Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Discovering my political identity....

I learned a lot about myself over the last 2 years. It is no coincidence that it overlapped with the election season of 2008. It is really important for everyone to realize what you believe in. It was not an easy task for me. I used to think I was a liberal and hence I should have shared democrat views. But I was being short sighted. I realized I was looking only at the social issues (which I still am fairly liberal about) couple that with the general dissatisfaction with the government under Bush. And there you go: I thought I was a liberal democrat!! Little did I know that I was completely wrong on this one. The following are some truths I uncovered that brought me to reality:

Fiscal Conservatism and Capitalism

One reason we are in this financial mess, apart from all the irresponsible politicians and financial firms', is that the country is in debt. How did we get there? In simple terms, we were spending more than we were supposed to. This could have been avoided by following true fiscal conservative principles. Most fiscal conservatives believe in the trickle down economy, including yours truly.

To explain my understanding of it in a nutshell, rather than the government tax the crap out of you and spend the people's money (in its own utterly inefficient way), the more "conservative" way to do this is drastically reduce spending by the government and reduce taxes. Reduced taxes for businesses (both small and large) means that these businesses now make more money (which is not "evil" as many liberals will like us to think) and can now grow. This translates into more jobs created, meaning more people having jobs. People having jobs spend some of that money which is pumped into the economy and the viscous cycle continues, which indicates a good and healthy economy.

On the contrary, lets see how the fiscal liberals would want the economy to function. They would increase taxes, which is going to reduce profits made by businesses. Then use these tax dollars to create more public sector jobs. First, who wouldn't want to work in the government (yep I'm being sarcastic)?? Imagine life working at the post office or the DMV rather than say at Fedex or Shell Oil (or any other private sector corporation). Clearly the quality of private sector trumps public sector jobs created. Moreover, what about the increased taxes? Lesser profits for businesses not only reduces private sector jobs that offset the public sector jobs created, but the businesses are not going to take the losses in their balance sheet. They are going to pass them down to us in the form of increased prices for their products and services. So the tax increases for businesses (or "evil corporations" as liberals like to call them), in actuality, are tax increases for every consumer. The only thing that the liberals get out of this is that it creates some amount of social equality, because they control lot of the jobs now.

I would any day pick a good chance to have a prosperous life (capitalism through conservatism) than a guarantee of a mediocre life for everybody (socialism through liberalism). After all, isn't life supposed to reward the people that work hard. Or would you rather have every adult in society lazing around, sitting on benches playing domino all day (what's up, Cuba?).

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Individualism holds that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny that societies exist or that people benefit from living in them, but it sees society as a collection of individuals, not something over and above them. Each individual in this country is independent and unique and should know his/her responsibilities. The individual is sovereign in the society. Every person/individual is an end in himself and no one should be sacrificed for the sake of another. The unit of achievement is the individual himself. It is not that one person cannot build on the success or achievements of another, but it is in stark contrast to the theory of collectivism, which is a very liberal idea. Collectivism holds that society or a group of people is the primary unit of reality and the goals and needs of the individual are subordinate to the bigger group. Extremists of this idea believe in social equality by forced redistribution of an individual's success or achievements to others in that group as they believe success is a product of society and not individuals. So under collectivism, the state becomes the instrument to organize people to meet the needs of what they dream : "ideal society".

Of course, of the two, I would rather live in a society based on individualism, where I am independent and am accountable for myself than in a society based on collectivism. In an individualist society, if I work hard and do what is necessary, I will be rewarded and my achievements, if and when I do have some, will belong to me and owned by me. But, in a collectivist society where whatever I achieve will be snatched forcefully out of my hands and given to others who may or may not deserve it. Also, reward for work (as in individualism) motivates people to achieve something and do their thing rather than, as in collectivism, where you are indirectly encouraged to be irresponsible by rewarding laziness and lethargy. Collectivism leads to leaches in society that survive on the blood of other responsible individuals without being responsible enough to survive on their own.

What really is Free Market Capitalism?

The following phrase says a lot: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". Again the afore mentioned phrase applies to individuals and not the society as a whole. Again, it does not mean that society doesn't have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it rather applies to every individual in society. As you see, this subtle difference has a lot of meaning and implications. Capitalism is the only political system that is compatible with individualism and recognizes the entity of the "individual". It is a social system that recognizes rights of the individual and in which all property is privately owned.

Unfortunately, today, capitalism has been misunderstood, with the help of the smear machine of all "so-called capitalists" and socialists (including the current articulate President) who publicly blame capitalism for a lot of the problems we currently face. It is imperative to understand that State intervention in the economy, which is the root cause for all problems, was not a result of Capitalism. In a true capitalist system, the State and Economics are separated (just like separation of State and Church and for similar reasons). Free Market Capitalism is a system based on the notion that every individual is a trader and is free to act or do trade on his own. He can "voluntarily" decide to interact with whomever he chooses. The role of the State is to make sure that the "voluntary" part of the above definition remains truly voluntary, meaning, both sides chose freely to deal with each other and there are no other third party forces that add constraints. No doubt in reality, this is easier said than done. But, it is this part of the Capitalist soceity that failed us - the State failed in its duty. The government has time and again interfered with the capitalist system by meddling with the financial system through their own implicilty backed ntities (eg: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) or through irresponsible law making (Eg: Community Re-investment Act of 1977 and especially its changes in the 1990s, which had great and noble intentions, but very poorly implemented). There are examples galore of unjust acts committed under the banner of law and justice, for example, when the government takes from one person to feed another, or when government takes taxpayer money to bail out foolhardy bankers. It pains me to here these politicians (being politicians) talking that Capitalism has failed us, when in truth it is their establishment in Washington that has failed us.

