My New Year’s Resolution? Ditch Labels As Much as Possible.

Yet another hiatus broken. 🙂

 

Here’s something that likely applies to anyone who comes to hold well-defined views: We start off broad and less than certain, yet over time we begin to narrow our views down to an overall perspective that’s more rigid. From that point on it’s only a matter of filling in the cracks, or making up our minds about subtle nuances that are pretty trivial compared to what we think as a whole.

 

Okay so that’s probably not the best way to word it but you get the idea. In my case, my political orientation went from a kind of weak neoconservatism (I didn’t even know half the issues listed on many popular Nolan Chart quizzes existed) towards full fiscal and social conservatism – that was after I learned what the terms “capitalism” or “free market” even meant. Then over time, I slowly began to realize that conservatives were simply dead wrong to try and centrally plan moral values, engage in foreign adventurism, or endanger various civil liberties in an effort to fight “terrorism.”

 

By then, I noticed that I was scoring in the upper quadrant of two major Nolan Chart quizzes. You can clearly see from the image below that the label “conservative” no longer applied to me at that point:

 

Nolan Chart

Probably the best illustration of how the major political persuasions relate to one another.

 

So there I was in the summer of 2008, suddenly realizing what the hoopla over Ron Paul was all about and suddenly becoming fascinated by the Bob Barr campaign. I was a full-blown Libertarian of the Stossel variety – more or less. As a general rule of thumb, I felt that the market was able to provide many goods and services more effectively than government could ever dream of. I also was in favor of scrapping pretty much all victimless crime laws, and wanted the military to focus entirely on defending our borders – nothing more.

 

Yet even this took a turn within a few months. After spending more time surfing the net and coming across arguments in favor of “Anarcho-Capitalism” (or Market Anarchy, Voluntarism, etc), I started to consider the possibility that maybe all “necessary” functions of government could be provided on a profit/loss basis rather than a compulsory one based on your zip code. Yes, that included police, courts, and thus law as a whole.

 

Since that time in late 2008, my views haven’t really changed much. I’ve become more confident over time that they have merit and continue to feel more confident about how to articulate them. But small details within that framework continue to be worked out every day. In particular, I’ve had a hard time deciding how to label myself. On a casual basis, I just tell people my views happen to fall under the Libertarian camp of thought. And I no longer feel a need to be up front about labeling myself at all if I can help it.

 

I could go on for several paragraphs with examples of why I take this approach now, but just a few will suffice. Have you ever seen a profile page or description of someone who had views you strongly disagreed with? Maybe you just saw the ideological label(s) they adopted and immediately attributed all the most negative things about that political camp to that individual. You know, “them is fighting words.” If anything, whatever exchanges you ended up having with them would’ve gone a lot more smoothly if you were forced to find out for yourself what they actually thought about the biggest political issues of our time rather than projecting your own prejudices on them.

 

That sums up the biggest drawback of political labels – they can often do more to mislead and shut down discussions before they can really take place. Take a look at the image below:

 

Pew Political Polarization

Pew’s questions may be imperfect, but it gets the basic point right about growing ideological disparity.

 

Considering that I don’t fall under either camp mentioned in that pic, and that people who do will assume I do as well, making it harder for them to jump to conclusions about me seems like a pretty good idea. And what better way to do that than to just avoid labels altogether? Well, labels obviously aren’t useless. But when people associate things with labels that discourage them from wanting to hear you out, what’s the point? Why not force them to have to ask you questions before they can even begin to make bogus accusations about how you’re a bad person for not having the same views they do? For me, that meant changing my Twitter description to begin with, “Let’s discuss policy issues and see where we agree” a couple months ago.

 

What about terms like “feminist?” Do we go by what the dictionary says or do we look at what is commonly characteristic of people who actually apply that label to themselves? I would think the latter gives you a better idea of what someone truly stands for. And it’s that process that encourages two people who label themselves entirely different things to actually find where they are similar.

 

This issue goes beyond political labels. What about economic systems? Capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, social democracy, anarchy, etc. With labels, most people accuse everyone else of having bad or stupid intentions rather than explain in clear concrete terms why their preferred system does or would deliver better results. Folks, this is an area where you can raise the level of discourse in no time simply by ditching labels, and explain how resources are to be allocated and why. If you rely on a lot of tautologies to defend your preferred political/economic system, then having to explain how it actually works without giving it any kind of label will expose your flawed reasoning in no time.

 

So now that 2015 is about to kick in, I’m going to take it upon myself to focus more on individual policy issues and the principles behind them before I mention a word about what my views are as a whole. I’m doing both myself and any potential critics a massive favor by doing so.

Six Years an Anarchist, Seven Years a Free Market Fundamentalist

Time to diverge from the post series on intelligence/IQ for just this post, which I of course forgot to set to autopost.

 

A week ago – while the Republicans were enjoying their landslide congressional victories – I was doing what I do every year on November 4th. Six years ago on the night of the 2008 elections, I came to the damningly unpopular conclusion that a society could function and even thrive in the complete absence of government.

 

It wasn’t a very happy day. There were – and still are – enough reasons on my plate for why I stand out more than I’d like to from average people. There’s no need to alienate myself from the masses at large any more than I already do. Okay, so maybe that’s too dramatic but back then that’s the thought process I had and still do to some degree today.

