Where I Stand on “The Issues”

In a politically engaged environment like Claremont, where you stand on "the issues" comes out fairly early in a first-time interaction. It made me think that I’ve never chronicled such an answer on my blog.

Where I stand on hot button / political issues (that I can think of):

  • I believe that democracy and capitalism are the best systems around which to organize a society, and that these values are universal but will be adopted by non-democratic countries over the very long term, not the short term.
  • I believe in the power of markets and would prefer if government did not try to mess with markets.
  • I believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion.
  • I think protectionism is idiotic, and that no American has any God-given right to any job. Let the best man win. There should probably be some
  • I think a minimum wage increase does more harm than good, but it’s a close call. Earned income tax credits seem more logical.
  • I think affirmative action hurts its intended beneficiaries more than help, but it’s a close call.
  • I believe in taking proactive steps to fight the effects of global warming. I’m an environmentalist. Clean energy policy strikes me a good. I know little about the actual technologies.
  • I don’t believe in a military draft because I don’t think it allocates a country’s labor very well. But women should register for Selective Service, and homosexuals should be able to serve openly.
  • I have no position on healthcare because I know next to nothing about it.
  • I’m wary of excessive foreign aid and wary of the rock star status guys like Jeff Sachs and Bono have obtained.
  • I support immigration — both high skilled and low skilled — and think anyone who isn’t a criminal and wants to contribute to the country should be allowed in.
  • I’m not a fan of unions — they usually strike me as irrationally dogmatic and hurting its intended benefiaries more than help.
  • I think our education system is screwed up, and therefore I support experiments such as vouchers and charter schools.
  • I think there was a case to be made to go into Iraq and oust Saddam, but it has been executed with criminal incompetency and any American under the age of 30 now has no choice but to follow at least the basics of what’s going on, as we’ll be dealing with the country for years and years to come.
  • I have no position on Israel / Palestine since I know little about it. (Same is true for many other foreign policy debates.)
  • I believe in gay rights and gay marriage.

The sum of these positions usually fall into the suddenly very sexy category of "socially liberal, fiscally conservative," which naturally is represented by neither the Democratic nor Republican party. So you must decide what you care more about: the social issues or economic ones.

I hope and expect that I will change my mind on these issues over the course of my life. I contend that people rarely change their political views over their lifetime and that most people are life-long Dems or Repubs. Some of my friends disagree. I have yet to find good data around this question.

24 Responses to Where I Stand on “The Issues”

  1. Tom says:

    Ben, you’re a libertarian, more or less.

  2. Theodore the Giant says:

    Ben, thanks for making public your opinions. My one comment is that I detest the “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” label because I see many issues, such as minimum wage, as both fiscal and social. To imply that there are two mutually exclusive groups of issues which do not affect each other is simply incorrect.

  3. Theodore the Giant says:

    Ben, thanks for making public your opinions. My one comment is that I detest the “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” label because I see many issues, such as minimum wage, as both fiscal and social. To imply that there are two mutually exclusive groups of issues which do not affect each other is simply incorrect.

  4. Eric says:

    Holy controversial post, Batman.

  5. happyjuggler0 says:

    Are you pro-choice on guns and self defense in general?

    Are you pro-choice on drugs?

    Are you pro-choice on smoking on private property, including when the property owner chooses to conduct commercial relations with his compliant guests?

    Are you pro-choice on prostitution, stripping, porn?

    Are you pro-choice on campaign contributions? To frame it differently, are you opposed to the McCain/Feingold Incumbent Protection Act?

    Are you pro-choice on marriage amongst any gender and any number of consenting adults?

    Are you pro-choice on redistribution of your paycheck, including whether and whom the recipients are, or are not?

    Is government your favorite “charity”? If not, do you believe you have the right to be a hypocrite and force others to contribute to government redistribution where you are unwilling to do so?

    Do you believe you have the right to force others to contribute to your favorite charity?

    Do you believe that other people ought to have the ability to force you to run your life the way they want you to (assuming you aren’t harming others such as engaging in murder, rape, assault, theft etc.)?

    Do you believe that you ought to have the ability to force other adults to live their lives the way you want them to?

    Do you believe the opposite of tyranny is liberty, and vice versa?

    Do you believe that democracy is a means to an end, and that that end ought to be individual freedom? Do you believe that in the absence of that end, that democracy is nothing more than two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner?

    Just curious. 😉

  6. Andromeda says:

    It cracks me up to see the phrase “In a politically engaged environment like Claremont”, because I went to Mudd, so for me Claremont is the town (boring, sleepy, monochrome), and my college experience there was largely characterized by political apathy.


  7. Ben, can I vote for you?

  8. Brian says:

    Interesting post. I pegged you as more a liberal then these points show. While you may not have all the facts, don’t be afraid to take a stance on Health Care. I would guess that you have enough understanding of economics, human behavor, and market soultions to form an fairly educated opion.

