Here are a few political principles that I hold to. These principles necessarily intersect in various ways, and can be used to form a structure for society. Because I am the type to prefer to keep my mind open, rather than closing out options, these are always subject to change.

  1. Individualism. In the political sphere I am an individualist. For me, the individual is paramount over the group or collective. Alongside the common libertarian and conservative refrain “that government is best which governs least,” I’d add that that government is best which governs closest. What I mean by this is that you are the best governor of yourself (i.e. self-government). From there we can expand it out through the levels, but each level is further away than the last and will have less capability and understanding to govern you. This comes with both great freedom and responsibility. The presumption should be for individual liberty. Alongside this is that individualism is the best way to allow for pluralism in society. To try to collectivize a pluralistic society is to strangle it, but individual liberty allows for individuals of various pluralities to flourish in their own unique ways.

  2. Federalism/Localism. This goes alongside the previous point, but what can be handled at the lowest level, should be. For instance, a more effective way for the federal government to engage in education policy, would be to support local solutions in education problems, rather than dictating solutions as one size fits all. A correlative of this is voluntary cooperation/organizations. Part of localism isn’t just local government, but all the voluntary institutions that make up a community. Individualism undergirds this by providing individuals the freedom to form these groups and join them or decline as they wish. These institutions also form necessary mediation between the individual and the state.

  3. Humans are imperfectible. Humans cannot be made perfect, although progress can be made. This means all utopian schemes should be looked at with great suspicion. This doesn’t mean that improvements cannot be made. Violence is on the decline worldwide, slavery is being combatted around the world, medicine has made huge improvements, and technology and science are making leaps and bounds in progress. But we know that no “solution” is perfect and that tradeoffs must always be made both because of human imperfectibility and scarcity. There are limits to what we can accomplish, but this also means that when we do accomplish things, such as the moon landing or defeating smallpox, it is that much more of an incredible feat.

  4. Bottom-up. The best solutions to problems take place from the bottom-up rather than the top-down. This is why freedom and individualism is so valuable and important. It allows individuals, and groups of individuals to try and test new things and see what works and what doesn’t work. This is how progress has been made economically, scientifically, technologically, political policy, etc. Whenever top-down solutions are imposed rarely do they go well. Top-down solutions aren’t able to take into account local variations like bottom-up solutions do.

  5. Rule of law. The rule of law is essential for limiting government, and protecting freedom. Without the rule of law, we are left with the arbitrary rule of men. In the United States, this rule of law takes the form of the constitution, but in other countries, it can take other forms. It is important that any rule of law be general and abstract so as to apply to all rather than targeted toward a few particulars. Part of the rule of law too is recognizing that any rights we have do not come from government, but are inherent to our humanity. Rights to life and liberty and property, are not granted by government, but protected by government, and are not to be infringed upon.

  6. Empiricism. I am not an empirical absolutist, but we need empirical data and studies to fully understand problems and come up with solutions. Empirical data doesn’t care if you are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. Man-made climate change is an empirical reality, as is biological evolution, and the importance of vaccines and whether or not GMO’s are healthy (studies show that GMO’s are not harmful to your health). As David Hume said, “a wise man proportions his beliefs to the evidence.” Alongside empiricism, we must take pragmatism into consideration. It is important to look at the actual results of the policies and see if they work. I am a big believer in aiding the poor, and helping those unable to help themselves. However, if the evidence shows that redistributionary programs don’t work, then we need to either change them to try to make them more effective, or they need to be completely abolished, and either replaced or not. (In my opinion, the best cure for poverty is not redistributing wealth, but economic growth.)

One factor I left out of this is how my faith and politics intersect. I intentionally left this out in order to spend more time on that issue in a soon to come post.

  1. I would also like to add to Empiricism, that facts don’t speak for themselves. We necessarily need theories to both put facts together, and then interpret the facts (i.e. data).

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