Politics are complicated. It would be nice to have a label that easily conveys my viewpoints, but so far all of the labels I’ve seen fail to encompass the full breadth of my beliefs. I’m not a republican, or a democrat, or totally conservative, or totally liberal. So I’m borrowing from a couple different terms and making my own.. Apparently I’m a CapLibSoc? (Capitalist Libertarian Socialist)
Capitalism can drive innovation when the products being developed are luxury items or otherwise not necessary for basic survival. People and companies need strong property rights so they can reap the rewards of their innovation and work. However there do need to be some regulations on industry to protect the environment (prevent pollution and waste) and consumers (prevent fraud, ensure safety). These kinds of regulations would need to be at the federal level, as the dangers they protect against affect the whole country. Pollution rarely stays within state borders, and items can be purchased and shipped all over the country. More broadly, the federal government has some responsibility to ensure basic human rights are observed at all levels of government (including local & state).
On the other hand, too much bureaucracy at the highest levels takes power away from people, and can lead to regulations that make no sense for some areas. I feel that all laws and regulations should be handled at the most-local level possible. As noted above, there are definitely items I feel should be handled at a federal level, but right now I think we’re hoisting too much on the federal government, and not holding our local offices accountable.
It’s also worth noting that there are a number of businesses that I feel should not be allowed to be for-profit, including Police, Fire Department, Utilities (electricity, water, phone & internet), Hospitals, Banks, Schools, and Jails & Prisons. I do NOT think all of these should be run by government, and I do think there’s some obligation for citizens to pay for these services, either directly or through taxes, but at the very least the profit motive should be removed from these industries. I realize there are issues with how the current nonprofit rules work, and I am certainly open to revision. But I feel that these particular industries are vital to a functioning society, and that in these cases a profit motive is counter to what should be the goals and objectives of the organization. Of course, individuals can still be paid and make a living in non-profit organizations, but they wouldn’t be able to issue stock and so forth.
I realize that these issues are complicated, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. My viewpoint continues to evolve as I learn and grow, and I welcome discussion to facilitate that process. :]
On the Issues
Abortion: I’m Pro-Choice. I don’t feel that abortion should be used as a form of regular birth control, though. I know there are some (rare) women who do this, and it’s horrifying! We need to ensure access to hormonal birth control and barrier contraceptives so women have reproductive choice. Should we ban third-trimester abortions? I’m not sure, because it’s often easy for doctors and other decision makers to delay a woman’s access to services long enough to put her past the allowed time period. So if a fetus is viable enough to live outside the womb, then yeah I feel like the woman should probably go ahead and have the baby and put it up for adoption.. but that’s not my decision to make. Childbirth is expensive and dangerous, and nobody has a right to mandate that another person go through it.
Birth Control: Should health insurance providers be required to offer free birth control? – Maybe? Birth control isn’t just about preventing pregnancy – many women use hormonal birth control for a plethora of health-related issues that have nothing to do with pregnancy. Also, unplanned and unwanted pregnancies are the largest source of abortions. Ensuring kids get robust & truthful sex education & providing access to condoms and other contraceptives lowers the instance of unplanned/unwanted pregnancy & abortions. But do we mandate that anything else be free? Is there a precedent for requiring insurance companies to fully cover any particular treatment or procedure? And I have all kinds of problems with “health insurance” anyway, which I discuss below.
Death Penalty: I would be for the death penalty in theory, because why should we use tax dollars to support criminals for a lifetime? But the truth is more complicated than that. A lot of innocent people are wrongly convicted. And even if a person is guilty, putting them on death row actually costs significantly MORE tax dollars than life in prison, due to legal fees, the appeals process, heightened security, and other factors. (Death penalty cases & inmates are close to twice as expensive.) Plus, the death penalty, and incarceration in general, are remarkably poor deterrents. Crime prevention through social programs and support systems are much more effective at reducing the prevalence of crime. Also worth noting here that I feel it’s better to let 10 guilty men go free, than to wrongly incarcerate 1 innocent person.
Drugs: Legalize, regulate, tax. Provide support systems to help addicts get & stay clean. Addiction needs to be treated as the terrible illness it is, not criminalized. Again, I feel this should be handled at state & local levels as much as possible, rather than federal.
