For a while now I have been calling myself a liberal and/or progressive. But it just occurred to me that I don’t think that is the best way to describe my political stance. I’m not sure what the best way is, or of there is a best way.
More than anything, I see myself as a rationalist. As much as anyone can be rational, that is. This is especially true in the realm of economics, where clear evidence linking policy to outcomes is rare. That’s where I tend to fall back on ideology and let my liberal tendencies take over.
I think there are two guiding principles that should rule a healthy political stance. One is knowledge, and the other is compassion. Or as Neil deGrasse Tyson put it:
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you. “
So I want to know the facts, first and foremost. Then I want to apply reason to what I know in order to apply the knowledge to the problems and opportunities at hand. And finally, I want to inject a healthy dose of compassion into the equation — because sometimes compassion trumps pure knowledge and reason.
By calling myself a liberal and hanging in liberal circles, I sometimes run up against walls of irrationality. Some of the most prevalent of these areas involves the environment, “alternative” health, and food production. Also, there is sometimes an irrational fear and distrust of all things big and capitalistic that is exceeded only by the other side’s fear and distrust of “big government.” Many liberals tend to believe in fringe science and medicine. Although many are not religious in the traditional sense, some of them follow new age and other fringe modes of spirituality.
Update: I’m checking into something I have discovered called Scientific Naturalism (http://www.naturalism.org/). It’s more a philosophy than a political stance, but it covers everything and seems to line up well with what I wrote above.