What are they and why do they matter?
According to the dictionary, personal values are ideas that we feel emotionally invested in. When we feel emotionally attached to a political concept or a cause, it is because it aligns with our personal values.
Childhood circumstance, individual personality and proclivities, religious affiliations, formal education, institutional conditioning, and political propaganda all have a heavy influence on personal values.
The diversity of American values is readily observable. To say that we don’t all share the same values would be a gross understatement. Values have become an increasingly contentious topic in recent decades. Why is that?
The Power of Emotional Appeal
No doubt there has been a convergence of factors. Technology has proliferated the spread of information. Religious values have been replaced by secular values. Political platforms have become more consolidated and polarized.
Empowered by market research, emboldened by unimaginable success, the purveyors of political values have nearly perfected emotional appeal. The result is that political action is now driven more by muddled emotions than clear-minded critical thinking.
Speculation may abound, but it seems reasonable to suspect some degree of intentional manipulation and social engineering. Politicians have become so proficient at plucking our heart strings, we’ve become enchanted with many seductive ideals.
Science is making progress in understanding why we do the things we do.
We are motivated by emotion. Logic is only loosely used to rationalize our decisions and support our values. It’s a fascinating part of being human.
Of course, this isn’t a post on behavioral psychology. So let me cut to the chase.
Personal values are inherently linked to political convictions. Since emotional confrontations shutdown critical thinking, we need to mitigate the impact of clashing values when developing public policy.
To be blunt, we cannot keep trying to force people with different values to agree with us. It is as asinine as it is impossible. For this reason, it is critical that we shift the political debate away from emotionally charged values, toward unemotional, logical conclusions.
That said, values are still important. They work to inform us of moral parameters, to keep our self-interest in check, and provide a template for constructive collaboration. That said, it seems unrealistic to try and establish a robust set of shared American values.
Our exorbitant diversity would deny any attempt at doing so.
So, in an effort to stake out some common ground, and for the sake of simplicity, we at CriticalPolitical.org will only advocate a very concise set of logical values. It is critical to understand that we are only evaluating these values in the political context.
Values that stoke emotional reactions are not logical. Values that breed political division are not logical. Values that can only be defined by convoluted conceptualizations are not logical.
Values that cannot be practically implemented are not logical.
Come to think of it, the vast majority of values may prove to be completely illogical when considered in the political context. If people can’t agree as to the value of the values, what value is there?
The Three Great Values
You may agree or disagree, but we believe the following values are essential pillars for a healthy society.
We believe that individual liberty is the foundation for any free society. Distilled to its essence, liberty is embodied in our freedom of choice and constrained only by social responsibility and judicial equality.
Clearly this is not intended to be an exhaustive exposition on the complexities of liberty. This concept of liberty could be summed up in two sayings: “Different strokes for different folks,” and, “Live and let live.”
We can work together to support and protect our collective liberties, but let’s not try to tell each other how to live our lives.
Social responsibility requires an evaluation of personal impact on the people around us. This concept provides an implicit accountability for individual behavior. How we behave matters.
Social responsibility is not to be mistaken for “collective” responsibility. It is not that we are responsible for others, but that we are responsible to others. This is a critical distinction.
What is most important to grasp here, is that the value of social responsibility is simply an extension of self-responsibility. It is not a moral imperative to crusade for political collectivism.
Judicial equality means ensuring that all laws are applied to all citizens in a uniform fashion. The process of enforcing accountability must be fair, predictable, and impartial.
If the United States judicial system was operating effectively, it would difficult to devise a better process. However, common law has been corrupted by special interests and perverse political exploitation.
Equal justice under the law is an ideal value that has been under assault for generations. The modern interpretation of social justice has taken an emotional slant that now favors personal bias over individual liberty and social responsibility.
Shifting the Paradigm
A big part of shifting the political paradigm is exploring the logical role of values in the political process. That means forgoing the assumption we all share the same values, and lessening the impact of emotional appeal.
Why? Because if we don’t, political collaboration will forever be compromised by emotional conflicts. Living in a peaceful society, expressing political convictions, and enjoying individual freedom will quickly become a thing of the past.