- Reason Awakes -

Platform Philosophy

 

Why a Platform?

We believe that those who seek to influence elections and public policy have an obligation to explain what they want done with as much specificity as possible. For that reason we are offering the following Initial Party Platform.

What Do We Mean by a Centrist Platform?

We believe this Platform reflects a centrist political perspective. However, the concept of the center in American politics is somewhat amorphous and the Party Platform outlined below reflects the biases of its authors.  It therefore leans to the left on social issues, is conservative on economic issues, and reflects bits of libertarian philosophy here and there.

If you are solidly conservative on social issues and left wing on economic issues, or a fascist, an anarchist, or a hard core libertarian we are unlikely to find a meeting of the minds.

If, however, you characterize yourself as liberal or libertarian on social issues and conservative on economic issues, as we think a large number of Americans do, please read the platform,  offer your suggestions, and join us.

If you don't agree with us, we would still like to hear from you. Perhaps conversations between the right to the center and  the left and the center will be more productive and less contentious than those between the left and the right.

 

Future Evolution of the Platform


The Initial Platform is still in the drafting stage and we would very much like input from others who are looking for a better way in American politics. The Platform will continue to evolve, under the direction of the Initial Board of Governors, until there are 100,000 Members. From that point forward, the Platform of the Party will be completely under the the control of the Members through their votes on this web site. We believe this will allow the Initial Platform to retain its centrist character while taking the best advantage of mass collaboration.


General Principles and the Initial Platform


The Initial Platform is based on four key, and sometimes conflicting, principles: 

  • Economic Efficiency,
  • Equity,
  • Personal Freedom, and
  • Political Realism.


The Economic Efficiency Principle


The Economic Efficiency Principle recognizes that the size of the economic pie matters. It, also, recognizes that as a society we get the kind of society that we provide incentives for. If we provide incentives for work and investment we get more of them and therefore a larger economic pie to work with. The most efficient political economic system will, by definition, produce the greatest average wealth and income for society. In general, absent market failures such as those described below, we believe that a free market based system will be the most efficient.

The Economic Efficiency Principle, therefore, pushes the Platform toward a reliance on free markets unless there is a substantial market failure in the form of externalities, public goods, or anti-competitive behavior.

Externalities are situation where one persons consumption or production of a good or service affects other unrelated parties. Pollution is the classic example of an externality.

Public goods are those where one person's consumption of the good does not diminish the amount of the good available for others to consume or where others cannot be kept from consuming the good without paying for it. National defense is the classic example of a public good.

Anti-competitive behavior, in the form of monopolies or monopolistic behavior, is controlled by the Justice Department using the Clayton Act, the Sherman Act, and by the Federal Trade Commission.  The problem for these regulators and the courts is distinguishing between monopolistic behavior and market success. The classic examples of monopolistic behavior were the oil, banking and railroad trusts that were the motivation for much of the legislation mentioned above.

When these market failures are identified they have to be substantial in order to justify government  intervention because, inevitably, the government intervention will also be inefficient.

Finally, the method for intervention should be as market like as possible. Therefore we favor requirements for disclosure and taxes over over direct regulation and we favor government subsidized services over government provided services.

The Equity Principle

The Equity, or fairness, Principle recognizes that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is securing the consent of the governed, we care about
the distribution of wealth and income; equality of opportunity; social mobility; the extent to which people are rewarded for their industriousness, forbearance and risk taking; and the extent to which people bear responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. All of these factors are, in our minds, aspects of equity or fairness and governments that fail to take them all into account risk loosing the consent of the governed.

The philosopher John Rawls provided an interesting way to measure a just society. He suggested, in a variation of the golden rule, that a just society would be the kind of society we would design if we had no idea where in that society we would be placed.

Despite what some think, the ideal Rawlsian society is not likely to be a society with total income and wealth equality. As a consequence of removing all incentives for work and investment such a society would be desperately poor. It would also lack those other aspects of fairness mentioned above such as reward for individual effort and sacrifice and personal responsibility.

The perfect Rawlsian society is also not likely to be the kind of society generated by a totally free market in which generations of people would be condemned to poverty because of the poverty of their parents, even if this society produced the highest average wealth. Again this kind of society fails across many of the above definitions of equity or fairness.

Our support for equity and fairness leads us to support progressive income taxation, estate taxes, and publicly supported education and health care. It also leads us to support free trade agreements with developing countries as the fastest and most effective way to reduce poverty worldwide. It also leads us to oppose the excessive taxation of work and investment, since these taxes deprive people of the fruits of their labor, forbearance, and willingness to accept risk.

Clearly, even ignoring the impacts of tax policy on efficiency and therefore total wealth, concern for equity and fairness can lead to conflicting tax policy conclusions. The Platform recognizes these internal conflicts and tries to strike a compromise.

The Personal Freedom Principle

The Personal Freedom Principle recognizes that Americans value personal freedom for its own sake. As a consequence, Americans would reject an alternative that promised maximum total wealth and total income equality, even if that were possible, if it required surrendering control of our lives to a totalitarian state. Concern for Personal Freedom leads us toward a bias against government intervention, unless the case for intervention is compelling. It also suggests using policy solutions that maximize the degree of personal choice such as taxing rather than prohibiting certain kinds of behavior and using vouchers or credits to subsidize certain services rather than providing them publicly.

The Political Realism Principle

The Political Realism Principle recognizes that we don't make our decisions based on Rawlsian principles. As a consequence geography, time,  greed and envy matter. In Rawls' ideal world we would care as much for the citizens of other countries, as we would for those of our own. While Americans, perhaps because of our history as immigrants from every corner of the world, do empathize with those in other countries, we nevertheless value the lives and prosperity of Americans above those of people in other countries. Similarly, future generations do not have votes in America. No matter how much we care about future generations, inevitably, we care more about the present. Greed will lead some to want more, no matter how well off they are, and envy will lead some to want those better off than themselves to have less, even if,  in the process, they impoverish everyone.

The Platform seeks to balance the first three Principles mind full that we are constrained by the fourth.


Go to the First Plank of the Platform

 

 

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