people don't take feminism seriously, that people actually want some protectionism, that Hillary Clinton was seen as too establishment, that many voters are racist and would therefore love to see mass deportations, etc. While I won't go into the individual merits of these arguments, I think they all miss the central point.

Donald Trump won because liberalism failed.

Liberalism has been forgetting its roots for many years now, and ever since the advent of the religious right vs the social justice warriorism this has only accelerated. So-called liberal progressives have begun embracing things like limiting people's freedom of speech and conscience, in the name of social justice. While traditional liberalism has sought to end racism, sexism and homophobia via civil rights, anti-discrimination laws and rational discourse, social justice warriors have embraced more coercive and social engineering methods, like enforcing a level of political correctness similar to that found in 1984. Meanwhile, ever since the Bush era, the traditionally small-government right wing, under the increasing influence of religious right, have increasingly favoured an intrusive Christian state over a libertarian state.

The sensible center of liberty and mutual respect, freedom of conscience, limitation on government intrusion and rational discourse has been abandoned. The political field has become more and more like a choice between different tribes of authoritarians. Against this backdrop, Donald Trump's authoritarianism has become nothing unusual, and is simply another choice. If the other versions of authoritarianism have failed, why not give Trump's version a go?

Right now, many liberals and progressives are fearing that Trump will use his authority to roll back women's rights and LGBT rights and initiate mass deportations. And their fears do have plenty of ground. But just one year ago, many of the same people, perhaps believing that the Democrats will be forever in government, thought that the government was their friend and one of the most important weapons in their fight to change the world.

The lesson? Authoritarianism is only good until you are the one being oppressed. Liberty is the only reliable friend.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I Endorse Hillary Clinton for US President

Firstly, I must say that I'm not American. So feel free to ignore what I say.

But for next week's presidential elections, I am endorsing Hillary Clinton.

I'm not saying that she is the perfect choice, but for me she was the best among all the candidates, even at the beginning of the year, before the field was narrowed down to two. This is because, among all the candidates running for the two main parties, Hillary seems to be the only person who has any respect for the idea of liberty. She's not religious right, isolationist, ultra nationalist, or anti economic freedom. And that makes her the most qualified candidate, in my opinion.

Of course, this is just my view. You are welcome to disagree, respectfully.