Sunday, April 17, 2005


Facts, Damned Lies, and Faith Based Politics

Funny that religion and politics are said not to mix, given that they are both branches of philosophy. It’s surely no coincidence that followers of each discipline base their beliefs largely on faith. Of course we know that the righteousness of one’s allegiance can be proven with statistics, observation, and anecdotes. We “know” that George Bush attacked the peaceful dictatorship of Iraq to help his oil buddies and the engine of corrupt capitalism. We know this because we can weave together a variety of facts into one cohesive conspiracy theory but, in the end it’s just something we “know” – like Moses parting the Red Sea.

I choose to think that Bush is actually fairly well meaning, and initiated the military action in Iraq based on a genuine desire to do right – to prevent possible future dangers to America, and to enhance the world balance towards democratic government (as well as enforcing UN resolutions). Of course no one can read George Bush’s mind and no one really “knows” much at all, but we believe our respective positions none the less. Many of America’s citizens believe their country is essentially good and operates under a good system. Many on the Left believe the same about Castro’s Cuba.

If one wants, one can, like their opponents, summon plenty of evidence to support their claims but, like their opponents, in the end their stance is based more on faith in a worldview rather than conclusions made from objective reality. I dare suggest that, in most cases, our views precede the facts we garner to support them, and not the other way around. To be sure, objective reality may occasionally coincide with a person’s faith, but we can’t really know that capitalists are greedy and selfish or that they’re merely seeking to honestly better their condition for themselves and their families.

Beliefs and faith in one’s worldview needn’t take on the attributes of a religion. The desire to be left alone (to desire limited government) can be passionate but doesn’t require profound religious-like conviction. The desire to impose a new order “to create a better world” often does, which is why the left’s political faith often takes on the characteristics of religion.* They will inevitably plead with you to read their books and absorb their facts, then you’ll mend your ways, come to agree with them, and perhaps even be “saved” in one way or another.

You may have noticed that while most conservatives will recommend books to their like minded friends, they typically don’t insist that the opposition read their list of books. Leftists, however do this often, convinced that you just haven’t been exposed to “the truth.” “How can you know anything if you haven’t read the authors I’ve read.” If you know what they know, you’ll come around and hopefully see the error of your ways – you may even learn to love Big Brother, or at least help to put him into power.

You may have also noticed that there are few massive protests by conservatives. When was the last time you saw a fervent protest for limited government or tax cuts? For the left, politics isn’t about politics, its about “spirituality,” “saving the planet,” ending “greed,” or cooperating in an egalitarian international commune (of their design).

Like our opponents on the left, people like me will continue to summon facts and observations to “prove” our view, in our case the belief that the classical liberal / libertarian view of things bodes best for most. Like the left, our claims are made primarily as articles of faith:

• That the government that governs best is the one that governs least.
• That most people left to their own devices, will actually do okay, get along fairly well with others, and contribute directly or indirectly to the common good, even if that is not their conscious intention.
• That free choice and diverse views and lifestyles lead to progress for civilization as a whole and,
• That most things we freely choose, which inflict no harm on others, are really no one else’s business.

In the end these are just statements of faith. The left surely hates it, but then their faith is in other things.

* I realize that there is a strain of fundamentalist Christian in America that is also “conservative” by some widely accepted definitions. They’re clearly not leftists but I think they are equally not libertarians. I would be more inclined to describe some fundamentalists as “theocrats,” or in more positive terms, “traditionalists.” They typically share little belief with libertarians or classical liberals although they often do oppose the centralized secular state (primarily because it is secular).

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