07 June 2019

Political Heresy

I am a liberal and I am a loyal Democrat.

I don't really identify as "progressive", among other things, because the original bearers of that label in the late 19th and early 20th century advanced a lot of bad policies like prohibition and emasculating political parties, even though they also advance good policies, like women's suffrage and safety protections for workers.

I also don't like the label "progressive" because there are aspects of the modern "progressive" movement which I don't agree with, and because the movement is too eager to gain support through peer pressure and uncritical acceptance of many positions without careful consideration of the evidence or analysis.

There are definite areas where I do not share the stereotypical or archetypal views of the "progressive" movement.

* I think that we should increase the share of nuclear fission power generation in our economy and find tolerable solutions to nuclear waste and other issues to be dealt with involving it, rather than fearing and opposing it and insisting upon an entirely renewable powered future.

* I think that opposition to GMOs is overblown, even though some caution is in order.

* I think that anti-vaxxers are a serious threat to our nation's well being on a matter of great importance whose views do not deserve the undue respect that they receive because this issue harms people besides themselves.

* I agree that climate change is real, is man made, and is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But, predictions that human civilization will end in thirty years as a result are hyperbole that discredit the movement.

* I think that large scale industry level decisions and major overarching decisions in one's own personal life matter far more in protecting the environment than day to day personal environmental virtue.

* I acknowledge that organic farm production is good for the environment, but also understand that except in the case of fruits and vegetables that you eat the surface of and eat raw, and the case of hyper-vulnerable people like pregnant and nursing women, very young children, and immune compromised people, that organic foods provide negligible health benefits to the consumer, don't taste better because they are organic, and are not a good choice for people who are struggling to get by economically. Also, they are sometimes actually less safe than non-organic food because organic methods can often fail to remove biological health threats like E. Coli and plant diseases.

* Growing your own food and making your own clothes is not, for the most part, a virtue. We have our advanced society more than anything else because we no longer use the vast majority of the population no longer has to grow their own food and make your own clothes.

* I believe that far too many people erroneously equate "natural" with healthy, when Nature wants you dead at 40, kills five of your seven children before they become adults, kills at least one of your wives in child birth. Our unnatural, technological, urban modern society is responsible for everything else we have in life. For example, I believe that herbal remedies should require more regulation and more evidence based disclosures about their risks and benefits. Similarly, even though I support drug legalization, I find no merit in the argument that marijuana or "magic mushrooms" should be legal because they are "just plants."

* I believe that glorification of rural life and life in the wilderness is largely unjustified and that is it founded upon a whole ecosystem of inaccurate assumptions.

* I do not agree that the main problems of modern society flow from the inherently destructive nature of capitalism that exploits the less well off masses. Capitalism needs to be regulated to prevent externalities, fraud and vulnerability to business cycles. Capitalism also suffers from the sin of ignoring the poor who aren't productive, so it needs to be complemented of obligations to be responsible for others and social safety nets. But, capitalism isn't inherently inconsistent with an environmentally sound world isn't inherently exploitive or particularly prone to exploitation compared to the alternatives, distributes power more equitably than political institutions in most cases, and is a necessary component of a prosperous society.

* I believe that political parties in the U.S. are too weak, not too strong.

* I believe that we spend too little as a society on political campaigns, not too much.

* While it is indeed easy for eugenics based ideologies to drift into being harmful, I don't agree that every kind of disability or birth defect should be embraced as mere diversity and I don't think that it is horrible to consider the issue of when to have children and with whom in light of what approaches tend to produce a better next generation.

* While I acknowledge that castration as a sanction for criminal conduct presents similar risk of bias in application and undue harm when it arises from wrongful convictions, I also think that its capacity to dramatically reduce recidivism in the case of violent crimes committed by men make it an attractive alternative to very long prison sentences which also seek to keep the public safer in a way that is more harmful to the convicted felon and more expensive to society, relative to the public safety gains achieved, in many circumstances. Safe guards like limiting this punishment to cases established with DNA evidence in the case of first offenders, and people who repeatedly commit violent felons, and even making it optional in exchange for large reductions in prison sentences, can mitigate the risks associated with allowing this as a criminal sanction.

* I don't believe that in an ideal society that everyone, or even most people, should go to college. The U.S. economy suffers from excessive degree and credential inflation. For example, elementary school teachers and journalists don't have to have college degrees to do their jobs well, even though they need to be intelligent. I believe that we do children a disservice by insisting that they preserve the opportunity to be President or a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, in lieu of steering them towards options that are more realistic and attainable that require sacrificing some of these peak possibilities.