First Amendment: I support the right of individuals to exercise their right to free speech. I recognize that applies only to the legality of speech – you can’t be arrested or incarcerated for what you say (with some exceptions). This doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that a person need not face consequences for what they say. The first amendment protects individuals from the government – not corporations or other individuals. Social media sites have a right to kick people off their platform, and companies have a right to fire employees, based on the words and/or actions of those people or employees. I do NOT feel that physical assault of an individual is justified for mere words, no matter how disgusting they may be. I know some people feel that someone’s words can be so hateful that punching them in the face is “like for like”, and that they shouldn’t be held legally responsible for assaulting a person for saying horrible things. I totally disagree, and am horrified that people feel this way. I think Neil Gaiman’s blog post titled “Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech?” covers the concept well.
Guns: I support the right to bear arms, but also support some regulation. Background checks and 3-day waiting periods seem totally reasonable. I’m not opposed to licensing in theory, as long as people are licensed by type of firearm, and individual firearms are NOT licensed. On the other hand, Voter ID has already been deemed unconstitutional and discriminatory, so I’m not sure how gun licensing laws could be enacted that don’t violate the same principles. Voter ID also makes sense in theory; shouldn’t you have to prove you are who you say you are before you cast a vote in that name? But I totally understand the reasoning behind declaring voter ID to be discriminatory & I agree. So.. slippery path to walk on. There are also several laws already on the books that don’t have the funding or personnel to enforce, so simply adding more laws won’t address the issue.
It also drives me nuts that people get their panties in a twist over public mass shootings, which account for 1% of annual gun deaths in the US, but these same people apparently don’t care about the other 99% of gun deaths.
In order to reduce gun deaths in the US, we have to understand the cause of gun deaths. 65% of all gun deaths in the US are suicide, so if we want to reduce the number of gun deaths, we clearly need to do something about suicide rates. Mandatory waiting periods before gun purchase help, but still don’t address the root cause. We need better access to quality mental healthcare, and we need to eliminate the stigma around mental health issues & seeking help for them. Further, another 32% of gun deaths are homicide unrelated to mass shootings. I’ve written entire essays on this topic, but suffice to say that income inequality and lack of access to quality education are HUGE contributors to this statistic. We can’t reduce gun deaths without addressing systemic racism, poverty, lack of school funding, and so on. In fact, more people die every year from firearms accidents than mass shootings. Better public education about gun safety & removing the “taboo” around guns would go a long way in battling this statistic as well.
The hullabaloo around “assault weapons” is misplaced. Assault weapons are defined by cosmetic features, such as flash suppressor, pistol grip, collapsible stock, carrying handle, and so on. Literally ZERO aspects of so called assault weapons have anything to do with how they function, because they function exactly like every other semiautomatic firearm. One trigger pull means one round fired. Most hunting rifles work this same way, and have far more killing power than an AR15. Yes the AR15 causes more damage than handguns, because any rifle is going to do more damage than a handgun. Any rifle is going to allow more rounds to be fired through it before overheating & locking up than a handgun. Any rifle is going to allow for greater accuracy at longer range. These are functional characteristics of all rifles, not just “assault weapons”. Most firearms in use today are semiautomatic, with the other options including lever-action, pump-action, bolt-action, and revolver.
You wanna talk about limiting rate of fire? I agree! Semiauto weapons fire as fast as any civilian needs. That’s why the manufacture & sale of fully automatic weapons has been tightly regulated for decades. You wanna talk about banning bump stocks & other devices that increase the rate of fire? I agree! We’ve already determined that semiautomatic is the maximum speed we want to allow for civilians, so anything that increases the rate of fire should be banned. You wanna talk about limiting magazine size? I could argue that a skilled shooter can reload fast enough that cutting magazine size in half won’t really have the effect that people want it to, i.e. fewer deaths during public shootings. On the other hand, it seems most public shooters are unskilled, and so probably would be slowed down by needing to reload more often. So, maybe? But given that mass shootings only account for 1% of annual gun deaths, and rifles of any kind are used in under 10% of gun crimes (depending on year and state, it’s more like 2% in most cases), I think focusing on rifle is really missing the point. Of course, focusing on guns alone misses the point too. To quote Jane from Xenocide (Enderverse): “In order to stop a person from doing something, you have to make them stop wanting to do it.” I feel that the best way to reduce gun deaths is to make people no longer want to kill themselves or others.
