October 31, 2014

Ray Augenstein

Ray Augenstein

I dislike ideologies in all forms: liberal, conservative, libertarian, whatever. Right at the moment, I think that the liberal/conservative divide is the single most harmful thing about American politics. Politicians don’t seem to care about solving problems, they only want to know whether a particular idea is liberal or conservative, and then, presto, they are either for it or against it.

Ideologies are just an excuse for people to avoid thinking. Once people adopt a political philosophy that has all of the answers, they stop thinking and start rationalizing. I find it difficult to take anybody’s opinions seriously when it is clear that they started out with the answers, and then worked backward to find facts that would support their views, and totally ignore facts that don’t.

Most people declaiming their opinions only convincing me that they are too stupid to understand any viewpoint other than their own. In short, if you want me to take your opinions seriously, you will have to convince me that you understand both sides of an issue.

Basically, I don’t like people assuming that one opinion puts me at some point on a liberal/conservative scale– I’ve never seen a logical reason why my opinion about gun control should have any bearing with my opinion about birth control. I’m not a liberal. I’m not a conservative. Mark me down as “other.”

Freedom of speech is important. If there’s one single point which is the key to my political beliefs, it is an emphatic belief in free speech. Freedom of speech (and writing, and art) is critical to the free exchange of ideas, and any society that does not allow the free exchange of ideas will slide into totalitarianism.

Yes, I know the arguments against hate speech, against child pornography, against allowing terrorist to recruit on the internet, against several other good reasons that free speech shouldn’t be unconditional. I understand and sympathize with them. But if anybody is given the power to decide that some particular form of speech is forbidden, this power is simply too easy to abuse. Or, to phrase it differently, Pay attention to the words you say when you try to curtail speech of people you don’t like: they are the same words you will hear when others take away your right to speak.

(Winston Churchill said that democracy is absolutely the worst form of government, except for all the other forms of government which have been tried. I agree.)

Here in the United States, the “war against terror” has me concerned. Free speech and fair, open trials are two of the things that I think makes America great, and I’m horrified at the way that these ideals have been abandoned by our leaders. Ben Franklin once said that people who give up essential liberty for temporary security won’t get either one, making executive decisions without the congress is the signature of a dictatorship, and freedom of the press is what keeps us free. It’s almost enough to get me to join the Amish.

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