On Political Balance

TL;DR: We must have a balanced view of the policies we are enacting. Many political policies have broad reaching implications, and we must always weigh their costs and their benefits. It is also essential that we do all we can to uphold basic rights that are essential for us to live our lives well, and any policies that threaten these rights should be seriously challenged.

 

Of all the mistakes I see made in modern political discussion, one of the most common is the lack of any sense of balance. A good political view is broad in its scope. It must have an eye to the political, economic, social, and international. It is all well and good to say that the military or the social safety net should be expanded, but how much are we willing to pay to do this? Hateful opinions are bad, but are we willing to press criminal charges against people just because they express them? A well considered person must consider the costs and benefits of certain policies, which might have a variety of different effects.

Now a few things should be noted. Firstly, human society is so complicated that anyone who believes they understand the full implications of any policy are incredibly arrogant and probably wrong. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to put in the kind of time necessary to have a very deep understanding of most of the areas that are important from a political perspective. To be “truly” qualified to talk about the political, one would need several doctorate degrees. Such high standards are unrealistic. Nevertheless, one should at least have a basic conception of how these various areas interact. One should have a “well rounded” view of the world. If one does not have this, all policies have the ability to do more harm than good.

Let us take a very simple example of this: Suppose that we agree that police brutality is an issue in the United States today, a viewpoint that I quite agree with. Even though this is the case, that does not necessarily mean that any action taken to reduce police brutality is worth doing. The radical notion that I have heard expressed of abolishing the police would immediately solve the problem of police brutality, but at horrendous costs to society. Considering these kinds of immediate implications is not unfair, and we should expect policy advocates to think of them. Similarly, one might consider global warming a significant issue and consider taxes on greenhouse gasses a good way reduce such emissions. Nevertheless, one would have to balance the environmental benefits of this policy with the fact that potential hikes to the cost of energy may dramatically harm the poorest members of society. If we are to be responsible, then we must consider the many different impacts of the policies we advocate.

A point needs to be made when considering the absolute necessities of society. Many would be willing to risk a large portion their money in a risky investment, but few would be willing to bet their lives on such a thing. There are certain fundamental social institutions that should be preserved at all costs. Primary among these are the rule of law, the right to an impartial trial, freedom of speech, and the right to bodily security. I intend to write more about this elsewhere, but I find it important to preserve the notion that “in his house, every man is the king of his own castle”. Additionally, the right to a fair and unbiased trial that favors the innocent, and freedom of speech allow individuals to understand and adjust their lives in accordance with the law, as well as the ability to express their own political views in open discussion. At the end of the day, you should be able to know that you are secure within your own property, and you should know the behaviors that will bring punishment from society, and those that will not. Any government that fundamentally violates this is tyrannical.

Additional social goals are important, and one may well advocate for the government to engage in a broad array action to promote a variety of goals, but one must always be wary of anything that even has the possibility of violating these fundamental rights. Additionally, as I argued above, we should always consider the costs and benefits of any particular action. The world is rarely, if ever, so simple that a policy has upsides without any downsides. We must be prudent, we must weigh the good and the bad carefully upon our scale of values, and decide upon the best course of action based upon what we believe to be most important. The stakes of political action are too high for small mindedness and thinking so short sighted it only looks at the most obvious repercussions of a policy.

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