Immigration: This country is currently being run by the descendants of immigrants. Immigrants bring knowledge & new ideas. Yes, the system could be tweaked to minimize abuses, but overall we have a pretty robust vetting process. I think we need to speed up this process (in a way that somehow doesn’t sacrifice quality), and also make it easier to become a citizen. Allow people to be functional members of society, instead of making fear of retribution or deportation keep people from doing what they know is right. Regarding our current situation, I don’t think we should just deport everyone who is here illegally. We do need to create a path to legality, whether citizens or visas, or whatever. More people means more ideas & more innovation, which is better for us all.
LGBTQ: The LGBTQ community deserves the same rights & protections as everyone else. Decisions about whether to hire, fire, serve, or medically treat a person should not be based on gender identity or sexual orientation any more than they should be based on gender, race, age, religion, or disability. I understand the frustration of people forced to serve those who engage in activities they disagree with (e.g. the guy who didn’t want to make a gay wedding cake) – but given that their frustration is born of bigotry and intolerance, I must conclude that the laws that force businesses to treat people equally have to be enforced even here. I wouldn’t want to make a Nazi cake or an Antifa cake, because I don’t support extremist ideologies, but then again, Nazis and Antifa aren’t protected groups. Don’t want to make a gay wedding cake? Enact company policy that says you make NO wedding cakes, for ANYBODY. Then it isn’t discrimination anymore, problem solved. 😛
Planned Parenthood Funding: I don’t actually know how much money various programs get from the government, so I don’t know if PP is getting “too much” or “too little” from various levels of government. However, they do very good and important medical work, increase the health of their communities, and provide other important services. I agree that government funds should never be used on controversial procedures like abortion, but they aren’t and never were at Planned Parenthood, so the current outrage over funding PP is entirely misplaced IMO. Also, anyone who espouses violence in the name of protecting unborn fetuses is confused and missing the point.
Religious Freedom Act: Should a business be able to deny service to a customer if the request conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs? Not if it’s a protected group. Yes if it’s not a protected group.
Subsidies: I’m not wholly against subsidies in principle, but the current system causes a lot of problems, without really addressing the concerns they were originally implemented to address. For more information, check out Ten Reasons to Cut Farm Subsidies, and How the Government Supports Your Junk Food Habit.
Universal Basic Income / Welfare: I am really torn on this one. I can, unfortunately, name several family members and friends who purposely & admittedly game the system for their own benefit. I know women who birthed babies specifically so they could get money from the government. (That was literally their stated purpose in getting pregnant. Also “Haha I had a baby before you!” BS. I wish I were kidding.) I’ve had friends who used every trick they could think of to milk unemployment benefits, while not actually attempting to seek work. I’ve also known people who were getting government assistance (social security or similar) due to illness, but didn’t want to get better, or even engaged in activities that prolonged their illness. I had a roommate who personified this – she wasn’t going to do anything that might make her able to work & that therefore might jeopardize her government assistance. Obviously there are other issues here as well (my roommate clearly also needed mental health help, at the very least CBT). It’s no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of people I’ve encountered who rely on government assistance were attempting to game the system for maximum benefit with minimal effort. I’m not implying that this is representative of people on government assistance as a whole. I’m merely pointing out that this has been my experience, so I remain very skeptical when people try to tell me “so few people abuse welfare that it’s not even worth addressing”. Any new welfare system, whether it’s UBI or something else entirely, must attempt to address what I see as rampant abuses before I can get onboard.
Universal Healthcare: First it’s important to note that the systems people tout as “Universal Healthcare” aren’t really universal healthcare. They’re universal health insurance. I have major problems with health insurance companies, which I see as middle-men that drive up prices & prevent consumers from having a direct relationship with their care providers. I do NOT think the government should own or run hospitals; I think the private sector handles this better. Though as noted previously, I do think hospitals should be barred from being for-profit. What’s the answer? I don’t know! Would a single-payer system be better than what we currently have? I don’t know! There are some pretty compelling arguments supporting a single-payer system. And what we currently have is pretty damn bad, so it would be hard to be worse. 😛