Liberal or Conservative? Neither.

angry boxing elephant and smiling shopping donkey

illustrated by Ezra Engle of ejeartworks.com

Most people I know believe that poverty and helplessness are sad issues that should be addressed. What many don’t agree on is how they should be addressed.

Politics polarize these people to judge each other with labels and accusations that others don’t care as much as they do.

To simplify the arguments, I hear that liberals accuse conservatives of not caring about the poor because of a general lack of support for government programs that give to the poor.

Conservatives accuse liberals of not caring about traditional morals because of their lack of support for laws that would enforce a more a more strict set of values involving marriage and sexual conduct. They also criticize efforts to remove prayer and references to God in schools and other government buildings.

I do see a pattern in this. One party criticizes the other for not giving power to the government that the other sees as a personal decision that should not be legislated. A fiscal conservative may say, “Don’t force me to give through the government. It would be better to protect selfish people’s right to choose where they give than to reduce my freedom to be generous to organizations I fully support. That would reduce my freedom to choose how I give.” A liberal may say, “Don’t force your morals on everyone. It would be better to allow some to live out their beliefs in a way you don’t like than to force your values and restrictions on everyone. That would reduce my freedom to choose how I live.”

I used to believe that the government should just do whatever I thought was right. In a democracy, it is the people who are responsible for the decisions of the government. Although I still believe in that idea, I see government and legislation as a wasteful and ineffective conduit to implement many of these ideas. I believe in generosity and selflessness, but the government takes away something more than revenue when it assumes the role of distributor from me. It takes away a felt compassion from the giver to the receiver. I believe in self control, loyalty, monogamy and modesty, but when the government dictates what substances are legal to have, what the terms of marriage are, and what a pastor can and can’t say in a church, it takes away the responsibility of individuals to make many decisions for themselves about what is wise, what commitments they are willing to make, and have the freedom to say things that are not popular.

For the Republican party to get it’s way, I fear it would be like having an embarrassing friend who is seen as a bully, picking fights and stirring up trouble for everyone and causing unnecessary & expensive drama, even though they mean well, and just want to make things right as they see it.

For the Democratic party to get it’s way, I fear it would be like having a well-meaning friend who wants to give gifts they can’t afford to give and help everyone out using their credit card, not realizing how much of a mess they have left things for everyone involved.

I believe that the government should solve more problems than it makes. When the government oversteps what it is good or efficient at, it will create more problems than it solves. Right now, I believe that the US government is bigger than it needs to be, and its role and our expectations of what problems it solves should be reduced. Some believe that voting for a third party candidate is throwing my vote away in a two-party race, but I think that believing that a two-party outcome is always inevitable would be throwing away my vote. I am voting my conscience from now on, and I hope you do also.