What I believe
I feel like I’ve been too negative lately. And I think there’s a shortage of liberals clearly saying what they want and believe.
So here’s my manifesto, more or less. The rules for liberalism, as I practice it.
1. The Truth, Above All
If the facts tell you things you don’t want to hear, accept them. If it turns out that liberalism doesn’t work, stop being a liberal.
The truth is the biggest advantage you can ever have in politics over the long term. So don’t lie to yourself or to anyone else.
If you ever find yourself lying for your cause, denying scientific realities or trying to deceive people into supporting you, you’re probably on the wrong side.
2. The Best For Everyone
Every person matters. Don’t write anyone off as morally irrelevant. Foreigners, misfits, vagrants, criminals, political enemies…if you can make their lives better, do so.
This does not mean giving everyone everything they want. Many people want things that will hurt other people. Liberalism demands that you remember that those other people are people, and deserve your protection from the people who want to hurt them.
Remember, we’re all stuck on this world together.
3. Follow Your Own Rules
Human rights aren’t just for your friends. Laws aren’t just for your enemies.
Liberalism is here to let people of every religion and ideology live together. It’s here to reconcile nearly irreconcilable differences. For this to work at all, you need to obey your own rules even when they’re inconvenient.
Your enemies won’t always do the same for you in return, so make sure your rules aren’t crippling. But follow them. Every person who respects a rule strengthens it.
If you lose an election, and you have at your disposal enough power to overturn the result by force…don’t. Doing so will almost certainly make things worse.
4. Be Pragmatic
Compromises are not to be feared. They’re the way of the world.
Think capitalism is evil? Think taxation is theft? Fair enough. Liberals don’t have to be capitalist or statist. But they do have to respect the limitations of reality.
You do not have the strength to destroy everyone who disagrees with you. You need to be willing to negotiate with your enemies. Sometimes a mutually-acceptable compromise is impossible, sometimes violence is necessary, but always try for a nonviolent solution.
If you have radical ideas, by all means push for them. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and be very reluctant to kill people. Remember that the future is uncertain, and nothing ever works smoothly on a grand scale.
5. When In Doubt, Be Kind
We all make mistakes. But if you’re humble, considerate, and slow to anger, you’ll screw up less and hurt people less when you do.
Don’t be a doormat. But do be kind, even to your enemies. Give the benefit of the doubt, don’t condemn people casually, and don’t indulge in cruelty.