 

My 2014 Quiz 2D Result

My recent result from Quiz2D.com’s most recent quiz version.

 

Rather than tell the same story all over again, I guess I could best use this post to talk about what’s changed since then. Yes, I still score at the top of the Nolan chart. Yes, I still think everything the government does either shouldn’t be done or can be done via market means. But despite the broad picture being the same, the finer details remain in a constant flux.

 

I’ll focus here on the biggest of those finer details. In 2012, I finally ordered a copy of a book that I had known about for years prior to getting it, and that was originally published in 1994. One of the coauthors happened to be one of the most influential social scientists of our time – and a self-described “lowercase l” libertarian. He rose to prominence critiquing the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the war on poverty. From there, he espoused his libertarian (again with the lower-case “l”) views in a book he wrote shortly thereafter through a fascinating starting premise: The purpose of public policy is to create the optimal conditions for people to pursue happiness.

 

He continued writing numerous other books – some related to public policy, others related to social science – and it’s because of that book I first read two years ago that he is notorious for the latter. It was this interview he did for ReasonTV that finally made my interest in his work skyrocket:

 

 

 

 

Yep, the man, the myth, the legend himself: Charles Murray. It would be less than six months after I first saw this video that I would finally get a copy of his most notorious work. When I did, it turned out to be quite the red pill to put it mildly. Around the time I first began looking into the debate over IQ, I came across a Norwegian documentary series called “Brainwash” – which was a seven-part series done a few years back about the disconnect between sociology (which assumes much if not everything about human nature is environmental) and actual science (which acknowledges the fact that genes and other biological factors can influence a person’s behavioral traits).

 

It started with a Youtube comment I came across where someone had noted in a video critiquing feminist rhetoric that a documentary had aired over the Norwegian counterpart to PBS (NRK) that led to the defunding of a prominent feminist gender research institute. So I looked it up, saw the first episode, and was hooked from there! Soon I found myself spending less time following or studying public policy issues, and more time following sociological issues; namely political correctness, as well as the ongoing debate over how much of human nature is innate or influenced by society at large.

 

 

No need to go into too much detail here about this. All I can say is that it’s now a small staple in my daily thinking and research, but that I’m now trying to ween from it. As of a few days ago, I’ve decided to make political and economic issues my main focus all over again. To do so, I’ve begun rereading some of the books that influenced my early thinking in the first place.

 

In terms of political issues, the only real changes of heart that I’ve had over the past few years stem from how I think activism works best. Voting is a survey – nothing more or less – and should only be done to serve as a way to educate others on given political issues. As for what actually leads to change, I’ve continued to become more convinced every day that the bulk of what influences public policy and current events lies outside of the political system itself. For an excellent overview of how this is the case, this video should give you a clear idea of what I mean:

 

 

 

 

The video above is a reading of an article that has links to the various things listed. Overall I think it gets the basic point right, namely that the things that influence current events and public policy the most lie outside electoral politics. Cody Wilson and the rest of those with Defense Distributed have already demonstrated that gun control is anything but. That alone really drove the point home to me that leading by example is often the best way to go. At this point, I can only hope more attention will be drawn towards The Surgery Center of Oklahoma as a model for why price transparency is needed in the healthcare market.

 

Overall, those two things – emphasis on social science (which I plan on cutting back on) and non-political means of making change happen – represent the main changes in attitude that I’ve had over the years. Seems like I need to start networking with others, and get that first book draft done.

 

For the rest of this month however, I plan on rereading the books I found persuasive back in the day. 😉

 

Before (and How) I Got Into Politics: Part III

It should be pretty obvious that I knew very little about the candidates in question. But to be frank, who really does? And unless there happens to be some compelling event that motivates people to blame one party or another for a mishap, who really cares? At the time, first impressions were all that mattered to me because that was all I had to go on.

 

If you happen to read the preceding posts and conclude that my initial experiences were a bad way to decide which party best suited my taste, you should check yourself at the door. So far as I know, everyone starts off with a blank ideological slate. What actually gets written on that slate will always begin with a superficial judgment about one party or another:

 

  • My mother decided to cast her vote for Obama because she thought a speech his wife gave was “down to earth.”
  • An older sibling of mine decided to do the same because she thought he was “cool.”
  • Someone I know said they would never have voted for Barack because his name was too “shady” for him.
  • I once heard likely voter insist that if John McCain were to acquire the presidency in 2008, he would go to war with Afghanistan.
  • And the number of people who paid more attention to Barack’s minister than his own political platform speaks for itself. Not to mention people like this:

     


     

Even though I regret joining a party because Bush Jr. “looked” like he had more experience, I can safely say my mistaken approach was no where near as bad as the methodology others have made.

 

Just to help me get over myself in making that choice, here are a few more videos that make me feel so smart.

 

 

 

And this last one features an experiment I myself wish I could carry out sometime…

 

Now you have a pretty basic idea of how I actually got into politics. All I have left is to explain why the hell I decided to stick with supporting an administration that – like all others before it – took it upon themselves to run this country into the ground.