About Values and this Election

My friend Ben Werdmuller wrote a piece about the values that drive his vote in this election. I don’t get to vote (because I’m an alien, a legal one, but just an alien). However, he inspired me to write down my own values. They are quite short:

  • We got to take care of our kids.
  • Choice and diversity are good.
  • We are all created equal.
  • Let’s learn more so we can improve our opinions.
  • Trust in people and they will surprise you (almost always positively).

That’s it.

(You may have guessed, the shortness of this list is deceptive. Let me explain some aspects to it.)

We got to take care of our kids. Because if we don’t take care of our kids, we deserve to (and won’t!) survive as a species! This means a lot of things:

  • Kids must be able to grow up in safety, physically and psychologically. Without that safety in childhood, nothing good comes after. It doesn’t mean riches, but it does mean basic economic security for parent and child, so the kid doesn’t have to worry about things kids should not have to worry about. (Yes, that includes sufficient income for the parents!) It means drug treatment for parents where needed, the ability to trust “the law” and its enforcers, with good reason, safe neighborhoods and so forth.
  • We need to take care of the environment. How are we taking care of our kids if we could eat the trout of the river as kids, but our kids can’t because the river has been poisened? How are we taking care of our kids, and their kids if we cut down the rain forest or warm the atmosphere, without hope of reversing it? How could we possibly use up all resources of some kind and not leave most of them for our children?
  • We need to take care of our economies and our finances. How are we taking care of our kids if we can reasonably expect to live out live reasonably on social security and pensions, but there is no chance that they will be able to do so?
  • We need to believe in our kids. I believe any kid can learn anything if given the opportunity, and we need to tell them that, in words and deeds, every day. In my experience, the only reason why some particular kid cannot do X or doesn’t do well in Y is because we, the adults, failed them in some other way, particularly about item #1 above.

Choice and diversity is good. We need to welcome it, in all aspects of life:

  • In business, we want lots of companies competing for business. That produces better products and services as lower cost and encourages innovation. It also means we need to limit the market share of any one company in any one market. Personally, I would like to see antitrust laws augmented to limit anybody’s market share to something like 10 or 20%, not just because they gained it “illegally” as is the current anti-trust law for much of the world. We cannot possibly tolerate banks, or any other business entity, that is “too be to fail”. Diversity and choice are good, remember!
  • Brown or white, red or yellow, or anything in between. Zero god, one god, lots of gods, spirits, ancestor simulations, or whatever other “Weltanschauungen”; they are all welcome.
  • This only works if there is freedom of speech. While I understand the effects of trauma, for example, except for rare situations, I am against “safe zones” and over-zealous political correctness. If I don’t like somebody’s speech, I can simply go somewhere else where I don’t have to listen to it, and I should of course have the liberty to do that. However, in my experience, one can always learn something useful, even if listening to the most offensive — according to one’s own value system — speech imaginable. For that reason alone I wouldn’t want to ban it.

We are all created equal. Boggles the mind that apparently that hasn’t sunk in, in this 21st century of ours. Entire libraries have been written about this one, so just a few choice consequences:

  • Inheritance taxes should be used to level the playing field so we are indeed created equal. The “death tax” would only be a “death tax” in my view, if you could indeed take things with you, as the Egyptions believed. Instead is is a “birth subsidy” and I’m against that if some kids get it and not others.
  • We cannot tolerate schools and teachers that provide better opportunities for those with rich parents over those living in the ghetto. The funding should be the reverse of the wealth of the parents, not proportional as it is in the US! It means we really, finally, in the US and elsewhere, need to get rid of idiocies such as racism, gender discrimination and discrimination based on religious beliefs.
  • It also means that we have no right to sit pretty in our western, wealthy countries and build big walls to keep “those poor people from Africa” (or wherever) out. There are lots of practicaly difficulties, but the principle should be that the world had all the way until just about 100 years ago: anybody gets to move anywhere on the planet.

Let’s learn more so we can improve our opinions. I’m all in favor of opinions, but not in the face of contrary evidence or simply laziness to find out the truth. We all need to do much better by learning and figuring out more.

  • At every opportunity, be clear that other people have other opinions, that we value those opinions and respect them, and the people who hold them, and that we have no monopoly on the truth.
  • Changing your opinion is not an embarrassment. Not changing your opinion in the face of new evidence is.
  • Let’s make a habit of soliciting one or more completely different ideas on any issue. In politics, and family life, in religion, in teaching and in science. Then let’s discuss the evidence for them, and adopt the best one. The world can only be better for it.

Trust in people, and they will surprise you (almost always positively)

  • Humany has produced some very dangerous individuals. However, there are very few of them, and almost everybody you ever meet really only wants the best. Some people are very misguided, and very wrong about how the world works and things like that, but that is very different from them being evil. Let’s trust our fellow human beings that they, in their heart of hearts, just like us: the only want the best.
  • This requires us to listen to them, particularly those people who believe in the opposite of what we believe in. It requires openness and walking in somebody else’s shoes without being stuck in one’s own personal history. If we do that, and we spend enough time and energy at it, we can understand — not just cognitively, but emotionally — anybody. And they have turned from enemy to friend. Imagine what they evening news would look like if we did that globally!
  • If somebody says they have a big problem and feel like they are not being heard, believe them, don’t dismiss them. (Yes, that’s the “middle America” Trump audience; they do have legitimate grievances that everybody — including Trump, BTW — loves to ignore.)
  • There are some people who promote the opposite: fighting instead of understanding. We must oppose them on all levels: poliically, militarily, religiously, inter-personally. Make a smile, say “Glad to meet you”, shake hands and say “you know, I am really curious why you believe X. Could you take the time to explain it to me? I would love to understand.” Get away from those who say “A is evil. B must be destroyed. C is only one and true way.” That way lies bloodshed and despair for no good reason.

Now, if I were to vote, where does this leave me? I feel that all presidential candidates leave much to be desired if measured against what I wrote above. (It’s sad. It’s also probably true that nobody with those values could possibly be elected in the circumstances we find the world in.)

However, it is clear that I could not, under any circumstances, vote for Donald Trump.

Barack Obama, in terms of presential candidates during my lifetime, was probably closest to my values. Unfortunately he failed to translate the values he stated during his campaign into government action, which was and is a huge disappointment. I haven’t made up my mind whether I personally fault him for that, or whether the many-trillions-of-dollars-a-year machinery of government was simply too large for one individual to signficantly impact.

(Stein and Johnson, in my view, are lightweights who haven’t even the sleightest idea what it would mean to actually do the job of the president, so they are out for different reasons. Leaves Clinton, who is clearly competent, knows how to make political sausage better than almost anybody, but in many ways also not too close to my values above. But given the alternatives, clearly a better choice than the alternatives from my point of view, so she would get my bote.)

Now I may be a dreamer, but I hope I’m not the only one. Presidential elections or not, that’s the outline of what I think our values ought to be as a human species.