Political questions:

Here are some questions that I think about when I hear political debates, policy announcements, and the like. Hopefully some of you will agree that these are things worth thinking about. Some (perhaps more than half) are traditionally associated with the right wing, some with the left, and I think many defy those political categories. I couldn’t manage to add anything particularly witty to these ramblings, so I’m sorry if you fall asleep while reading. I prefer theology. 

– What is the government responsible for anyway? (Wish I knew)

– Are any aspects of ‘quality of life’ outside the scope of the government’s interests? If so, what? (Dunno)

-If the government finds itself with the ability to do something with morally good consequences, is that enough reason for it to do it, or are there other principled limits to the proper exercise of its power? (There are some limits, not sure what)

– Is there a ‘law above the law’ or something analogous? Why/why not, and if yes, then what does it say, and what role might it play? If not, then what, if anything, constitutes the political ideal, and what justifies political change? (Controversial claim: if there is no law above the law, then all political posturing becomes pointless)

– What policies are democratically justified by a mere majority (51% of parliament) – any and all?
Note that the majority in NZ will tend to favour policies that benefit the middle class, or for which others would bear a disproportionately greater cost. If there is a hierarchy of rights, with some being inalienable, should this be reflected in what politicians can enact? (I know many law students will be upset at me, but I favour a fairly solidly entrenched constitution for this reason)

– Do citizens have the right to enforce their morality on others?
(If not, then the concept of democratic government falls to the ground. Morality is very broad, and most political issues seem to me to have a moral dimension. I tentatively suggest that the political left, insofar as they are fans of bigger government – government playing a role in more areas of society – are in a sense more ‘moralistic’ than the political right. This is not by itself a problem in my view, as moralism need not be negative – it’s just something to be aware of.)

– Does the government have a duty to protect vulnerable people against abuse? (Presumably)

– Should the government protect the life of unborn children? If so, to what extent? (Yes – to at least the current extent legislated for).

– Should the government legislate against physician-assisted suicide? (Yes)

– Does society’s obvious interest in family life (the general wellbeing of families) translate directly into a government interest – and if so, in what cases, and what tools are appropriate to use to further any such interest? (Yes. Dunno)

– What are the most pressing challenges for our natural environment, and what is the government’s role in mitigating or counteracting these? (Dunno – perhaps those relating to agriculture? Dunno.)

– To what extent, precisely, is the NZ government morally obligated to seek the welfare of non-citizens (e.g. with overseas aid)? (Perhaps more than currently achieved)

– What determines the ideal tax rate for different income brackets? e.g., at what point does “tax the rich more!” become unjustified? (Dunno)

– What does compassion look like or even mean when you’re spending what at least started out as other people’s money? (Dunno)

– How should poverty be defined? How should it be dealt with? (Dunno, but I think not solely in a ‘relative’ sense).

– To what extent should political power be decentralised/localised? (More than currently, perhaps)

I do have broad interests in ethics and public policy, but I’m an amateur and woefully unqualified to give answers to most of these questions. (But no less an amateur than most people airing their opinions). In the previous two elections I gave my party vote to the Maori Party and United Future. Not sure who will get my vote this year, I just know it won’t be the Greens, Mana, or the Act party. I am socially conservative, I care about the trees, and I’m a fiscal pragmatist, whatever the heck that means.


A black mark against the Greens in 2014

If you broadly share my worldview, I think you should not be able to happily vote for the Greens. I only have one major reason to say this, which is their policy concerning abortion law reform. I realise that many eyes are rolling as people read this. Let me explain why I take a view that so many will find offensive. I understand that this post will upset some people – this is not my aim, and I’m very happy to talk about this in person with any who so wish.

As I understand it (I welcome correction on any of these points), the Greens’ policy decriminalises any and all abortions before 20 weeks’ gestation, removes the freedom of conscience of medical professionals to refuse to refer on to a particular abortion provider, is unclear regarding foetal disabilities (though seems like it will legalise the current practice of being able to abort on the basis of disabilities after the 20th week),

The move is morally problematic for various reasons. One relatively minor issue that might concern some people is that there is nothing in the policy or in the law that would or could prevent sex-selective abortions.

Of course, I will be labelled a right-wing bigot, and various other things, for raising the abortion topic. It’s tiring, but whatevs. Christians will be among those who find this topic uncomfortable; it’s a pity, but some things in life are not comfortable.

The policy is not all bad – each of the following is a good move:
“3c. Provide increased support to vulnerable pregnant women so they feel they can continue with their pregnancy if this is their preferred option.
3d. Ensure women are not penalised financially for choosing to keep their child (see Income Support policy).
3e. Address concerns about pressure for and overuse of antenatal screening, which should be an individual choice, and ensure that parents are fully informed about available and potential supports for families and people living with disabilities. [See our Disability policy].”

But, the shift from saying abortion is something which should be limited to something which should not be is a very serious move that would obviously affect how people act.

Some key principles that guide my thinking:
The law should protect the vulnerable.
The unborn child is particularly vulnerable.
->Therefore the law should protect the unborn child.
The unborn child is an instance of human life.
Human life should not be ended without just cause.
->Therefore the unborn child’s life should not be ended without just cause.
Decriminalising abortion fails to ensure that ending the lives of unborn children only occurs with just cause.  

I am unabashedly socially conservative – I think that our society, for all its flaws, is one of the best the world has ever seen and that its broad outlines are worth conserving.  Conservatism is not, in my view, a value that can sensibly be abstracted away from social context – so, in most societies I would not be conservative. People who disagree with me would often be labelled ‘progressives’. For my part, I don’t see serious moral regress as progress, and there are parts of the current ‘progressive’ consensus that are regressive, reprobate, and reprehensible. All that said, you don’t need to be socially conservative to agree with me – just to see that unborn children are vulnerable humans deserving at least a mite of legal protection.  

I am not part of a grand right-wing conspiracy, and I have nothing much against the fiscal policies of the political left. In the previous two elections I voted for United Future and the Maori Party, and I’m not sure who I’ll vote for this time – I’m pretty sure it won’t be for the Greens.