I put this on Facebook. Then, 40 minutes later, I had this stab at an explanation…
According to this: http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz I’m a a “liberal.” And in this one I am “solid liberal” or “post-modern” depending on how I answer. http://people-press.org/typology/quiz/. Why do I find myself arguing with lots of liberals then?
I find myself able to take either side in almost all of these forced choice pars in these things. They are designed to squeeze people into set categories. Neither one of them even has “progressive” as a political ideology. I am not sure it is one, but it is worth thinking about. Off the top of my head, an embrace of pragmatism as an approach to knowledge and action is part of being progressive. Let’s talk about what can work for this problem and not look to “ideology” to decide how we should approach an issue.
Three examples come to mind.
One, schools and religion. I don’t think banning any whisper of religion from public schools is the best reading of the establishment clause. As I get it, even the supreme court recognizes religious expression as a form of culture. The bright line is coercion or proselytizing. However, for many schools or other public entities, it is simpler to ban than to handle the nuance of deciding if a menorah, cross, or whatever is clearly cultural as opposed to endorsement of a religion. To pull it off, you need to trust officials to use judgement. So, a pragmatic response is to figure out how to balance trusting judgement with means to redress clear violations of religious freedom and the establishment clause.
Second, educational funding. I had an interesting discussion the other day with a friend and I mentioned that I would rather have MORE diversity among schools, and if a school choice- voucher system accomplishes that, fine. Basically, focus public education policy on some broad outcomes and free up schools to differentiate and yes, compete, for families and their students. Among his concerns was what happens if school officials are given too much autonomy and they enact discrimination or other harms. He is invoking racial segregation under Jim Crow. I get it; we don’t want to re-create that, but a system where each family and each school can be distinctive is not the same as forcing some to go to inferior schools. Smaller schools that can create a sense of difference and cohesion will work better and hence a liberal approach of equalizing inputs through enforced sameness is a mistake.
Third, the tax code. I believe in progressive taxes. There are two reasons. One, the wealthiest should pay more proportionally because their wealth is created and supported by more of government spending- courts, police, military, transportation, disaster relief, education (yes, we pay to educate the workers who create value in firms the wealthiest own). Two, apart from economic fairness, we believe in social fairness. Capitalism always exacerbates inequality and therefore it is good to tax progressively to create avenues to reduce inequality. The periods of the greatest amount of activity to reduce inequality in the US, roughly the 1930s to the 1980s, saw the lowest rates of inequality. Since the onset of neo-liberal economics in the a980s, roughly, economic growth increased along with gross measures of inequality. Anyway, this is my case for progressive taxation.
However, that does not mean defending the current status quo tax code (at the federal level). I’ve not done the math or seen anyone else do it, but I can imagine getting behind a simplified, progressive, LOWER set of tax rates. The complexity of the tax code sucks up a lot of human capital. Is it necessary? Well, yes, for me. I can’t stand doing income taxes. What would happen if we had federal marginal rates at 0% (for people at living wage or less), 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25% No other exemptions or deductions. This would decouple a dynamic national economy, as well as personal financial decisions like getting a mortgage, from the tax code.
It would also obsolesce a chunk of the accounting profession. But maybe their human capital could be redirected to tasks that they may like more and may create other economic or social value…
But, as to typology and ideology, I’ve never seen a “liberal” politician discuss anything like this.