It’s the morality, stupid! 2

Yesterday, I made the argument that the Progressive Movement first needs to figure out and articulate what it stands for morally before going on to stories, issues, policies, electoral strategies, etc.

After writing such a thing, I feel obligated to try to lay out where I’m coming from morally. Please don’t expect a comprehensive or simple statement. If it were that easy, human beings wouldn’t have been working on the question “What is right?” for thousands of years. I’ll present some basic ideas, and you’ll just have to keep reading the blog to see my thinking play out over time.

First of all, I start with the inherent dignity, value, and rights of the individual person. Obviously this is a big moral theme in the western tradition and the history of the United States. It’s even been accepted by the rest of the world.

But rights are one side of the coin – with rights come responsibilities. Having freedom also imposes duties to others.

And lastly precepts need to apply equally to everybody. It’s Kant’s categorical imperative, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Power, position, or being part of a different group just shouldn’t matter.

Now, for me, those three basic ideas can play out in a lot of different ways that don’t fit comfortably into standard definitions of liberal or conservative. For example, I am not a supporter of the unlimited right to an abortion. However, it is the responsibility of each and every person – society, that is – to make sure that every person has a shot at a dignified, decent life. That’s why I support universal education and health care. I will say this, as well, about our current politics. Torture and suspension of civil liberties are immoral. Period.

Now, to finish up, let me get cheeky for a moment.

As I am reminded everyday by raising two little kids, all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.

Notice that I do not think that so-called “free” markets have all of the answers.

And as for the Bible, puh-leaze! But that’s another post (or two)…

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