I do not mean to say that capitalism is perfect. There are always going to be rogue corporation and heads of corporations (like Enron) who do not play by the rules and ethics that once existed in business in this country. But that is another story altogether. I also do not mean to say that there should be no regulation (as the pure form of capitalism requires, which I got to admit is ridiculous) of the economic system. You are damn right that the current regulatory policy of the State is ineffective. It doesn't mean you increase regulation. It rather means you need a more effective regulation policy. But, sadly, efficiency and government can never go hand in hand. Which leads us to the only hope that people in general revert back to morals and ethics in society.

Under capitalism, the government protects rights, including the right to property. Without the right to use and dispose what one has produced, one has no liberty. If individuals can't work and produce towards goals they can't pursue happiness. If one can't consume the product of one's effort, one cannot live. That is how Capitalism protects one's right to "Life Liberty and pursuit of Happiness". Capitalism is not a system under which unproductive individuals can leach off the productive ones, whether the ``unproductive'' are the unambitious or politically-connected businessmen. Nor is capitalism a system in which the government acts not as a protector, but as a coercer of productive individuals.

Bush - Not a Fiscal Conservative!!

Having understood what Capitalism really means, When you look at the Bush years, one has to wonder how the embodiment of capitalism and conservatism failed? The truth is, contrary to what he said, or was portrayed as, he was not a fiscal conservative. The age old political trick of saying one thing and doing the opposite was what was happening (which is also one of the notorious traits of the current President). If at all anything Bush and his policies were fiscally liberal. The evidence for this - all the spending and legislature for welfare (like the prescription drug law for medicare etc). The only things he was conservative about were social issues (not a big fan) and national security (which I tend to agree on a some and not on others). So, in essence, democrats are obviously not conservative and republicans (at least the leaders of the party) aren't conservative either. They are all liberals or (I would rather call them) "progressives". This is probably why the republicans lost the 2008 elections - because they did not have a conservative face (except for their hypocritical talk) and by recent estimates, around 40% of Americans are conservative (including about 22% of registered Democrats).

Conservative Libertarianism!!

Putting all these things together I realized - if I did not like Bush's policies, I am not what he is - not a fiscal liberal (or progressive. I am centrist-left on social issues - definitely pro-choice. Again not a fan of Bush's social policies - not a Social Conservative! So what category do I fall into?

Voila ..... I am a Conservative Libertarian! Actually, not totally, as I still do not accept some of the policies of the Libertarian Party here in the US. They have some ideas that are outlandish to me.

Libertarianism is another very misunderstood term. I was myself surprised to learn about the origins of the word, which is from communist - anarchist groups from the late 19th century. Over time there have been changes and newer meanings had started to evolve. But in the US, Libertarianism has, for a while been used with a pro-individualism / pro-property ideas and movements, mainly used to promote free market, economic freedom and anti-communism. Individual liberty is the utmost important thing in this school of thought. Libertarianism also brings in the liberal thinking of social issues into it, kind of making it a fusion of a conservative economic beliefs with liberal social makeup, which very much coincides to the way I think. But some of the ideologies and sub-groups that branch out of this basic idea do have some strange ways of thinking in terms of national security etc. So I don't think I can ever call myself a true Libertarian. But Conservative Libertarian is probably to the best way to describe myself of all political groups that I know of that exist.

Hence it should be no surprise that I am in no way happy about how the new administration is handling things. Its not only that there is a clear difference in philosophies, but I also find all the double talk, misleading and chicanery cheap and dirty. I guess, its politics as usual in Washington, with the administration trying to payback all the different groups that got them elected (especially labor unions and organizations like ACORN), catering to the needs of all the blow-hard leftist liberals, being indifferent to the majority of the people who have a big growing check waiting to be paid off in the near and distance futures. Not to mention the slow nationalization of financial industry and then the auto industry (who knows what's next??) and all the national security and border security lapses / weaknesses (intended or unintended) due to philosophical policies and nepotism. And the media is not yet out of it's Bush bashing and (so called) conservative hating mode, mix in the fairytale of the underdog minority candidate challenging the incumbent in last years "American Idol" elections, the Obama - fawning (after all he's the "chosen one") has not only not come down to Earth, but it has blind-folded the media from doing their duty as a watch dog. They are more like a lap-dog with no credibility what so ever. I never thought I would think there could be a worse candidate for President than President Bush .....that view lasted just a few weeks after he left office.

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