    BTW: At my university, you are looked at (and down upon) like a criminal if you are a conserative and/or do not bash President Bush 24/7. Hopefully this isn’t the case at Claremont.

  9. Phil says:

    Ben – Nice post. Short & quick, yet effective. No real surprises from what I would have guessed.

    I have no data to support your contention that people rarely change their political views over a lifetime. However, I have in my personal experience.

    I grew up in a very liberal democratic, pro-union, government-is-good home. As I grew older (and hopefully wiser) through my experiences, I have found myself becoming more conservative. I’m even close to the libertarian label, if you will.

    For kicks, here is where we agree and disagree … thank God for the rights we have in the good ol’ USA!

    * I agree that democracy and capitalism are the best systems around.
    * I agree in the power of markets.
    * I don not believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion – with exceptions.
    * I agree that protectionism is idiotic
    * I agree a minimum wage increase does more harm than good.
    * I agree that affirmative action’s worthiness has depreciated.
    * I agree with taking proactive steps to fight the effects of global warming – as long as it is market driven.
    * I also don’t believe in a military draft. Agree that women should register for Selective Service, and homosexuals should be able to serve openly.
    * Healthcare is my field. It’s as messed up as the educational system.
    * I too am wary of excessive foreign aid
    * I support legal and documented immigration.
    * Unions no longer have value.
    * Wholeheartedly agree our education system is screwed up, and also I support experiments such as vouchers and charter schools.
    * I agree there was a case to be made to go into Iraq and oust Saddam. I agree its execution has been below par, but disagree with the description of criminal incompetency.
    * Israel will always be under attack. Two-state solution is the most viable.
    * I believe in gay rights and believe gay marriage is an insult to the institution of marriage.

  10. Wow Ben,

    Talk about really putting yourself out there…

    I commend you for taking a stance on what you believe.

  11. Chris Yeh says:

    You could call it “socially liberal/fiscally conservative,” or you could call it being a loyal reader of the Economist.

    If I were a billionaire who wanted to promote libertarian points of view, I’d give every resident of the US a gift subscription to the Economist.

    One minor addition…I believe that it may very well make sense to take steps to combat global warming (or “climate cancer,” as Seth Godin has termed it), but that we should apply the same kind of rational thinking to determining the best solution as we should to evaluating the problem.

    Far too much emphasis is placed on taking steps that feel good, rather than impacting the real problem.

  12. Ralph October says:

    “I think there was a case to be made to go into Iraq and oust Saddam…”

    It’s interesting that you don’t say that the case “was made” but rather that there “was a case to be made”. What was that case?

    I ask because you haven’t stated approval for the original WMD case made by the White House, or the later Al-Qaeda link or libery in the Middle East cases that were made.

    I simply what you felt the case was to oust Saddam in particular then, based on your very enriched worldview. (And not go into North Korea, Burma, Syria or Sudan for example).

    Any reader thoughts?

  13. I’m with you on everything but the abortion issue — for me it’s much harder than you make it out to be (I’ll explain when we talk next)– and foreign policy. I support Israel fully as it is a responsible, democratic country that’s views on the big issues are more in line with what you and I think.

    On the question of immigrants, bring em in, but make sure that they want to contribute and not be dead weight.

    By the way, you ought to answer Eric, the libertarian’s questions, even if you don’t do it out in the open.

    Looks like I’m a bit like Brian.

  14. ElamBend says:

    So this makes you a liberal and Claremont and a conservative at Pamona, right? 😉

    It’ll be interesting for you to see which views gel and which change during college.

  15. How about this: no one should have to register for the draft!

    Would you be willing to spread the word about http://www.draftresistance.org? It’s a site dedicated to shattering the myths surrounding the selective slavery system and building mass civil disobedience to stop the draft before it starts!

    Our banner on a website, printing and posting the anti-draft flyer or just telling friends would help.


    Scott Kohlhaas

    PS. When it comes to conscription, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

  16. Krishna says:


    “I simply what you felt the case was to oust Saddam in particular then, based on your very enriched worldview. (And not go into North Korea, Burma, Syria or Sudan for example).

    Any reader thoughts?”

    Where’s the subterfuge and scope to control Oil assets in these other countries that you mention? I ask.

    The middle east interest started with an eye on oil and oil alone. When diplomacy lacked finesse, they couldn’t think of another thing but war. They needed an excuse to start a war and Saddam acted up against Kuwait only too well. The WTC episode and War against terror that followed fanned the flames and gave all the more alibi for the harebrained strategists (at Capitol Hill and elsewhere) to stay with that focus on conquest of oil assets, albeit at a very high cost to the US / European citizen. They waged a war that could never be won.

    Probably it will continue till a truly statesmanesque leader emerges from the shadows (there’s no sign of it anyway) filled with chutzpah enough to admit the Himalayan gaffe (of previous US / European administration) to the citizen and to the parents and siblings of the hapless soldiers that lost their lives. Re-establishment of diplomatic relations is a far, far cry because it calls for intellectual refinement of a significantly superior degree, otherwise called Chivalry.