* I believe that most political choices have many answers that are objectively wrong, even though there is rarely on one choice that is right. And, I don't have faith that voters will consistently make the right choices. Democracy is important because it enhances support for and the legitimacy of the system and because it gives political decision makers an incentive to advance the interests of and care about a broader group of people whose needs they often don't understand well, not because it is a particularly good method of making correct selections between political choices when one option is objectively (or at least, intersubjectively) better than another. Direct democracy has its place but can frequently produce very bad results (see, e.g., TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment in Colorado).

* I believe that IQ is real, that it has a large hereditary component, and that on the whole standardized testing does more to level the educational playing field than it does to exacerbate inequalities on the basis of demographic identity. I believe that the fear that test preparation provides a decisive benefit to the affluent is empirically wrong (and to the extent true, best mitigated with wider access to test preparation opportunities for the less well off), and that the complaint that standardized tests merely test the ability to take tests even thought some people are very able to "test poorly" is mostly inaccurate. Not everybody has or needs what good test scores and a high IQ makes you better at, and you can leave a good and meaningful life while being unexceptional in those respects, but that doesn't mean that they don't test something that is real and very valuable in modern society. This said, I believe that the hereditary component of IQ is predominantly of "potential IQ" and that seriously harmful environmental factors can and routinely do prevent people from reaching their IQ potential.

* I believe that while there is nothing inherently better or worse about one culture over another in the abstract, or in dignity, that culture does has instrumental value and that in any particular time and place, some cultures are better adapted to the circumstances than others. For example, the culture exemplified by older conservative white Christians in the American South is a dysfunctional anachronism with is less well adapted to 21st century life in the developed world than the culture exemplified by younger liberal demographically diverse people who are concentrated in large urban areas in the American Northeast and on the Pacific Coast.

* I acknowledge that a significant share of "negative" measures of socio-economic success in "Red States" in the South (far more than most liberals are willing to acknowledge) is related a lack of socio-economic success on the part of African-Americans who make up a much larger share of the population in the South than they do in "Blue States", although this certainly isn't the entire story.

* While I understand the reasons for emphasizing the unity of a single human race, and that fact the learned ethnicity is not always congruent with genetic ancestry, I also disagree with the notion that race is purely or primarily a function of self-identification, or that race isn't a real social and cultural phenomena that in intimately tied to similarity in the place of origins of one's deep genetic ancestors. Particular racial categories are socially constructed, but the underlying highly correlated genetic and cultural differences that the every day concepts of race and ethnicity in a particular society at a particular time seek to oversimplify to make them comprehensible are real.

* It is true that there are differences based upon race, ethnicity and gender in the rate at which serious anti-social conduct is engaged in, in the United States today, and adolescent and young adult, native born, African American men are profoundly more likely to engage in conduct the is criminal than, for example, middle aged, foreign born Asian American women. But, it is simultaneously true people who are in demographic categories whose members commit crimes at above average rates are subject to pervasive unequal discrimination at pretty much every stage of the criminal justice system, in educational institutions (apart from undergraduate college admissions), and in the larger socio-economic system.

* It is true that some U.S. demographic groups have higher average IQ than others which gives rise to a significant share of the ethnic inequalities we see in our society. But, this is not because one race is inherently superior to any other. Instead, in the U.S. context, it frequently has to do with a population's immigration history (e.g. many U.S. Asian-American populations are predominantly derived from recent U.S. immigrants who were limited to people with exceptional levels of education and high levels of work skills in a STEM field that are highly atypical of their places of origin, and unsurprisingly members of those populations have above average IQs and over perform in STEM disciplines), and with socio-economic deprivation and racial and ethnic discrimination that has prevented the average members of certain U.S. populations to achieve their full potential in IQ and on other measures.

* I am not opposed in principle to war, I am merely skeptical of proposals to use military force in many particular instances. I recognize that military force or the threat of its use are important tools with which to secure a peaceful society and just societies, and believe that there are circumstances when the use of military force of justified for both defense of one's own people and society, and the protection of other people who are menaced without justification by other people who are using force to advance unjust ends. I don't believe that the ends always justify the means, but I also recognize that many situations unavoidably involve a choice of evils.

* I am not morally opposed to the death penalty in every circumstance, there are crimes for which death is a proportionate punishment, and in societies that don't have the capacity to impose other kinds of sanctions and conduct the process in a different manner, it can be justified on a cost-benefit basis. I do not believe that the fate of death row inmates is anywhere close to being the most important flaw with or aspect of the criminal justice system in the United States today. But, I believe that as applied in the U.S. and particularly as applied in the places where most executions are actually carried out, that it is too deeply flawed in multiple respects to survive a cost-benefit analysis. The process is particularly vulnerable in places where most executions are carried out to producing wrongful convictions, to being applied in a racially biased manner, and to executing people are aren't extraordinarily culpable. The process is also expensive relative to long terms of incarceration, glacially slow, does not provide an effective deterrent to criminal activity relative to the alternatives, and provides less than than more closure and finality to the survivors of murder victims. 

