When I began this project, I suggested that part of the conservative-versus-liberal dynamic stems from misunderstanding what is at stake. In the next installment, I mentioned some key ideas and thinkers I would identify as forming my early worldview in ways which I still maintain.
I could sum up the previous post by saying that my foundation leaves me firmly convinced that the life of a society should be open to everyone, and that good social structure will reward good behaviors – and punish bad ones.
I do not want to get too political – yet. In the first place, I haven’t yet gotten around to finishing the structure of my own later thoughts built on this foundation. In the second, this is a roughly chronological account at least in these introductory parts, and when younger my political inclinations were formed more or less by default by what I saw around me. For the sake of openness – and to make a point here that I will come back to – that was a sort of cynical conservatism which acknowledged the lackluster performance, standards, and morals of the Republican party, but given the Democratic agenda didn’t quite see who else to vote for.
(A drawback of this we’d-like-a-third-party conservative environment is that I grew up relatively unfamiliar with the Reagan-was-awesome fanbase but also distrustful of the GOP-party-line voting bloc, and as a result often feel that I don’t have a firm grasp on the relative size of these groups in American politics. Which, however, has nothing to do with my topic today.)
What I did find from my first interest in politics is that relatively few people had much interest – or at any rate, much practical belief in the two things – if they’re really separate – I’ve always most valued. Because I believed merit should be rewarded, I found honesty absolutely necessary. I am inclined anyway to find it the most fundamental virtue – as the first temptation to evil was carried out by deceit, and as Christ would call Himself, among other epithets, the Word and the Truth.
I have said half-seriously for years that if I could establish a political party it would be the Honesty Party, and all that its candidates would have to do to remain in good standing would be to declare the principles they believed in and vote for them as they declared. Unfortunately it is somewhat needless to point out that there are precious few actual politicians – or, apparently, constituencies – who appear to think this way seriously (although the reception Sanders gained, including, of all places, his speech at Liberty University, suggests it’s not an ideal entirely without support).
However, if regular honesty seems to have a very small support group, I’ve found even fewer people alarmed by what has perhaps been my most consistent worry: debt. As in, debt is a risk. Debt is quite often a bad idea – in fact, when there’s no plausible way to pay it off, debt is essentially dishonest. I recognize the argument that carrying some token amount of debt as a sort of way to establish ones bona fides in a system dependent on credit makes a certain amount of sense, though what it really does is make me wonder about the system.
Of course personal debt all too easily becomes difficult to manage; while it’s harder to call a government to account, debt eventually becomes a problem even there. Which traditionally America has been well aware of, but after paying down the majority of the debts incurred during the Great Depression and World War II, subsequent crises have seen deficit spending reach entirely new levels. I don’t entirely trust the judgment as to the severity of those crises: so I wonder if the deficits are justified or merely contributing to the problem. On the other hand, if the debt incurred really is justified, this is hardly better as it suggests we’ve endured sixty years of crisis – apparently without most people realizing it.
And we’ll come back to that idea in a while. As a sort of spoiler for the next installments, having sketched some of my early idealism, I’m going to be sketching some of the questions that developed about meeting them – and some of the discoveries I’ve made about how they were and are, in fact, not being met.