Rick's Left; My Right

Rick Hertzberg explains why he's a liberal:

I value political liberty and political rights (freedom of thought, speech, conscience, and the press, the right to vote, civil equality) more highly than economic liberty and economic rights (property rights, freedom of enterprise, freedom from want, economic equality). I’m in favor of progressive taxation and generous public provision of education, pensions, and health care. I think people should have enough to eat and a roof over their heads, even if they haven’t done much to deserve it. I reject the idea that the market is the singular bedrock of society while everything else is a parasitical growth. I want government to do something about environmental degradation and gross social and economic inequality. I’m a secularist and a supporter of equal rights for women and gays. And when it comes to wanting World Peace, I’m practically a Miss America contestant. So I’m a liberal.

My response would be, taking Rick's points in order:

I also revere political rights (freedom of thought, speech, conscience, and the press, the right to vote, civil equality) but regard them as underpinned by the emergence of the autonomous individual that modern economic liberty made possible. I believe in simple and flat taxation of income and consumption and a generous public provision of education (the key to opportunity), but I think the welfare state should remain a minimal safety net and means-test benefits for those who are in real need, not grant them to everyone regardless of wealth. I believe in universal better-than-bare-bones healthcare, but oppose the government controlling it, and would be fine with the wealthier buying more of it and thereby getting better treatment.

I don't believe in mandatory provision of food and shelter to those who have decided to be free-loaders, as opposed to the unlucky or incapable. I think the market is the least worst system of allocating wealth and creating growth without which no welfare safety net can be afforded. I think the government absolutely has a role in protecting public goods like the environment, but should do so with great modesty about the limits of its own wisdom. I believe government should only try to redress economic inequality if such inequality becomes so great it threatens social cohesion and stability. I'm a secularist because I am also a believer, think the state hurts faith, rather than enables it, and that Christianity is more authentic the further from actual power it gets. I believe in world peace but also believe that this can only be achieved by the threat of war at times, and that military action should be a very last resort - but a real one, against those who would threaten us or destabilize the world.

Discuss.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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