19 August 2006

What's an individualist to do?

Freedom! Almost everyone praises it, but where can I find anyone who actually speaks for it -- across the board?

The right claims to support it, but in reality they have a long list of areas where they don't believe in it in practice. The best-known example is abortion, but one could also cite stem-cell research, pornography, drugs, and various kinds of unconventional sexual behavior. Notice that the majority of these areas have to do with sexuality, and most of them are easily traceable back to Christian religious taboos. The right these days is increasingly identified with a politicized and anti-intellectual form of fundamentalist Christianity, which seeks to erode away the separation of church and state at every opportunity, brushing aside scientific fact (evolution, global warming) when it conflicts with dogma or is otherwise inconvenient, and generally working toward a society in which anyone who is not Christian would feel very much a second-class citizen (though well-behaved Jews seem to be accepted as a sort of "honorary Christians", at least for now). I don't want to be a second-class citizen, or to live in a society dominated by ignorant superstition and ancient Middle Eastern tribal taboos.

The left has its own laundry list of exceptions. Leftists may not seek to repress sexuality (though certain elements of the feminist wing sound remarkably similar to the Christian fundamentalists in this respect), but they have plenty of problems with freedom of speech in other areas -- the objective study of gender differences comes to mind, as does the issue of the medical consequences of homosexuality. Indeed, political correctness is to the left as Christian fundamentalism is to the right. The left generally favors indefinite increases in taxation and in social manipulation to be funded by the revenues raised thereby, pushing us toward a condition of dependence on the state, similar to what is seen in most of western Europe. And leftists seek to undermine one of our most fundamental rights -- gun ownership. Most damning of all is a "soft", reality-denying approach to the whole issue of defense against violence -- an unwillingness to confront the harsh measures needed to cope with violent crime, and to acknowledge the reality of external threats (Communism earlier, Islamic fundamentalism today) and the need for a strong and vigorous fight against those threats. I wouldn't want to live in a society where I'm a powerless ward of the state, where I'm forbidden to say anything that might offend a long list of "protected" groups or to own an effective means of defending myself, and where the government refuses to fight back against those who threaten our country.

What do the right and the left have in common? Whenever a major new problem arises, their first instinct is to call for a new law or policy forbidding you and me from doing something we could formerly do, or at least imposing some new rule on us.

The libertarians would be attractive, but they focus far too much on tax-and-regulation issues and not nearly enough on vastly more fundamental personal freedoms such as abortion and gun ownership. Also, their open-borders position renders them beyond the pale. There is no point in building a free society if one then allows it to be swamped by mass migration and reduced to Third-World-like chaos (and, ultimately, tyranny).

I like to think that there is a quiet but large "sensible center" out there -- moderate, pragmatic people who may identify to some degree with the left or the right, but not with the fire-breathing ideologues. Such individuals seem to be fairly well represented among the people I know personally. But there is not a party or ideology that speaks for them.

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