Friday, July 13, 2007

Confessions of a Right-leaning Pragmatic Centrist

It is hard to get excited about being pragmatic. Pragmatic people are, well, in fact, kind of boring. No one mans the barricades in the name of centrist pragmatism. I have always voting Republican, except in the last Presidential race when I could not bring my self to vote for George Bush. In my youth I was a committed conservative. My conservatism was always tinted with a little Libertarianism and for about 4 months when I was 25, I called my self a “Libertarian” but never joined the party or voted Libertarian. I have subscribed to the conservative political journals, worked in campaigns, joined organizations and contributed money. In recent years my views have shifted somewhat. Part of it is that I think the Republican Party has betrayed many of their principles and, few can say what the Republican Party stands for. Also, the denial of global warming, and promotion of intelligent design have proven embarrassing to me. And, I think Iraq was a terrible mistake. But, something else is happening.

While I would not say I have become more liberal as I have grown older, I have become more pragmatic and less ideological. While I believe in certain principles, sometimes doing what works is more important than the principles. I believe in private property, however, I live in a neighborhood with a conservation overlay and am glad we have it. The conservation overlay is not as restrictive as historical zoning, but no one can put Aluminum siding on their home or make certain other improvements that are not in character with the neighborhood. I believe in good land use planning and zoning. But, I am bothered by condemnation. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that a New England town had illegally taken the home of of a property owner. The city had condemned the property and turned it over to a private company to develop in order to enhance the tax base. I was pleased to see the court rule that that was an improper taking of property. However, it is a fine line between using condemnation for slum and blight clearance and using it to facilitate private development. So, while I would say I am a champion of private property rights, I see a large roll for government in regulating property usage and in planning. In my twenties I was a much more adamant believer in private property rights, and would have thought it an outrage that the government could prohibit you form putting aluminum siding on your house.
In my twenties I was a member of the National Rifle Association. I still do not want the government confiscating weapons, and do not think we can just ignore the second Amendment. But I think we are safer with fewer weapons in circulation rather than with more. Would I feel less safe or more safe if people could carry their hand gun into bars? Less safe, generally, except I know that a ban on guns in bars will mean that responsible people with gun carry permits will not carry their guns in bars and criminals will anyway.  However, I have no problem with laws that restrict where you can carry your weapon. I feel better if people cannot carry their weapons into courtrooms and airports. I have no problem with a hand gun waiting period and think we should close the gun show loophole.
My point is discussing both of these issues is that I see more and more nuances, more shades of gray, on almost all issues. I no longer see very many issues as just black and white. And, I while I see “slippery slopes”; I also see fine lines. So, while I have certain principles I believe in, I am a lot less dogmatic and am more pragmatic than I once was. And when I come to a conclusion, I am not so absolutely certain that I have found the truth. I often tend to think the other person has a valid point even if I disagree with it. And, having changed my mind on issues in the past, I am not so certain of my current position as I was at one time. I don't know if that makes be more liberal, or just older.

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