It's my own fault. I get involved in political discussions. First thing I know one of the people arguing the other side of the issue calls me a liberal. I'm having trouble figuring that out. I think the last time I thought of myself as a liberal was 1959. I was twelve so I think it was excusable. I'd barely started high school. I started to change my mind by the time I was thirteen.
Liberals occupy a position on the political spectrum slightly to the left of center. I went through a period when I thought liberals were scum. I didn't think the problem was that they were too far to the left. I thought they were too far to the right and too willing to compromise with moderates and conservatives. It bothered me that they were willing to sell out their principles for harmony with people who were worse than scum.
I'm too old to get that excited any more but I'm still not a liberal. I try not to view politics through a moral lens. I like to think I'm a pragmatist even though I'm probably not. I do my best to avoid ideology but I probably fail sometimes. On the other hand, I don't care to compromise with ideologues either. They're not really compromising. They're thinking of how they can move from the compromise position to one that fits their beliefs better before they ever shake hands or sign the document.
I'd like to make it clear to people who call me a liberal or progressive. I'm neither. I think I'm a reactionary leftist radical with a pragmatic bias. I'm reactionary because I'm not interested in implementing an ideology. I'm interested in having things work better and think in terms of problems although I'm not unwilling to think in terms of systems. I'm a leftist because I have a core of ideology remaining from childhood that I picked up in religious education and reading adventure stories. I'm a radical because I think a lot of our social and political problems can't be solved by tinkering with the existing system and can't be solved by returning to older ideas that have already been proved lacking. I'm pragmatic because I want a solution that works more than I want one that fits an abstract theory of human nature or social justice.
Take health care. The system we have is broken beyond repair. Insurance and drug companies dominate it. People who can't afford health insurance are, I think the technical term is, screwed. We went to health insurance because the earlier pay as you go model didn't work. Group insurance was the only way to reduce the cost to the patient. It's not working as well as it did fifty years ago. It's very close to completely broken. We need to do something different. Whatever it is, we know that insurance and pay as you go don't work. We've experimented with them long enough to know that they can't be made to work. We might as well try some form of universal health care financed by taxes. If someone has a better idea that's not a retread of insurance or pay as you go I'd be delighted to hear it. Regardless what it might be it has to be a solution that goes to the root of the problem, rips out the existing system, and works better than what we have now.
That's only one area where I think a radical solution is the only practical approach. I offered it as an example. Liberals don't think that way. Liberals want evolutionary solutions that build on the systems we have in place. It's a bias that leads to a Winchester Mystery House system that eventually collapses or seizes up. The health care reform law passed just recently is a perfect example of a liberal solution. It's going to seize up, probably sooner than later.
Conservatives want to solve problems by looking to the past. The problem with that is that if there's a socio-political problem, unless it's totally new, the solution we're trying now is a replacement for a system that failed in the past. The good solutions from the past are still working. That's what you learn from history. The good ideas that still work and the bad ideas that failed.
Please don't call me a liberal. I'm not terribly offended when people do, but then I have to go through the tedium of explaining why I'm not a liberal. I'm sorry if your imagination is so weak that you can't imagine someone to the left of liberalism. There really are people like that. I'm not a statistical anomaly. There are others who think like me, not a lot compared with the political mainstream, but they're around.