Classifying people into liberal, conservative, and moderate camps is difficult for a number of reasons. Today I wish to introduce a concept I call “ideality levels.” I suspect that I will link to this post often in the future.
Sometimes people are asked what their ideal governing style is, and it forces me to think about mine. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to vote for the lesser of two evils, but could support a candidate with a style I truly liked. I suppose I want someone that will not violate the constitution except in rare cases to mitigate problems caused by past constitutional violations. I want someone that will reign in extra-constitutional programs, but not so quickly that more harm is caused than good. I want someone who is persuasive and can get others in government to go along with him. I want someone who is practical.
Of course, in a truly ideal world, everyone in office would agree and no one need be all that persuasive. Then again, in a truly truly ideal world, we never would have violated the constitution in the first place, so my ideal governing style is not to compromise at all. Then again, in a truly truly truly ideal world, we wouldn’t need a constitution to restrict the government because everyone in government would be a saint and genius. Then again, in a truly truly truly truly ideal world, we would all be perfect and would have no need of a government to keep order. Then again, that sounds boring. In an ideal world, there are villains in government and superheroes flying in the air.
In any case, in an ideal world I have a spaceship and a time machine and can leave anytime I want so I don’t really care what happens.
Depending on what mood I’m in and what “ideality level” I take the question at, my answers can seem very inconsistent. This makes me hard to classify. Here’s another example:
Sometimes I tell people I support tax cuts, but that’s not entirely true. Actually, I support a changeover to a flat tax. The current tax code is broken. The flat tax will be more consistent with my fairness-related values, and much better for the economy, but I’m not sure it’s practical to support it. That’s not entirely true either. I actually support abolishing taxes on income entirely and replacing them with a sales tax. I only support the flat tax as a more widely acceptable and practical alternative. Of course, in an ideal world, we would just make voluntary donations to the government to keep it running. Then again, in a truly ideal world, we wouldn’t even need government.
Here is yet another example: I’m not a big fan of the plurality voting system (aka first-past-the-post). In my ideal world, we would use Condorcet elections. Actually, in my ideal world, we would all agree and it wouldn’t matter which voting system we used. We wouldn’t even need democracy; dictatorship would work just fine, but realizing I have already compromised to support democracy, I am open to the possibility that Condorcet elections may not be practical, as some people have suggested. If I am more likely to succeed in getting election reform in some other way, such as IRV or Coomb’s Method, I will support those instead, even though they are not “ideal.”
I run into the problem once in a while of someone being on a different level. I was once having a discussion about possibly pushing for term limits on senators as a way of reigning in government power, and a friend of mine refused to even consider it, saying something to the effect that they’d find a way to get around them in the same way they justify violating the constitution today and that we would make term limits unnecessary by simply insisting on strict constitutionality – something I had given up on as being a lost cause without the use of term limits. Of course, it is possible term limits might be a lost cause as well.
I hope this helps you to understand where people are coming from sometimes. I also hope it shows that some of you may actually agree on the ideals but merely disagree on the pragmatic measures necessary to achieve them. I hope that this makes you more likely to find workable compromises.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.