On being a Liberal

I had prepared these remarks for the NUFF forum in case they wanted something a tad more formal.  Since I didn’t get the chance to present them there, Easter weekend seems to be the appropriate time to offer these thoughts here.

The Register’s Alan Bock wrote on his blog recently, and I’m paraphrasing a bit, that “what a significant number of American “progressives” believe the traditional Constitution-fearing limited government that kept the U.S. in good stead is simply unbearable to them.” He was talking about healthcare reform.

There’s a belief that Liberals fall into two distinct categories, both of which are comprised of people who want to take something from others without having to pay for it.  This includes limousine liberals and a second group that gets lumped together and this includes union members, teachers, trial lawyers, the mainstream media, gays/lesbians, and anyone Glenn Beck might call a socialist, Maoist, Marxist or communist (and we’d include ChristianS who believe in social justice in this group).

I take issue with these descriptions of liberals.

I’m a liberal.  I own my own home, I own my own business, I employ working mothers and single mothers and give them all the flexibility they need to balance their professional and personal lives.  I coach youth sports. I’m active with my PTA.  I volunteer.  I go to church. I pay my taxes.  I give to charities. I care about my fellow human beings.  I am an active participant in my children’s lives. 

I’m a liberal because I think public education and schools are important, and I believe that the men and women who teach our children should get the same level of investment and commitment our government gives the military.  I think it’s a shame Congress only pays 40 percent of what it said it would to fund special education and No Child Left Behind was never fully funded, shifting these unfunded federal mandates onto states and school districts when defense contractors can waste billions in Iraq or on weapons systems that don’t work. I recognize that access to a good education doesn’t guarantee everyone the same measure of success. But education ought to give everyone the same opportunities.

liberal.png image by donnajportland

I’m a liberal because I believe healthcare is a basic human right.  Just about everyone in this country is one catastrophic illness away from bankruptcy.  If we do nothing to reform healthcare, the costs will expand from 17 percent of the family budget today to 24 percent of our incomes by 2020; It was 11 percent under Bill Clinton.  If we can spare no expense defending our citizens from enemies, why not invest in defending them from catastrophic loss due to serious illness?

I’m a liberal because I don’t think you go to church on Sunday to learn life lessons by examples left by Jesus and then spend the rest of the week screwing over your fellow man in ways our Savior would completely disapprove of.  I think it’s criminal how we treat the most vulnerable in our society.  The very young, the very old, the homeless, the physically ill, the mentally ill.  They need our compassion and not our contempt. And while help for these people can come from churches and charities, it also comes from someone in government. This is the Hubert  H. Humphrey manner of society looking out for each other.

I’m liberal because I believe a well regulated free market curbs unfair competition.  So many US companies don’t hire workers here to manufacture goods we used to make here.  Companies are having products made in China for pennies on the dollar and sometimes with child labor.  And I think that’s wrong. I’m a liberal because I remember when America led the world in making things here instead of having it done offshore.  And I’m a liberal because I believe unregulated markets create things like AIG, Toyota, Countrywide and Enron.  Unregulated markets breed greed.

I’m a liberal because I believe clean air and clean water are essential to the long term sustainability of our planet.  The reported high cost of dealing with climate change now will be nothing to what we’ll pay later by doing nothing.  Developing renewable energy sources will break our dependence on foreign oil and shore up our economy and the environment at the same time.

I’m a liberal because I believe the Bill of Rights applies to everyone no matter what your race, creed, color, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. None of these things should deny you the same set of rights that everyone else has and this includes the right of anyone to marry the person they love. 

I’m a liberal because that freedom means more than how much I pay in taxes and whether or not the government sets rules others find intrusive.  Those who complain that their freedom is being inhibited by the government because they can’t smoke in the restaurant I’m dining in frankly amuse me.  I think having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in your community swimming pool. 

Freedom is a much bigger commitment than how much in taxes you pay or how laws are made. If you want low taxes and small government, try Darfur.  If you don’t like a law, work to change it.  And recognize that the courts can still decide if a law is legal or not just because a majority passed it.

  8 comments for “On being a Liberal

  1. I am a liberal too ..
    April 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Hey Dan – I am a “liberal” too!!

    A “classical liberal” – as a classical liberal I am committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, free markets, property rights, natural rights, civil liberties and equality under the law.