* I think that the left tends to undervalue the benefit of keeping marriages together, especially for children, and gives insufficient weight to the reality than many marriages that aren't optimal for the adults in the couple are nonetheless far superior to separation or divorce for that couple's children. Certainly, there are marriages that are intolerable and need to end, but there are also many marriages that are merely lackluster or experiencing rough patches that society can and should encourage to continue even though this may not optimize the short term happiness of one or both adults in that couple when the couple has children. I also think that the potential harm to an unmarried adult's children associated with significant others of one of their custodial parents is greatly underestimated.

* I do not think it is bad to adopt policies that discourage people who are economically marginal and have committed many crimes to refrain from having children or to encourage them to have fewer children, while encouraging people who are economically successful to have more children.

* I recognize both the harms and benefits associate with "political correctness". The "snowflake" stereotype of liberals doesn't come from nowhere, even though it is often unfair and hypocritical.

* While I agree that animal cruelty is concerning, in particular, because it is often a prelude to interpersonal violence, I do not agree that vegetarianism is morally superior, I do not have a problem with products made with dead animals (e.g. fur coats), and I do not agree that we should refrain from using animals in medical and cosmetic testing (although this should not be done wantonly and unnecessarily). I do not have a moral problem with consuming animals such as pigs, dogs, cows and horses as food.

* I think that liberals not infrequently go overboard in their efforts to discourage violence against and sexual abuse of women to a point of denying women agency and sexual freedom to which they are legitimately entitled, and of trying to appropriate the full fledges horror of rape to more ambiguous and less severe conduct with some similarities to it (e.g. equating persistent requests for sex from a romantic partner, or consent to sex while moderately inebriated, with forcible rape). 

* I am skeptical of the progressive/liberal tendency to equate all prostitution with human trafficking and slavery.

* I am skeptical that criminalizing marital rape in cases of genuine intact marriages (as opposed to edge cases like involuntary child marriages of girls are pressured into by family, mail order brides who are denied opportunities to exit the relationship by divorce, and forced sex when couples are separated and in the process of divorcing) provides much benefit that other violent crimes for which there is not marital immunity aren't sufficient to address, while I am concerned that the risk of such charges being brought in inappropriate cases may become quite real at some point in the future (such charges are extremely rare now even though laws criminalizing marital rape are on  the books).

* I do not think that rent control makes economic sense.

* I think that land use is greatly over regulated and that a lot of the NIMBY concerns that motivate zoning laws are suspect and are often only a little removed from racism.

* I think that there is too much occupational licensing which is too rigorous and that this often does more harm than good (including in the legal profession), even though I recognize that sometimes occupational licensing is necessary to prevent people from being punished for practicing some other licensed occupation (e.g. veterinary medicine or medicine) without a license.

* I believe that there are plenty of conservatives with whom I have legitimate differences of opinion who aren't just plain bad or evil, although it seems that they are becoming troublingly scarce in Trump's Republican party.


Dave Barnes said...

I find myself in agreement with 90+%.
You are overly verbose though, in my opinion.

Guy Tipton said...

Hi Andrew.

I consider myself conservative but almost fully agree with what you say... except that last comment. I don't even object to higher taxes. Perhaps I over react but I find identity politics to meet my definition of evil... reminds me to much of communism.


neo said...

* I believe that IQ is real,

does this mean you think IQ and race and IQ and gender and IQ and class are best explained by the hereditarian view?

i'd like to point out that leftists routinely protest jason richwhine charles murray dna discovers watson and crick phillip rushton et al.

andrew said...

"does this mean you think IQ and race and IQ and gender and IQ and class are best explained by the hereditarian view?"

Not really. First of all, even when you are thinking about the statistics of the IQ of a group of people, say, South Asians in Palo Alto, this is quite different from talking about the statistics of the IQ of a "race". A particular group of people with a particular history, especially when that history is recent and has a very distinct founder population is going to be different. Second, there are many environmental impacts (e.g. lead exposure or nutrition access) that impact how much of their potential a group of people end up realizing.

Second, I do agree that there are, on average, significant cognitive differences between men and women, although a singular measure like IQ is rarely a great measure of those differences.

The extent to which social class is and is not meritocratic has varied greatly historically and in different places. In the U.S. it reached a pinnacle of meritocracy in the late 1960s and early 1970s and has slowly eroded since then.