Saturday, March 24, 2012

Voting

And now I vote.

Despite parental warnings that economic disaster awaits should Labor or the Greens come to power I will not be voting for the LNP. I just can't bring myself to vote for a conservative party and the so-called 'Liberal' National Party seems to me to be paradoxically conservative given it's 'liberal' title. The holding of values merely because they feel comfortable, because a certain generation has been taught a certain way and it seemed to work, is NOT a justification for these same values. What this amounts to is a conformity to custom. That is all. Until it is proven that allowing greater social freedoms (i.e. marry whomever you want, take whatever substances you want provided you are informed and do not harm anyone but yourself, terminate your life if you are rational and informed and no longer wish to live, etc) will cause the demise of the country I will assume that the naysayers are operating on hunches and guesses. Here's what Mill has to say on the matter:

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which is contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time. (John Stuart Mill. pg64. 'On Liberty')

Mill applauds the eccentrics that the conservatives mock. The queers, the tree-huggers, probably even the conspiracy theorists, are praised by Mill for escaping the vice-like grip that cultural norms inflict upon us. It is not that these people are necessarily right - It's the fact that they have continued to think and question society that makes these thinkers so valuable. Mill drills the point home some more when he says: 

A people, it appears, may be progressive for a certain length of time and then stop: When does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality. (John Stuart Mill. pg68. 'On Liberty')

I'm an arts student. I study philosophy. Whilst I try to engage myself in the economic discussion I am much more at home when discussing political ideologies. I want to vote for the party that maximizes liberty; I also want to vote for the party that encourages free-thinking and operates free of dogmatic belief. It is primarily the latter point that deflects my political compass away from the LNP. I am not convinced that the LNP are a bunch of free-thinkers. In fact it seems as if conservativism is fatally flawed in that it uses the thinking patterns of the past to influence decisions in the future. Isn't this obviously a closed-system with no room for progress or change? Hasn't every beneficial social revolution begun as a revolt again the norm? To accept the status-quo and advocate no discussion of change is to assume that we have reached the roof of our moral and political development - an overwhelmingly arrogant claim. The end of slavery and race discrimination would have once seemed like a 'radically progressive' ideal in the same way that allowing same sex marriage now seems, to some, like a 'radically progressive' ideal. The very fact that the idea of same-sex marriage seems 'radically progressive'  (or as Mill would say 'eccentric') to some shows to me that it probably has a lot of potential. All we need now is a discussion free of dogmatic religious influence (we are, let us remember, a secular country) and we may have a hope of coming to a conclusion. Unfortunately many of the anti-same-sex-marriage arguments amount to either a religious objection or an unjustified belief allowing same-sex marriage would cause everything that we hold dear to us to fall apart.

Fortunately there is a simple solution to our lack of consensus that is soundly based in science. When the results of a certain course of action are unknown (but may lead to immense potential gain) the scientist will perform an experiment. Provided the experiment is conducted under the correct circumstances the results of the experiment can confirm or deny previous hypothesis. So how do we discover the effects of same-sex marriage on the wider community - Simple, why not perform an experiment? Fortunately experiments in same-sex marriage legislation have already taken part here on earth and, perhaps surprisingly, the world didn't fall apart. In fact the academic literature on the subject is vast and easily accessible. A quick google seach delivered to me a recent study on the effect of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands on heterosexuals. (http://www.iza.org/conference_files/TAM2010/trandafir_m6039.pdf) It that found that:

"Same-sex registered partnership does not affect different-sex marriage negatively and the availability of an alternative institution increases the different-sex union rate."

For this reason I find it hard to believe that allowing same-sex marriage would have any significant negative effect on the heterosexual community.

This issue has been a large motivator in establishing who I will vote for, more-so than anything else. It might take an intelligent person to come up with a great monetary policy, but it takes an open minded, questioning person to come up with a great social policy. Arguably the LNP has better economic policies (I'm not sure whether this is true or not) and if so perhaps it points to a greater level of intelligence within the LNP compared to the Labor and Greens; However it is evident that the virtues of open-mindedness and questioning are to be found to a greater extent in the non-LNP parties.  A great philosopher is both intelligent and open-minded; but if I were to choose just one attribute I'd go with being open minded and questioning. Intelligence is wasted if the possessor of the intelligence is too close minded and unquestioning to apply it to anything worthwhile.   

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