  17. Steve says:

    If you have not already, it may be worth you while doing some reading about Japan and protectionism in the post-war period, and its effect on the automobile and electronics industries.

  18. TK says:


    First of all, Ben it is always good that someone takes a stand and actually tells people EXACTLY where he/she stands.

    The lack of this approach in our elected officials is one of two reasons that our society is completely apathetic to anything political (the other reason is for another post, some other time).

    I would say that I am in near complete agreement with your stances. Except for one item. As someone pointed out here, I would love to talk about the woman’s right to choose the next time we are both in a city that is not where we actually live!

    But the other thing that your posting really highlights is that neither political party encompasses your (or my) beliefs. And frankly, my guess is that about 50% of Americans would share most of our beliefs. And this quandary leaves everyone awash of apathy or political anger.

    IMHO, the only answer is a revolution. A true political revolution where the status quo system is broken down and a new level of discourse and action replaces it.

    But this takes real strength and our country lacks that right now. And no one running for the President in the coming election has that type of strength or electoral base to actually cause this to happen.

  19. Don Jones says:

    So Ben, you’re a Republicrat?

    Or a Demlican…

    Same here…

  20. Dani says:

    The EITC!

    We discussed that at length in my public policy courses. We have some folks in our grad class who once qualified for the EITC, and they sort of chuckled at it and said “it went straight to credit cards.” This finding caused me to poll our Labor Studies class: “would you trade the EITC for expanded health care, esp. universal health care for children?” All said “yes.”

    This, of course, goes to the heart of the individual vs. government debate–who makes better decisions? Generally, folks in my class argue that individuals make better decisions, but health care is the trump card, esp. for kids–despite the support for market-based policies in our cohort, we all still view health care, esp. for kids, as an exception to the rule. Wealthy countries shouldn’t let kids grow up sick–that seems to be treated as an absolute, at least here at UW.

    It’s tricky when the moral, gut-feel of some policies trumps the economic rationale (though, one could certainly argue that a healthier populace will correlate to a healthier economy)…for example, there is a strong demand in the US for abortions–a healthy “abortion market,” one might say–and yet those with strong economic backgrounds sometimes do not/cannot view it the same way other services are viewed. It does not get put under the “supply & demand” frame that other services are put under…instead, it is pretty much viewed through a moral frame. It feels terribly icky to even say such a thing, but hey, there are millions of abortions performed here yearly…that demand doesn’t evaporate due to any public policy I can fathom.

    Great post, thanks for sharing–

  21. Dani says:

    I love this article by Gladwell from the New Yorker…he gets into the economic theory behind our health care system and offers a rebuttal:

  22. Deb Miller says:

    Great post, as usual, Ben. I’ve labeled myself a fiscal conservative, social liberal for at least 20 years ago, so I have general agreement with your positions.

    One place I disagree with you is on “excessive” foreign aid. I read something recently that discussed how little the U.S. contributes to foreign aid. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find that article again. I did find another article that said the US contributes only 0.22% of gross national income to foreign aid, and ranks 20th of 22 countries in foreign aid. I think the other article was a more reliable source — wish I could find it.

    Regardless, because I’m a believer in capitalism, I believe that the solution to many of the world’s problems is in aid that is directed to economic issues. What if we had taken the massive $$$ that have gone into Iraq and instead used it to incent innovation & capitalism in the economies of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc? Look at Ireland. When the economy was miserable, violence was abundant. Once Ireland became an IT player, violence waned. I believe the answer to much of the violence in the world lies in economics.

  23. David says:

    Always nice to see where a fellow classmate and blogger lies on the political spectrum. I’ve yet to do a similar post myself, though I did disclose my biases (such as they are) in my first post to remove the possibility of being pigeonholed based on later posts of mine or later attempts to explain or defend myself against possible accusations of partisanship or bias.

    I’m with you on pretty much every one of your positions, but typically for different reasons or with slight reservations that allow for flexibility or compromise. For example, like you, I believe in the power of the free market, but I also believe that government has a role in imposing regulations (to a point) to ensure stability and defend against corruption, exploitation, what-have-you.

    Or, on a social issue, I also believe in gay rights, but hesitate at the thought of gays being married in my church at home. I believe in giving them civil unions with all the same legal benefits as a heterosexual marriage, but when it comes to actual marriage ceremonies, let each religion or denomination decide for itself it will allow ceremonies for gays in its churches.

    I found a nice quote online that I think neatly wraps up our respective stances: “I’m too fiscally conservative for the Democrats and too socially liberal for the Republicans, like 75% of the American people.”

  24. Jeremy says:

    So, in a very broad sense, you’re a libertarian. And you’re right, neither the Democrats or Republicans represent your views, with the exception of Ron Paul perhaps. In my research of the candidates, he might match your views the closest (except a few social issues) I commend you for announcing your beliefs for all the world to analyze.


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