    I believe in rational self-interest as the best means to a prosperous society for all – big Ayn Rand fan here.

    Ayn Rand on socialism; “Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.”

    At the heart of classical liberalism”, wrote Nancy L. Rosenblum and Robert C. Post, is a prescription: “Nurture voluntary associations. Limit the size, and more importantly, the scope of government. So long as the state provides a basic rule of law that steers people away from destructive or parasitic ways of life and in the direction of productive ways of life, society runs itself. If you want people to flourish, let them run their own lives.”

    And MOST important:
    Milton Friedman on equality and liberty; “… a society that aims for equality before liberty, will end up with neither equality nor liberty.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKxCWheH5Vk

    Have a nice Easter weekend Dan.


  2. Eric Cooper
    April 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Dan, this is the best thing you have every written or posted here and thank you for doing it.

  3. April 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I sometimes despair when I see and hear some of the attitudes of right wing people. It can be so spiteful and mean spirited. As an immigrant to the Land of the Free, I’m amazed at how people’s right to freedom of speech is used to try and suppress that of others.

    I hate how ‘liberal’ is used in a derogatory way; like it’s a dirty word.

  4. Robert Lauten
    April 3, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Liberalism is an emotional feel good escape from reality.

    A high school diploma had greater value before the establishment of the U. S. Department of Education, (October 1979, Carter).
    Instead of complaining about the “No Child Left Behind” act not being fully funded; one should instead argue for its repeal.

    U.S. forces are in Iraq to enforce UN mandates. America’s military is the United Nation’s police force. Liberals do not wish to withdrawal from the UN because the UN makes them feel good.

    Afghanistan’s opium exports increased during U.S./NATO control, (since 2001, Bush/Obama).
    (9 minute video, “Obama’s Opium War”).

    Health Care:
    ObamaCare and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care are based on Hitler’s T-4 Program.
    (8 minute video, Obama’s T4 Fraud).

    How many Liberals campaign to withdrawal from NAFTA, not renegotiate, but withdrawal? (Bush41/Clinton, North American Free Trade Agreement).

    Climate Change:
    Global warming, free energy from the wind, etc. – it’s a RELIGION, facts simply do not matter to Liberals.

    Bill of Rights:
    Where does one find gay-marriage in the Bill of Rights?

    • April 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      That one does not find gay marriage in the Bill of Rights is no surprise. By the way, no one, to my knowledge has cited the Bill of Rights as a legal basis for gay marriage. There is, however, an assertion based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment which is not part of the Bill of Rights.

      It’s no surprise, though, that you have the perspective exactly backwards. See, the Constitution and its amendments do not and are not intended to confer rights on people.

      The Constitution and its amendments are intended to put limits on government. That is, they constitute an obstacle for the government’s activity.

      Oh, and one other thing. I wouldn’t trust anything put forth by, or hosted on a web site of, the convicted felon Lyndon LaRouche (tax evasion and mail fraud involving credit cards). In fact, if he said that the sky is blue, I’d look up. So, with sincere apologies, I am obliged to look the other way rather than at your videos.

  5. April 3, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    @Robert Lauten

    I love it when people like you wheel out the “Obama’s plans are like Hitler’s”.

    When most people think of the things Hitler did the first thing that springs to mind is healthcare, isn’t it? Oh, no. No it’s not.

    “ObamaCare” doesn’t even come CLOSE to every other industrialized nation’s government-run healthcare, yet I assume you’re implying it’s one step from National Socialism.

    You are actually insulting to all the countries who fought Nazism and now provide decent services to their citizens. Are you comparing them to Hitler too? Have you ever visited any other countries? If so, what did you find there? See many goose-stepping thugs marching down the streets?

    Oh, one thing Hitler did do was oppress homosexuals. From your last comment you’re up for a bit of minority persecution, I assume?

  6. Robert Lauten
    April 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Please view the 8 minute video “Obama’s T4 Fraud”.


  7. Ltpar
    April 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Dan, I must say, your article was well written and informative. Remove from the equation, radicals from the right and left and what remains is; dedicated Americans, who love and serve their country, through different philosophies, but much in the same way. This is what made America great in the past and what will continue to make us great in the future.

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