The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Taking a break from election-related posts...

I just saw an interesting book, of which so far I've only read a small part, but which I really like and want to recommend. It is called "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. The book espouses a political philosophy that the authors call "libertarian paternalism," which can be basically defined as giving the maximum amount of freedom, while encouraging desirable behavior through incentives rather than compulsion. It's a pretty good idea to me.

He has some ideas I like very much — though the one I'm about to mention is one I'd hate to praise too extremely, because it's an idea I had myself several years ago. The authors' idea to solve the problem of disagreement over gay marriage is: Let the government get out of the role of defining marriage entirely, but just provide a sort of civil union or domestic partnership arrangement; let marriage be defined by churches and any other organizations that want to grant status as married, and keep the two separate. Thus if a church wants to deny gay couples the right to marry, they could, but some other church might marry them, and the policies of neither would matter under the law, as the legal status of a couple (same sex or different sex) would depend on a legal contract, which might set up whatever conditions the law and the couple might want to be included. It seems very sensible to me.

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