Monday, May 23, 2011

The middle of the road is good

When young, I had been a liberal (as I was supposed to be in college (’64 – ’68)) but then I had to rethink everything because of something I saw – the Vietnamese were risking their lives and dying to leave Vietnam after the communists won the war. 

If Communism was just an economic system, why were people dying to get away?  If Communism was some kind of idealistic dream of equality, how did you explain the Vietnamese, and the Soviet Gulags?

So, I read.  And I became conservative.  And I voted for Republicans, mostly, from Reagan to Bush 2.

But, then another strange thing happened.  I saw something else: the financial collapse of ’08.  And I am rethinking everything again.

If deregulated free markets are so wonderful, why was the government needed to keep the financial industry from self destructing?

If the most brilliant guys ended up on Wall Street, why were they such idiots?

I see it as the same problem as Liberalism with a Big L, the same problem as Communism: religious belief in an ideology will necessarily destroy people and itself given enough time.  Those trapped inside a religiously held belief – free market fundamentalism for example – can never see reality.  They are trapped inside a bubble where everything they see is a reflection of their own unshakable beliefs. 

And the rest of us suffer – Communism killed over a hundred million people, free market absolutism has unemployed and underemployed tens of millions in America alone.

So, my new attempt is to say no to both the right and the left ends of the political spectrum, to stay out of self-contained ideological bubbles that can’t see reality for what it is.  To be temperamentally as well as ideologically moderate. 

The only thing in the middle of the road is road-kill?  Maybe not, maybe that’s where the road is.  The edges on each side go off into the ditch.

It’s about values:  conservatives value freedom and opportunity the most, liberals value caring and compassion the most.  Both sets of values are needed.  And only in the middle can both be incorporated.