Decide Where You Stand on Political Issues--Identify Your Principles!
What Do You Believe, and Why?
I used to think politics was too hard for an ordinary person like me to understand. I remembered that feeling lately when I asked my nephew about a political issue, and he replied, "I've been reading everything the Republicans and Democrats say about it, and they're both completely convinced they're right." I could hear the frustration in his voice, and I remembered that I used to feel the same way.
When I first started thinking seriously about politics, I was lucky to have some friends who were politically astute and highly skilled in logic and critical analysis. I began to offer an occasional opinion during their discussions, and they were always very kind to me. They would ask me a couple of questions about why I thought what I did, and it reduced me to embarrassed silence because I didn’t have an answer. I finally realized that before I could come to any conclusions about political issues, I would have to identify my principles and evaluate them logically. So I spent a few months doing that, and kept going back to my friends to see if my thinking could stand up to their questions. I gradually got my principles identified, along with facts, evidence, and logic to support them.
I discovered that it doesn’t help much to compare what Republicans and Democrats say about an issue. What matters is how what they say compares to your own principles. Once you’ve got your principles identified, it becomes much easier to examine a political issue and decide what you think about it.
For example, here's a principle: I own myself.
What does it mean to own yourself? Ownership means that you, rather than someone else, have control over your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional self. You have the freedom to decide on your own actions, think your own thoughts, feel your own feelings, grow spiritually (or not) in whatever way seems right to you. If you own yourself, you have both freedom and responsibility for whatever you do.
If you own yourself, you recognize that other people own themselves as well. Because you own yourself, no one has the right to hurt you; nor do you have the right to hurt anyone else. A popular way to phrase this is, “The right to swing your fist ends where the other guy’s nose starts.”
If you own yourself, no one has the right to take from you without your permission; your possessions, your earnings, your accomplishments are yours. Nor do you have the right to take from other people without their permission; they have the same right of ownership over their lives that you have over yours.
This doesn’t mean that a person who owns himself is independent of other people. As human beings, we all need to be connected to family and friends. And the more intimate the relationship, the more the people involved must share decision-making and accept less freedom to act independently. In the most serious relationship, marriage with children, the adults give up a significant portion of their individual freedom in order to provide the best possible environment for their family. But these are situations entered into voluntarily, not forced on us by some arbitrary outside agency. We make serious decisions about how deeply to commit ourselves and what we’re willing to give up in order to have the benefits of family. And people who own themselves make these decisions in the full expectation that it is their responsibility to support and raise their children. We take on the responsibility of dependent children and, as they age, dependent parents. It is OUR responsibility, not the responsibility of strangers, to raise our children and take care of our elderly parents.
So deciding that one owns oneself brings both tremendous freedom and tremendous responsibility. If you decide that you do not really own yourself, that you are partially or wholly owned by “the community” or “the state” or “other people,” however you think of it, you are agreeing to relinquish a degree of freedom, independence, and responsibility. You make yourself vulnerable to the claims of anyone who says they need your money more than you do. You accept your responsibility to support people you don’t know, and hope that they will support you in return, but you have only a partial say, if any, in how much responsibility you will retain, and how much support you can get from other people. You give up a degree of control over your life, and once you agree to that, the remainder of your control is always under threat.
Abdication of self-ownership results in weakened societies. If you don’t accept both the privileges and responsibilities of self-ownership, why should you extend them to anyone else? Why not break the law or take advantage of someone if you can get away with it? Why not place your own comfort and convenience above everyone else’s, and make decisions accordingly? Why respect anyone else’s property? Why work hard when you can subsist on government benefits? Why take responsibility for your failures when you can blame others? Why do the right thing, which is often hard and inconvenient, when you can do the wrong thing without any consequences?
If you decide that you own yourself, it’s a useful principle by which to judge a number of political issues. You can ask yourself: does this proposed action interfere with my freedom to make my own decisions and take responsibility for them? Does it propose to take money that I’ve earned and spend it on strangers, thereby reducing my ability to pay my debts, provide for myself and my family, and prepare for my old age? Does it treat me like an adult child who can’t be relied on to make responsible decisions? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you must decide whether this is something you want in your life.
Do you own yourself?